Thursday, December 28, 2006

August 9, 1974

President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006 at the age of 93.

He was President of the United States from August 1974 until January of 1977. Perhaps the most memorable part of his presidency was the day he took office. That day will be seared in my memory forever. I was 16 years old at the time. Here are my memories of that day, and those times:

It was August 9, 1974. It was the summer before my Jr. year of High School. It had just been a little over two years (June 17, 1972) since the Watergate break-in. On this day, the first resignation of a President of the United States would take place.

I was a very politically aware teenager. I tried to stay well informed. I had subscribed to Newsweek starting in about 1971. I still have my prized collection of Watergate related Newsweek magazines. I also read a lot of newspapers, and watched and listened to a lot of news on TV and radio.

On that August day, I was spending the Summer helping my Grandfather with his ranch (where I spent all of my summers as I was growing up.) At the time, my Grandfather was the County Chairman of the Republican Party. I remember that we supported Nixon for a long time, until the evidence against him became too overwhelming to ignore.

Normally on a Summer's day in August, we would be out in the hay fields, baling hay at that time of day. (Noon Eastern Time -- 10:00 AM our time). However, we knew of the great historical moment that was about to take place. It was a sad occasion. We felt let down by President Nixon. We wanted to believe in his innocence until the bitter end.

We came in from the fields to watch President Ford’s Speech. What we heard from the newly sworn-in President Ford was reassuring:
"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."
The nightmare of Watergate had begun some two years previously with the Watergate break-in. In the Spring and Summer of 1973, the US Senate created a special "Select" committee to investigate the Watergate break-in, to see if members of the administration were invovled in any way. After months of hearings the single greatest finding of the committe was the discovery of the previously unknown White House taping system.

Up until this time, it was one man's word against another, regarding the facts of the case and the involvement of the president and administration officials. The tapes would be incontrovertible proof of the President's involvement, or lack thereof, in the Watergate break-in, and the subsequent cover-up.

What then ensued was a long series of court battles over whether or not the president would have to turn over the tapes. The president claimed “Executive Privilege”, while prosecutors insisted they had the right to subpoena the tapes as evidence in their investigation.

After more than a year of legal wrangling, On July 24, 1974, the US Supreme Court, voted 8-0 that the president must surrender the tapes – and denied the president's claim to executive privilege.

On July 27-30, 1974 the House Judiciary Committee voted largely upon party lines to Impeach the president on three articles of impeachment:
  • Obstructing the Watergate investigation
  • Misuse of power and violating his oath of office
  • Failure to comply with House subpoenas
Our own Utah Rep. Wayne Owens (D) sat on that committee during his freshman term of congress. He cast his vote to impeach the president. Incidentally, Hillary Clinton, (then Hillary Rodham) was a staff attorney for the House Judiciary committee at the time.

On August 5, 1974 transcripts of 3 taped conversations were released which implicated the president in criminal conduct. The tapes showed that Nixon had obstructed justice by ordering the FBI to stop its investigation of the break-in, and that he directed a cover-up.

After these revelations were made public, even Republican members of the House Judiciary committee said they would change their votes in favor of impeachment.

On August 8, 1974, President Nixon announced his resignation in an nationally televised address.

Then at noon on August 9, 1974 I watched Gerald R. Ford as he was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States.

President Ford went on to say:
"I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself."

I have always remembered that statement.

Truth is the glue that holds families together. If we honor our covenants and remain true to one another our families will be strong.

Truth is the glue that holds communities together. If we are honest, honorable, and obey the law, our communities will be strong.

Clusters of truthful, strong communities make for a strong government and a strong civilization.

On the other hand, lies and deceit cause us to lose faith and trust in one another. When lies and deceit emanate from our government officials, our faith and trust in government is destroyed.

It is arguable if full faith in our government has ever been fully restored since the Watergate Scandal. Now we view our government with more of an eye of skepticism.

As we remember President Ford, we appreciate his integrity and his candor. He helped bring honor, integrity, and decency to the Presidency once more.

Shortly after taking office, President Ford took a great political risk in pardoning Richard Nixon. He was roundly criticized and condemned for this action. Most political experts agree that "The Pardon" was the main reason he was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976. Now, looking back we can see that the pardon was the right thing to do. The government had come to a virtual standstill with the scandal and the impeachment hearings. The pardon helped to get the country, and the government to re-focus on the issues at hand, and to move forward. It was time to put Watergate behind us.

President Ford's other policy decisions are open to debate. We may not necessarily agree with everything he did during his 2 1/2 years as president. (Remember the WIN lapel buttons for "Whip Inflation Now!") But he helped to rescue a floundering nation that was caught in a great constitutional crisis. He brought healing and direction to us once more.

In his speech to the nation, on that fateful day, he made the following promise to the nation:
"I now solemnly reaffirm my promise I made to you last December 6: to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best I can f or America.

God helping me, I will not let you down."
He was a man of his word. He did not let us down. Thanks for your service to our nation in a time of great need.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Safe In The Care of the Shepherd

The following is my Christmas Message to you this year. It is based on a talk I gave last Sunday in church.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

In the outskirts of Jerusalem, shepherds gathered their sheep in for the night. The bleating lambs had found their way to their mothers. All was quiet for the night. The dews of the night were beginning to distill upon the ground. The stars in the sky shown bright in the heavens above. All seemed well, all seemed quiet for the night. The sheep were safe, under the watchful care of their shepherd.

Perhaps in the stillness, a shepherd or two had cast their eyes up into the heavens above. There they saw the majesty of night sky, and wondered at the vastness of God’s creations. They may have felt a little small and insignificant, compared to the immensity of the universe, and the endlessness of the works of His hands.

While gazing upon the night sky, they may have noticed a light appearing in skies above them, which continued to increase in brightness and glory until all of the shepherds cast upward their eyes, with awe and wonder at what they beheld.

Suddenly, within the light, a personage appeared before them, standing above them in the air. The angel wore a robe of the most exquisite whiteness, whiter than anything they had ever before seen. Not only was the robe exceedingly white, but the whole person of the angel was glorious and bright beyond description. The skies surrounding the angel were incredibly glorious, but not as bright as immediately around the angel. When the shepherds first looked upon him, they were afraid; but soon, the fear left them. (See Joseph Smith – History 1:30-33)

Then came the joyous announcement the angel had come to give:
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (See Luke 2:10-11)
The breathtaken shepherds hardly had time to take in this message, let alone ponder its deep and eternal meaning, when a yet another miracle appeared:
And suddenly there was . . . a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (See Luke 2:13-14)
Numberless concourses of angels sang from the heavens that night. The joy of the hosts of heaven was so great that they could not be kept from within the veil. For on that night the salvation of the Lord was at hand. Perhaps we, too, were among that heavenly host, singing with great joy and exultation. The very key of the plan of Salvation was about to be born upon the earth. The bonds of death and hell were about to be broken forever! The prisoners were soon to be free!

After a time, the heavenly hosts, and the angel that greeted them returned back into the heavens from whence they came. The brightness and glory that had overshadowed them, now gradually faded away. Once more, the night had returned to its usual still and still quiet state.

At first, the shepherds must have remained in a stunned silence. What were these miracles they had just beheld? They had never seen anything like it. Perhaps no one in the history of the world had ever seen anything like it. Yet it was to these humble shepherds that these miracles were made manifest. We know that faith precedes the miracle. And these shepherds must have been possessed of great faith. Faith such that they were privileged to hear the angles sing.

There was a greater miracle still, that they would yet behold that glorious night.

The angel had promised the shepherds that they could see the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. Quickly, and with haste, the shepherds went to that humble stall, where there lie the newborn Son of God -- even Jesus Christ.

Before them was the promised Messiah. The Savior of the World. Born of a virgin, to save the world one day. The Master and Creator of the heavens and the earth lie before them in that manger. Yet, in a few short years, the He would accomplish His mission. He took upon himself the sins of the world. He paid the price for each one of us, for all of our sins and mistakes. But this was not all.
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.

. . . 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. (See Alma 7:10-13)
Not only did he pay for our sins, but he took upon himself our pains and sicknesses, and our infirmities of every kind; whether they be mental, physical, or spiritual. And then, after all this, he suffered death for us, and took up his life again. That through him we might have eternal life.

Christ reaches out to every one of us. Hear His words:
Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (See 3 Nephi 9:13-14)
So if you feel weighed down by the pressures and anxieties of life. If your heart is not right with the Lord. If the burdens you carry seem hard to bear – Come unto Him. For he has said: “Come unto me all ye that labor, and I will give you rest.” Draw near to the Lord, for he will draw near unto you. He will send you His Spirit, and you will be strengthened and comforted. Repent and come unto him, and he will lift your burdens and grant unto you a newness of life. A new life filled with light and truth and love. A new life filled with purpose and meaning. A new life filled with faith and hope and joy.

Just as miracles happened that night long ago to the Shepherds of the field, so too can miracles happen in our own lives. Lives that were once bruised and broken can be healed and made whole. And one day we too may be privileged, like them, to behold the Savior of the world, and to kneel before him with wonder and awe -- and worhsip Him.

I testify to you that Christ did come into the world. He was the promised Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. He shared with us the Good News of his gospel. He suffered for our sins, and died for us all.

Not only did he die for us all, but he died for you, and he died for me. He knows each one of us personally. He knows our names. He knows our hearts. He knows our lives and our woes. None of us is too small nor too insignificant for his watchful eye. He loves each us with a love that cannot fail, and will not end. He will never forget us, nor abandon us.

He is always there--


Waiting for us to come unto Him.

Waiting for us to choose eternal life, through Him.

If we only will.

Reach out to him. Open the door unto him. Let him into your life. Let him heal you.

That you and I -- like those sheep on that holy night so long ago -- may find safety in the arms of The Shepherd.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Military Honors For Scott Lundell

The Military has their own way of honoring their fallen comrades. The Utah National Guard had their own memorial service for 2Lt Scott Lundell which was held in Afghanistan for those who had served with him there.

Governor John Huntsman (Governor of Utah) happened to be on a State Visit to Afghanistan shortly after Scott was killed. The Governor attended and spoke at the memorial service there with Lt Lundell's comrades in arms. You can read an account of the memorial service here.

Also, my sister, Jeannette, e-mailed me an essay written by Captain Paul Faletto, who escorted Lt. Lundell's body from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City to return his body to his family. It is a very touching and moving story. It is amazing how much honor and attention to detail the military attends to for the fallen among them.

Capt. Paul Faletto, who teaches Military Science at Weber State University. He also has commanded special forces groups in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Scott Lundell had previously served in a unit with Capt. Faletto.

Capt. Faletto's account is titled, "A Utah Warrior's Last Steps Home ". You can read it here.

Also, I have learned of a similar story of a Sailor who escorted one of his fallen comrades home to Longmont, Colorado.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Utah Warrior's Last Steps Home

Written by Captain Paul Falletto, Utah National Guard

Last Monday I received a call from the Mortuary Affairs Office. I would have rather have been called by the IRS scheduling an audit for the past 20 years.

A Second Lieutenant had been killed in Afghanistan and we were to send a person to escort him home to his family and final resting place. This time it was not a stranger, it was a young officer whom I knew.

2LT Scott Lundell was a new officer in my previous unit. He was on his way to earning a Green Beret. He had heard the sounds of the guns after 9-11 and instinctively this warrior's heart lead him to move towards those who were in danger. He put aside his personal aspirations of earning his Special Forces tab and volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan to train the Afghani Army.

His patrol was ambushed by vastly superior numbers. Undeterred, 2LT Lundell moved to counterattack. 2LT Lundell was always a natural leader. From serving as Student Body President, to serving his church on a foreign mission, to the battlefields of Afghanistan, 2LT Lundell always was a leader. His heroic actions saved many lives, yet cost him his own on that day.

I flew to Philadelphia on Thursday. It was my mission to escort and guard this father, soldier, warrior, and hero on his final journey home. It was a mission that I wished I had not offered, but accepted with honor.

The phone rang at 0200. Wake up call, 45 minutes to shine my shoes, shower, shave, and put on my Dress Blues before my ride to Dover AFB arrived. The standard uniform for this assignment is the Army Class "A", but our commander ordered all members of the honor detail to wear the uniform reserved for our most reserved occasions.

Sergeant Parsons greeted me as we entered Dover's Mortuary Affairs center. There were two other's from the Army who were there to escort soldiers home and one Marine with the same assignment. We were lead into a small conference room and began our briefing of our duties and sequence of events.

On the table in front of me sat a stack of cases holding the awards 2LT Lundell had earned. Purple Heart, Bronze Star, combat Action Badge, Paratrooper's Wings.... and a small, black, velvet bag with the words, "United States of America" across the front.

I was instructed to open the green folder on my table and remove the top form. I then to opened the black bag and began to inventory the immediate personal effects of 2LT Lundell. Out of nowhere, somebody hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. I felt sick. I could feel the fever coming on, I could feel the sweat begin to bead on my head, and my hands began to shake. This was now very real and very personal.

My unsteady hands removed his watch, his dog tags, a challenge coin he had received from the 3rd Special Forces, and finally a gold wedding band. Through watery eyes I checked off each of these items on the form. I noticed Scott had a small plastic tag on his dog tag chain. I saw the familiar words emblazoned from the Special Operations Memorial in Arlington. It was the scripture from Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

At 0500 I boarded a special van with 2LT Lundell and we drove to Philadelphia. We arrived at the Delta cargo terminal. The driver & I unloaded 2LT Lundell and entered the office to complete his paperwork to travel home. Once we had his affairs in order, the driver took me to the passenger terminal.

I entered the bustling crowd of people all trying to fly to various destinations and began looking for the entrance to check in. I'm not sure if it was my emotionally dazed look or full dress uniform that caught the eye of the Delta agent named Michelle. She quickly pulled me aside and asked if I was escorting. I told her that I was and she took me aside and checked me in for my flight.

She upgraded my seat to first class, told me my departure gate, instructed me to use the far left lane of the security screening, and then took my and thanked me. She told me she would come to the gate and help me get to the tarmac to pick up 2LT Lundell.

I walked to the far left side of the TSA screening and stood in line. Regulations require I remain in uniform, but the TSA could ask me to remove my jacket and shoes. I was told they may have a private area where I could remove my jacket and shoes, but did not see any place where this could transpire. An agent from TSA quickly noticed me and asked if I was escorting and I nodded. He opened the line and led me to a lane that was even further to the left.

The TSA agents x-rayed my carry on bag and were able to conduct their security search while allowing me to maintain my professional duties.The agent shook my hand and thanked me. It was painfully obvious to me that this was something they had done many times, yet they really went to lengths to make me feel comfortable.

Michelle met me at the gate and introduced me to Dan who would take me down to the tarmac. The crew arrived shortly thereafter. The pilot came and shook my hand and told me if I needed anything to let him know.

He asked if he could have the other passenger remain seated to allow me to deplane first. I told him it would be very helpful if he could and that it would save time because offloading 2LT Lundell is the first thing the baggage handlers would do.

Dan led me down the stairs and I inspected the cardboard shipping container that protected 2LT Lundell's wooden coffin. There was not doubt it was him. The formality of checking his name and the condition were part of my duties.

I knew it was him. 2LT Lundell was a man larger than life itself. He required an extra large coffin. It was large enough to hold his body, but not the character of his spirit nor the love he gave and received.

The baggage handlers were most professional, but unprepared for such a man. Two of them tried to lift the end of this giant. It took another handler and me to place the 500+ pounds onto the conveyor to load 2LT Lundell into the hold of the 757. Once on the conveyor, I stepped back and rendered a salute as I watched him load into the plane.

I boarded the plane and sat down. The flight was completely full, yet I felt totally alone. I suppose it takes a couple hours to fly from Philadelphia to Atlanta, but time for me was a cloud. I heard the pilot ask the other passengers to allow me to depart the plane first and the flight attendants reminded them of this as we landed.

As we approached the gate I saw an Honor Guard formed by the baggage handlers. I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. I was stunned that the airline would go to such lengths for a fallen soldier. They stood at attention holding the flags of the United States of America, the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force.

The plane came to a rest and I stood. Not a single person moved.

Every passenger paid tribute to a man that made it possible for them to fly safely that day. As I exited the aircraft I was immediately greeted by a Delta baggage handler who told me he was a former Marine. He explained that the employees who were veterans received special permission from the Department of Defense to form an Honor Guard so they may honor all of the fallen soldiers as they transport them home. He
asked if I would participate in their ceremony and in a prayer with them.

We marched to the conveyor and 2LT Lundell was brought to us. We presented arms as he came down and then the Marine gave a short prayer. We prayed for Scott, for his family, for me, and for the Lord's protection for all who place themselves in harm's way to defend our freedom. It took every ounce of my strength to maintain my composure as I thanked each of them for what they did that day, for their service to
our nation, and for the ceremonies they will render for the heroes that will pass by them in the future. They gave me the short program and the prayer and asked me to give it to his wife. Each man had signed it: Fred Cadwell, James Davis, William Stearns, and Juan Farmer. I wished I had copied the prayer. A few short words, uttered in front of a few men, but heard by God.

2LT Lundell was placed on a special cart. Painted dark blue with the emblems of all branches of the military and these words, "All gave some, some gave all." "Delta vets honoring our own." We were taken to the employee lounge while we waited for our flight to SLC.

When the plane was inbound, we were taken to the gate. The driver parked the cart so nobody would see the precious cargo it carried. He took me upstairs so I could check in. The agent arrived and I asked her if it was possible to move me closer to the door. She said her computer was not up yet, but she would see what she could do. I stood watching the cart through the window. I doubted anybody would notice that one of the baggage carts was very different.

The pilot arrived and immediately walked over to me. He was a former officer in the USAF and his son flies F-15's out of Mountain Home Idaho. He also offered me any assistance he could provide. I told him how touched I had been with everything Delta had done. We shook hands and he went to go conduct his pre-flight checks.

The crowd around the agent at the desk was gone so I walked over to see if she was able to move me closer to the door. She handed me a boarding pass that put me at the back of first class nearest to the door. I thanked her and went back to watching 2LT Lundell. The baggage handlers came to move him to prepare to load. The gate agent opened the door and I went down to his cart.

I told the baggage handlers that they needed to get more people. So they brought two more men over. The pilot stopped what he was doing and came to assist as well. The pilot helped us load 2LT Lundell and then stood beside me and rendered a salute as he was placed into the hold of the aircraft.

As we flew to SLC, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a unit coin. He said this was from one grunt to another. He was the Commander of Dugway Proving Grounds. He knew why I was in my dress blues and what I was doing. It was a welcomed gesture of support. I felt I was not as alone on this part of the journey.

The pilot announced to the flight that they were bringing one of Utah's native sons home and that I was escorting him. He asked if everyone would allow me to please exit first. As we taxied to the gate the flight attendants repeated the request and said how privileged they felt to be able to do so and that they wished to thank all those who serve and have served our country.

Chicago was closed that day due to weather. I heard passengers say how only four flights made it out in the morning. Our plane was full of people who had rerouted to try to make their destinations. I heard several passengers mention they had less than 30 minutes to make their connections. I wondered if they would allow me to move to the door. I did not want to have to ask people to move so I could be first.

My concerns were abolished when the plane stopped. I stood and took a step towards the door. Nobody rose; everyone began to applaud at once. These strangers were bound by a kinship we all shared. We all were part of bringing 2LT Lundell home to Utah.

The first person I saw when I walked down the stair to the tarmac was BG Wilson, the Commander of I Corps. It was his command that 2LT Lundell volunteered to go to war. His eyes looked like mine. We shared in the grief of the responsibility. He returned my salute and gave me pat on the shoulder and thanked me. Behind him I saw 2LT Lundell's best friend from Afghanistan. He is a 1LT who was going through Special Forces training with 2LT Lundell. This 1LT was one of my ROTC students. I counseled with he and 2LT Lundell about this mission prior to their departure.

This 1LT had brought 2LT Lundell from Afghanistan to the USA. They had served together and they were close. 2LT Lundell's wife asked him to bring him home and to come to the funeral.

The Honor Guard now took charge of transporting 2LT Lundell. These were highly professional NCO's who I had worked with before. I was relieved to see them. They took a tremendous weight off of my shoulders.

They entered the cargo hold of the plane and removed the protective cardboard from the casket. They placed the stars of our nation's flag over the left shoulder and ran the stripes down past his feet. They brought him off the pane and placed him on a cart. The cart was escorted by his family, the Honor Guard, and at least six
airport police to a hanger. In the hanger, 2LT Lundell was taken from the cart and placed into the hearse.

After he was placed into the hearse I saw MG Tarbet. It was obvious that this was very personal to him. He looked like this was his own son. His strength and 2LT Lundell's wife's strength was incredible. I've never seen any two people so close to losing a loved one handle it so well.

The ride to the mortuary was somber. Every police officer in the valley must have been there. I have seen the motorcade when the President of the US visited Utah and it was nothing compared to what I saw this time. Every intersection was blocked for the entire 15 mile trip. Police were not leap frogging to get ahead to the next
intersection, they were already there. It was below freezing, yet there were officers on motorcycles.

When we arrived at the funeral home, the Honor Guard removed 2LT Lundell from the hearse and took him inside. Once inside, I followed the casket to a back room. CPT Wiedmeier was the Casualty Assistance Officer and he took care of the family while I went with 2LT Lundell. My job was easy compared to his.

The funeral home director and his staff only had a few minutes to try to make any adjustments if needed. We were told, "Viewable for Identification Only". This would most likely mean a closed casket and no viewing. SGT Parsons had told me they always down grade the condition to protect the family.

When the casket was opened there was opaque plastic covering his face. I feared the worst. When it was removed, he looked perfect. The funeral home people set about their duties while I inspected his uniform. Everything was in order and they moved him to a viewing room.

CPT Wiedmeier broke away so he and I could take care of paperwork. I signed over 2LT Lundell's personal effects and his awards to him so he could present them to the family. When he left to do this, I met with the Director of the funeral home and had him sign the remaining forms accepting 2LT Lundell and verifying his condition.

The Honor Guard took charge of guarding 2LT Lundell until his funeral. They would stand vigilant through the night and into the day until he was laid to final rest.

I found the 1LT who brought 2LT Lundell out of Afghanistan. His wife was clutching his arm. I thought how she must be thinking how easily the roles could be reversed and how it could be her husband instead. I talked with him briefly, offering encouragement and assistance. I'm sure those two spent the night holding each other closer than they ever have in their lives.

This was one of the greatest honors I've ever had. I wish to never do this again, but would do so anytime for any soldier.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oquirrh Mountain Temple

My daughter Amy and I attended a satellite broadcast of the groundbreaking for the new Oquirrh Mountain, Utah Temple. After looking at the design of this temple, the exterior reminds me somewhat of the Nauvoo, Illinois temple.

It was a cold and snowy morning, but a large tent had been erected around the groundbreaking site. The tent was heated, and equipped with an organ. 1The First Presidency, several members of the Quorum of the Twelve, The Presiding Bishopric, and a few members of the Seventy were there. The audience was made up of Stake Presidents, and their families who reside within the new temple district.

A a beautiful sounding choir was also there. They sounded angelic and glorious! They sang common hymns found in the LDS Hymnbook, but they were special arrangements. I would not be surprised if they were specially arranged for this occasion.

All three members of the First Presidency spoke -- just 4-5 minute talks each. I was pleased to see President Faust feeling well enough to stand while giving his talk. President Faust spoke of a prophecy, from long ago, attributed to Brigham Young, that envisioned the Jordan River as being the center of the city, and that one-day there would be three million people in the valley. (We're somewhere around 1 million right now in Salt Lake County -- 2 million if you count the whole Wasatch Front.)

Originally, the name of the new temple was to be the "South Jordan, Utah" temple (that's what it said on our program too!) However, President Hinckley announced at the groundbreaking service that they had decided to change the name so as not to have this temple confused with the Jordan River Temple, which also happens to be in the city of South Jordan, Utah. When the Oquirrh Mountain Temple is completed, South Jordan, Utah will be the only city in the world that will have two LDS temples.

President Hinckley then offered the dedicatory prayer, dedicating the site for the construction of the temple. His prayer included all those who will work on the temple, that they may remember the special and sacred nature of this building, and do their work with the skill and care that this project will require.

After the prayer, and the close of the service, the ceremonial groundbreaking took place.

As you can see by the photo, they hauled in some fresh top soil for the occasion. They also erected a little platform, not unlike the deck of a swimming pool, covered in artificial turf. President Hinckley joked that, "This is kind of fake!" with the hauled in top soil.

However, the top soil served its purpose. Church leaders, civic leaders, and a representative of the Land Development company that donated the Land all had their turns.

Then they turned the shovels loose. Anyone in the tent, who had a desire, was invited to come and turn a spade of earth. There were several children present in the audience. What a great experience, especially for them.

You can read more about the groundbreaking in the Deseret News article here.

Temple Facts

Oquirrh Mountain, Utah Temple
Temple Site: 11 acres
Floor Space: 60,000 Square Feet
Location: 11022 S 4000 W, South Jordan, Utah
Wall Height: 63 feet
Spire Height: 193 feet
Exterior Finish: Light beige granite from China

Just to get an idea of how the size of this new temple, compares to the size of other existing temples, I looked up the following information from an LDS Temples web site:

Temple Square Footage Comparisons:

Salt Lake Temple: 253,000 sq. ft.
Jordan River Temple: 148,000 sq. ft.
Provo, Utah Temple: 128,000 sq. ft
Mount Timpanogos Temple: 107, 000 sq. ft
Manti, Utah Temple: 100,000 sq. ft.

Oquirrh Mountain, Utah Temple: 60,000 sq. ft.

Draper, Utah Temple: 57,000 sq. ft. (Under Construction)
Nauvoo, Illinois Temple: 54,000 sq. ft.
Dallas, Texas Temple: 47,000 sq. ft.
Chicago, Illinois Temple: 30,000 sq. ft.
Monticello, Utah Temple: 11,000 sq. ft.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Little Word Fun

Here are 33 names for things you never knew had names!
  1. AGLET - The plain or ornamental covering on the end of a shoelace.
  2. ARMSAYE - The armhole in clothing.
  3. CHANKING - Spat-out food, such as rinds or pits.
  4. COLUMELLA NASI - The bottom part of the nose between the nostrils.
  5. DRAGÉES - Small beadlike pieces of candy, usually silver-coloured, used for decorating cookies, cakes and sundaes.
  6. FEAT - A dangling curl of hair.
  7. FERRULE - The metal band on a pencil that holds the eraser in place.
  8. HARP - The small metal hoop that supports a lampshade.
  9. HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER - A 64th note. (A 32nd is a demisemiquaver, and a 16th note is a semiquaver.)
  10. JARNS,
  11. NITTLES,
  12. GRAWLIX,
  13. and QUIMP - Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
  14. KEEPER - The loop on a belt that keeps the end in place after it has passed through the buckle.
  15. KICK or PUNT - The indentation at the bottom of some wine bottles. It gives added strength to the bottle but lessens its holding capacity.
  16. LIRIPIPE - The long tail on a graduate's academic hood.
  17. MINIMUS - The little finger or toe.
  18. NEF - An ornamental stand in the shape of a ship.
  19. OBDORMITION - The numbness caused by pressure on a nerve; when a limb is `asleep'.
  20. OCTOTHORPE - The symbol `#' on a telephone handset. Bell Labs' engineer Don Macpherson created the word in the 1960s by combining octo-, as in eight, with the name of one of his favourite athletes, 1912 Olympic decathlon champion Jim Thorpe.
  21. OPHRYON - The space between the eyebrows on a line with the top of the eye sockets.
  22. PEEN - The end of a hammer head opposite the striking face.
  23. PHOSPHENES - The lights you see when you close your eyes hard. Technically the luminous impressions are due to the excitation of the retina caused by pressure on the eyeball.
  24. PURLICUE - The space between the thumb and extended forefinger.
  25. RASCETA - Creases on the inside of the wrist.
  26. ROWEL - The revolving star on the back of a cowboy's spurs.
  27. SADDLE - The rounded part on the top of a matchbook.
  28. SCROOP - The rustle of silk.
  29. SNORKEL BOX - A mailbox with a protruding receiver to allow people to deposit mail without leaving their cars.
  30. SPRAINTS - Otter dung.
  31. TANG - The projecting prong on a tool or instrument.
  32. WAMBLE - Stomach rumbling.
  33. ZARF - A holder for a handleless coffee cup.

More word fun can be found at The Book of Lists.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ready For A Laugh?

Sometimes you just need a good laugh to help you get by. I recently came across a new blogger who can spin quite a yarn. She insists that they are true life experiences of her own, and I have no reason to doubt it.

The blog is called Put That In Your Blog. There are two entries that should give you a pretty good laugh:

I know Victoria's Secret . . .


Buffalo Don't Eat Corn


Scott Lundell Funeral

A few days ago I mentioned the death of a family friend, Lt. Scott B. Lundell, who was killed in action, in a firefight in Afghanistan.

His funeral was held last Saturday. I was unable to attend because of a church assignment at the same time as the funeral.

The Deseret Morning News has a very touching article about the funeral. You can read it here. I encourage you to read it.

The Salt Lake Tribune also covered the funeral. You can read that article here.

Scott's wife, Jeanine, spoke at the funeral. Among other things, she said:
"Ours is a true love story," Jeanine concluded at the church. "Death is not the end.

"I will miss him more than words can express," she added. "I await our glorious reunion and look forward to our happily-ever-after part of the story."
My, what great courage and love she has. Our prayers are with her and her young children.

A fund has been set up for the education of the children at Mountain America Credit Union. Walk up donations are accepted at any of their branches. If you are not near a Mountain America Branch, you can mail a contribution to the Scott B. Lundell fund at:

MACU Fulfillment Dept
Attn Olivia
7181 S Campus View Dr
West Jordan UT 84084

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Welcome Abigail !

I have a new niece, Abigail. My brother Doug, and my sister-in-law Becky are the proud new parents.

Abigail was born on November 17th. Both mother and baby are fine.

Abigail joins her sisters and brother, Lizzy, Benji, Stephi, and Jenny.

The only problem is that we don't get to visit with them very often. They live in Virginia, and we are here in Utah.

It's wonderful to welcome new life into the world, especially in light of some of the losses we've experienced lately.

In fact, this whole season, we remember the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That one special new life that came into the world. That life that would one day redeem the whole world. The life that would let each one of us have a re-birth, where we could lay aside our sins, and become newborn children ourselves, in the family of God.

Welcome to the world, and to our family Abigail. And may we each also find ourselves welcome to the family of God, through Jesus Christ, as we sojourn through this world.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mary Did You Know - Redux

Now that its December, I am officially starting to get into the Christmas Spirit. I think I had a mental block about getting into the Christmas mood before December.

I looked on my blog stats today, and found that by far the most commonly viewed pages are from last December. Wow, who would think that year-old posts are still being viewed. As it turns out, both have to do with Christmas music.

The first is a post I wrote a year ago about one of my favorite Christmas songs, Baby What You Goin' to be. You can listen to this song if you click on the link. As it turns out, there are a lot of fans of this song, but it is terribly hard to find on CD. This version is from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I converted the song to MP3 from an old vinyl LP I had, which was produced in the late 1970's, which has never been produced as a CD. I have received a lot of comments on this post from last year during the last couple of weeks. In that post, I explain why the song is so meaningful to me, in a very personal way.

A lot of people have also been going to my post from last year on the song: Mary Did You Know? The only problem with that post is that some of the links no longer work. Also, last year I couldn't find a recording of my favorite version of the song. Well good news! I have found it, and now you can have a listen for yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

Mary Did You Know?
Performed by Kim Bracken

Powered by Castpost

I like this arrangement because it is simple, and moving. I have heard other versions that are kind of schmaltzy and overblown, in my opinion. The words to this song are quite amazing too:

"Mary, Did You Know?"
Written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would someday walk on water?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God.

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
The dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy
Is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Eternal Life

We recently visited St. George to visit Dawn Ann's parents, and her Sister Tina. While there, I wanted to continue my quest of photographing LDS Temples. I have never actually been inside the St. George Temple. But that will change in February, when here Nephew, Neil, will be married there.

We were fortunate to get there in the late afternoon, and found that the cloud patterns overhead provided wonderful leading lines toward the temple.

Bryan and I returned there one evening for some nighttime photos. Once again I used my mini-tripod. I had Bryan set the self-timer on the camera. I would like to get him involved in photography, if possible. It is something that we could both enjoy together. We'll see how it works out. You can see more of our St. George Temple Photos here.

I wanted show some of these photos because I have been thinking about our own mortality, especially in light of the passing of Lt. Scott Lundell in Afghanistan.

Even though there is great loss, there is also great hope. Temples symbolize that hope, which comes to us through Christ's redemption from the dead. Covenants once made in temples, and then kept throughout life, will result in eternal relationships with our loved ones. Through Christ, we will all be resurrected. Death will be deprived of its temporary victory.

In time, death will come to each of us. Some will live to a ripe old age. Others of us will be called home sooner -- and even sometimes at inopportune times. However, death is a temporary separation. Eventually we will join our loved ones in the Spirit World, and together there await the glorious resurrection day.

These beautiful temples inspire me to think of things eternal. The cares and worries of our day-to-day struggles melt away, as I consider life from an eternal perspective. They stand as reminders of what is truly important, and bolster our faith in Christ, and help us trust in His promises to us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Farewell To Someone I Know

(Update: Here is the Obituary from the Deseret News. )

The War on Terror has taken another life. This time, it hits me in a more personal way. For the first time, in the last 5 years, someone I have known personally has died while serving our nation.

Lt. Scott B. Lundell was killed last Saturday in Afghanistan. He was there helping to train the Afghan Army, and was a member of the Utah National Guard.

He joined the National Guard in 2004, after the War On Terror Began. He knew what the risks might be. Yet he loved America, and wanted to serve his country.

Like so many members of our military, he had so much to offer. He was college educated. In high school, he lettered on the football team. As a senior, he served as student body president. He served a mission in the Philippines for the LDS church. Later he would marry his high school sweetheart.

Like so many of his fellows, he was of the best and brightest that America has to offer. It really makes me upset to hear politicians, like John Kerry and Charles Rangel characterize the military as made up of individuals who had no other option but to join the military. Scott, like so many others, had every opportunity in the world, yet he chose to put it all on the line -- for us!

I knew Scott, and his family because their family lived about 3 houses away from my family as I was growing up. Scott came from a large family, eight children, if memory serves. I remember when Scott was born. We used to call him "Baby Scott". His mother, Margaret, used to watch my younger brother and sister after school until my dad would come home from work.

Later, Scott's dad, Norm, would become my Bishop when I was a youth. Norm was my Bishop when I left for my mission to Canada. Norm taught English at Cyprus High School, in the Salt Lake Valley, and for a time, I too, wanted to be a high school English teacher.

I last saw Scott about 6 or7 years ago. We were both attending a technical conference in Salt Lake City on a computer programming language. I remember saying hello to him, and visiting for a few minutes on a break from the seminar.

Now Scott leaves behind a wife, and four young children, all under the age of 10. Things will never be the same for them. Oh, they will have the support of family and friends, the church, the military, and even the community at large. I know they will have my thoughts and prayers, and the prayers of many others as well. But the reality is, that life will never be the same for them. Scott's wife now has the burden of caring for, and providing for her small children on her own. There are four children who will now grow up fatherless -- some of whom will scarcely be able to remember their father. This crisis will be the crucible of their lives. It will shape them from here on out. My hope and prayer is that the Lord will watch over and bless this young family. May he protect and keep them. May they safely return one day to be rejoined with their dad and husband, in our Father's Kingdom.

Scott's dad, Norm, passed away several years ago. I'm sure Norm was there to greet his hero son. I'm glad there is someone there on the other side to be with Scott.

I can think of no better tribute for Scott than this: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Last-Second Play: BYU Beats Utah

OK. Now I've really found the joys of YouTube. I can preserve the great BYU win over Utah into perpetuity.

On Saturday, we were outside getting things ready for winter during the big game. Bryan and Amy were on the roof putting up the Christmas lights, and I was out front pruning the rose bushes. I listend to much of the game on my headset radio. About half-way through the 4th quarter, I just couldn't take it anymore. BYU was playing poorly. I shut off my radio (in disgust!) and took off the headset.

Meanwhile, Bryan had finished putting up the lights, and I was still chopping up rose bush branhes.

Suddenly Bryan comes running out of the house and says "BYU Won! BYU Won!"

My first thought was -- no way! Not those losers! They way they were playing, they were going down to defeat for sure!

So I dropped my pruners and came running into the house. When I got to the TV, the refs were still confering after the touchdown was scored. Then I saw this replay.

A perfect ending for a great season of BYU football. Even though my faith was weak, I'm glad the Cougars pulled it out.

Thanks to YouTube, I can relive the memory over and over again.

Now onto the next foe. It appears that BYU may be paired against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. There they will the evil Sith-lord Gary Crowton, who has gone over to the dark side.
World's Worst Burglar

I ran accross this video today. I have to say it made be laugh out loud. All I can say is -- "Thanks, I needed that!"

This guy nearly qualifies for a Darwin Award.

So if you could use a good laugh, enjoy the video.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Family History - United Brethren

Photo of Benbow Pond

I have been collecting personal histories of some of my ancestors. Two of the ancestors I have been researching are John Perry, and his wife Grace Ann Williams.

In the Spring of 1840, they lived in Herefordshire, England, and were members of a sect called the United Brethren. They had separated themselves from the Wesleyan Methodists, and had been praying for more truth and light regarding the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wilford Woodruff, who was a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles was serving a mission in England at the time. He felt directed by the Spirit to go to this region and to preach the Gospel, where he came to the farm of John Benbow, and made the acquaintance of the United Brethren. Three days later, John Perry was Baptized in the pond on the Benbow farm. By the following August, more than 600 people had joined the Church who were members of the United Brethren. Of all their members, there was only one who did not eventually join the church.

I have posted histories of John Perry and Grace Ann Williams on my Family History Blog. I also have posted excerpts from Wilford Woodruff's journal regarding his experiences with the United Brethren.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Lump Of Coal

Well, my political Christmas Came and went. I had hoped that a late breaking trend toward Republicans would stave off the Democratic tide. However that didn't happen. As it turned out, all I got was a lump of coal.

Come January, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be leaders of the House and Senate. With this victory, the Demos will have actually stand for something now, instead of just being anti-Bush.

Obviously, the American people were very dissatisfied with the war in Iraq. While they may have supported our going into Iraq in the first place, they are tiring of the way the battle has been waged. The constant daily attacks in the Mainstream Media have taken their toll. The President will now have to consider some new strategies in Iraq. I'm not saying he will give up, and cut and run, but they may need to shift how the battle is being waged. Perhaps even additional troops are needed to get the job done. I hope he doesn't just give in to the Democrats.

Essentially the Republican controlled congress has blown a great opportunity the last 4 years to get things done. It had been nearly 50 years since there had been a Republican President, Republican House, and Republican Senate. They frittered away their chances to get things done. So much was left on the table. Meaningful immigration reform. A real energy policy. Social Security Reform. Making the Tax cuts permanent.

Of course, the rules of the Senate didn't help much. You basically have to have 60 votes to get anything through. Tom Daschelle and Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Minority Leaders, did their best to obstruct at every turn.

Then there were the Republican obstructionists, John McCain being chief among them.
There was the opportunity to use the "Constitutional Option", to eliminate the shameful and unprecedented use of the filibuster to prevent judicial nominees from getting a vote on the Senate floor. But McCain and his Gang of 14 obstructed that maneuver, throwing several judicial nominees to federal appellate courts under the bus in the process.

Then again, there were some bills that were passed that needed osbtructing. Like the so called "Campaign Finance Reform Bill", co-authored by our pal John McCain, Thehuge farm subsidy bill, the Medicare Prescription entitlement, and elements of the No Child Left Behind Bill.

Now congressional Republicans are paying the price for their ineffectiveness. Unfortunately America will now pay a price too. The prospects of getting much done legislatively in the next two years are slim. Both sides will be mired in positioning for the 2008 presidential election .

Frankly, I am not comforted by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi's assurances that they want to work together in a bipartisan manner. To them, bipartisan means having it their way. Anything less than caving in to their demands is considered being "divisive".

Let's hope President Bush will find his long-lost veto pen. He's going to need it.

I hope my "real" Christmas turns out better than this one!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Its Election Eve!

Can you name all of these people?
If so - you might be a Political Junkie!

Its election eve. For me it is more like Christmas Eve!

You never know what the political Santa Claus will bring you.

Instead of opening your presents early in the morning, you start opening them at 5:00 pm MST. That's when the polls close in Indiana and Virginia. When the polls close in a state, then the exit polls that have been compiled throughout the day are released for that state. As it happens this year, Virginia is home to a hotly contested senate race (Allen Vs. Webb) and Indiana is host to 4 congressional districts (#'s 2, 7, 8 & 9) that are up for grabs.

At 5:30 pm the Ohio Polls close, with another incumbent Republican Senator (Mike DeWine) fighting for political survival.

At 6:00 many of the remaining Eastern Time Zone States will close their polls. It is at this point in the evening that we will start to get an idea of just how the cookie is crumbling. Of course, we are still only dealing with exit poll numbers thus far. It will take a couple of more hours for the real votes to be counted. Exit polls have been notoriously wrong during the last few elections. Usually they are skewed to the left -- that is in favor of the Democrats. There was a point early on election night in 2004 when all the exit polls were indicating a John Kerry win. There was much fist pounding and head banging until the real numbers came in.

In the East there are key Senate races in PA, NJ, MD, RI, and TN.

At 7:00 most of the Central Time Zone, and some of the Mountain time zone Polls close. There are several heated contests in the mid-west this year. Senate races of interest are in the Talent-McCaskill race in MO, and the Kennedy-Klobuchar contest in MN.

At 8:00 most of the Mountain Time Zone states close their polls. The most heated Senate race in the Mountain time zone this year is in Montana, with the Burns-Tester race.

At 9:00 the Pacific Time zone polls close, along with Hawaii. Not many house or Senate seats appear to be in danger of changing party affiliation in this region.

Finally, at 10:00 MST, Alaska Closes its polls.

Usually by 10-11:00 pm here in Utah, we know how things are going to turn out. The big exception of course was in the year 2000 when we had to wait 36 days to find out the election result. (Thanks to the Grinch (Al Gore) who stole Christmas that year!)

The polls would indicate that the Republicans are about to take a beating. By all indications, it appears that the Senate will be controlled by one or two votes (either way) and that the House will be in Nancy Pelosi's hands (Doh!) by this time tomorrow night.

If I had to pick one or the other for the Republicans to hold on to, it would be the Senate. The reason is because they are the ones who confirm the judges. It is likely that there will be another Supreme Court nominee during President Bush's last two years. Having a Republican controlled Senate will be crucial to getting his judicial nominees confirmed. One more conservative Supreme Court Justice would go a long way toward preventing a takeover of liberal values by Judicial fiat.

On the bright side, there has been a recent surge in the polls towards the Republicans, but will it be too little, too late. I guess we'll find out soon!

OK. I admit it. I'm a Political Junkie. I took this quiz today, and scored 10 of out 10. Not only a junkie, but a political geek as well.

I can't help it. Its in my genes. It's Grandpa Hatch's fault. He was the county republican chairman when I was in my youth. I got to tag along with him to political conventions and got all kinds of cool pins and bumper stickers. The best thing was the time I got to shake the hand of Ronald Reagan, at the State Republican Convention, when he ran for president in 1976. (My touch with greatness!)

I've always held a keen interest in politics and current events. I care about the course of events in our time, and about our nation's future. I don't want to see us turn in a direction that will cause irreparable harm in the future (Iranian nukes, giving in to Al-Qaida, etc.)

So take the quiz, see how you do. Try to get home early to watch the election returns. Pop a batch of popcorn and watch those numbers roll in. Cheer for your favorite team. And may the best team win!

If you can't stand to listen to the network TV pundits, you might want to listen Hugh Hewitt. Hugh will give you the returns from a cheerily Republican point of view, if that's what you want to hear. If you want to hear things from the perspective of the left, then any network TV station should do just fine, since they'll be presenting the election returns from a cheerily Democratic point of view. Hugh will be broadcasting until late into the evening. Unfortunately we can't get him on the air here in Utah, but you can listen to him on the Internet here.

The Truth Laid Bear and Real Clear Politics will be good places on the Internet to check the political "scoreboard" as the evening progresses.

Oh, and one final thing: Merry Electoral Christmas everyone! And to all a Good Night!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Whoa There, Big Fella!!!

Photo Courtesy of Royce S. on Flickr

I had an interesting experience the other day. I was on my way home from work trying to transition my mind from my workplace mindset, to my home and family mindset. I was listening to the radio and a rather innocuous commercial came on. I listened to part of the commercial, and then turned the radio off.

My mind began following a series of thoughts based on the commercial. As my mind went down its track, my internal warning system went off. Like the old Lost In Space TV show when the family robot would warn: "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!"

I began to perceive that the Spirit of the Lord was imploring me to stop this line of thought. I felt the Spirit beginning to withdraw from me, and I wondered why. It was like stopping a wagon, with a runaway team of horses. I had to rein in my thoughts, and say WHOA!

I began retracing my steps. Where had I gone astray? What was it that had grieved the Spirit. As I retraced the progression (or digression) of my thoughts, I finally got back to the commercial that I had heard on the radio. Then it hit me! The Ah-Hah! moment. I knew what was wrong with my thinking.

The commercial had been from a company which encouraged you to buy their products to give as a gift. The item was a nice thing, and something that I may well give to someone in the future. But where I had gone wrong, was in my attitude about giving the gift. I had begun to think of what I might gain by giving the gift -- Not how it might make the other person feel. I had begun to think of what rewards I might recieve (or even be entitled to) because I had been such a good gift giver. The underlying motivation of such behavior was to gain credit for myself, instead of truly, freely, and unselfishly giving.

It was at this point that the Spirit had stepped in. "Stop!", it said. "This is hurting you." "I will leave if you keep going down this path." I had begun to feel a dark, emptiness in my heart as the Spirit was beginning to withdraw. It was at this point that I reined in the runaway horses, and began tracing my steps back to find out where I had gone off the main road.

I repented on the spot. I made my course correction, and I felt the sweet presence of the Spirit return to my soul once more.

Wow. What a lesson! All in the space of but a few moments. Upon reflection, I am grateful for the lessons learned through this experience.

First, the lesson of true gift giving. True charity seeketh not her own. That is what I was doing wrong in my thoughts. I was thinking of my own selfish interests, not of the welfare of the individual who would be receiving the gift. The sweet feeling of unselfishly giving of yourself, with no thought of reward or recognition for yourself would be lost. Likewise, blessings from God would be forfeited if a gift is given under such circumstances. Somehow I lost sight of these things as my thoughts got away from me that day.

The second lesson was about the built-in alarm systems we have in ourselves if we are trying to live close to the Spirit of the Lord. I was warned not to proceed with this line of thought. I am thankful for the warnings that we can receive, if we are listening to that Still, Small, Voice. Not only can we be warned, but we can be taught important truths. And armed with that truth, we can avoid making mistakes in our lives.

Yes, I was warned, and I was chastend. And I am all the better for it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Wacky Week

It's been quite an eventful week. We had originally planned to take a mini vacation to Moab, Utah this week. The kids were out of school for the UEA conference on Thursday and Friday. I had arranged to take the days off from work.

As the time grew closer for the trip, we reviewed our finances, and determined that taking a vacation right now was not the prudent thing to do. Because of this situation, we decided to cancel our vacation. It would have been fun. My parents and brother were going to come along in their motor home, too. It was disappointing to have to call it off, but we didn't have the cash right now, and the trip would have been charged to our credit card -- which we didn't want to do.

I ended up working on Wednesday and Thursday, which I originally had scheduled off for the trip. In fact, I ended up working all night Wednesday, and into the early afternoon on Thursday. We had upgraded to a new server at work, and we encountered many problems as people came to work on Thursday morning. After working nearly 27 hours straight, I turned everything over to my boss and my co-workers. I went home and crashed for a few hours, got up for the evening, and then got a good night's sleep Thursday night.

It took me a few hours on Friday to come to grips with what day is was, the passage of time seemed like such a blur. It was like having major jet lag! I've had to pull all-nighters at work before for various projects. However, this one seemed to take a heavier toll on me than the last time -- The last one was back in 1999, in preparation for Y2K.

I still had Friday scheduled off from work, and my boss graciously let me take it off, even with the situation at work. I had originally planned to have a kid's day, and a mama day this weekend. Kid's day would have been to have me take the kids out of the house, to give mama a few ours of peace and quiet. For mama's day we had hoped to go see the new film about Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Memorial building in downtown Salt Lake City. We had also hoped to visit the Church Museum of History and Art. The plans for those two days melted away, in the wake of my all-night work marathon.

On Friday, we decided to have a family day, and visit the Alpine Loop, around Mt Timpanogos for a picnic. I really needed to get out after pulling my all-nighter. It was nice just to get away for a little while.

Once on the mountain, we found that the Autumn leaves were past their prime. Most of the Aspen trees had already dropped their leaves. There were only a few spots with yellow aspen leaves here and there. Recent snows have dusted the mountain peaks.

We found a little out-of-the-way spot for our picnic near the Little Deer Creek campground, in Wasatch State Park. Our spot was amid a few of the last golden Autumn leaves. We made some sandwiches from some special deli meats. I tried my hand at making grandma's famous shell macaroni salad -- and it turned out pretty good!

It was nice just being outside, hearing the birds sing, and to navigate some 4-wheel-drive trails. My favorite activities are 4-wheeling, and photography, and my family graciously let me indulge in both that day.

After our picnic, we started heading back. It so happened that we encountered a large mud puddle. I couldn't resist going through it at a fairly high speed just for splash effect. After we went through it, I heard a chorus of "Do it again, daddy!". What could I do but oblige. After going through it a couple of times, we decided it was worthy of a picture. (You'll have to click on the photo to get the full effect.)

I consider having mud on my truck a badge of courage. A kind of social statement that says, yes, I really did have some fun this weekend! How about you?

I'm driving the truck to work on Monday, with mud intact, just to brag about my weekend!

After slathering our truck in mud, we found ourselves in camo mode. We came across some deer near the edge of the road. Two does, and one fawn. They didn't seem too worried to see us. They must of known we meant no harm. Maybe it was our mud camouflage, who knows? We stopped long enough to take a few photos. This was the best one. After snapping a few pictures, I felt like saying, "Run Bambi! Run!" We had seen some hunters nearby on ATV's.

We had a nice time on the Alpine Loop. The kids got to run around and have some fun in the woods. And I got a needed breath of fresh air. My wife got to see a smile on my face as I took photos, and plowed through the mud puddle, and negotiated the 4WD roads. You can see more of my Alpine Loop Photos here.

Finally, as I was working the all-nighter on Wednesday night, I remember wistfully thinking during the wee hours of the morning that, "Gee, I could have been in Moab right now!" Instead of going bleary eyed during the server migration. This is a photo from our last trip to Moab in 2004 of the Salt Creek Canyon area in Canyonlands National Park. We probably would have visited this place again, had we gone there.

Oh, well, I came back to reality soon enough. I know we made the right decision not to go. We'll get to go there again someday soon -- Maybe next Spring if things work out!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Des Plaines! Des Plaines!

Just a few more thoughts about my Chicago trip. I spent a great deal of my time in the City of Des Plaines, Illinois. I drove past this water tower several times.

I have to admit that each time I saw the name of the town, that I immediately thought of "Tattoo" on the old TV show, Fantasy Island when he would announce the arrival of the new guests to the island each week by exclaiming "Da Plane! Da Plane!"

I actually enjoyed my time in Des Plaines. It was near my hotel, it had restaurants and shopping, and I could navigate their streets (Well -- pretty much, anyway!)

They had some interesting things in Des Plaines, including the McDonalds Museum. This was the location of the first Franchised McDonalds restaurant. This is a replica built as it was back in 1955. This was McDonald's Store #1. The museum is not a working McDonalds, although there is a modern-day operating McDonald's nearby. Inside the museum are replica's of the equipment they used, complete with an all-male mannequin crew, dressed in black trousers, white shirts, and the old white paper hats that they wore. I took this photo with my little tripod from across the street. Unfortunately, the museum wasn't open while I was there.

After taking the photo of McDonalds, I turned around and noticed a White Castle right across the street. I had never been to a White Castle before, but had heard those from the East and Midwest rave about it. I decided to try them out. I ordered a Jalapeño Cheeseburger, for 89¢. What I got was a little hamburger, about the size of a dinner roll. Instead of a quarter pounder, it was more like a one-tenth pounder. The patty was covered with a split jalepeño pepper, smothered with a slice of melted Montery Jack cheese. Even though the hamburger was small by usual standards, it was very tasty. I have heard stories of people getting a bag of White Castle Burgers for dinner (usually from college students). I thought this practice seemed a little odd. However, after experiencing White Castle first hand, I can see how folks just might have a craving for those little burgers -- In fact, I could eat a couple of those Jalapeño cheeseburgers right about now!

Finally, I have to say I really enjoyed seeing the water towers in the Chicago area. Some cities just printed their names on the water towers, like the one at the top of this post. However other cities went to great lengths to make their water towers more decorative. This tomato looking water tower was found right next to where my training class was held. If you look closely, you can see a paint crew hanging on a scaffold, touching up the tomato top.

I come from mountain country. I can look up, see the mountains, and immediately know what direction I am heading. The land in the Chicago area was flat as a pancake. In unpopulated areas, it was covered with trees. However, rising up above the trees, were water towers. They became welcome landmarks for me to follow in this unfamiliar land, that to my poor eyes had few distinguishing marks. One place looked pretty much like the other. I got to know a few of the water towers by sight in my travels, such as these two. They became a source of comfort, because when I saw them, I knew I was in the right place and headed in the right direction.

No matter where you are in life, its always nice to know where you are, and in what direction you are going. I'm thankful for the water towers in my life, that rise up above all the noise and confusion, and help point me in the right direction. I hope you are so blessed with water towers in your life too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Chicago - Lakeshore Drive

I had never seen any of the Great Lakes before my trip to Chicago. I noticed that if I stayed on the same street that the Temple was on, that I would eventually run into Lake Michigan. So that was the route I took to the Lake.

It was cold and windy the day I visited Lake Michigan. (Who would of thought that could happen in Chicago?). I spent a few minutes listening to the waves come in. The roar of the surf was similar to that of the ocean. However, I noticed a few differences from the ocean. For one thing, there was no salt-air smell. There were no birds flying around the beach that day. And surprisingly, there were no sea shells of any kind on the shore. Just sand. (I know, there were no sea shells because this wasn't the sea. However, when we visited Lake Powell last year, the beach was littered with freshwater clam shells.) Still, I loved hearing the sounds of the waves as they rolled in, and lapped upon the shore.

After visiting the Lake, I headed South toward downtown Chicago. Once again, I really missed having my navigator at my side. Along the way, I passed by a couple of major universities. First I passed Northwestern University, which technically is located in Evanston, Illinois, just North of Chicago. As I continued on Southbound, I passed by Loyola University as well. Even though I didn't drive right past it, the University of Chicago was not far away either.

I was amazed at the number of cathedrals and beautiful buildings I saw. The best one was the Cathedral that was near the Northwestern University Campus. The sun was getting low in the sky. The light had a soft-yellow golden glow to it, as it touched the spires of the cathedral. The end of the cathedral was covered with stained glass windows, which were lit from within, and started to really shine in lowered light levels of the setting sun. It was very beautiful. I dearly wanted to photograph it, but I was on a crowded, one-way street, in the one of the milddle lanes with no place to park. I looked at it longinly in the rear-view mirror until it faded away. I've tried to find photos of it on the Internet, but with no success so far.

Finally I reached the famed Chicago Lakeshore Drive, or LSD as the locals call it. Lakeshore Drive is a series of roads, mostly freeway style, that take you past downtown Chicago, along the shores of Lake Michigan. I would have preferred a road that I could dawdle on. I wanted to view the city's skyline, and see the lake with its piers and Marinas. However, I had to blast along at freeway speed, watching out for interchanges to make sure I didn't end up heading to Milwaukee or Detroit!

Finally I saw an exit for the Navy Pier, so I decided it was time to get off this roller coaster ride. It was nice just to slow down and look around for a moment. I drove up to the parking plaza at the Navy Pier, and saw a sign which nearly made my jaw drop: "Parking Rate is $22.00 -- flat rate." At first I thought, they can't be serious can they! (As it turned out - They were!) However, I was tired, hungry, and needed to get out of the car. I didn't want to get back on the freeway maze again either. So I entered, and found a place to park.

There were a number of attractions at Navy Pier, which is 3,000 feet long. Attractions included a huge 150 foot Ferris wheel. A children's museum, a stained glass museum, a Shakespeare Theatre, numerous shops and restaurants as well as -- a pier. There were several boat tours available, including dinner tours, architectural tours of the city's skyline, among others. None of which time permitted me to enjoy.

I checked out the restaurants, and was torn between Joe's Be-Bop Cafe, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant. I love Cajun food and jazz music, and Joe's Be-bop Cafe had both, with a live Jazz band. However, shrimp is my favorite food, and I just couldn't pass up the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. As you might guess, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is based on themes from the movie, Forrest Gump. The shrimp was very good. I wish I would have had time to go back to Joe's Be-bop Cafe as well. However, spending as much for parking as the meal cut down on the appeal of going back.

After dinner, I got my camera out to take some photos of the pier, and of the Chicago Skyline at night. This time I forgot to bring my little tripod with me, so I had to improvise. I found that along the waterfront, there were a series of metal posts with flat tops on them. I could sit my camera on these, and use them as an impromptu tripod. I could set the self-timer on my camera, and get shake-free photos -- which is what you need when your exposure is as much as 4 seconds long.

This was my favorite photo that I took of the Chicago Skyline. I had to take many exposures, experimenting with different exposures to get it just right. I found that taking night photos is a lot more demanding than daytime photos. You have to have a tripod, or something to sit our camera upon, and you have to have a camera that allows you to vary your exposures. Daytime photos allow you to tweak them if they are a little under or over exposed once you get them on your computer. However nighttime photos are less forgiving if the exposure isn't right. One nice thing about digital photography vs. 35 mm film is that you can review how your photo turned out right away, instead of having to go have the film developed to see how it turned out. With the instant feedback of the digital camera, you can change the exposure, and try it again right then, until you get it right.

Before leaving for Chicago, I found a Webcam that actually showed the Navy Pier, and its signature Ferris wheel at night. I was pleased, when I arrived at Navy Pier, and found the same Ferris wheel that I had seen on the webcam from home. It made me feel like I was in familiar surroundings, even though I was in an unfamiliar place. I just had to photograph that Ferris wheel for myself.

Taking the photos was something that I really enjoyed. It was a calming influence on me after the tension of having to navigate the Chicago freeways (and tollways!) I found that I was actually better able to navigate the freeways of Los Angeles, than I could those of Chicago. The LA freeways seemed much more intuitive and easy to follow. Of course, I probably owe the intuitive part to my trusty navigator (my wife!) who was with me in LA.

Even though I didn't have time to do all the touristy stuff, I still got to do something that I really enjoyed in taking the photos. You can see more of my Lakeshore Drive photos here.

One of these days I'll learn to schedule a couple of days of vacation at the end of these work trips, so I will have time to explore the area more. I barely scratched the surface of Chicago.

Actually, If I would have had a few of more days in Illinois, I probably would have visited Nauvoo. I have never been there before, and Chicago is the closest to Nauvoo that I have ever been. I have ancestors who once lived and worked there, and helped build the temple. I long to see what they saw, and walk in their footsteps. I would like to find where their property was, and the graves of my ancestors that are there. Ah, well -- I'll make it there someday.