Posted by: 2thdocbob | 29 January 2021

America is a nation in need of grace

This editorial was posted in The Deseret News on January 27, 2021. Matheson penned a powerful, non-partisan statement on the desperate need our country has for grace, in each of its understood meanings. I am sharing it as he wrote it, because I certainly can’t improve on his sentiments. The original post can be read here. It is a little longer than most opinion pieces, but it is worth reading and pondering.

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The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it

By Boyd Matheson, Opinion Editor Jan 27, 2021, 8:00am MST

On Inauguration Day, Jennifer Lopez took to the steps of the United States Capitol and sang the time-honored classic, “America the Beautiful.” It was beautiful, as beautiful as it has ever been in so many inaugural moments. The words and melody still ring true. The prayerful plea, “God shed His grace on thee,” more striking, more powerful and more important than ever.

America is a nation in need of grace. The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it.

A friend reminded me that grace has many meanings. We often think of grace as having elegance and poise, courtesy and civility. This kind of grace has little to do with wealth, prominence or elite education. I have seen elegance in the noble way a teacher bends down to help a struggling student and how a middle-aged child cares for an aging parent. I have watched poise in the restraint of those, who in the heat of an argument, give grace through a soft reply. I have observed courtesy extended by brilliant women and men who listen so intently that they elevate the talker or teacher, even when they already know what will be said.

This type of grace is difficult to see or sense with the rage of angry voices, physical or verbal assaults or the kind of contempt that crushes communities and grieves the soul of the nation. Lacking grace, we have seen an increase in actions, openly hostile or deceptively subtle. Those audaciously brazen enough to violate sacred spaces — whether in our capitols, our houses of worship, our homes or our digital screens — are not exhibiting any form of grace.

Grace creates space for healing and unity. That kind of grace won’t come easy. It is won one day, one interaction, one moment at a time. Neither President Joe Biden pushing executive orders nor Sean Hannity calling the president’s first week in office an abject failure allow for grace. Shouting matches on cable news, road rage or the incessant mocking and demonizing of those we disagree with does not demonstrate or create space for the grace that can heal.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

In the early days of the pandemic, and every day since, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has reminded the residents of the city that maintaining social distance from each other demands that we show an increase of social grace.

Part of what must transcend our politics, our personal relationships and our communities is the kind of grace that allows us to see beyond the insignificant. We spend far too much time hyperventilating about trivial matters.

Judith Martin, better known by her pen name Miss Manners, has spent her career writing about etiquette, manners and social grace. She once wrote, “Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without a comment is a wonderful social grace.” Miss Manners then humorously cautioned, “Children who have the habit of constantly correcting should be stopped before they grow up to drive spouses and everyone else crazy by interrupting stories to say, ‘No, dear — it was Tuesday, not Wednesday.’”

Patriot dreams, “that see beyond the years,” begin by seeing beyond the insignificant and instead seeing deeply with an eye of grace.

New York Times columnist David Brooks addressed the need for such grace when he spoke at Brigham Young University in 2020. He said, “We have entered an age of bad generalization. We don’t see each other well. We do not see the heart and soul of each person, only a bunch of bad labels. To me, this is the core problem that our democratic character is faced with. Many of our society’s great problems flow from people not feeling seen and known: Blacks feeling that their daily experience is not understood by whites. Rural people not feeling seen by coastal elites. Depressed young people not feeling understood by anyone. People across the political divides getting angry with one another and feeling incomprehension. Employees feeling invisible at work. Husbands and wives living in broken marriages, realizing that the person who should know them best actually has no clue.”

Brooks concluded, “We all have to get a little better at seeing each other deeply and being deeply seen.” That is the beginning of grace.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

Across religious and faith traditions, the idea of grace is central to redeeming imperfect people and reconciling them to their divine nature. Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, showed how within the Christian tradition the atoning sacrifice of Jesus impacted the world. “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace.”

Individually we are all a little broken. There are no perfect people. We are all in need of redemption from mistakes and offenses. Imperfect people, employees, bosses, spouses and friends need grace that is both human and divine. As a nation we are also and imperfect and broken. Restoring and strengthening the soul of America requires every citizen and all institutions of government to find grace and the step forward.

The inspiring words from youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem provide hope for grace:

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished.

We often quote Abraham Lincoln as one who may have been outwardly awkward in size, demeanor and social sophistication, yet he understood that need for the nation to find grace. In 1861, he created the space and place for grace declaring, We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

In a profound piece in the “Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,” Judge Thomas B. Griffith, then serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, addressed grace in the form of civic charity, including Lincoln’s call for bonds of affection. Judge Griffith wrote, “What then of our current moment? How strong are our ‘bonds of affection’? The Constitution’s form of government not only allows spirited disagreement, it requires it. But the Constitution cannot withstand a citizenry whose debates are filled with contempt for one another.”

Judge Griffith included an observation from columnist Michael Gerson: “The heroes of America are heroes of unity. Our political system is designed for vigorous disagreement. It is not designed for irreconcilable contempt. Such contempt loosens the ties of citizenship and undermines the idea of patriotism.” Judge Griffith concluded, “The Constitution anticipates instead a citizenship whose ‘bonds of affection’ cross regional, religious, racial and ideological boundaries. For the Constitution to succeed, We the People must unite to create a society based on shared values.”

One additional form of grace is found in an additional bit of time graciously granted. The “grace period” given to one whose payment is due is a good example. It is an act that comes without penalty, judgement or retribution. Imagine what would happen in our individual and collective relationships if we simply granted people some additional time, or if we withheld our judgement, restrained our anger or frustration for long enough to discover there was more at play than we had supposed.

America needs a grace period — a chance to exhale and to forgive, a moment to remember what unites us and why we are united. Rather than condemning America as a nation irredeemable we each should take advantage of the grace period granted to us, today, to create a union more perfect and indivisible. That space for grace will allow us to hear the mystic chords of memory, repair our faults and failings and strengthen our bonds of affection.

America is a nation in need of grace. The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 13 December 2020

For Unto Us A Child is Born

I spoke virtually today in Highlands Ward’s worship service. It was a pleasure to speak to so many old friends. It is a blessed responsibility to talk about the birth and mission of the Savior. I recorded a condensed version of the talk for the missionaries to use that can be seen here. It is not the entire talk.

This sermon is a Christmas message that I felt provides context to 2020 as prepare to leave it behind. Thank you for reading it.


 

Christmas time is a magical time of year. I think it is a time that all of us, young and old, look forward to. There are so many different traditions and expectations associated with Christmas that make it a happy time.

I think everyone will agree that we need the Christmas spirit to help us end this year on a good note. We need to immerse ourselves in the holiday traditions that bring us joy; we need to have a Christ-centered Christmas.

Next to being with family, the music is my favorite Christmas tradition. I have a large collection of Christmas music, and I started listening in October. One of my oldest favorites, which we sang in our ward choir way back when I was a young man, is “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” by Handel. The text was taken from Isaiah 9:6, which is repeated in 2 Nephi 19:6.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I can’t read this verse without the music beginning in my mind.

Isaiah was probably the foremost among the many prophets who prophesied and testified of the Christ who would come. He certainly was in Nephi’s eyes.

Beginning with Adam, and on up to Russell M. Nelson, all the prophets have testified of Christ.

We have been blessed this year to study the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ in our homes. In it, we have heard the words of many of the prophets whose testimonies were recorded in this wonderful book of scripture. From these writings, we know that the prophets foresaw the life of the Savior in great detail.

In Nephi’s vision, recorded in First Nephi, chapters 11 and 12, we share in his conversation with a heavenly messenger.

“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. …

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

“And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

“And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! …

“And … he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him. …

“And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

“And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them. …

“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” (1 Nephi 11;13, 18-21, 24, 27-28, 32-33)

Some five hundred years later, Alma also testified of Christ:

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:11-13)

I’m grateful for Alma’s testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is far broader than we generally think. It does more than just help us overcome our sins and weaknesses. He reminds us that it covers our pains, our sicknesses, and our infirmities. What a great blessing that is!

President Nelson reminded us that there are over 2200 scriptures that testify of Christ.

With all this information, we might well ask ourselves the question Pilate asked long ago: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22) What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? How can we always remember Him, as we covenant to do each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament?  In light of these questions, at this season we ask another: What does Christmas really mean?

I will share some thoughts about this from President Hinckley, and add my own comments.

Christmas means giving. We are reminded in this season of the great gift the Father gave us: the gift of His Son, and of the gift that Jesus Christ gave us through His Atonement and Resurrection: the opportunity to overcome death and to overcome our sins. As we commemorate Christ’s birth, we should give to others in remembrance of these infinitely important gifts we have received.

Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger while angels sang, and wise men traveled far to bring gifts. It is a beautiful and timeless story, and I hope each of us will read it again this season.

I suggest that you make the video “The Christ Child” a part of your Christmas traditions. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to do so. (You can view it here.)

Christmas means compassion and love and, most of all, forgiveness.“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29.)

Right now, we need compassion, love and forgiveness more than ever before. We need to receive it, but we have a greater need to offer it to those around us. If everyone were to emulate Christ’s example of love, our world would be a better place. We can love others in spite of political, cultural or religious differences. Our example of love for others can bring light to a very dark world.

We need to be the leaven that helps to lift the world. We can do this as we share our light and our spirit despite the ugliness that prevails.

We need to do as the Apostle Peter described Christ’s activity, that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38)

What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ?

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)

Christmas also means peace. This is the message of the angels on the night of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

As we strive to love and forgive others, we will more easily find peace in our hearts, and good will toward men.

The only way to lasting peace in our world is through Jesus Christ and his gospel. As we learn to hear Him, we will be guided in our search for peace. After all, He is the Prince of Peace.

At the beginning of the year, President Nelson invited us to consider how we “hear Him.” Many of our general Church leaders have shared the different ways in which we hear Christ. As 2020 draws to a close, I invite you to ponder this invitation. Ask yourself how you have heard the Savior speak to you during this year of unprecedented challenges. You might want to discuss this with your family. It is likely to strengthen your faith and theirs as you share.

I feel certain that as you ponder the blessings that have come into your lives this year, you will begin to focus on the positive aspects of 2020 and find that it actually has been a good year.

I also invite each of you to prayerfully consider what you can do to make 2021 a year of personal growth and positivity through the Spirit and through “hearing Him.”

I testify that the child whose birth we celebrate is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He lives. He is the true gift, from our Heavenly Father to each one of us. Accepting that gift gives us the key to a wonderful, peaceful life.

Jesus Christ truly is “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” and He invites all “to come unto Him … [and] buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” (2 Nephi 26:25)

I know that as we trust Him, we will find true joy and peace, regardless of our current circumstances.

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 18 October 2020

Anxiously Engaged

IW

We have returned to High Council speaking assignments again, after an 8 month pause. Although we are not yet allowed to meet in person, it was a joy to meet with my fellow saints in the Rancho San Bernardino Ward today. I also deeply appreciate Michael Rowley’s sharing his talents as an interpreter for me. The Spirit can communicate in any language, but it makes a difference when you can hear the gospel preached in your native tongue.

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My dear brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to join with you today. I wish we could all meet together in the chapel, but I know we will be able to do that soon. I never thought that technology would be such a blessing to us.

I bring you the love and greetings from President Johnson and his Counselors. They are all good men; they are men of God.

I express my love for you as well. I am grateful for your kindness and friendship, and I miss being with you.

I hope you were able to watch or listen to General Conference two weeks ago. The messages were powerful and inspiring. Some of the messages were answers to my prayers. As I listen to General Conference, I try to pay attention to what the Lord wants me to do, and then try to do it.

I have been assigned to speak on Doctrine & Covenants 58:27-29. These verses, and the entire Section tie in well with many of the conference talks we just heard. Remember that the sections in the Doctrine & Covenants are revelations, given to the prophet Joseph Smith and others. When this revelation was given, the members of the Church were very interested in establishing Zion.

The Lord revealed that there would be “a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited. …

“And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.” (D&C 58:9, 11)

The supper of the Lord refers specifically to the sacrament. But in these verses, it also refers to temple covenants that we make with our Heavenly Father. Notice that he says that all nations shall be invited. What did President Nelson tell us? “God does not love one race more than another. … He invites all to come unto Him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33).”

President Ballard reminded us in Conference that after we have prayed, we must stand up and serve our brothers and sisters. Elder Godoy reminded us that we can be angels to those who need our help. We need to show God’s love to all hi Children.

Now let me read the verses I am speaking of:

27 “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

28 “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:27-29)

What does it mean to be anxiously engaged? It means to be actively involved in the work we must do. Heavenly Father has asked us to choose to serve him. He will not force us to do anything. He wants us to choose to serve him and to bless the lives of his children. I heard that message repeatedly during General Conference.

Most of the speakers invited us to “bring to pass much righteousness.”

How do we do that?

We start by serving our brothers and sisters. I have seen you do that. My wife and I were touched when we saw the beautiful masks the sisters made earlier this year. Placing a verse of scripture in each mask made it a Christlike gift. I am sure that hearts were touched by this service. Thank you for your example to the rest of the Stake.

We bring righteousness to pass as we minister to each other. Ministering has been very important this year because we have been separated from each other. We do not need an assignment to minister. We just need to follow the Spirit. An inspired phone call or text can be very important to someone who is having a difficult time.

When I see a member of my ward at the store, I try to turn it into a ministering visit. I try to ask the right questions. When I go to 7-11 for a soda, I often see a sister from our ward going for sodas. We have had good visits, and I can check on her husband, who is not well. I am not their ministering brother, but we have both been blessed by these encounters.

I know that many of you are marvelous cooks. You could always drop off some food to someone. No one can say no to that.

We can bring righteousness to pass as we do family history research. We can prepare names for temple ordinances, even though the temple is not open. But maybe if Heavenly Father sees us preparing names to take to the temple, he will allow the temple to open sooner. If you have internet at home, you could invite a brother or sister who does not have internet to your home and help them with their family history. But remember your masks!

When we pray for opportunities to serve, the Spirit will direct us. When you feel a prompting to serve, act on it. Pay close attention to promptings about our young people. They need to know that Heavenly Father has not forgotten them. They are at risk during these difficult times. They need to feel your love and your spirit. Their souls are precious. It doesn’t matter if you are called to work with the youth or children. We all know at least one young person. Let them know they are important in God’s eyes.

My father-in-law was a contractor. I worked for him when I was in school. He would say many times “Do something, even if it is wrong!” He knew that that the Lord expects us to be agents unto ourselves, and that being busy will protect us from trouble.

In verse 29, the Lord instructs us not to wait, but to do something now. He wants us to take initiative. If we choose to act, the Spirit will guide our steps, like he did with Nephi, who said, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Nephi 4:6) The Spirit will guide us so that we don’t do wrong. We can always rely on the Lord to bless us when we try to do his work.

Y ahora, hermanos y hermanas, trataré de compartir mi testimonio sin notas.

Yo sé que Dios vive. Él es nuestro Padre Celestial, y él nos ama.

Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y Redentor. Él murió para nosotros.

Yo sé que Russell M. Nelson es nuestro profeta viviente hoy.

Y yo sé que El Libro de Mormón es la palabra de Dios.

En el nombre sagrado de Jesucristo, amen.

I have tried to make it a point to bear my testimony in Spanish at the close of a sermon in Rancho San Bernardino Ward. It is an expression of my love for the members of that wonderful ward.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 12 September 2020

Living within the parentheses of a crazy idea

Boyd Matheson has written another op-ed that is worth sharing. The original can be read here.

Original post by Boyd Matheson in the Deseret News.

Most of the extraordinary moments in human history, and most definitely in American history, began not just as improbabilities but as almost certain impossibilities. From the first settlements in North America to the early battles of the revolution, from electricity to the iPhone, from moments of devastating defeat to the pinnacles of success, America has followed a now familiar path from impossible to improbable to absolutely achievable.

Our finest hours as a nation have not come about when things were certain and settled. The most important breakthroughs and break-withs, triumphs and transformations occur within the parentheses of a crazy idea.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the foundation of a new nation, conceived in liberty and committed to the principle that all men are created equal, was laid.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, a civil war, and even world wars, were waged, including tide-turning battles at Gettysburg and the beaches of Normandy, securing freedom for millions.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, game-changing innovations like light bulbs, steam engines, automobiles and countless entrepreneurial endeavors have been launched.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, Rosa Parks took a seat, Martin Luther King Jr. took a stand and Jackie Robinson broke the barrier on America’s long and winding road to live up to its ideals.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the Wright Brothers took flight that eventually propelled small steps into giant leaps for mankind.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, women suffragettes plowed the ground that ultimately provided the right to vote to women and the possibility for Utah’s Martha Hughes Cannon to be elected as the country’s first female state senator.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, visionary pioneers stood on a peak looking over the Salt Lake valley in 1847 and declared the barren land would one day become a crossroads to the world.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, two college students, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, dropped out of school to start businesses that transformed the world.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, then doctor Russell M. Nelson decided, against the advice of experts, to touch and ultimately heal human hearts.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, The Other Side Academy began breaking the cycle of broken lives and the revolving door of the criminal justice system — not with prison doors and guards with guns, but by arming former criminals with integrity, accountability, elevating values and empowering life skills.

Within the parentheses of a crazy idea, the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forged a friendship and partnership to take the principles of self-reliance to individuals and families in the inner city.

And every day, within the parentheses of a crazy idea, in the ultimate entrepreneurial and hope-filled act, a couple comes together to start a marriage and begin a family.

On Wednesday, I met an Uber driver who was living the American dream within the parentheses of a crazy idea. Deseret News editor Doug Wilks and I had just arrived in Washington, D.C., and secured an Uber to take us to our hotel. Our driver jumped out of the car with a big smile and bulging muscles. He clearly was not a typical rideshare driver. When he popped open the trunk for our luggage I noticed there was military camouflaged gear spilling out of a gym bag in the back. I commented that it appeared he was working after he had already worked a full day in a uniform.

In the car we discovered that our driver worked at the Pentagon as a medic by day. He said his parents were from Nigeria but he had been born in the United States and was a proud citizen. I asked why he was driving an Uber. He shared that his younger brother was not an American citizen but was able to come over as student, and he used the driving money to pay for his brother’s education. He positively declared it was a good investment in the future. (Our driver then joked that he regularly tells his little brother that if he ever gets a C grade in a class to not even bother calling big brother’s cell phone.)

We asked what it was like to be at the Pentagon on the anniversary of 9/11. A broad smile came to his face and he said, “It was very special.” With great excitement he opened his glove compartment and pulled out a camouflaged hat. He showed that it had been signed by President Trump and Melania Trump. He then pulled up a picture of himself and the president on his cell phone.

He said, “I don’t always agree with the president. But I am a proud American. Before I started at the Pentagon I raised my right hand and promised I would defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, and the president, of either party, is my commander-in-chief.”

This young man, a citizen of the United States, was living a dream and creating a most extraordinary history clearly within the parentheses of a crazy idea.

More than America is the land of opportunity it is the land of the impossible dream. Crazy ideas, like those of our Uber driver, don’t become reality through passive daydreaming. Such dreams demand real, cleareyed, determined work.

I love the dreamers who sacrifice, struggle and strive between the parentheses of a crazy idea with their eyes wide open. T.E. Lawrence captured it this way:

All men (and women) dream, but not equally.

Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds

Awake to find it was vanity,

But the dreamers of the day are dangerous…,

That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.

I am most thankful for the inspired and inspiring “dreamers of the day” who show what is required to make the improbable — and seemingly impossible — achievable. I am grateful for a dad who taught me that a life filled with meaning and impact happens within the parentheses. I am in awe of friends, heroes and heroines who courageously step into the parentheses, often on nothing more than a wing and a prayer, armed with nothing more than faith and a desire to make a difference. We should all be thankful every day that we live within the parentheses of a crazy idea called America.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 August 2020

Things the Spirit taught me during the pandemic

I was asked to speak online to my congregation (Waterman Ward) this morning. It has been six months since my last sermon, so I was grateful for the opportunity, but also a little anxious. The best part? I didn’t notice anyone dozing off.

I am an introvert who enjoys being around people. But I have my limits. I am also a person who is reflective and thoughtful. Of course I have limits being on my own, too. The pandemic has largely been a blessing to me, because I have had extra time to reflect on what is most important in life.

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Brothers and sisters, this has been a very warm week. Yesterday, Cal State’s weather station had a high reading of 111.6o. It makes me think of a general conference session from last century. President Hinckley was conducting the Priesthood Session and commented: “It is warm. I am sorry.”  Then he paused and added: “But if you don’t repent, it will be even hotter.” I don’t want to find out what that’s like.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I wish I could do this in person. An old expression comes to mind: “may you live in interesting times.” This year has been filled with interesting times.

I hope that each of you has learned from the things we are enduring. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Stake Presidency. They asked me to give an accounting of my stewardships. Later, it struck me that I will one day have a similar interview with the Savior, and I hope I can answer his questions confidently.

In that interview, President Garvin posed a question that he was asked by the Area Presidency: “What have you learned from this pandemic that you will use in the next one?”

I have been pondering that ever since, and I would encourage you to reflect on that as well. It’s a profound question.

I have had far more time to ponder and reflect than I have had in the last few years. As a result of that, I would like to share some of my insights with you this morning.

The first great insight I received came rather quickly. I drove home from work on March 12 with the understanding that the University would be shut down soon. The students had been instructed earlier that week that they were not to return to campus until further notice.

Late that night, I received a text that the university was closing down and that we would begin distance learning. I saw the text the next morning, along with the notice from Salt Lake that all church meetings were cancelled. This hit me hard: losing two of the most important elements in my life at once.

Then the Spirit reminded me “You still have your family.” What a tremendous blessing that reassurance was! The Spirit reminded me what is most important. And I have my birds. But family is the most important.

In the seventeen weeks I worked strictly from home, I was very busy, because online teaching is not the same as teaching in-person. And a large part of my responsibilities involves teaching hand skills to our students, so that was gone.

But my commute became easier, and I had more time to spend with Heidi and Christine. Heidi was happy just knowing I was around. And until it became too warm, we went on walks in the neighborhood, and visited many of the local wildlife refuges to see birds and other wildlife. We have felt blessed to have this time together.

In addition, we have had extra time to read and discuss the scriptures, using Come, Follow Me. I love hearing my family’s insights.

I have had time to read more, and have included many good church books in my reading. I particularly enjoyed Saints, and can’t wait for the next two volumes.

I have felt deep gratitude for the ability to administer the sacrament to my family. I am grateful that Heavenly Father trusted me with priesthood authority to extend the blessings of the sacrament to my family and occasionally to others.

At this point, five months later, I have gained an increased sense of gratitude for the rich blessings I enjoy in this life. I’m glad I have had time to reflect on these blessings.

I’d like to share a poem I learned from my grandpa:

My granddad, viewing earth’s worn cogs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, in a house of logs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, from the Scottish bogs, Said ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, dressed in caveman’s togs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs.’
There’s one thing I can safely state: The dogs have had a good long wait.[i]

The Lord saw this happening, too. We see throughout the Doctrine and Covenants that there would be interesting times. And the Lord warns us repeatedly, beginning in Section 1:

 “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments”[ii]

When the Lord speaks, he chooses his words with great purpose. We are certainly experiencing a calamity right now. He also has the advantage of seeing the end from the beginning. But because he knew the calamity – and because he used the singular “calamity,” I think it includes many events – he has called prophets to prepare us by giving us his word, including commandments.

He foresaw this pandemic, and gave us a year to practice home-centered, church-supported gospel learning before we had to use it because we couldn’t go to church. To put our restrictions in perspective, please watch a video about the saints in Ghana who had to endure an 18 month freeze on church activity. You can view the video here. They couldn’t visit each other without the risk of arrest. But they remained faithful. I wept as I watched it. it gave me a better perspective on our current situation. That might also be why I couldn’t put down either volume of Saints; I could feel what they were going through as they endured persecution and their other trials. And some of them were my ancestors, and perhaps yours, as well.

Ministering is another example of the Father’s foresight. The structure of ministering makes it easier for us to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in times like this, as we understand that any form of contact is acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

The changes that we have experienced since President Nelson became prophet remind me that Heavenly Father is in charge. That gives me great comfort as we face the new uncertainties of life.

Because Heavenly Father is in charge, he can end this pandemic when he sees fit. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m OK with that, because I know Heavenly Father loves his children. He will take care of us.

An important concept the Lord wants to teach us throughout the Doctrine and Covenants is that he will send calamities and pour out his wrath upon the earth until his work is finished. These are calls to repentance, and in a sense, they are wake-up calls for the righteous as well as the less-righteous.

Two truths that have been emphasized to me this year are simple gospel truths. First, “Stand ye in holy places.”

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are instructed: “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.”[iii] Please note that those who curse God and die are those who have not taken the time to know him and accept his gospel.

We have been told for years that our homes should be holy places. You have felt that when you partake of the sacrament at home. In reality, every place we stand should be a holy place because we are standing there.

This is especially important while our chapels and temples are not available to us. We can still feel the Savior’s presence and the Savior’s love at home and elsewhere.

The second truth is to love one another. John said: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”[iv]

During this pandemic, each of us is fighting our own battles. Many people have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to share them. As I have been out and about and seen people with and without masks, some wearing them incorrectly, I felt a strong impression that I should not be critical of these people, because I don’t know what challenges they are dealing with.

I’m still working on this one. It hasn’t been easy, but sometimes the Primary song pops into my head:

“I’m trying to be like Jesus;
I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught
.”

I’m trying to love my neighbor;
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will come again.
I try to remember the lessons he taught.
Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught
.”[v]

If more people tried to be like Jesus, what a wonderful world this would be. But at least I can do my part.

In the last five months, the importance of family has been reinforced to me, as well as the importance of following the prophet in his divine calling. I have been taught to take seriously the commandments to stand in holy places and to love one another. As I have directed my efforts to standing in holy places and particularly to loving others, I have felt an increased peace, even in the midst of all the uncertainties that surround us. This is the peace that “passeth all understanding” that Christ promised us.[vi]  This the peace we need during interesting times.

I ask each of you to reflect on your experiences of the last five months, and write down what you have learned and what insights the Spirit has provided to you. Your posterity will treasure these writings just as we treasure the writings of the pioneers.

I testify that God lives. He loves each of us. He is in charge. We just need to trust him and call on him for strength and assistance. I know he will bless us as we do this.


[i] Author uncertain. Originated about 1910.

[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 1:17.

[iii] Doctrine and Covenants 45:32.

[iv] KJV, 1 John 3:23.

[v] I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus. Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 78. Italics in original.

[vi] KJV, Philippians 4:7.

 

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 27 July 2020

Viral Reflections, Part One: Words Matter

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This is the first in a short series of reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected me.

My world has been very different during the past four-plus months. How about yours?

As I adapted to working from home and decided how to respond to the manifold changes, I discovered that government and media were using inflammatory terms to describe both the pandemic conditions and what was expected.  Here are some of the terms and my comments on why they don’t fit.

Quarantine: the name comes from a 40-day isolation when you are sick with a highly contagious disease
Shelter-in-Place: what you do when there is an active shooter
Stay at home order: kind of a blend between house arrest and shelter-in-place
Lockdown: what prisons do when the inmates are unruly
House arrest: for convicted criminals; usually involves an ankle bracelet
Confinement: what they do when you’re in jail (see solitary confinement)
Seclusion: what Greta Garbo wanted
Isolation: what every good introvert wants more of
Social distancing: not desirable; physical distancing is what is needed.

And a few that I haven’t heard:

Sequestration: what they do to juries in the serious trials
Withdrawal: wait a minute, that’s done willingly

The choice of words by both government and media seem to have been calculated to instill fear in the general public. In my mind, these word games are grossly unethical. They cause more harm than good to society, and when you think about it, they are not honest. What happened to honesty in public discourse? That is a topic for another post, but since I teach a dental ethics and jurisprudence course every summer, I have had some time to ponder questions like that.

I chose to refer to March 12 as “The Shutdown,” in reference to my employer being required to transition to remote teaching and working from home. I usually speak of “isolation” when I talk about what we were ordered to do, because in reality, we were free to come and go as we pleased. We just couldn’t go to church or buy much of anything that isn’t available at Walmart or the grocery stores.

This is exactly why I question the honesty of government and media. I have seen far too many people on social media who complain of cabin fever, because they think they can’t leave their own property. When an order was issued that affected me, I read the actual order, not the news article purporting to tell us about it. (I do that with some Supreme Court decisions, too; call me strange if you want to.) We were not affected by any “hard” restrictions. I found many loopholes that allowed us to visit wildlife sanctuaries and other nature areas and enjoy fresh air and sunshine.

In fact, Governor Nuisance listed nature photography as an acceptable outdoor activity. So in theory, if you carry a camera with you outside, you can do what you want, within reason. We really are nature photographers, so we took advantage.

I don’t want this to become a political discussion, but it seems to many of us in California that our local officials are exercising undue authority over the populace in the name of protecting us. I have reason to doubt their motives. The ethical question of when emergencies override constitutional and other legal rights comes into play. It is a complicated discussion, and I don’t claim to have the answers. In connection with that question is the legal question of whether or not a government order actually has the force of law.

Watch out for “weasel words”[1] in news releases and government orders. If you recognize vague, but important sounding phrases, you’ve spotted weasel words. Jimmy Buffet wisely said:

“If I were you I’d just keep driving
Past all this useless and important information”[2]

Enjoy your quarantine! (Or whatever you choose to call it.)

 

[1] Weasel Words. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word

[2] Buffett, J. Useless but Important Information. http://buffettworld.com/albums/songs-from-st-somewhere/useless-and-important-information/

Thanks to AZquotes.com for the quote at the beginning of the post.

Boyd Matheson, Deseret News’ Opinion Editor, has done it again.

It is easy to criticize the shortcomings of individuals who are long dead; it is easy to apply the standards of our time (if we have any) to judge individuals who lived centuries ago. But it is also unfair to judge them because they lived by the standards of their times.

In dental ethics, we speak frequently of justifiable criticism. This is the concept that if we see something that is substandard, we ought not criticize it if we don’t know the circumstances under which it was done. More commonly, we might urge someone to walk a mile in another’s moccasins before we criticize them. This would certainly improve peace and understanding among everyone in our world.

I share Matheson’s article with his encouragement to share anything that he has written.

The original article may be found here.


 

It has become an obsession for some, and casual sport for others, to look back on history and reframe, recast and reimagine what happened and why. With audacious certainty, the experts declare the motives and character of complex individuals who lived in less advanced societies. Acknowledging and even confronting the whole of our history, warts and all, is vital. But let’s be honest, poking holes in heroes from the past and picking on heroines of bygone eras is pretty easy. It doesn’t require much moral fiber, rigorous research or even open-mindedness.

Some media and academic elites, along with progressive historians, have begun to wear their bullying of historical figures as a badge of honor. In reality, such revisionism and self-righteous judgement are just bad form and often are centered in a form of agenda-driven arrogance.

For the tough on history, the cancel culture crowd, I have a different challenge that will require real courage — not the “hold my pen, I am going after the founding fathers” variety. Real courage demands authentic vulnerability and humility. The challenge is to write the future.

Between 1975 to 1979, Ronald Reagan recorded more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts. He had just completed serving as governor of California and would not be sworn in as president of the United States until 1981. He had no staff and wrote the vast majority of his scripts on his own. Many of these broadcasts have been captured and shared in an audio series titled, “Reagan in his own voice.”

The series demonstrates, in and of itself, how writing disparagingly about figures of the past is easy. Many of his contemporary political opponents and media critics made Reagan out to be a leader big on charisma but small on knowledge and intellect. Yet the handwritten messages, approximately 500-600 words each, display little to no editing, and showcase Reagan’s vast knowledge of domestic policy, geopolitical strategy and the inherent goodness of the American people. Most of his pieces could be played on radio today and be just as correct and just as poignant as they were in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Recently, I have taken inspiration from reviewing addresses from the likes of Calvin Coolidge, Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy. I learned a lesson this week from relistening to one of those three-minute messages from Reagan on why writing the future is not for the faint of heart, but is worth the effort.

Reagan began by describing how easy it is for historians to look at and judge past leaders. He also noted how he and his political peers could, and would, somewhat glibly talk about how the decisions they were making would shape the world for 100 years to come. (Here in 2020, we are still a long ways away from the November election, yet we have already been lectured by people on both ends of the political spectrum about how our votes and choices this year will determine the destiny of the nation.)

The former governor of California was given a challenge in 1976 that would test his willingness to actually write the future. Reagan had been petitioned to write a letter for a time capsule, which would be opened 100 years into the future in 2076. The occasion in 2076 would include the city of Los Angeles’ bicentennial and America’s tricentennial celebration.

The suggestion from the time capsule committee was that Reagan focus his letter on some of the problems confronting the American people and the government during the 1976 election cycle.

At first Reagan figured it would be pretty easy for him to write the future as he had been talking about the challenges facing the nation on a regular basis for years. He figured he could do it in his sleep.

Reagan began writing his letter to the future as he was being driven by car down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. He said the simple drafting of a letter became a rather difficult and incredibly complex chore as he began to consider, “What do you put in a letter that’s going to be read 100 years from now in the year 2076? What do you say about our problems (today) when those who read the letter will know what we don’t know? Namely, they will know how well we did with those problems. In short, they will be living in the world we helped to shape.”

“Will they read the letter with gratitude in their hearts for what we did? Or will they be bitter because the heritage we left them was one of human misery?” — Ronald Reagan

Then in a hefty dose of reality Reagan humbly asked, “Will they read the letter with gratitude in their hearts for what we did? Or will they be bitter because the heritage we left them was one of human misery?”

Reagan wrote of the problems facing America and its citizens in 1976, including big government, excessive spending, the loss of individual liberty, the undermining of the inspired course set by the founding fathers and that two great superpowers, America and the then-Soviet Union, were pointing nuclear weapons at each other.

Reagan noted, “Those who read my letter will know whether those missiles were fired or not. Either they will be surrounded by the same beauty we now know, or they will wonder sadly what it was like when the world was still beautiful.

Ever the optimist, Reagan concluded his writing the future with the ultimate litmus test for every citizen, “If we here today meet the challenges confronting us, those who open that time capsule 100 years from now will do so in beauty, peace, prosperity, and the ultimate in personal freedom. If we don’t keep our rendezvous with destiny, the letter probably will never be read because they will live in the world we left them, a world in which no one is allowed to read, have individual liberty or freedom of choice.”

Again, it doesn’t take much courage to cast aspersions or pass judgment on those who are not around to defend themselves. I would challenge those same people attempting to rewrite history to instead write the future, knowing that those who will read your letter 100 years from now will know with certainty whether you were right or wrong. Write your letter. Print it, post it, etch it in stone and see how confident you are in what you think you know.

Writing the future while living in the present is difficult, but it is actually worthy of our individual consideration. I have started writing the future, my own version, for the good people who will be living in 2120. (I will share it in a future column when it is completed.)

I invite all to join me in writing the future. Here are some questions to get you started: In the year 2120, how will citizens look on those of us living in 2020? Will they be grateful for the decisions we made in dealing with a global pandemic? Will they see that our commitment to equality, justice and ending prejudice and discrimination was a hinge-point in history? Will they say we were a narcissistic society, unwilling to come together for the common good? Will the people of 2120 see that we preserved individual freedom, religious liberty and the First Amendment? Will our choices regarding stewardship of the environment inspire or infuriate? Will they applaud the difficult decisions we made regarding the national debt? How will they feel we did in striving to live up to the principles the founders of America put on parchment in 1776 and 1787? Will those principles still stand as a beacon of hope to the world?

Remember, those who will read your letter will know what we currently don’t know. They will be able to criticize our arrogance and ignorance as well as condemn our unenlightened naivete. They will, in truth, live in the world we left them — a world shaped by our decisions today.

We could certainly benefit from spending a little less time attacking and attempting to cancel figures and the founding principles of the past, and giving a little more effort to determining our individual and collective roles in writing the future. The future truly belongs to the brave. If we wish to write the future of tomorrow, we must do so by living with excellence and compassion today.


I appreciate the wisdom of this article. I will do my best to take the high road. I love learning from the past, but mainly because that helps me look to the future.

Saturday, February 22 is George Washington’s Birthday. Here is an article about Washington’s dental struggles. He died prior to HIPAA, so no worries about violating HIPAA rights.

Thanks to Dr. William Maloney, Clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry at New York University, and a fellow dental historian, for writing and sharing this article.

This article was originally published in  The Conversation.

George Washington faced many challenges regarding his teeth.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

William Maloney, New York University

We have all heard the tales about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River and, of course, wearing wooden teeth.

They are all just myths, but one thing is certain: The father of our country suffered horribly with dental pain. Today, the dental profession has many ways to relieve dental pain and to replace missing teeth so that they look and feel like natural ones. Unfortunately for Washington, 18th-century dentistry could not provide the much sought-after relief from dental suffering available today.

I am a professor of dentistry who has studied the history of Washington’s teeth and have found it very interesting separating fact from fiction regarding Washington’s oral health.

The myth of the wooden teeth

George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. The swollen cheek and a slightly visible scar could have been due to an abscessed tooth in the young soldier.

While it is a myth that Washington’s false teeth were made out of wood, his pain and embarrassment from his dental woes were all too real. What might have led people to believe that Washington’s teeth were made from wood was the brownish stain on his denture teeth, which was most likely the result of tobacco use or stain-inducing wine.

Washington is best remembered for his heroics against the British in the American Revolution, but he started his military career in the Virginia Militia fighting alongside the British during the French and Indian War. Washington’s dental problems likely started during this time. It was also about this time that he wrote to his brother that “I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me there is something charming in the sound.”

But Washington had more than bullets and war on his mind. Washington at that time also wrote in his diary that he had paid five shillings to a “Doctor Watson” for the extraction of a tooth. During the war, Washington purchased dozens of toothbrushes, tooth powders and pastes, and tinctures of myrrh. Unfortunately for Washington, his dedication to his dental health did not prevent the dental suffering he would endure throughout his life.

In an attempt to both flatter Washington and thank him for liberating Boston from the British in 1776, John Hancock commissioned the great portrait artist Charles Willson Peale to produce a painting of Washington. Peale created a masterpiece that shows a scar on Washington’s left cheek, which is said to have resulted from an abscessed tooth.

Washington’s cousin, Lund Washington, served as the temporary manager of the Mount Vernon estate during the American Revolution. While George Washington was in Newburgh, New York on Christmas Day, 1782, he penned a letter to Lund.

In this letter, George Washington asked Lund to look into a drawer of his desk at Mount Vernon where he had placed two small front teeth. We do not know who the original owners of these two teeth were, but it could have been one of several slaves’ teeth that Washington purchased over the years. At this time, Washington’s dentist was Dr. Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur, who had many wealthy patients and was known for his practice of paying individuals for their healthy teeth to be used in the construction of dentures for his wealthy patients. Selling teeth to dentists was an accepted way of making money at the time.

At the time of Washington’s death, 317 slaves lived at Mount Vernon. A simple notation in the Mount Vernon plantation ledger books for 1784 may reveal the source of some of Washington’s denture teeth. The notation simply reads: “By cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoin.” (Lemoin is the same person as Le Mayeur.) Historians also do not know for certain whether those teeth ended up in Washington’s dentures.

A man of few teeth, and words

Washington’s dental health even affected his two presidential inaugurations. Washington first took the oath of office of the president of the United States on April 30, 1789 on the second-floor balcony of Federal Hall. At this time, Washington had only one natural tooth remaining.

Dr. John Greenwood was a well-known dentist who practiced in New York City. Dr. Greenwood made a denture for Washington in 1789. The denture was made from carved hippopotamus ivory, human teeth and brass nails – no wooden teeth! Dr. Greenwood made a hole in the denture so the denture would slip snugly over the one remaining tooth – his lower left first premolar – and provide some retention. This tooth would eventually need to be extracted by Dr. Greenwood, who placed this tooth into a locket attached to a pocket watch and chain. Both the locket and the denture now reside in Manhattan’s New York Academy of Medicine.

Washington was very self-conscious about his dentures and considered them to be a sign of weakness, which could be seen as a threat to the credibility of the youthful nation. So, rather than delivering the first inaugural address to the assembled masses lining the streets in front of Federal Hall, Washington retired to the privacy of the Senate chamber, where he delivered his address to the members of Congress.

On March 4, 1793, Washington delivered his second inaugural address in the Senate chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, and his dentures were causing him much pain and difficulty. His speech is still the shortest inaugural address in history, lasting only two minutes and consisting of only 135 words – shorter even than Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Bulging lips

Gilbert Stuart produced what would become the most well-recognized portrait of any American president to this day. Stuart, born in Rhode Island, lived in London and Dublin for 12 years, where he mastered the techniques which would produce over 1,100 portraits during his prolific career. Stuart returned to America with the intent of making his fortune by producing a portrait of the hero of the American Revolution, George Washington.

The only problem with Stuart’s ambitious plan was that he did not know Washington. However, a letter of introduction from Chief Justice John Jay led to Washington agreeing to sit for a session, in 1795, at Stuart’s Philadelphia studio. Washington’s face was sunken from the poor facial support provided by his ill-fitting dentures. Stuart placed cotton in Washington’s mouth, and the resulting portrait became known as the “Vaughan” portrait, as it was purchased by Samuel Vaughan, who was a London merchant and a close personal friend of Washington. Stuart went on to make 12 to 16 copies of the Vaughan painting, until Washington agreed to sit for another portrait.

In 1796, Washington sat for that other portrait, which became known as the “Athenaeum” portrait, a version of which appears today on the one-dollar bill. In this portrait, Stuart captured the bulge in Washington’s lips from his dentures, making his lips considerably swollen.

Myths and legends concerning all aspects of Washington’s life have become part of American lore, but even this iconic figure of American history could not escape the misery of poor dental health.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

William Maloney, Clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry, New York University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 February 2020

Fruits of the First Vision

This talk was given today in Crestline Ward. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it was a blessing to talk about his experiences and how they have blessed me.


Dear brothers and sisters, it is always a privilege to visit with you in your beautiful mountain ward. I am grateful to be here to worship with you today.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. Brother Humphries and I are here by assignment today. I am grateful to have him as my speaking companion. We have known each other for many years, and I look up to him as a master teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I pray that the Spirit will be present this morning, so that both you and I may be edified.

————————————–

In his closing remarks at last October Conference, President Russell M. Nelson gave us an assignment. Do you remember? He said “In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.”[1] He continued: “Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will be not only memorable; it will be unforgettable.”

I caution you that we should not be looking for something spectacular at General Conference in April, like a live broadcast from Adam-ondi-Ahman  or something of that sort. Why? Because I know from experience that when I am prepared for Conference, when I have been pondering gospel truths and seeking for answers to questions that are important to me, that is when Conference is memorable. When the Spirit speaks to me at General Conference, it is unforgettable.

I have learned from experience that I can be an instrument in God’s hands to answer others’ prayers for guidance when I seek the Spirit as I prepare my assigned talks. I have been humbled and deeply grateful when I learn of these instances. It has happened here in this chapel.

And if the Lord can work through someone like me, then he can certainly work through those whom we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.

This is how Conferences become spiritual feasts. I testify that our Church leaders are inspired as they prepare their talks, and if we are also seeking inspiration, we will receive it.

President Nelson suggested to us that we “may wish to begin [our] preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.”

I have read and reread the first 26 verses of Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price since the assignment was given. As I thought about it, my mind went back 43 years to my senior year in high school. We learned that we would have the opportunity to serve two-week missions that summer. Our Bishop made sure that each member of the Priest’s Quorum had a copy of the missionary discussions.

Our bishop assigned us to memorize the Joseph Smith story that was a part of the first discussion. As I walked home from school each day, I would pull out a notecard and work on memorizing the Joseph Smith story. As I reviewed this over and over and practiced reciting it day after day, the Spirit bore witness to me the Joseph’s experience was real. That had a profound impact on me that continues to this day.

Fast forward a year and a half to when I was in the Language Training Mission struggling to learn Dutch, and particularly struggling to learn the Joseph Smith story. After several days of frustration, the Lord blessed me with the gift of tongues. After that, I was able to learn it very quickly.

I want to make it very clear that my own mental efforts were not enough. The Lord made sure I understood that before he answered my prayers.

Once I was in the Netherlands, I would frequently review the story, especially when we were out on our bikes on our way to a distant contact. I often pondered what it would be like to actually converse with God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. What an amazing experience that must have been!

I am grateful that I have been able to recall these memories of some significant events in my life.

Because of these and other experiences, I have a strong witness that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration. He was, and is a Prophet of God. He ushered in this final dispensation, and the Restoration, which began through his actions, continues today at an ever-increasing pace.

Why is this witness important? I invite you to think about how you would answer this question as I continue.

Let me share what stood out in my mind as I again pondered the account of the first vision.

First, Joseph lived in a time of “great confusion and strife” (v. 8). He reported that good feelings were “lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (v. 6). This led him to “serious reflection and great uneasiness” (v.8).

We, too live in a time of confusion and strife. This strife is religious, political, social, you name it. The wisdom of man has not provided solutions. Until we team up with our Heavenly Father, we will remain in confusion.

Do we follow Joseph’s example and seriously reflect? Do we turn to the scriptures for understanding? Do we seek the guidance of the Spirit?

Second, Joseph often asked himself “what is to be done” (v.10). He turned to the scriptures, and pondered them.

He said that when he read James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,”[2] it “seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of [his] heart” (v.11).

Joseph said he “reflected on it again and again” (v.12). This is the kind of scripture study that changes lives. He had a question, he turned to the scriptures, and he found a solution which led him to the answer.

Have you been touched in this way by a particular passage of scripture?

Third, Joseph made a plan and determined to take action. He decided to ask of God, even though he had never before prayed vocally. He decided where he would go to pray, and did it.

Fourth, Satan is real, and will do everything in his power to prevent our progress in God’s kingdom. Fortunately, his power is limited. And we know from revelation that our own choices limit his power.

When Joseph knelt to pray, he “was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame [him]” (v.15).

Sometimes there will be opposition to our righteous desires. Little things may come up that make it harder to study the gospel. It won’t often be just like Joseph experienced, when thick darkness gathered around him, but Satan will try to keep us from exercising our righteous desires.

Fifth, prayer is not passive. Joseph exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him (v.16).

Oliver Cowdery was taught “you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”[3]

Many of you have experienced this in your own lives as you have fervently prayed for yourself or for a loved one.

Sixth, Joseph recounted, “when the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air” (v.17). God the Father and Jesus Christ are two distinct persons, with glorified bodies. Joseph saw two individuals, and each of them spoke to him in turn.

Joseph could also see that we are created in God’s image. This helped him, and also helps to us to understand our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Children do tend to look like their parents. And don’t we all hope to grow up to be like our heavenly parents?

Seventh, Joseph reported that “One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (v.17).

One of the most important doctrines Joseph learned is that God not only knew him, but he even knew his name.

If we truly understand this, we will feel enabled to resist temptations, and we will have the strength we need to get through the rough spots in our lives.

I testify that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. He knows us. He loves us. He answers our prayers.

Eighth, we won’t have our prayers answered just as Joseph’s prayer was answered, but God does hear and answer our prayers.

Joseph received a very unexpected answer to his prayer. His question was “which church should I join?” His expectation was that he would be told which church to join, but instead he was told that all were wrong, which had never entered into his heart (v.18).

Faith in God means we can trust him to answer our prayers, but perhaps not how or when we had expected.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented: “Faith also includes trust in God’s timing, for He has said, ‘All things must come to pass in their time.[4]’”

But we know that our prayers will be answered by him who knows us best.

Ninth, along with prayers being answered, we learn of the reality of personal revelation. Personal revelation is available to each of us within our own stewardships.

I believe that personal revelation is the key to effective ministering. We cannot minister as the Lord would without inspiration from him.

The Come, Follow Me home study program invites us to receive personal revelation. So does the new Children and Youth Program.

Why is personal revelation so important? Our spiritual survival in the last days depends on our ability to be directed by the Lord in our actions rather than relying on our own wisdom or on others. The Holy Ghost can direct us better than Google ever will.

We need the words of prophets and apostles, stake presidents and bishops, but personal revelation can provide specific direction that can only come from the Lord.

Personal revelation can help us to be in the right place at the right time to help someone who needs us. It can help us to say the right things to someone who is struggling. It helps us to fulfill our covenants “to be called his people, and [to be] willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and [to be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in.”[5]

I bear witness that the Lord is willing to give us the revelation we need if we will diligently seek it.

We have the assurance that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who created us in His image, who loves all his children and hears and answers our prayers and will reveal his will to us.

These are some of the fruits of the First Vision. Many events have followed as the Lord restored his church to the earth.

The First Vision was the beginning of the Restoration. It was followed by translation of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. During the translation, the priesthood was restored, with the authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood conferred again.

With priesthood authority on earth, the true Church of Jesus Christ was organized, providing the saving ordinances of baptism and the sacrament. Temples were built and priesthood keys were restored to the earth, including the keys of the gathering of Israel and the spirit of Elijah. Later on, temple ordinances were revealed, with the authority to create eternal families.

Additional revelations followed, in which glorious truths were revealed. Additional scriptures were published.

In our day, we saw the priesthood extended to all worthy men. We see the gospel being preached to nearly all nations, kindreds and tongues. We see temples dotting the earth and covenant blessings extended to the living and the dead. It is truly a marvelous work and a wonder.

And President Nelson assures us that the work is being hastened and that the restoration is not yet complete.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a glorious time. What a blessing it is to live in our day! Of course there are also many challenges associated with our day as well.

I am amazed to think that it all began with a teenage boy who had a simple question that he couldn’t answer on his own.

I testify that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ did indeed visit the boy Joseph Smith to usher in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and Russell M. Nelson is our living prophet today.

I pray that we will have the courage and commitment to follow the prophet in faith as we participate in the restoration of the gospel. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Conference Report, Oct. 2019.

[2] James 1:5.

[3] Doctrine and Covenants 9:7.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 64:32.

[5] Mosiah 18:8,9.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 19 January 2020

Act in All Diligence

I spoke in Waterman Ward (my home ward) this morning and gave this message. As a second speaker in Rancho San Bernardino (Spanish) Ward, I gave a synopsis of this message.

I hope you sense the importance of magnifying your calling as you serve the Lord. When I excel in God’s work, I am doing it for His glory, and not for my own. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have to bring my offering of five loaves and two small fishes and to see Lord magnify them. It is a blessing to be about the Lord’s work.

I hope you find this message uplifting.


Dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to stand before you today. I am grateful for the fellowship I have with you, and I am humbled as I consider the assigned topic today. As I speak about diligently magnifying our callings, please understand that I am preaching to myself first and to you second.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. They love you, and have expressed their appreciation for your countless acts of service.

I am here by assignment, and I pray that the Spirit will be with us as I speak so that you and I will understand those ideas that the Lord wants us to learn.

We opened our meeting with a favorite hymn.[1] It’s fun to sing, fun to play, and it has an important message for each of us.

Have you ever thought about what putting your shoulder to the wheel means? It means to give your full effort to the work you are doing. The phrase originated in the 1700’s in reference to pushing vehicles that were stuck. The pioneers certainly understood this metaphor. On my mission, I learned the Dutch translation of this phrase, which is to “stick your hand out of your sleeve.” That’s also an interesting image.

Here in the kingdom of God, we all have work to do. Every one of us has received a call from the Lord Jesus Christ to serve our brothers and sisters. Let no one shirk!

In October Conference, President Henry B. Eyring taught: “Your call began when you were placed into mortality, in a place and time chosen for you by a God who knows you perfectly and loves you … In the spirit world, He knew you and taught you and placed you where you would have the opportunity, rare in the history of the world, to be invited into a baptismal font.”[2]

Through baptism and confirmation, we became covenant sons and daughters of God. Our initial mortal covenant with God, made through baptism and confirmation, was to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep his commandments, and to serve him.

President Eyring stated: “For each one who makes these covenants, the service that the Lord calls him or her to do will be suited perfectly to that person. The covenant daughters and sons of God, however, all share one important and joyful call. It is to serve others for Him.”[3]

This means that even if you do not currently hold a position in the Church, you still have a calling to serve Heavenly Father’s children.

We are called to assist Heavenly Father in His glorious mission, which he described to Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[4]

Our calling is to assist the Father in exalting His children. That is a calling from which we cannot be released. After all, King Benjamin taught that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”[5]

When we receive a calling, we may feel completely inadequate, or even overwhelmed. But I know with certainty that the Lord inspires his servants as they call us to serve in his kingdom. And he will inspire us as we strive to fulfill these responsibilities.

I know that if I serve faithfully in my calling, I will be able to touch the hearts of those that Heavenly Father has placed in my path. He will strengthen and inspire me to say and do what he would say or do if he were here. I have learned that if I do my part, I can rely on him to direct me. I am very grateful for that assurance.

Many of you know that the second High Council speaker (in the San Bernardino California Stake) is asked not to prepare a talk, but to speak by the Spirit. Many times as I sit on the stand as a second speaker, the meeting begins, and I have no idea what I should say. I feel somewhat like Nephi, who said “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”[6] You might be inclined to panic a little in this situation. Through experience, I can sit calmly and wait on the Lord with confidence that the Spirit will direct me.

I mention this in all humility, because it is not due to any special ability I have; I recognize it as gift that has been given to help me to magnify my calling. The Lord is eager to assist us in doing his work.

We can learn from the example of Jacob, the brother of Nephi. In the first chapter of Jacob, he wrote:

“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God. …
“Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord.
“For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi.
“And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.”[7]

There are three things we can learn from Jacob.

First, Jacob obtained his errand from the Lord. He was called, ordained, and assigned to speak to the people and to call them to repentance. He didn’t go of his own accord, but by assignment. And his assignment was neither easy nor pleasant.

Second, he labored diligently among the people. He gave it his full effort: he put his shoulder to the wheel.

Third, he magnified his office unto the Lord. He knew the cost of failing to magnify his calling, that it would affect his own salvation and well as the salvation of his people. He was willing to accept that serious responsibility to call the people to repentance.

It is significant to me that he magnified his calling “unto the Lord.” He didn’t serve for personal glory or desire for attention. He served for the Lord.

What does it mean to magnify one’s calling? To magnify is to enlarge, to make clearer, or to strengthen. I believe that there are expectations attached to each of our callings and assignments, and by magnifying these callings, we are living up to the Lord’s expectations.

When we magnify our calling, we do not worry about praise, thanks or recognition. We serve to honor our Heavenly Father, and to bless His children.

On those rare occasions when we do receive praise or recognition for our service, we humbly acknowledge the kind words, and remember with gratitude the giver of our talents, our Eternal Father, who enables us to magnify our callings as part of the covenants we have made with him.

President Eyring taught us: “The Lord, out of love, does not leave us the choice of the timing, duration, or sequence of our assignments. Yet you know from scripture and living prophets that all of these assignments will come, either in this life or in the next, to every [son and] daughter of God. And all of them are preparation for eternal life in loving families— “the greatest of all the gifts of God”. (D&C 14:7)”[8]

Most of our callings are for a limited time. Our callings to minister to our brothers and sisters may entail changes in assignments, but we will never be released from our calls to minister to one another. Other callings, such as father and mother, son and daughter, also do not afford us the opportunity of a release. They extend into the eternities.

How do we magnify our callings?

First, we must understand the expectations for that calling or assignment. The leader who extends the calling should explain basic duties and help us to find resources to assist us in learning and fulfilling our responsibility. That leader should help us to understand the line of authority involved in the calling. Knowing who to report to is crucial in our service.

Our file leaders bear part of the responsibility to train us, but we cannot neglect our personal obligation to prayerfully study and ponder our duties.

Know your duty.

Second, we must be obedient if we want to obtain the Lord’s blessings in our callings. My mission president frequently reminded us that Enoch’s blessings came as a result of personal righteousness. We will see miracles if we are worthy.

Keep the commandments.

Third, along with training and personal study, we have access to the guidance of the Holy Ghost as we serve. It doesn’t get better than that. If we seek the Spirit’s guidance, we can have our own personal tutor on call to help us in our covenant responsibilities.

Seek the Spirit.

Fourth, we must take action. Acting in faith is the key to success in the Lord’s kingdom. My father in law used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” If we do our best to honor our covenants by acting in faith, we can seldom go wrong.

Go and do.

Fifth, every calling involves working with people. And not just any old people, but Heavenly Father’s children! Think of that, He trusts you and me to help His own children return to Him!

It may not be obvious to many of you, but I am a shy, quiet person. I feel awkward in many social situations. It often takes great effort for me to reach out and greet others, and to know what to say.

Let me share two important things I have learned as I have served in various callings over the years. The first is that I love each of you. I hope you have felt that. Love makes all the difference.

When we lived in another ward, I was often called on to help pass the sacrament. As I passed the tray with the bread to one row, I felt a strong sense of the Savior’s love for each of them, and I felt that love myself, too. I have since felt the same thing in other wards.

The other thing I have learned is that when I have the Spirit with me, I feel eager to reach out to others. That was an important insight to me.

Love those whom you serve.

Sixth is to endure patiently. Even when you have the Spirit with you and love those whom you serve, there will be challenges. There are things the Lord expects us to learn by overcoming challenges, just as He did. Working through these challenges with the Lord’s help will teach us things that we cannot learn in other ways.

With few exceptions, one day, a release will come, and new calling will be extended. If you have served with diligence, this will be a time of sadness mixed with gratitude for having served.

Endure to the end.

To summarize, magnifying our callings requires:

First, know your duty;
Second, keep the commandments;
Third, seek the Spirit;
Fourth, go and do;
Fifth, love those whom you serve;
And sixth, endure to the end.

We have heard repeatedly from President Nelson that the Lord is hastening his work. If we desire to keep pace with the Lord’s work, we need to be committed to magnifying our callings.

At the end of Section 107 are a pair of verses that have been on my mind for nearly 50 years:

“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
“He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen.”[9]

I pray that we will all be counted worthy to stand in the Lord’s kingdom when he returns to the earth.

I testify that this is his work. This is the true Church of Jesus Christ, and he directs his Church through a living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson.

I testify that as we serve, we are preparing ourselves and those around us for life with our Heavenly Father.

I pray that we may enjoy these blessings together, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel. Hymns, 1985, 252.

[2] Covenant Women in Partnership with God. Eyring, HB. Ensign, Nov. 2019: 70-73.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Pearl of Great Price. Moses 1:39.

[5] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ. Mosiah 2:17.

[6] Ibid. 1 Nephi 4:6.

[7] Ibid. Jacob 1:8, 17-19.

[8] Eyring. Op cit. (Additions are mine.)

[9] Doctrine and Covenants 107:99-100

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