Posted by: 2thdocbob | 30 May 2021

Our Inspired Constitution

Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the assignment to speak this morning. On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the blessings we enjoy in this great land. I think in particular of the Founding Fathers, who laid everything upon the altar to help establish the United States of America. A wise person has said “when you drink from the fountain, don’t forget who dug the well.” We celebrate in gratitude this weekend.

I will speak of the Constitution this morning. In parallel with President Oaks’ statement at the beginning of his masterful conference talk, let me make it clear that I do not identify with any particular political party or group. I speak as an Elder in Israel, and as a disciple of the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ.

I am not the constitutional scholar that President Oaks is, but I have I have studied the Constitution in some depth, and I have read commentaries and even Supreme Court decisions to gain a deeper understanding.

As we study the Doctrine & Covenants this year, I encourage you to pay attention to the statements the Lord has made about this land of promise. It will fortify your faith and your patriotism.

President Nelson testified in April Conference, “Satan has marshaled his forces and is raging against the work of the Lord and those of us engaged in it. Because of the increasing dangers we face, our need for divine guidance has never been greater, and our efforts to hear the voice of Jesus Christ—our Mediator, Savior, and Redeemer—have never been more urgent.”[1]

In the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 101, we read of the

“constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and [it] should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

“That every man may act in doctrine and principle … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood[2].”

The founding fathers have been judged harshly by many in our generation. But the Lord has testified through the Prophet Joseph that he raised up these “wise men” to establish this nation and free it by the shedding of blood.

In Section 98, the Lord informs us:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.”[3]

Heavenly Father has given the Constitution his seal of approval. Do we dare reject it? As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord. The prophets continue to testify that it is an inspired document. Does that mean it is perfect? No, but it is inspired. Things change over time and laws do require some adjustments. As President Oaks stated, we do not believe that all legal interpretations of the Constitution are inspired.

Elder J. Reuben Clark, Jr. an Apostle, and perhaps the most noted Constitutional scholar in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, testified in Conference in 1935 that the Constitution was given by the workings and operation of the Lord’s mind and Spirit upon the minds of these men. This is what makes it an inspired document.[4]

A few years later, he stated: “Brethren, I wish you to understand that when we begin to tamper with the Constitution we begin to tamper with the law of Zion which God Himself set up, and no one may trifle with the word of God with impunity.” [5]

This statement and others from the Prophets and Apostles of the Latter Days resound in my heart, because the prophets have stated in very clear terms over the years that the Constitution was established to pave the way for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prior to 1787, there was no nation on the earth that offered the protections that were necessary to allow the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored and to flourish in its infancy.

President George Albert Smith testified: The founding of the United States was not an accident. The giving to us of the Constitution of the United States was not an accident. Our Heavenly Father knew what would be needed, and so he paved the way to give us the Constitution. It came under the influence of prayer, and he guided those who framed that wonderful document.” [6]

President Oaks asked “What was God’s purpose in establishing the United States Constitution? We see it in the doctrine of moral agency.”[7]

Please note that Elder Clark, Presidents Smith and Benson, and Elder Christofferson also testified that the Constitution was given to preserve our agency. Our moral agency is one of the greatest gifts that Heavenly Father has granted us.

President Oaks stated further:

“God has given His children moral agency—the power to decide and to act. The most desirable condition for the exercise of that agency is maximum freedom for men and women to act according to their individual choices. Then, the revelation explains, “every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).[8]

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand the concepts of agency and accountability through the lens of our testimonies of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. Proper exercise of our agency will qualify us for eternal life in Heavenly Father’s presence.

John Adams stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[9]

These important truths that were revealed to the Brother of Jared about the promised land explain why President Adams’ statement is true:

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. …

“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. …

“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ.”[10]

You will recall that after the dedication of the St. George Temple in 1877, the Founding Fathers appeared to Elder Wilford Woodruff, the Temple President and requested that saving ordinances be performed for them in the temple. He saw to it that this was done, along with other notable men and women who helped establish our nation.

This shows us the caliber of these individuals. They were not perfect. I am not perfect, either, but I have access to God’s inspiration, too.

All the blessings enjoyed under the United States Constitution are dependent upon the rule of law. The righteous respect the rule of law. That is why President J. Reuben Clark said, “Our allegiance run[s] to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals.” The rule of law is the basis of liberty. It is part of our civic duty to be moral and respectful in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.[11]

I urge you to prayerfully study President Oaks’ powerful talk from April Conference. I also urge your prayerful study of the Doctrine and Covenants in relation to this important topic. Study the teachings of the prophets about America. And study the Constitution as well. This will help us hold these great men in sacred memory on Memorial Day and always. They played an important part in the Restoration. They dug the well.

I testify that if you will do this, you will be blessed with a deeper understanding of the promises of the Lord to us, his covenant people.

I testify to you that the Constitution was inspired of God. I know that it was established to allow the Restoration of the Gospel to occur so that we can fulfill our roles in covenant Israel and assist in the gathering.

I testify that God is at the helm. He is directing the affairs of his kingdom.

I know that if we are true to the principles of liberty as revealed by God, we will find peace amid the confusion and evils of our world.

That we may do so is my prayer.


[1] Russell M. Nelson, Ensign January 2021.

[2] D&C 101: 77-78, 80.

[3] D&C 98:5.

[4] J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, p. 90. April 1935.

[5] J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, October 58, 1942.

[6] George Albert Smith, Teachings, 167.

[7] Oaks, Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution. General Conference, April 2021. Italics mine.

[8] Oaks, ibid,

[9] From John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798

[10] Ether 2:9-10, 12.

[11] Benson?

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 6 May 2021

Famous Last Words, But Not Quite Last

Clinical faculty, staff, and administration at Western University College of Dental Medicine were invited to share thoughts and advice with our graduating class of 2015 on April 28, 2015. When we were invited to speak, I had a flood of ideas. However, we were given strict time limits (which I observed). This gave me a new appreciation for blogs, because this allows me to share all my thoughts.

Here is my “Last Lecture,” had I been given an hour to deliver it. I have updated it for the Class of 2021. Although I was not able to join with you this year, I still wish to share some thoughts with you, because of your importance in my life.

This posting is version 3.0.

Greetings, colleagues! In August 2017, we brought you into the WesternU family. We were excited to welcome your class. Now, some 3 years and 9 months later, I have written my “last lecture” for you.

If you are not familiar with the “Last Lecture” concept, at many universities, respected faculty members are asked to speak at special gatherings and give their last lecture, in response to the question “If this were the last lecture you gave on earth, what would you want to say?”

That is a somewhat morbid thought, especially as I consider that in the last few years I delivered eulogies for my grandmother, my aunt and my mother as well as a close friend and colleague. This is not my eulogy. Or yours. I am thinking that “Famous Last Words” might be a better title.

In order to address that, let’s go back to some of your first words here. I think I may have been privileged to interview some of you, so I may have heard some of your first words.

Nearly five years ago, each of you was interviewing for dental school. A common question, for generations, has been “Why do you want to be a dentist?” and I’m certain you responded to that one here, as well as in other schools. Try to remember your answer. (And I think you might have repeated that same question as you struggled through the early going here: something like “why in the world did I want to do this?”)

Let me pose the same question to you now: “Why do you want to be a dentist?” I hope your answer isn’t exactly the same as it was five years ago.

What changed? Well, you have. Yes, we have aged you a little. And you have aged us a little as well. You have experienced some significant life events, which may have included births, deaths, marriages, breakups, and the list could go on. We watched each of you make the transition from an excited freshman to a tired sophomore, then you entered the clinic as scared new juniors. At some point, we saw a visible change in each of you as you became professionals. You walked differently in the clinic. You showed more confidence in your own abilities and judgment, and the thought of being out in the world was no longer frightening to you: in fact, you began to anticipate it. You became confident (maybe even cocky) seniors, and finally, after boards, a new anxiety surfaced as you realized your “sheltered” life was about to end.

What changed? Your experiences in serving others; in relieving pain, and in becoming a healer helped you to recognize the intangible benefits of serving humanity: the smiles and expressions of thanks, and sometimes even the tears of gratitude. Or just the feeling that you have made things better for an individual. This probably wasn’t exactly what you expected in 2016 when you said you wanted to change the world.

When you enrolled in the College of Dental Medicine, neither you nor we realized that you would have to confront the challenges of a pandemic that has continued for over a year and has disrupted our lives on all fronts. It certainly made your dental education unique. You learned resilience and flexibility as you adapted to the changes and challenges of pandemic clinical education. From my vantage point, you have come through with flying colors.

You are not the same people who entered these doors in August 2017. I you are, then you, and especially we, have failed. I hope you will take time to recognize that.

My advice will not include:

Don’t violate the supracrestal attached tissue!

Recapitulate and irrigate!

Don’t leave unsupported enamel.

Remember to walk your patient to the front and collect the fee at the end of your appointment!

No aqua boxes!

Redo!

I’m not going to write that. You will not hear that from me!

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Remembering that free advice is worth what you pay for it, if I could give some final words of advice to each of you, it would be these:

Step out of your comfort zone. We have pushed you out of your comfort zone many times since you came here. That is that is how you grew and learned new skills.

When you leave the shelter of these walls, we will not be there to guide you or to push you. You will have to take the initiative. There will be many uncomfortable moments in your career. This may include difficult procedures, unpleasant experiences, giving bad news, or even firing an employee. These moments, properly managed, will make you stronger. And don’t overlook preparing for the unexpected challenges.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This leads to my next point.

Jump into life with both feet. You have spent a long time preparing for a great career. You will have many frightening moments. Remember your local anesthesia activity, or the first time you worked on a live patient. Think of how far you have come.

There will be many times in your life when you find yourself standing on the high-dive watching the people down in the pool having a good time. Will you hesitate, or will you jump in?

Granted, some dental procedures require careful preparation, but most things in life demand that you simply jump in and start.

Approach life with boldness.

Include God in your plans. You may not believe in the same God as I do; that’s fine. The important thing is to make God your business partner. That doesn’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but with God on your side, things always go better.

I have prayerfully approached all the major decisions in my life. I have also prayed as I faced various challenges and struggles, and the help and inspiration I received was invaluable. Don’t turn your back on a valuable resource.

I should also add that I have prayed for you. Individually and collectively. Some of you already know that, and have felt it. You are that important to me. And as some of you faced various crises, prayer was the best help I could offer you. And feel free to let me know in the future when prayers are needed in your behalf.

Keep your priorities straight. Keep a balance in life. Recognize what is most important in your life. Set your priorities and honor them. Of course, life doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes you have to temporarily shift your priorities in order to maintain your balance. But don’t go it alone.

A wise friend said: “If you take care of the big things, the little things tend to take care of themselves.”

I have learned above all, that sacrificing your family or your faith in order to have success in your career is too high a price to pay. I know some prominent dental speakers who have done just that. When I caught on to the pattern, I lost some respect for them.

My own priorities are God, family, myself, then dentistry. You may decide to prioritize things differently, and that’s fine; the choice is up to you. But take some time to seriously consider what is most important to you. It will help you keep focused when challenges arise.

Family and friends are where true wealth comes from.

During the long isolations of the pandemic, I received a lesson in the importance of personal health as a priority. A diagnosis of diabetes was an unpleasant wake-up call. With the assistance of my wife, and a good deal of stubbornness on my part, in less than three months, my diabetes was controlled, and eight months later, I have lost 65 pounds and prioritize time for my personal health. Don’t forget your own health: bad things will sneak up on you as you get older.

Don’t forget your heritage. None of you were dentists when you began your education. Some of you may have been the first college graduates in your family. Some of you may be the first doctors in your family (I am). Others are second- or even third-generation dentists. Nearly all of you are here because your family sacrificed and supported your efforts.

Your roots are important. I am descended from British coal miners, inventors and carpenters, Scottish shipbuilders, Irish and Dutch farmers, and even some royalty. I am a product of many great individuals who have shaped who I am. And I am proud of all of them.

There have also been many individuals outside my family who have shaped me: friends, teachers, colleagues and other associates. Our circles of influence are broad.

Always act in a way that will bring honor to your family and their heritage. Celebrate their sacrifices that brought you to where you are. Remember to say thank you occasionally.

Wherever you came from, don’t forget your heritage!

And in connection with that, ask yourself: what will my legacy be? How do you want to be remembered?

This is an important question to ask. Your legacy comes from your character. It is built moment by moment through your words and your actions. One major incident can destroy your reputation, and that cannot easily be restored.

I remember a dentist in our community who spent an evening in a bar, got his blood alcohol up to .16%, was involved in a police chase, and was shot to death when he tried to run over an officer when he had been cornered. He was a good man, but he will be remembered most for his last hours.

How will you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered?

Choose your paths wisely. We are free to make choices, but we are not free to choose the consequences.

Enjoy life – enjoy working! Life is meant to be a joyful experience. Enjoy your life! Enjoy working, enjoy your family, and enjoy fulfilling your responsibilities. Above all, take time to enjoy the pleasures life has to offer you.

You may feel discouraged at times, especially when you consider your financial burdens. But consider that you have skills that will allow you to work almost anywhere and earn a living. Sure, you will have to work hard, but that will also bring satisfaction to you.

Dentistry is a rewarding profession. The things that bring you joy are relieving someone’s pain, improving someone’s smile, helping someone eat better, or just the joy of a good outcome. And these are all non-taxable benefits!

As much as I loved the practice of dentistry, I love teaching even more. The opportunity to work with outstanding, ambitious and idealistic young adults has been priceless. I had no idea I would enjoy working with you as much as I do!

In Boy Scouts of America’s Order of the Arrow organization, we pledge to “seek to preserve a cheerful spirit even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities.” That’s a great life philosophy.

And another reminder: The time to get out of dentistry is when you stop having fun. Life is too short to have a job that you hate.

Find a cause; and be passionate about it. Reach out and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Make the world a better place by combining your efforts with others. And don’t do it with the intent of publicizing what a good person you are. That is a direct violation of our professional codes of ethics.

Your passion for a cause will influence others, because you are a doctor.

It may be as simple as donating blood (very anonymous). Perhaps coaching a youth sports team or coaching youth in other areas where you have talents. It may be Scouting, or in your church. You might help out with marching band. There is no limit to the contributions you can make.

It may be a community cause; it may be on a larger scale. But find something!

I even have some friends who have turned their passion to politics. Bill Emmerson and Sam Aanestad served in the California legislature, and Jim Woods serves there now. And Paul Gosar represents Arizona (and dentistry!) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

You definitely should be a part of your dental organization’s charitable efforts, as in CDA Foundation and other similar organizations.

Make sure you support causes that you can embrace fully.

You get what you pay for. If you were going to have open-heart surgery, you wouldn’t look for the low bidder to do the job. You would seek out the services of an experienced surgeon; one who has successfully confronted your condition before.

You didn’t go to the low bidder for your dental education. But you will recognize in the years to come the great value you received.

While it is important to be thrifty and try to save money, don’t try to do everything on the cheap. In many cases it will cost you more.

Always express sincere gratitude. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It will carry you far in life. Learn to express gratitude from the heart. Be thankful for the small things as well as the bigger things. Expressing gratitude to your spouse or significant other is an important key to a happy marriage. And thank your children for their efforts. This will teach them to be appreciative and thankful people.

Sincerely thank your staff. Treat them politely and they will become fiercely loyal to you. Thank your patients: they are contributing to your successes.

People need to feel appreciated. Your expressions of gratitude and appreciation will change lives. Including your own.

I hope you have noticed that even in the midst of challenges, you don’t have to look very far to find something to be thankful for.

Be a mentor: don’t keep your wisdom to yourself. You know the value of a good mentor. You have had them in school, and you have had them at other key points in your life.

There will be many times in your life when you have the opportunity to teach someone a life skill or give them some kind of help or encouragement. As a professional, you are obligated to help others. You may be the only person that treats some of your young patients with respect, and that goes a long way.

If you ever have a teenage patient who asks you if life is really worth living, you will suddenly feel that burden. Some of your patients will subtly ask you to throw them a lifeline when they are struggling. Perhaps you have made the same request during your education here, and have been blessed by the timely response of a sensitive faculty member or classmate. You will need to be aware. And be encouraging.

Other patients will ask more positive questions. Like the kids who ask how long you have to go to school to become a dentist. When you answer, let them feel your passion for the profession. It is a priceless moment when you hear a patient say “I want to be like you.” Believe me, these comments make the struggles worth it.

A song in your heart will keep a smile on your face. I find that I continually have music in my head. It’s good music. It keeps me sane. That is one reason I love the blues. It makes me happy. It makes me feel good.

I will never forget the anxious patient who was having some extractions. She started to laugh in the middle of the extractions. I had to stop and ask her why. She told me to listen to song that was playing (Twist and Shout by the Beatles). She asked if I had thought about the words. I had not, at least not in connection with dental work. But thinking about Paul singing “twist and shout … come on baby, work it on out” was enough to relax her for what might have been a miserable procedure. That has been my extraction song ever since. And you will never hear that song the same way again.

Dr. Friedrichsen told me of a similar experience while numbing a patient to the old standard I’ve Got You Under my Skin.

There are other songs that belong in my dental repertoire as well. Comfortably Numb is my favorite. And how about Hurts So Good? Or Hurts So Bad?

Even without a dental connection, music influences our moods. I have written about that. Go for the tunes that make you feel good. I cannot imagine a world without music.

Keep a sense of humor, but don’t take yourself too seriously: we don’t.

Humor can grease the wheels of life and help difficult times to go better. I don’t recommend crude, profane, or offensive humor; that is unprofessional. But a little humor makes the day better.

One caveat: some patients do not want humor when they visit the dentist. You’ll learn to switch it on and off.

Appropriate humor will also make family life more fun.

And don’t take things personally: we all have bad days – and good ones. When I have a bad day, I like to remind myself that even trash collectors have bad days. Even Eric Clapton hits a bad note on occasion, but he always recovers quickly.

The great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis taught a band member that “If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if its’s good or bad.”

And a bad day in some careers is far worse than a typical bad day in dentistry.

Set goals. You might feel as though you have been on a runaway freight train as it races full speed ahead for the past few years. Now, as you look ahead, you are still moving at full speed, but you don’t see any tracks ahead! You have reached the point in your lives where you will have to lay the tracks yourself; you will have to determine your course. Otherwise, gravity will do it for you. And gravity always takes you downhill.

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice comes to crossroads, where she meets the Cheshire Cat.  As usual, Alice is puzzled by the choice she faces.

She asks: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” To which the

Cheshire Cat responds: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice replied: “I don’t much care where.”

The Cheshire Cat replied: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.” And Alice interjected: “…So long as I get somewhere.”

The Cheshire Cat concluded: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

At many crossroads in your lives it will be critical to make an informed choice. If you don’t, life will carry you along to a place you may not desire.

Most of us here in the College of Dental Medicine are here because we came to a crossroad and made a choice. Few of us of us had any idea where the road would lead, but it has been a fulfilling journey.

That is also important to remember. Don’t fear the unexpected.

Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley [awry].”  Our best plans don’t always work out. Things change. Be flexible. Adapt to the changes and keep moving forward. You may find you end up in a better place!

Let me give you all a last little bit of homework. You won’t have to turn this in, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

During the next few weeks, many of you will have more down time than you have ever had as adults.

If you are wise, you will use some of this time to sit down in a quiet place and take stock of your life. Start with questions like “Where am I? Where do I want to be in 5 years? In 10?” Write your thoughts down. Organize your thoughts into solid goals. Don’t discard a goal because it might seem to take too long or require too much effort. Your journey to becoming a dentist was neither quick nor easy.

Then set some intermediate goals that will help you to reach that destination. Again, write it all down. Organize it. And put it all where you can see it frequently.

Be sure to include continuing education in your goals. This will help you improve in some of your weak areas. Don’t leave it to chance.

For example, paying off student loans early (and some of you will do that) will not happen by accident. Those who achieve that will do it because they made a plan and carried it out.

Your biggest challenge may be that all your plans led up to May 19. Your pursuit of that has been in a very structured world. Now you must determine the structure of your future. If you don’t, life will just happen and you may not get anywhere.

Be true to the trust placed in you, as a person and as a professional. Society has entrusted you with great responsibilities as healers, as scholars, and as professionals. You have been granted privileges that few others enjoy. You may just think of the privileges included within your scope of practice. But it goes beyond that.

You will also be respected because you bear the title “doctor.” In matters both dental and non-dental, your opinions will be highly respected. They may be given more weight than you think is appropriate. Choose your words carefully.

Strive for excellence in life. Always give your best efforts in whatever you do. Do your job the best you can. Not just in your practice but in your life outside your practice as well. People will form impressions based on what they see. Be consistent.

Be a person of integrity. Be a trusted, reliable person. Like it or not, you are role models. That obligates you to be a good example.

Be a good neighbor. Be kind to others, especially to those who seem least deserving of kindness. In the end, your caring demeanor will mean more to your patients than your ability to cut a perfect prep.

Never stop learning: Be curious about the world around you. You have spent the last four-plus years focused on dentistry and the health sciences. You will now have the freedom to look into other areas as well. It has been said that if you choose the right five books on a subject, you can become an expert on that subject.

Some of the subjects I have studied in depth include birds, computers, constitutional law and the Supreme Court, weather, birds, plate tectonics, marketing, leadership, literature, ethics, religious studies, photography, birds, and many others.

Gaining knowledge outside of dentistry makes you a better citizen of the world. And you will find it easier to converse with your patients.

Of course, you must also continue your study of dentistry. We are part of a rapidly changing profession. If you don’t make an effort to keep up to date, you will quickly become an old school dentist and find it difficult to compete. Take time for continuing education! Don’t become stagnant and irrelevant!

And by all means, look at the history our profession. This has not been a part of our curriculum. But understanding where we have been can help you appreciate where we are going. And there are some fascinating characters in our history.

Your most valuable asset is not your hands or your eyes: it is your brain! Keep it active; keep it healthy.

Never stop learning!

Give back! The first words of advice I received as a new dentist were from Dr. John Brown, from Claremont, who told me “Welcome to dentistry. Make sure you give back.” At point, I wasn’t sure what he meant. I wasn’t sure I had received anything at that point. But I took his remarks to heart. I took advantage of opportunities to serve my colleagues in the dental organization in small ways. One thing led to another, and I was asked to serve in leadership positions. I had opportunities that I could not have imagined, and I have friends around the globe. Because I chose to give back, I had the opportunity to join the faculty of a fledgling dental school in Pomona. You have seen the results.

Giving back doesn’t apply just to your profession. Give back to your community, to your church, to other organizations that have helped you along the way.

You will have many opportunities to serve. Serve as your circumstances allow, and to the extent you desire. But serve. Somewhere.

You will be a happier person because of your service. And you will make the world a better place.

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This is an amazing time to become a dentist. The profession has an exciting future. They told us that when I was graduating. It was true then; it is true now. Sure, there are economic pressures, especially as the world and our profession recover from COVID-19. The real rewards are those of being a healer, an artist, and a creator of smiles. As technology develops, there will better ways to do what we do. Things that we can’t even imagine right now.

One warning: you are now condemned to be hearing voices the rest of your life. I think most of us can hear particular faculty members saying things repeatedly. That will be a good reminder to you all. For me, it has been Doctor Tom Watkins, in his South Texas accent, reminding us to make our class V preps roundy-roundy, with an outline form like hot dawgs or smiley faces.

So just take a deep breath, and do what you know how to do. And make us proud.

So, I wish you all great success in your personal and professional lives. We are proud of what you have done and will continue to take pride in your accomplishments. I look forward to seeing what you do with your lives. We live in an extremely connected world, so be sure to share!

I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have had to work with most of you in some capacity, and the opportunity I have had to touch your lives. Please know also that you have touched my life, and changed me.

I love you all, and have great respect for each of you. I hope you have felt that when we have worked together. I am proud of each of you for your great accomplishments in reaching this point. Particularly those who have endured extra struggles in getting here. You are an example to all of us.

Now one final last word. My teaching philosophy can be summed up in three words: “dreams to reality.” I am grateful beyond words for the trust you have placed in me, and in my colleagues, and for the privilege of assisting you in making your dreams a reality.

Thank you.

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.

——————————————————————————————-

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

quote-and-yes-words-matter-they-may-reflect-reality-but-they-also-have-the-power-to-change-william-raspberry-144-88-83

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.

 

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