Christmas Trees

THE FOLLOWING IS A PIECE WRITTEN BY BEN STEIN (I don’t know when it was written, but I like his style). And I LOVE CHRISTMAS TREES!


Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year, which prompted Ben Stein, to say, on CBS Sunday Morning,


My confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.
It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a nativity scene, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to. In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’
In light of recent events… terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.
Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell.
Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.
Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing yet?
My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein






Yep… I’m sharing a LONG post about GRATITUDE. And yes, it’s the day AFTER Thanksgiving. It occurred to me that I need a reminder to be grateful ALWAYS – every single day of my life – and not just on a certain day, or during a certain season. So as you enjoy your turkey sandwich, return with mee to many thoughts on GRATITUDE. I hope I can share some ideas which will be thought-provoking – which will cause us to have a desire to THINK – to PONDER our need for GRATITUDE, for giving THANKS. You might be interested to know that I looked up every single verse of scripture which dealt with gratitude … and I think you’ll be grateful to know that I’m NOT going to list them all (do I hear a “WHEW” ??). Interestingly, the word GRATITUDE does not appear anywhere in scripture.  It was a short search… the word used is THANKS. But YOU already knew that, didn’t you. I’m not going to share everything I found (more WHEW!).  There are so many times in scripture where an altar was built and a sacrifice offered to GIVE THANKS. Lehi and his family have just left Jerusalem and the good life they had there (they apparently didn’t bring a lot of “precious stuff” with them, because later the sons went back to Jerusalem and tried to purchase the Brass Plates with the wealth that was still in their home)  So here they are in the wilderness, living in tents rather than in their nice home, and here is what the Prophet Lehi did: And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God. (1 Nephi 2:7) He had a wonderful perspective, didn’t he. PERSPECTIVE and AWARENESS can bring deep, deep feelings of gratitude. We no longer build alters of stone to offer sacrifices as a way of expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father. OUR sacrifice is a BROKEN HEART and a CONTRITE SPIRIT. Consider these as ways to offer gratitude as we go back to Lehi and family for a moment: Lehi did send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates, and it took them longer than their Mother thought it should, and she began to get upset with Lehi. But the boys returned, with the plates, and both parents were joyful. And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel. (1 Nephi 5:9). Rejoicing is a great way to give thanks.

One of the best ways to show gratitude to our Heavenly Father is through service. King Benjamin taught this so powerfully: Mosiah 2:17-19: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, o how you ought to thank your Heavenly King!  When Alma Senior had baptized all the believers in the Waters of Mormon, he taught them what it meant to be members of Christ’s Church, including this: And he commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God. (Mosiah 18:23)  Jacob taught the importance of gratitude in the amazing message about the Atonement:  (2 Nephi 9:52) . . .  remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice. After Alma and his people had received Heavenly Help in escaping from the bondage of the Lamanites and Amulonites (by causing a deep sleep to come upon those who were guarding them):  . . . they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage . . . . . . And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God. (Mosiah 24:21-22) And “listen” to this, which the Lord gave to us through the Prophet Joseph Smith: And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious: and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, YEA, more.(Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). I love it so much when I read YEA in the scriptures!

I consider gratitude one of the highest forms of Christ-like behavior. It is the ESSENCE of WORSHIP! Gratitude is what happens when our hearts remember. It turns what we have into enough. It is the primary factor in achieving contentment.(One of my favorite definitions contentment is: “tranquil happiness.” Love it!! The Apostle Paul shared something which has had me pondering since I first really thought about it as I read it (I Timothy 6:6-8: 6- But GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT is great gain.7- For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8- And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. There can be NO contentment without gratitude! No way!  Gratitude is one of the most important desires of our heart. And Cicero called gratitude the Mother of ALL virtues! I’ve become more conscious of the fact that I need an increased awareness of all the tender mercies and blessings and miracles which have surrounded me unnoticed … and for which I have not expressed thanks. I want to become much more AWARE. I am convinced it will increase and deepen my gratitude.

Ingratitude is a sin! Plain and simple! And it happens mostly because we don’t take time to remember. (That’s a very important word, isn’t it!). Ingratitude is one of the weapons used by whnf (what’s-his-no-face) to thwart the purposes of God. Ingratitude is self‑centeredness and is a form of pride. Selfishness, greed, and indifference are all by-products of ingratitude. Elder W. Eugene Hansen shared this: It has been said that the sin of ingratitude is more serious than the sin of revenge.  With revenge, we return evil for evil, but with ingratitude, we return evil for good.  (Ensign, Nov 1989, p. 24) President N. Eldon Tanner said that ingratitude is stronger than traitors’ arms. (Conference Report, October 1967, p.54). The Prophet Joseph Smith said that one of the greatest sins for which the Latter-day Saints are guilty is the sin of ingratitude. (Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1948, p.98). And this from President Joseph Fielding Smith: How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude. I believe that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today is the sin of ingratitude, the want of acknowledgment, on their part, of the Lord and his right to govern and control. (Conference Report, October 1969, p.110). Selfishness and ingratitude are destructive!

Here are two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants (59:7, 21) worth thinking about:  7- Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. (In ALL THINGS!… not just those which are pleasant, easy, enjoyable and so forth). 21-  And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. As President Marion G. Romney taught: It is perfectly evident… that to thank the Lord in all things is not merely a courtesy, it is a commandment as binding upon us as any other commandment. (Ensign, November 1982, p. 50)  Sir Izaak Waltong (an English author who lived 1593-1683… it makes me happy that things were recorded “back then”): God has two dwelling places: one in heaven, and the other in a thankful heart – which, O Lord, grant to me. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. said this: Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them – they are here. Yours is the part of cherishing them. (Church News, 14 June 1969, p. 2)  From President David O. McKay: Gratitude is the heart’s recognition of kindness that the lips cannot repay.” (Conference Report, October 1955, p. 4)  And from President Gordon B. Hinckley: … get on your knees and thank the Lord for his bounties. Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges you enjoy. The Lord has said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. (Conference Report, October 1964, p. 117)


It has occurred to me that I might have neglected to thank Heavenly Father for FIVE pennies if I’m constantly complaining because I don’t have TEN! And they ALL belong to HIM anyway! In General Conference in April of 1990, President James E. Faust shared a message entitled “Gratitude is a Binding Commandment.” He emphasized that gratitude is not only an expression of faith, but is a saving principle (and a binding commandment). He reminded us that we are blessed in many ways, and that when we express gratitude we are involved in the essence of worship. Quoting him: A grateful heart is a beginning for greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues and prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being. [WOW!!]  The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. He said that “One of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy.” And he closed his remarks with: I hope that we can cultivate grateful hearts so that we may cherish the multitude of blessings that God has so graciously bestowed. May we openly express such gratitude to our Father in Heaven and our fellowmen. (“Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, May 1990).  I noticed that he reminded us to thank others as well as our Heavenly Father. In re-reading this, I have thought of many things for which I haven’t expressed thanks in a long, long time…. Maybe you can think of some things too. Here’s a hymn which can reminds us of some of these things: NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD  (Hymn #95)  Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done,  In whom his earth rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms,  Hath blessed us on our way  With countless gifts of love,  And still is ours today.  Oh, may our bounteous God  Through all our life be near us,  With ever-joyful hearts  And blessed peace to cheer us.  And keep us in his love, And guide us day and night,  And free us from all ills, Protect us by his might.

Harold S. Kushner is a favorite writer and speaker of mine. He is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts. He spoke at BYU several years ago, and I’d already read some of his books and oh how I loved his message!  He has shared some wonderful thoughts about gratitude: Once we have learned to see our lives as the accumulation of gifts that God has given us, gifts we could not have acquired by our own efforts, once we have learned to appreciate what we have, rather than complain that we don’t have more, because we could have had nothing, we can respond in several ways. First, we can reciprocate God’s generosity by giving Him our thanks and our trust….   Second, if we have benefited from God’s generosity, it becomes our obligation to let others benefit from our generosity, or more accurately from God’s generosity flowing through us to those to whom we reach out.  The remarkable thing about gratitude is that, like forgiveness, it is a favor we do ourselves more than it is something we do for the recipient of our thanks. God would have us develop the habit of gratitude for all the blessings of our lives, not because He needs our thanks, but because when we acknowledge those blessings we come to feel differently about His world and live happier lives as a result. Learn to see more of the “givens” of your life as gifts. Learn to respond to the sun’s coming up every morning as a miracle. Our ability to receive God’s blessings with thanksgiving will never outstrip God’s ability to bless us! If gratitude is so basic and so beneficial, if it makes us happier about our lives, why is it hard for so many people to cultivate the habit of feeling grateful? I can think of [some] reasons. One is a sense of entitlement. If we have grown up believing that we deserve only the best, we will respond to every gift, whether from God or from friends, like the petulant child who examines a new toy and complains, “I want the newer model.” For people who feel entitled, it is not enough to be alive and well; they resent every blemish, every limitation on their physical grace and athletic skill. It is not enough for them to have a loving partner and healthy children; they envy the glamorous romances of celebrities and the honor roll achievements of the children next door. They are never satisfied because they measure their wealth not by what they have but by what they lack.


Here is a thought I found which is similar to the message of Hymn # 219 (“Because I Have Been Given Much”). It’s from Janie Alford, The Treasure Chest, p. 216 – THANKS BE TO GOD

I do not thank thee, Lord, That I have bread to eat while others starve;  Nor yet for work to do  While empty hands solicit heaven;  Nor for a body strong  While other bodies flatten beds of pain.  No, not for these do I give thanks!  But I am grateful, Lord, Because my meager loaf I may divide;  For that my busy hands May move to meet another’s need;  Because my doubled strength I may expend to steady one who faints.  Yes, for all these do I give thanks!  For heart to share, desire to bear  And will to lift,  Flamed into one by deathless Love –  Thanks be to God for this! Unspeakable!  His Gift!

PSALMS 136:1 – O give thanks unto the LORD; for [he is] good: for his mercy [endureth] for ever. 



Dyan’s Family Reunion

This is a sweet, true, inspiring story for a Thanksgiving morning. In 2012, a Sudanese woman arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, with two little children and pregnant with another. Her husband, Dyan, couldn’t make the trip. He was unable to leave the refugee camp because they had lost their marriage papers while fleeing war. They had to find a way to prove that they were married, and that the children were indeed his. Dyan feared he would never see his family again. We can only imagine how HARD that would be!  Four long years later, Dyan had finally resolved the issue, and he was cleared for travel to America. He would see his wife again, and his children, including meeting his 3 year-old for the very first time.










Live in THANKSGIVING daily



I love to be among the youth of the Church. I love your energy, your optimism, your faith. I have heard others say they always feel younger when they spend time with young people. This has always been my experience. It is good to be here today. I felt a certain thrill as I watched you enter this great Marriott Center. I noticed the beautiful smiling faces, the well-kept hair, the appropriate dress. I thank you for being here today. Think for a moment, if you will, of someone you know who is truly happy. We’ve all met those who seem to radiate happiness. They seem to smile more than others, they laugh more than others—just being around them makes us happier as well. Now think of someone you know who isn’t happy at all. Perhaps they seem 10 years older than they are, drained of energy—perhaps they are angry or bitter or depressed. What is the difference between them? What are the characteristics that differentiate the happy from the miserable? Is there something that unhappy people can do to be happier? I believe there is.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this observation. A long time ago in a faraway village lived a man who everyone did their very best to avoid. He was the type of person who believed that there was only one competent person in the world, and that one person was himself. Consequently he was never satisfied with anything. His shoes never fit right. His shirt never felt comfortable. When his food wasn’t too cold, it was too salty, and when it wasn’t too hot, it was too bland. If a field wasn’t sowed by himself, it was not sowed well. If he didn’t close the door, the door was not closed properly. In short, he made a career of frowning, lecturing, criticizing, and mumbling about the incompetencies of every other person in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the man was married, which made matters all the worse. No matter what his wife did, in his eyes it was wrong. No matter what the unfortunate woman cooked, sewed, or cleaned, or even when she milked the cow, it was never satisfactory, and he let her know it. She tried very hard to be a good wife, but it seemed the harder she tried the less she pleased him. Finally, one evening she could take no more. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” she told him. “Tomorrow I will do your chores and you will do mine.” “But you can’t do my chores,” the man replied. “You don’t know the first thing about sowing, hoeing, and irrigating.” But the woman was adamant. And on top of that, she was filled with a righteous anger that frankly astonished and frightened the man to the point where he didn’t dare disagree. So the next morning the wife went off to the fields and the man began the domestic chores. After thinking about it, he had actually convinced himself he was looking forward to it. Once and for all, he would demonstrate to his wife how things should be done. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. In fact, nearly everything the man touched turned into disaster. He spilled the milk, let the pig get into the house, lost the cow, burned the dinner, and ultimately set the house on fire, narrowly escaping with his own life. When his wife returned, she discovered her husband sitting on a pile of ashes, smoke still rising from his clothes. But the woman wasn’t the type to rub things in. She helped him up, wiped the soot from his beard, fixed him a little something to eat, and then prepared a bed of straw for them to sleep on. From that day forward, the man never complained about anyone or anything else for as long as he lived. What do you suppose this story teaches us? For one thing, it teaches that those who complain make their own and others’ lives miserable. The story also teaches humility. It reminds us that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). It teaches us not to judge others until we walk in their shoes for a while. In addition, the story illustrates a quality that the Roman orator Cicero claimed was “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Plancio, 54 B.C.). It is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance, there is happiness. Where there is an absence, there is often sadness, resentment, and futility. The virtue I am speaking of is GRATITUDE. In our story, it was the absence of gratitude that made the man miserable. His inability to appreciate others caused him to be critical of their efforts. Not only did he not empathize with them, he could not allow himself to acknowledge their contributions. The disasters that confronted him surely made him humble, but, more particularly, they made him appreciate and be grateful for his wife.

Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable. You might be surprised to know that gratitude is a commandment of the Father. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), the Lord has commanded in these latter days. Even further, He has admonished that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).  In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Isn’t that a wonderful thought? To live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? Less stressful? Less angry? More spiritual?


President Joseph F. Smith proclaimed: The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man! [GD, 263]

A few minutes ago I asked you to think of someone you knew who was truly happy. Think of the person again, if you will, and grade on this principle: Does he or she live in thanksgiving daily?  Now think of someone you know who is unhappy or resentful. Does this person live in thanksgiving daily? It is difficult to even imagine a resentful person who is grateful or a grateful person who is resentful. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief. . . . Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without it, there is arrogance and evil. [CR, October 1964, 117]  I believe that many people are unhappy because they have not learned to be grateful. Some carry the burden of bitterness and resentfulness for many years. Some pass their days as though suffering a deep sadness they cannot name. Others are unhappy because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it would. “If only I had money,” some might say to themselves, “then I could be happy.” “If only I were better looking.” “If only I were smarter.” “If only I had a new car, a college degree, a job, a wife, hair that wasn’t so frizzy.” (Or, in my case, if only I had more hair or I was 12 inches taller.)  If we only look around us, there are a thousand reasons for us not to be happy, and it is simplicity itself to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. It doesn’t take any talent at all to find them. The problem is, the more we focus on the things we don’t have, the unhappier and more resentful we become.


Over the course of my years, I have met thousands of people. I have dined with the prosperous as well as the poverty-stricken. I have conversed with the mighty and with the meek. I have walked with the famous and the feeble. I have run with outstanding athletes and those who are not athletically inclined. One thing I can tell you with certainty is this: You cannot predict happiness by the amount of money, fame, or power a person has. External conditions do not necessarily make a person happy. The brethren who have had assignments in Africa report that despite the abject poverty, the people are very happy. The fact is that the external things so valued by the world are often the cause of a great deal of misery in the world. Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, are usually among the world’s happiest people. And they make others happy as well.


Years ago Elder J. Golden Kimball was traveling with one of the presiding brethren in southern Utah. In those days meetings often didn’t have a time limit; they went on as long as the speaker wanted to speak. For those of you looking for something to be grateful for, perhaps I’ve just given you one idea. One fast Sunday they had been preaching nearly all day. Everyone was hungry, especially Elder Kimball, who felt that he “was pretty nearly dead.” Finally, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the presiding apostle turned and said, “Now, Brother Kimball, get up and tell them about the Era.” The Era magazine had just been launched, and the Brethren wanted to encourage subscriptions. Elder Kimball approached the pulpit and then, after a short pause, said,  “All you men that will take the Era if we will let you go home, raise your right hand.”  There was not a single man who did not raise his hand that day and subscribe to the Era. (In J. Golden Kimball, CR, April 1932, 78.) You see, the power of gratitude is immense.

Rulon Gardner grew up in the small town of Afton, Wyoming. He is one of nine children. His mother and father are faithful members of the Church and instilled proper values in their children. But because Rulon was so large, his classmates teased him. The taunts and name-calling troubled young Rulon, but he never became angry or resentful. He could have withdrawn and become bitter. Like so many others, he could have counted all the things that were going wrong and simply given up. Instead, he used the insults as motivation. He determined he would use his size to his advantage. He would make something of himself. “I would go out, as a kid,” Rulon said, “and I could barely pick up a bale of hay. By the time my senior year came around, I was grabbing four bales of hay at a time, each 100 pounds. Just grabbing them and walking with them and seeing how physically strong I could be” (in Alan Robinson, “Wrestler’s Magic Moment,” Associated Press, Sydney, Australia, 28 September 2000). He milked cows twice a day, often in subzero temperatures. He lifted frozen bales of hay to feed the cows. At times he would carry a newborn calf into the safety of a warm barn. He got up early in the morning, did his chores, then went to school. After school he either went to wrestling or football practice, then back to the farm to do more chores. Rulon found that his size wasn’t a disadvantage for him as an athlete—in fact, it was an asset. Wrestling particularly came easy to him, and he became the Wyoming state champion. After graduating from high school he decided that perhaps he might be good enough to compete in the Olympic games. In Atlanta in 1996, due to a miscommunication, he arrived at the weigh-in 22 seconds too late and missed his chance to compete. Again Rulon could have despaired. He could have cursed his luck. He could have become embittered and resentful. But do you know what he did? He worked harder. Instead of burying himself in self-pity, he began speaking at youth firesides about his experience. “I missed the Olympic games by 22 seconds,” he told his eager listeners. “Don’t you let anything keep you from your goals.” After four years of hard work, Rulon Gardner wanted to compete in the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. The only trouble was, he couldn’t afford the trip. That’s when the members of his hometown rallied to his side. They held bake sales and potluck dinners and raised enough money to allow Rulon and his family to make the trip to Sydney. This time he did not miss the weigh-in. He advanced through the preliminary rounds until he reached the final obstacle to his gaining a gold medal. That obstacle was a man the world called the Siberian Bear, Alexander Karelin. This Russian bear is considered by most as the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler in the history of the sport. Not only had he not lost a single match in 13 years, but no one had scored a point on him in more than a decade. Karelin had won the gold medal in three previous Olympic Games and was the heavy favorite to win an unprecedented fourth gold medal. But at the end of the gold-medal match, it was the farm boy from Afton, Wyoming, who stood triumphant in what many consider the greatest upset of the summer Olympic games. “The reason I think I won,” Rulon said, “is because I work harder than anyone else, train harder. And every day I live my life, I do everything I need to do to put my life in order” (in Alan Robinson, Associated Press). Waving an American flag, a grateful Rulon Gardner thanked his family, his God, and his hometown of Afton, Wyoming, for their helping to make the moment possible. Winning the gold medal in such a stunning way made Rulon an instant celebrity. Sometimes this sort of attention changes people. Sometimes people become more calloused. Sometimes they forget those they owe the most to. But not Rulon Gardner. Recently, while a guest on an evening talk show, the host invited Rulon to watch some highlights from his Olympic victory. Without warning, the picture changed to a live shot from Afton, Wyoming. It seemed that the entire population of the town had assembled in the high school gymnasium. They cheered and shouted and held up signs that said, “Rulon’s got milk!” and “My uncle rocks!” As this man—one of the strongest men in the world—looked into the television monitor at the faces of the people he loved, tears of gratitude came to his eyes. In a letter written to his stake president, Rulon Gardner said: The Lord has given me the chance to work for all my dreams. I feel the Church has helped me to focus and live my life in the ways that have helped me to train and become an Olympic champ. . . . I am blessed . . . to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Letter to President Val J. Call, Afton Wyoming Stake, 20 October 2000]  Rulon Gardner knows what it means to be grateful.

Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It softens our grief and heightens our pleasure. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent. It forges bonds of love and fosters loyalty and admiration. Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those we love. But how do we make this part of who we are? May I suggest three things that will help as we strive to live in thanksgiving daily? First, we must open our eyes. I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote, “The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life” (Quotationary, electronic quotation dictionary). Unfortunately, because the beauties of life are so abundant, sometimes we take them for granted. Our minds have a marvelous capacity to notice the unusual. However, the opposite is true as well: The more often we see the things around us—even the beautiful and wonderful things—the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds—even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time. I encourage you to look around you. Notice the people you care about. Notice the beauties of this campus. Notice the fragrance of the flowers and the song of the birds. Notice and give thanks for the blue of the sky, the red of the leaves, and the white of the clouds. Enjoy every sight, every smell, every taste, every sound.


When we open our eyes and give thanks for the bountiful beauty of this life, we live in thanksgiving daily. The second thing we can do is open our hearts. We must let go of the negative emotions that bind our hearts and instead fill our souls with love, faith, and thanksgiving. Anger, resentment, and bitterness stunt our spiritual growth. Would you bathe in impure water? Then why do we bathe our spirits with negative and bitter thoughts and feelings? You can cleanse your heart. You don’t have to harbor thoughts and feelings that drag you down and destroy your spirit. You can repent of uncleanliness. That is the miracle of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. You can become clean. You can cleanse your heart of impurity. Begin the process today. Repent of those things you should repent of. Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel. These latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. The Lord provides the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those whose lives are parched by a drought of truth. Pray with all your heart. Consider the love your Heavenly Father has for all His children. Open your hearts to His cleansing word. Feast on the words of holy writ. Cherish the messages of modern-day prophets and apostles. Forgive others who have offended you. Don’t waste another moment feeling self-pity. Every day drain from your heart the feelings of resentment, rage, and defeat that do nothing but discourage and destroy. Fill your heart with those things that ennoble, encourage, and inspire. The great Book of Mormon prophet Nephi certainly had reason to be resentful. Hated by his brothers, bound and beaten and nearly murdered, he had plenty to be bitter about. After his father died, Nephi must have felt completely alone. He surely felt threatened. He surely felt discouraged. He surely felt troubled. But when it came time for him to communicate his feelings, what did he write? Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. [2 Nephi 4:16] Yes, his path had been difficult. Yes, his heart groaned because of mistakes he had made, but he did not allow himself to linger in negativity. Instead, he told himself: Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul. Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee. [2 Nephi 4:28–30]

The third thing we can do to live in thanksgiving daily is open our arms. One of the best ways we show our gratitude is by blessing the lives of those around us. The great King Benjamin taught his people: If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice . . . — . . . If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. [Mosiah 2:20–21] And how do we render thanks unto God? King Benjamin told us that as well: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. [Mosiah 2:17] We can live in thanksgiving daily by opening our arms to those around us. When was the last time you told someone you love how much they mean to you? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone who has always been there for you, someone who has sacrificed for you, someone whose heart has always been filled with hopes and dreams for you? When was the last time you unselfishly reached out to help another in need? Every time we cheer another’s heart, every time we ease another’s burden, every time we lift a weary hand, we show our gratitude to that God to whom we owe all that we have and all that we are.


Not long ago a mother and father from the Republic of Georgia faced a terrifying reality. The doctors told them their baby had a heart condition, and unless he had surgery he would die. Because they did not have adequate facilities in Georgia, the mother and father walked across their country and all the way to Yerevan, Armenia, seeking medical help. The Armenian doctors examined the child and agreed that the baby needed heart surgery. They knew how to perform the surgery and they had the necessary facilities, but they couldn’t perform the operation because they didn’t have the right tubing. As much as they wanted to help, there was nothing they could do. They told the couple to take their baby home to die. As you know, the Church—through its Humanitarian Service arm—sends millions of pounds of food, clothing, and medical and educational materials throughout the world each year. As it so happened, Elder and Sister Sangster were serving a humanitarian mission in Armenia, and they had just received a container of medical supplies. You may have already guessed that tucked away in this container of medical supplies was a box of precisely the kind of tubing needed for this child’s operation. When the doctors discovered the tubing, they rushed the baby into surgery and performed the operation. That’s a wonderful story and one that repeats itself daily as a result of the tremendous humanitarian help that is given to many nations in the world. The great welfare effort given by the Church benefits members and nonmembers during times of need. It reaches out to care for others. But what happened later makes it an even better story.  One day, soon after the operation, Elder and Sister Sangster heard a knock at their door. When they opened it, this loving mother and father fell to their knees and wept as they thanked the Sangsters and their church for supplying the precious tubing that had saved the life of their child. The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer.

As we strive to open our eyes, hearts, and arms, our step will become a little lighter, our smile will become a little brighter, and the darkness that sometimes broods over our lives will become a little whiter. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t been an especially grateful person. Rejoice and think of what an impression you will make on those who thought they knew you. Think of how delightfully surprised they will be. Be grateful. Every day is a new canvas—a new opportunity. Our beloved President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: My plea is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life, we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment and endorse virtue and effort. [Standing for Something (New York: Times Books, 2000), 101]  Choice blessings await those who live in thanksgiving daily. “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness,” the Lord has promised, “shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).  Don’t wait to start. Open your eyes, open your hearts, and open your arms. I promise that as you do so, you will feel greater joy and happiness. Your life will have a new level of meaning. You will forge relationships that will transcend this life and endure through the eternities.


My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be here with you. I am grateful for this experience of mortality. I am grateful for the gospel and for the life and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am grateful for my wonderful wife, my dear children and grandchildren. I am grateful for the support and love shown to me by countless friends and members of the Church throughout the world. I am grateful for life and even more grateful for the glorious promise of eternal life to come. Not everyone can be a star quarterback; not everyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company; not everyone can win a gold medal at the Olympics; but everyone—everyone—can live in thanksgiving daily.  As a special witness, I bear solemn testimony that Jesus is the living Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He asks that we believe in Him, that we learn of Him, that we strive to follow His teachings, and that we adhere to the teachings of our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. He inspires him in the direction needed for this life and life eternal.  May we follow Him in all we do is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


In the stake religion class which I have the joy and blessing of teaching, we shared feelings and experiences this past Wednesday (our last class of this “semester”) about a phrase from Hymn # 131, “More Holiness Give Me.” We’ve been taking phrases from this beautiful, meaningful hymn and discussing things like more holiness, more purpose in prayer, more joy in His service, more meekness in trials and patience in suffering, and then: more gratitude. It was a wonderful discussion just a week before Thanksgiving (THANKS giving is the way we practiced saying it). Sometimes I have thought of it as “more AWARENESS give me,” because I am completely convinced that I am blessed MUCH more than I’m ever aware of. And so I pray to be much more AWARE of the blessings which surround me. I admit that I tend to lean towards spending more time thinking about what I DON’T HAVE than in being GRATEFUL for what I DO HAVE… I am consciously working on changing that. I recognize that when I’m focused on what I DON’T have, I tend to be grumpy and dissatisfied and discontent… not NEARLY grateful enough. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a long, LONG ways from being as grateful as I should be… I am woefully unaware of ALL that I’m blessed with (and have been my whole life).


I shared a story on Wednesday which I’ve shared many times through the years as I’ve had chances to speak, to share. It goes like this: Two little children were put early to bed on a winter’s night, for the fire had gone out, and the cold was pouring in at the many cracks of their frail shanty.  The Mother strove to eke out the scantiness of the bed-covering by placing clean boards over the children.  A pair of bright eyes shone out from under a board, and just before it was hushed in slumber, a sweet voice said, “Mother, how nice this is!  How I pity the poor people who don’t have any boards to cover their children with this cold night.” I don’t remember where I first heard or found that sweet, powerful story, but it is an incredible reminder of my lack of gratitude (when I think of HER gratitude for clean boards….) She was looking at everything from the perspective of what she HAD, not what she DIDN’T have, wasn’t she. Oh my – she expressed concerns for those who didn’t have clean boards to cover their children with on that cold night! Her deep GRATITUDE was so obvious, and so sweet.


I admit that in my experiences serving in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Nigeria, I have had MANY teachers who have been examples of the very same thing I found when I first heard the story of this little girl covered with clean boards…. I have found sweet, genuine GRATITUDE for so little (but that’s just MY perspective, and I hope you understand what I mean). Wonderful people (dear friends and neighbors) who were (and ARE) so GRATEFUL for their “clean boards.” One story which I shared in class came from my first mission in the Philippines. A sweet soul named Pilarica (we called her Rica) helped us in our home. She was a widow with 2 children and lived as a “squatter” near some railroad tracks. During her days of helping us she began to read some of the pamphlets and other materials, and she eventually asked to learn more and was baptized. Not long after that the Taal Volcano erupted, killing many and leaving so many homeless and hurting. Rica had heard this news and came to our place feeling that – as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – she (and all of us) should be doing something to help. She brought a pair of Johnny’s pants: “He has 2 pair, and he only needs one,” and a little bucket: “Someone could sit on it, or they could use it to haul water.” It struck me that this was a beautiful, important example of “the widow’s mite.” I found myself wondering if I had EVER (or WOULD ever) give the equivalent . . . . Probably not (but I have tried).


How is it that so many are so grateful and content with what I consider so LITTLE?? How is it that my dear friends and neighbors in Africa did so much singing and dancing, even in what I felt was their poverty and their lack . . . .  I’m thinking as I’m writing this down that I was judging! Wow… I had/have never thought of it that way. In order that I not be TOO hard on myself, I will admit that while I wondered how they (and my dear ones in Asia) could be so HAPPY and so CONTENT with so little . . . I wanted to LEARN from their pure examples.


Another thing I’ll admit is that it wasn’t easy to teach about Tithing and the Law of the Fast (including fast offerings) … but how could I NOT do so, when I have known since I was a little child of the incredible BLESSING that are promised from keeping these commandments?? I’m weeping as I’m writing these things down… so many specific faces and memories are flooding my soul…. I wish I could more adequately share what I’m feeling on this Sabbath morning. Some of you may have read what I put on the Blog a few days ago about my experience in a REFUGEE CAMP in THAILAND (in 1981), and YES, it ties in to what I’m trying to share this morning.


Several years ago a friend told me that her stake president had invited members of the stake to find time in the coming days to have a thank-you prayer… to take time to count their many blessings, naming them one-by-one, and being SURPRISED by how generous Heavenly Father had been. Well, I decided to give it a try. It took me about an hour, and I don’t know that I’d ever taken time to name blessings one-by-one… but I WAS surprised! And amazed and deeply thankful. The stake president had also asked that AFTER this experience it would be interesting (I can’t think of a better word right now) to consider all the things they had FORGOTTEN, and try to imagine life without them. Oh my! One thing I forgot (which shocked me!) was WATER!! I hadn’t thanked Him for WATER! And it’s one of the things I’ve been most thankful for after each of my experiences. I’ve lived in places where we didn’t have running water (let alone CLEAN/SAFE water), and I forgot to thank Him for being able to just turn a handle and get clean, safe water… either cold or hot . . . . I didn’t need to imagine what my life would be without it . . . . But it was a powerful learning experience. I was reminded of something I’ve shared so often: You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need NEVER satisfies….


This morning I’m thinking about so many more specific experiences, but it’s time to finish and post this Blog. So I close by asking: What are YOU thankful for? Can you think of something you’ve not thanked Heavenly Father for in a long time (or ever)? We don’t have to wait for THANKSgiving each year to do that, do we? I hope not. I want to be thankful ALWAYS. I want to avoid letting thoughts of what I WANT crowd out thanks for what I HAVE. I want to be a grateful person. I want to live “in THANKS-giving” daily! I want to be increasingly satisfied and content. Increasingly aware. I want to want less – this is something I’ve shared in lots of talks, and I want it to be a reality for me personally: WANTING LESS is likely a better blessing than HAVING MORE. Again: What are you thankful for? (I’m asking myself that very question)





It was 1981, and I was in a place called Phanatnikom, a refugee camp located in Thailand not far from Bangkok. I was visiting a group of missionaries who were serving the people of the camp. We had celebrated the 4th of July the day before by going to a nearby park and playing all kinds of games with little children. We couldn’t speak words to each other, but we did communicate, and had a very happy time. We then returned to the places where the sisters were living – the pig farm and the duck farm, about two miles apart. We had an “American lunch” of chicken, fruit salad, potato salad, and some cookies with genuine chocolate chips which had recently arrived through the mail.

And then we began our fast. And my first experience in the camp was on that Fast Sunday, July 5th. I recognized that in a miniscule way I was experiencing something most of these people had gone through day after day – the feeling of being hungry and thirsty. Another feeling that came to me was that it was still the 4th of July in America, and I was surrounded by people who had been through so much terror and sacrifice in their search for freedom, for refuge, for safety. As we got close to the camp I felt a deep, tangible feeling of anticipation inside of me. It’s hard to describe, but I knew that I would only be there once for the first time – there would only once be that first impression of this refugee camp. I also knew that once I visited the camp, I would never feel or be the same. That happened.


This was another permanent, powerful lesson. I think I had anticipated that the people would be restless and anxious. They were peaceful. I watched them closely, wondering about what they had learned from their terrible experiences. I know I shall probably never be called on to go through anything even close to what they’ve been through, and I wonder if I’ll ever then learn even a small part of what they’ve learned.

There were two camps. One was a holding camp – a huge area full of many, many buildings where the refugees were stashed, having no idea of when they would be able to go to a third country and begin to make a home and life again. They lived their days trying to keep up their hope (trying not to hope too much), working to be patient in their difficult circumstances. On the other side of the road was a transit camp, and those people were just waiting for their sponsorship or their name to be called to go to their third country. I was told that some of them would go to a camp in Bataan in the Philippines to wait to go to their fourth country. Some wonderful LDS sister missionaries were serving there as well.

Our first stop as we entered the camp was the office of WSURT: Welfare Services Unit for Refugees in Thailand. That’s what the Latter-day Saint group was called. The office was not very big, but it was extremely important. It was originally built as a place for guards to sleep, but the commander of the camp allowed the Church to use it for their office. Inside was a kind of “cage” where all the video units were kept along with other equipment and materials. In the rest of the office there was a desk where the director of the program worked. There were files with all the lessons and visual aids which the missionaries used to teach the people. They helped them get ready for life in another culture, another land. As most of the refugees seemed to go to the United States, many of the lessons were based on the culture and living conditions there.

One of the first people I met, besides the remarkable women and one couple who were there as missionaries, was Trach Khuong, one of the translators for the sisters. He held a book which had printed on the outside “This book belongs to Trach Khuong, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” As I remember, he was baptized about 10 years earlier in the United States, but had returned to Viet Nam and hadn’t had much contact with the Church until he ended up in the camp in Thailand and met the lady missionaries. He spoke Vietnamese and also English and Khmer. He was a great help to the work of the WSURT team. I was told that without him there would be no way to hold Church services in the camp, because the refugees had to be the ones to lead any religious services which were held.

Children gathered around us at every point and seemed very interested in trying to speak a little English to us. I loved watching the way they ran to the sisters, whom they saw every day. I was so impressed with the bond of love which had developed even though the sisters didn’t know many words of the languages of the camp, and the majority of the people didn’t know much if any English. I loved watching the smiles and enthusiasm which greeted these great women as they mingled with the people. These remarkable, unique women who were accomplishing such great miracles each day. I listened as they shared what they’d been experiencing and became increasingly aware of their devotion, their love for the refugees, their personal sacrifices, their willingness to give and give and give day after day.

In sharing some of my experiences I must say that any one of these missionaries could share much more detail and many more poignant, meaningful experiences than I.  I watched them with the people and with each other, serving with a marvelous unity in their diversity. I observed many unselfish, spontaneous acts of service and kindness in my time with them. I came away with a deep respect and admiration for them and what they had accomplished. In no way do I pretend to have experienced even a small part of what they went through in the months they served and worked in the camps. But what I experienced personally has been permanently changing to me, and I have felt I wanted to share something about it.

At one point I was standing beside a young boy, and he looked up at me and said “You beautiful.” I smiled and said “You’re beautiful too.” He said “How are you?” “Fine, how are you?” He responded with “I fine.” He grinned, then said “I Viet Nam.” I said “I America.” He asked “Are you teacher?” I said “Yes.” Then he said “You teacher, me student” and smiled. Oh no, I thought, you are my teacher. I recognized even before I arrived in the camp that I had much to learn, and that I was surrounded by thousands of teachers.


During the time I was there I had the chance to read many of the stories the missionaries had collected while in the camps, and then in some instances I went to meet the people who had had those experiences. As I began to read and hear some of their stories I realized that they had been through things I would never ever experience, and I wanted to know something of what they had learned and what they were feeling. I felt a sense of respect which is hard to express in just the right way. How was it, I wondered, that they could have so much peace when they had been treated with such terrible iniquity?

We had our Church service in what was called “the model home.”  This was a dream come true for the sisters, who had wanted to fix up a place where they could show the people what a home was like in other places. They had done things in the camp, too, to give it more of a feel of community. All the buildings and areas were numbered, but they recommended that there be street names, and there were. I saw many signs, like the one which said “Main Street.”

They were told they could fix up the “model home” as long as they didn’t use any of the money from the program. So they began to “scrounge around” and find whatever they could. One day they received a donation of $25 from a lady in Provo who said she had extra and wanted to share it. She had sent the check to the camp through Elder Marion D. Hanks, a true saint and humanitarian (as well as General Authority) who was responsible for getting this wonderful work started in Southeast Asia.

The sisters cashed the check and used it for paint for the walls in the three or four sections they had designated as different rooms in this one building. The couple –, the Andersons – had delivered an old wrecked refrigerator, and the sisters had found an old stove and counter. They had a sink propped up on some boards, and a toilet. None of the appliances were “hooked up,” but with the things they were able to find and borrow they were able to show the people what different rooms in a home might look like. They had pictures hanging on the walls.

And this, then, is where we had our Sacrament meeting – in “the model home” sitting in a circle on little stools.  22 people attended, including the missionaries, the Andersons, Khuong, and several refugees who were not members of the Church.  There was no piano or organ or pulpit or anything, but OH!… there was such a spirit of peace and a closeness to each other. We hummed and sang the prelude music. “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” The words were so powerful and meaningful in that setting.  For our opening hymn we sang “Dearest Children, God is Near You,” and as I observed the MANY who were outside looking in I felt the words were certainly for them.  God is near you. He knows what you’ve been through, little boy with a Pizza Hut hat on.  He knows where you are. Please know that, somehow.


We sang a Sacrament hymn and then Khuong blessed the bread and Elder Anderson passed it.  Then Elder Anderson blessed the water and Khuong passed it.  We sang “How Firm a Foundation,” and the words were still “You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled” [I know the words changed to “Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled”] and I was deeply touched as we sang that in such unusual circumstances. All the words from that hymn seemed to have a greater meaning in such a setting. “In every condition, in sickness, in health… In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth.” And on and on. When I sing that hymn now (#85) I often think of Phanatnikom.

It seemed to me that we were all refugees together – all of us trying to flee from the “world” – from Babylon – to the gospel of Jesus Christ … from error to truth. I felt it so powerfully – this unity in our need to “Come Unto Jesus.” I guess that’s part of the “turn, turn” process from the beautiful Quaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” – repenting, changing, becoming more God-like and Christ-like.


Khuong began the testimony meeting by sharing his own testimony. He began with “We have a lot in common.” What a good shepherd this group leader was. He spoke in English but then switched to Vietnamese so others could understand what he was saying. Some of the sisters shared their testimonies, including Rita, the director of the program in the camp, who had been there in the beginning and had served for close to 10 months. This was her last Sunday. Elder Anderson shared his feelings, including mentioning that many of the Southeast Asians who had joined the Church in other lands had done so because of the influence of these welfare missionaries who had to teach by who they were – by their example – because they were not allowed to “preach.”

For our closing hymn we sang “Come Unto Jesus.” I was very emotional about this. Not only was it one of my favorite hymns, but it seemed such a perfect song to sing at that particular time in that particular place. Here we were from several different lands, joining our hearts and our voices and our feelings about coming to Christ. “From every land and aisle of the sea, unto the high and lowly in station, ever He calls ‘Come to me.'” And thoughts such as “His love will find you and gently lead you from darkest night unto day.” Another perfect hymn with deeper meaning than I think I had ever felt before.


I went and sat by Khanh, the WSURT secretary, and began to talk to her. As soon as we began to share I started to cry, and I did so throughout our whole conversation, which lasted about half an hour. I felt sure the same would happen with every single person in the camp if I could speak to them and know their story and think about who they really are as well as what they had been through. I found myself asking a question in my heart as I watched everyone and tried to look into their faces – “Who are you?” You are a child of God, and the Good Shepherd knows and loves you SO much….

The Good Shepherd

On Monday we returned to the camp and I was once again immersed in feelings of hope, ingenuity and patience which surrounded me. I think I had anticipated that the people in the camps would be angry and bitter, restless, anxious to get out and get going with their lives. Instead they were peaceful, respectful of each other, disciplined and helpful. It was as if they were so close to freedom that they didn’t want to do anything which might delay that, to destroy or even postpone their dream. There were so many thousands of them, with no privacy or personal space (things which seemed so important to me).

The homes were built in quad fashion, with four buildings facing each other.  Each building had three sections, and each family had a section about 8 by 16 feet (if that big). None of the sections, then, had “four walls.”

There were loudspeakers in the camp, with announcements and information being blasted almost constantly.  When the sisters taught, they had to teach above that noise. There was a water truck which came around every few days and pumped water into receptacles which the people would then come to with containers for their water supply. Water was a precious commodity, as it is in most of the world. The people would use buckets or whatever they had to haul the amount they were allowed back to their home. With this small amount of water they would cook, bathe, wash their clothing, and so on. No wonder they ran to bathe and wash their hair when the rain came and poured off the roofs!

They fixed up their homes in wonderful ways. Since there were only three walls in each place, people were given 20 pieces of bamboo to “finish off” the other side of their home in any way they wanted. One family we visited had used the bamboo to build one bed off the floor so some things could be stored underneath, and then the rest had been used to build a wall to try to help keep the rain out and give the family a little privacy from the family right next to them. Many had hung some kind of paper or other material to make the other “wall.” They had taken pictures and pages from magazines and put them on the walls.

We took our shoes off and sat on the floor to visit with one particular family. I noticed the father had built a small book shelf, and there was one old copy of the National Geographic on it. As we were visiting, I a little girl bumped into a small bag of rice. It spilled “all over.” Immediately, without any anger, the adults AND children stopped what they were doing and helped to pick up every single piece of rice. I watched, and I felt so much so deeply about that simple act of knowing the value of a single kernel of rice.  I thought of how much I must have wasted during my life which likely would have been of great value to someone else.  I thought of the little “cycle,” and remembered that THOSE WHO HAVE GIVE, not waste or horde.

I walked around the camp watching the sisters teach the people. One of them let me take a few minutes in her class, and it was a group of people who spoke Mandarin.  I remembered a few words of that language and had a happy experience.


During the time we were there I noticed a little girl watching me. She had an over-sized pink shirt on. I have no idea how old she was nor who she was. Every time I’d try to look directly at her to smile or communicate in some way she’d run away. She began to represent “everyone” – especially all the little children – and what they’d been through. I wondered a lot about her – who she was, and what she’d had to experience at her tender age. Maybe she lived in the “home for unaccompanied children.” This was a place for so many of the children who had been separated from their families. It wasn’t an “orphanage,” because it was often impossible to know if they had family members in other places, in other camps.


Toward the end of the day we had gone back to the place where the missionaries had their office, and I was sitting leaning on the window with my back to the outside.  I had my arms stretched out, and my hand was on the edge of the window. After a while I noticed the little girl in the pink shirt approaching me, walking very quietly, watching to see if I’d turn around. I didn’t. I decided just to sit quietly and see what happened. She got closer and closer. When she was right next to me she stopped, and we were both very quiet. I didn’t turn. Then she reached up and touched me, and ran.

It was like electricity – that quick touch from a tiny finger. I felt it deep in my soul and was moved to tears. I sat there thinking and feeling when I noticed that she was coming back. I still didn’t turn, but waited to see what would happen. Again she approached carefully and quietly, and again she stood waiting. And once again she touched me and ran, and I felt a deep and powerful response. She did this another time and I still didn’t turn, so I think she decided I was dead or something. The last time she came she stood as before, but then reached up and put her whole small hand on top of mine and kept it there, pressing hard. I wept. I felt so much love for that child and kept thinking “Oh little child, who are you? Where are you from? Are your parents alive? Do you have any brothers and sisters? Are there people who care about you and are helping you? Where will you go? Where will you live? Will you be treated kindly? Will you be loved? Will you be OK?”  (A film was made of this experience for a General Relief Society meeting, and the little girl who took the part of the one in the pink shirt was “Ch’uum,” a little refugee girl from Cambodia. It was filmed at Camp Williams in Utah. They made it SO realistic that I cried all day!!!)


I found myself thinking about “relativity,” and times when I had been frustrated about “something or other,” which seemed rather insignificant and minimal in this setting, and recognizing that I had been blessed constantly and abundantly in my life, and there was so much good I could do if I would be willing. Every single soul on the earth has needs, but also has that which can be shared. It is likely different at different times and on different days. I like the way it is phrased in “How Firm a Foundation,” “As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.” And it is. I have felt that so strongly in my own life. God knows me, and He knows you. Every single day. He knows our needs. He comes to our rescue. He sends Heavenly Help, often through other “earthlings.” I’d like to be more that way with others…. Much, much more….



Are you a person who makes lists?? So you like listing? (You have to know that the real meaning of the word “listing” in all things nautical is: leaning. Yes. Like “leaning to port” means the ship is leaning towards the left (port) side. So if YOU are “listing…” Well, I just hope you don’t fall. And now I want to move along to what I mean by LISTS! Do you like to make lists? Are they all over your house or apartment or yurt on post-it notes?


Do you have a “MASTER LIST” reminding you of where all the “minor lists” are? (That’s about what it’s like for mee . . . lists upon lists, making it necessary to have a “master list.”) So this morning I thought I’d share a few thoughts about lists (and don’t think for a single minute that there won’t be MORE posts about lists in the days (or weeks or months) to come.  I think when most of us think of making lists, we’re usually thinking of “TO DO” lists. And this is a good idea… as long as we don’t use lists to remind ourselves of how much we’re NOT DOING . . . . (Oh! I see I’ve hit a nerve with that, eh?). Don’t use lists to destroy your happiness! Lists of things we want to do can be motivational, and also helpful (if we make it so) by giving us ways to organize our time – to prioritize the things we want to DO – things we want to accomplish.  So here are a few ideas for those who are LISTERS. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to confuse QUALITY with QUANTITY. Oh, that’s MEE so much! I even write things down after I’ve done them, just because it feels SO GOOD to CHECK ‘EM OFF! And I can have LOTS of things “checked off,” and yet some of the most important things I want to do are “UN-checked….” Does that right a bell with you too?? I can have a day where I’ve plowed through a whole bunch of “low impact,” EASY things, just to feel happified and satisfied about ALL that I’ve accomplished! Lots and LOTS of almost meaningless “chores” and tasks. But it always seems to shoot a little hole in my balloon when I see that a few of things which didn’t get checked off are the things that would have made a much more satisfying feeling. Hmmmm….


Some of use lists to torture ourselves. Have you ever done that? The lists are LONG (make that L-O-N-G!), and there are so MANY of them!! I make lists even knowing that I’ll never accomplish everything I’ve written down. Never! (I recently wrote myself a note, and it’s posted right here by my computer: I CAN ALREADY TELL THAT MY LIFE IS GOING TO BE TOO SHORT. Yep. I wrote that recently, and I look at it often and think about it. I’m not sure I’m right, but I’m feeling that as time passes I feel a greater need to PRIORITIZE – to do the things I most NEED and WANT to do before I’m “permanently listless” (ie, GONE!).  Don’t set yourself up to fail by making lists way too long (this can turn into a nasty habit!), or making way too many lists. This takes up way too much energy and time. (It takes a LOT of energy just to FIND your many “To Do” lists, doesn’t it!). You keep seeing numbers 5 and 17, which might be the most important things you have on your long list… but all the things around are checked first, and you might never even get to 5 and 17…. Maybe we should have a little notebook with a title on it like “THINGS TO DO MAYBE NEVER” (excellent English, eh?). We could peek in that notebook if we’re ever bored, or if we ever want to feel overwhelmed….


So here are some ideas for making successful “TO DO” lists. (And some of you – likely MOST of you – are already outstanding LISTERS!!… you can skip this part if you want… or you can skip it if you can’t standing reading the post while your lists are waiting for you, looking at you, making you sweat and scream)…. IDEAS for making lists which can HELP you rather than FRUSTRATE you: Keep them SIMPLE. Just put a FEW things on your list, especially if you know today is already packed pretty full with the “must-do” things (which you don’t even write down… like BREATHING???  OK, that wasn’t a good example, but you know what I mean). There may be days when you put only ONE thing on your list! Clean the junk drawer. Finish the talk or lesson for this coming Sunday. Stir the garage (sometimes I use “stir” to mean things like “find out what’s there!!”). Weed the garden. Get the visiting teaching done. You’ll think of what it is (or what they are if you still insist on writing more things down)… the things which, when you’re finished, will make you feel SO GOOD!!  You know, don’t you, that in your morning prayers (or evening if that’s when you make your lists) you can ask for Help in doing the most important things on this particular day. (That was a good idea, in case you kind of skimmed over it….)


OK… some other ideas. MORNINGS. Yes, mornings. Most people do NOT consider themselves to be “morning people.” But I’m just making suggestions, OK? Part of the reason I’m doing this is that many people whom I admire have said that the early morning hours are the best time for some of our most important tasks. Yep. I’m not kidding…. And by the way, I have NO IDEA why morning people and night people are named after BIRDS! Who thought that up??  Early birds and Night owls. ?? I’m proof that sometimes night owls turn into to early birds. Studies have shown (picture someone with a white lab coat on when you read those words, OK?… it’ll make this idea lots more powerful) that early birds are generally happier than night owls! (I found this out on the internet, friends, so it’s gotta be true!). Seriously… it seems that people who are early risers tend to be healthier and happier. Maybe that’s why work hours are mostly in the mornings. (I have to say that 11-7 was by FAR the hardest shift I worked as a nurse… but someone reading this might say it’s their favorite). I know that some people DO work best in the mornings, but some are more productive in the afternoon, or evening, or even in the middle of the night. President Boyd K. Packer: “I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Our minds are then fresh and alert. The blackboards of our minds have been erased by a good night’s sleep. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in our way. Our bodies have been rested also. That is the time to think something through carefully and to receive personal revelation. For me, it is the best time to prepare lessons for a class I am to teach.” (Teach Ye Diligently, p.243 – 244) And from the Doctrine and Covenants 88:124 – [I was going to shorten it, but the whole thing is pretty good!] “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” You’ll “get it” that I mostly wanted to emphasize the part about arising early, right? Maybe you could pick one morning each week to get up earlier than usual?? (Don’t get an ulcer over this… it’s only a suggestion).


Some of you are in a season of life where your children are your “to-do list.” You may be a care giver, and that is your main thing to do each day (oh how I hope you have at least one or two others who take turns giving you a break!).  Take “small bites” out of huge tasks. You probably already do that. Even tackling a small part of something BIG can give you energy and optimism about continuing to work towards finishing. You’re going to give a talk or lesson or other presentation? Make an outline – even just doing that will give you a boost and will move you towards a successful completion. Be “proactive” rather than “reactive.” Take charge of your day as much as you can! Don’t let your email or texts or internet surfing or watching more than you need to of the morning news take away some of your most productive time. If there were a way to measure your use of time, do you think you get in a whole hour of what you’d call “productive time” in a day? With some planning, could you increase that to two hours? Even more? And YES… some days there will be urgent things come up. Most of us have emergencies in our lives….  Sometimes it can be helpful if you DO take 5 minutes or so to write down every single thing you can think of that you need to do NOW (ok… “now” can be “within 24 hours” or “within the month” … but just write down as many things as you can think of without taking the whole day to do it). Maybe do this late in the day, and then take a good look at it the next morning (yes, when our mind is fresh) and select a few of the most critical things – put a star by them, or highlight them, or put them on a separate small list … Another thing you could do is cross out things that don’t matter (if there are any). Tighten it up. Shorten the list. Maybe you can get someone else to do some of the things on the list, eh? Good luck with that!!  There are times when you may need to do a small task because it’s annoying you – you can’t seem to quit thinking about what you want to do in that one closet… (ha ha—I know that quite a few things just popped in your mind… careful now!). Maybe it’s that one window which you need to wash, or the very important phone call or visit… it’s something that your mind keeps wandering back to, making it hard to focus on your high prority stuff. Sometimes you have to kill a fly before you start making salad for dinner (can you tell I just made that up? Awesome!). MeeScreams

OK… I’m going to bring this to a close (in 3,000 words or more). IF you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and disorganized in your life, if you’re constantly saying or feeling that “I’m way too busy!” or if you constantly feel like time is flying on wings of lightning (and no, you cannot call it back)… take a breath, pause, and put 3 or 4 things on a list which will ease your mind, and get them done. I’ve found that when I do something I’ve been “meaning to do!!!” it frees my mind and even sometimes my time, allowing me to do more than I thought I could. Don’t let the lists discourage you or stress you out. Burn them (or shred them if you’ve been forbidden to play with matches) if they’re interfering with your happiness and peace of mind, OK? If your lists are growing like weeds or zucchini, or if you just need to take a day or week or whatever OFF from making and looking at and prioritizing lists… STOP for a while!


And that leads me right into a really good tip (at least I think so): Some days, or for some periods of time on some days, it’s NICE and HEALTHY to be LISTLESS! Got it? LISTLESS! Which means, of course, that we take a break once in a while… no list!


Here is something from the life of Joseph Smith which helps to illustrates what I mean:  That Joseph Smith liked to pull sticks, wrestle, play baseball, swim, and hunt is generally well known. William Allred, who played ball with Joseph many times, recalled an instance when someone criticized the Prophet for indulging in play. To answer the criticism Joseph told a parable about a prophet and a hunter—clearly explaining his own philosophy about the relationship of play to work. As the story goes, a certain prophet sat under a tree “amusing himself in some way.” Along came a hunter and reproved him. The prophet asked the hunter if he always kept his hunting bow strung up. “Oh no,” said he. “Why not?” “Because it would lose its elasticity.” “It is just so with my mind,” stated the prophet; “I do not want it strung up all the time.”  (Biography and Journal of William Moore Allred, photocopy of holograph, Church Hist. Dept. Archives, p. 10) SO KEEP IT HEALTHY! TAKE A BREAK ONCE IN A WHILE AND JUST BE “LIST-LESS!”


And now for a word from our sponsor: Don’t hold your breath, but word has it that MEE is soon going to come up with a BLOG about BUCKET LISTS!! Oh joy! Oh rapture! (We’ll have to wait to see if it really happens; meanwhile, just stick to the “TO-DO” lists and have a wonderful day!!)




President-elect Trump’s speech

Here is the text of the speech Donald Trump delivered when he became the President-elect of the United States of America:

Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business. Complicated. Thank you very much.
I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It’s about us. On our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign.
I mean, she fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.
I mean that very sincerely. Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.
As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family.
It is a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people — and serve the people it will.
Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world.
That is now what I want to do for our country. Tremendous potential. I’ve gotten to know our country so well. Tremendous potential. It is going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.
We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal, and I’ve gotten to know so many over this 18-month journey.The time I’ve spent with them during this campaign has been among my greatest honors. Our veterans are incredible people.
We will embark upon a project of national growth and renewal. I will harness the creative talents of our people, and we will call upon the best and brightest to leverage their tremendous talent for the benefit of all. It is going to happen.
We have a great economic plan. We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world. At the same time, we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us. We will be. We will have great relationships. We expect to have great, great relationships.
No dream is too big, no challenge is too great. Nothing we want for our future is beyond our reach.
America will no longer settle for anything less than the best. We must reclaim our country’s destiny and dream big and bold and daring. We have to do that. We’re going to dream of things for our country, and beautiful things and successful things once again.
I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone. All people and all other nations.
We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.
And now I would like to take this moment to thank some of the people who really helped me with this, what they are calling tonight a very, very historic victory.
First, I want to thank my parents, who I know are looking down on me right now. Great people. I’ve learned so much from them. They were wonderful in every regard. Truly great parents.
I also want to thank my sisters, Marianne and Elizabeth, who are here with us tonight. Where are they? They’re here someplace. They’re very shy, actually.
And my brother Robert, my great friend. Where is Robert? Where is Robert?
My brother Robert, and they should be on this stage, but that’s okay. They’re great.
And also my late brother Fred, great guy. Fantastic guy. Fantastic family. I was very lucky.
Great brothers, sisters, great, unbelievable parents.
To Melania and Don and Ivanka and Eric and Tiffany and Barron, I love you and I thank you, and especially for putting up with all of those hours. This was tough.
This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough.
So I want to thank my family very much. Really fantastic. Thank you all. Thank you all. Lara, unbelievable job. Unbelievable. Vanessa, thank you. Thank you very much. What a great group.
You’ve all given me such incredible support, and I will tell you that we have a large group of people. You know, they kept saying we have a small staff. Not so small. Look at all of the people that we have. Look at all of these people.
And Kellyanne and Chris and Rudy and Steve and David. We have got tremendously talented people up here, and I want to tell you it’s been very, very special.
I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. He traveled with us and he went through meetings, and Rudy never changes. Where is Rudy. Where is he?
Gov. Chris Christie, folks, was unbelievable. Thank you, Chris. The first man, first senator, first major, major politician. Let me tell you, he is highly respected in Washington because he is as smart as you get.
Sen. Jeff Sessions. Where is Jeff? A great man. Another great man, very tough competitor. He was not easy. He was not easy. Who is that? Is that the mayor that showed up? Is that Rudy?
Up here. Really a friend to me, but I’ll tell you, I got to know him as a competitor because he was one of the folks that was negotiating to go against those Democrats, Dr. Ben Carson. Where’s Ben? Where is Ben? By the way, Mike Huckabee is here someplace, and he is fantastic. Mike and his family Sarah, thank you very much. Gen. Mike Flynn. Where is Mike? And Gen. Kellogg. We have over 200 generals and admirals that have endorsed our campaign and they are special people.
We have 22 Congressional Medal of Honor people. A very special person who, believe me, I read reports that I wasn’t getting along with him. I never had a bad second with him. He’s an unbelievable star. He is … that’s right, how did you possibly guess? Let me tell you about Reince. I’ve said Reince. I know it. I know it. Look at all of those people over there. I know it, Reince is a superstar. I said, they can’t call you a superstar, Reince, unless we win it. Like Secretariat. He would not have that bust at the track at Belmont.
Reince is really a star and he is the hardest-working guy, and in a certain way I did this. Reince, come up here. Get over here, Reince.
Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. It’s about time you did this right. My god. Nah, come here. Say something.
Amazing guy. Our partnership with the RNC was so important to the success and what we’ve done, so I also have to say, I’ve gotten to know some incredible people.
The Secret Service people. They’re tough and they’re smart and they’re sharp and I don’t want to mess around with them, I can tell you. And when I want to go and wave to a big group of people and they rip me down and put me back down in the seat, but they are fantastic people so I want to thank the Secret Service.
And law enforcement in New York City, they’re here tonight. These are spectacular people, sometimes underappreciated unfortunately. We appreciate them.
So it’s been what they call a historic event, but to be really historic, we have to do a great job, and I promise you that I will not let you down. We will do a great job. We will do a great job. I look very much forward to being your president, and hopefully at the end of two years or three years or four years or maybe even eight years you will say so many of you worked so hard for us, with you. You will say that — you will say that that was something that you were — really were very proud to do and I can — thank you very much.
And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning. We’re going to get to work immediately for the American people, and we’re going to be doing a job that hopefully you will be so proud of your President. You will be so proud. Again, it’s my honor.
It’s an amazing evening. It’s been an amazing two-year period, and I love this country. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Thank you to Mike Pence.