Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pre-mortal optimism

I was really good at Chemistry in high school. I understand all the theory, stoichiometry, the concepts. I found it fun. When I went to the University of Alberta, and took freshman inorganic chemistry, I thought it would be a breeze. But then there were those chemistry labs. I remember my first lab, when we had to synthesize a teaspoon of a white powder, acetylsalicylic acid - aspirin. After three and a half hours, I stumbled out of the chemistry lab greatly humbled, and having created a brown, dirty syrup that was nothing like a white powder.*

I think life is like that - literally. I think that in the pre-mortal world, we were all acing the tests, and we all knew the theory. We knew that life was a test, but I think we were naively optimistic about what the mortal experience would really be like. But then we get down here on Earth and figure out that it's a lot harder than we thought. 

In Sunday School class this week, Brent Garfield taught about Job and how his story related to pre-mortal optimism. He shared his thoughts about the "dare" at the beginning, where Satan comes before God and says in effect 'yes, he's faithful, but look at all his blessings. Take those away, and he'll curse you to your face!'. Then after Job is stripped of his blessings and remains faithful, Satan says again, 'yes, but he still has his health - take that away, and he'll curse you and lose faith'. Brent said that he thought that Job was indeed a real person - several people including Ezekiel, Jesus and the Lord in section 121 have indicated that Job was a real person. However, Brent said that he views this dialogue as more allegorical, and that it applies to all of us, and that such a conversation happened in the pre-mortal world when Satan presented his plan. Indeed, Satan said to all of us that when things got hard, we'd curse God and wish to die.

In the end, we're all going to fail. But what matters most is that we know there is a Savior who overcame all, and that by faith in him, our faults and failings don't matter. We don't have to be perfect in this life. We just have to try, and have faith in the abundant grace of Jesus Christ. Life is hard. Sometimes we're going to end up with brown goo instead of white powder. It really hurts when we fail at being a parent. But we don't have to be perfect. Thank heaven for repentance and forgiveness.

The lesson is that in the end, if we don't believe in the Savior, nothing else matters. That's the lesson of mortality. Brother Garfield compared the story of Job with the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve once enjoyed happiness, and a special relationship with God, but lost it. They were seeking that relationship with God again. That's what Job was seeking. 

Some people say that Job never complained. It is true that he never complained about losing his family, his possessions, his health. But he did complain about feeling that the heavens were closed. So when you end up with a brown, dirty goo, the only way to get through it is to rely on the Savior. And endure.


*I acknowledge Dr. Greg Smith of southern Alberta for sharing this analogy of Chemistry class, which also applies in every way, including attending the University of Alberta and having the same lab experience. From FAIRMormon podcast, Episode 1.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Whatever the Savior lays his hands upon lives.

"Whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives."
- Howard W. Hunter, October, 1979 General Conference

"Lo que Jesús pone sus manos sobre la vida. Si Jesús pone sus manos sobre un matrimonio, que vive. Si se le permite poner sus manos sobre la familia, que vive."
- Howard W. Hunter, De octubre de 1979 Conferencia General 
(sorry, this conference isn't available on in Spanish, so if it is translated poorly, blame Google Translate.)

So how does the Savior lay his hands upon us today? How can he lay his hands upon a family? Well, I leave that to you to ponder.

I testify that he does. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother's Poem

What defines a good mother? Is it a large home filled with every fun toy and gadget? Is it to be an excellent cook? Is it to have a spotless home? NO! it is none of these things. Mom's mother, Julia "Judy" Gwilliam was a perfect mom, but mom remembers that she wasn’t a very good housekeeper. But she taught mom a little poem that helped mom a lot. It goes like this:

Babies Don't Keep

I hope my children will look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up while we're not looking.
Dusting and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow fast we learn to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

We love you! Happy Mother's Day. You're all awesome mom's, and we're so very proud of you!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mothers prayers...

I saw this quote on Twitter, and had to share it here as it goes along with my theme:

"There are few things more powerful than the prayers of a righteous mother". - Boyd K. Packer

I'm so thankful for my mom, Knickerbocker genes and all. I'm so thankful for Jackie, your angel-mother. Jackie and I are so thankful for each of you wonderful mothers of our grandchildren. You're doing an awesome job. What you are doing is truly amazing!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The perfect secret giver

Luke 24:15-35 tells the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, soon after the resurrection of Christ. The Savior walks with them, "but their eyes were holden that they should not know them". One of the disciples was almost certainly Luke, the other is identified as Cleopas. A chronicler in 180 A.D. said he had years before interviewed the grandsons of Jude the Apostle, and learned that Cleopas was Jesus uncle, the brother of Joseph. Surely both these men would have been very familiar with Jesus, yet they did not know who he was until he broke bread.

The Lord is the perfect secret giver. We ask for blessings, and if they are right, the Lord answers our prayers, but often in a way that we don't see them. One of our kids used to really stress out at the beginning of each high school year. Mom and I thought this kid would die from all the stress. We would pray fervently that they would learn how to find balance in their life, and be able to do as well in school as they desired, but also have time to enjoy life. We would pray for months, and then slowly start to forget about it. Later in the year, mom and I were talking, and the thought came to us - do remember how we used to pray so hard for this child to be able to find happiness and balance in school? It happened, and we didn't even realize it!

It happens all the time. Mom and I were so worried about Kylie's health since Wendy was so sick throughout the pregnancy. We prayed and prayed and prayed that Kylie would be healthy and strong and have all her faculties. And here we are three month later, and never took the time to stop and think about the small miracle that is before us.

I remember Granny and Grampy telling us once that they worried more about us kids when we were in our twenties than they did when we were teenagers. I think mom and I would agree with that to a certain extent. We have fervently prayed for each of you as you have left the nest and faced difficult challenges. And our prayers have been answered. We continue to pray for each of you and the challenges you face, but we need to take more time to remember, see and thank.

This morning, we took a moment to pray and thank the Lord that each of our children have been married in the temple. We're thankful that you have all found and married wonderful, interesting and worthy people. We are thankful for our grandchildren. We're thankful that each of you, children and spouses, are fighters, and never give up.

I'm thankful for your angel-mother, who prays with as much faith as anyone I know. When I was called into the mission presidency, the outgoing counselor said that the other counselor prayed with much faith, and it felt like you were standing in the presence of the Lord when he prayed. I have heard him pray, and I would agree, but it wasn't as astonishing to me, as I had heard similar prayers from your mom. Each of you have seen and heard and felt mom pray. You have seen her weep, you have heard her plead, you have felt the Spirit confirm her words. I'm not saying that her prayers will protect us from every challenge that life has to throw at us - it won't. But I do know that many prayers that were 'right' have been answered. I DO know that with prayer, we can get through everything.

Pray like your mom! Let's be united in prayer, and all pray for each other! We love you!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Early morning thoughts on the birth of a new granddaughter

"Birth was, and will always be, the most commonplace of miracles - an event at once familiar and phenomenal, timeless and immediate, briefly making angels of us all." -Call the Midwife

I woke up early on Friday morning, before my alarm would normally go off, and pondered on the significance of what had happened the day before. The arrival of Kylie was more than a precious person coming into the world. It was the start of a family. And it was so much more! I realized that Kylie was a sort of glue that would bind us all together, and that she probably came to Earth with a specific mission. Whether she is bright or not, beautiful or not, talented or not, she will still be so very important. She will be a catalyst for change, just as my kids were catalysts to me. I had a strong impression that she would be "a gatherer". I'm not sure I fully understand what being a gatherer means, but I do know that the next events in her life will be a sealing in the temple, and a name and a blessing. Both are binding, gluing, gathering events.

I thought about her naming and blessing. A special priesthood ordinance, that looks forward through her life. Yes, inspiration is involved in that blessing, but the Lord has also explained that inspiration comes from "studying it out". Is not the very best way to study it out, to receive inspiration, to ask your wife what she would say! For whatever reason, the Lord has appointed men to hold the priesthood. But they magnify that priesthood when they counsel with their angel wives. We may be the ones to lay our hands on our family members, but a wise priesthood holder knows what to say because of his eternal companion. Yes, inspiration still comes in the moment, but that inspiration comes more readily as he counsels with his wife as his equal.

(One of the scariest things for me about being a bishop was that I was not able to counsel with Jackie on some heavy and important matters. I felt so alone! I'm so thankful I can counsel with her on important family matters. I'm so much more intelligent when I do!)

And so, the arrival of a child changes everything. It causes us to grow, to seek inspiration, and to grow closer to our spouses. Yes, there are bumps in the road, but Jackie and I have largely gotten over those bumps as we've repented and applied the basic principles of the gospel. I'm thankful for the miracle of children. They briefly make angels of us all!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.
William Shakespeare

Okay, so here goes. Mom and I are going to share thoughts on life from time to time. They are what WE think is wisdom that we want to pass along to you. Of course, you are welcome to believe that not everything we share here is wisdom. But hopefully some of it will be valuable.