MAUI – WHALES

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. I guess there wasn’t too much to tell about our 5 sea days. But it’s been so amazing to look out as far as you can see, and it’s still the Pacific Ocean (larger than ALL the land masses joined together!). Great to see the moon rise, and some sun rises. We slept, we ate (and ate and ate), and the six of us found a great place to sit and play games (I brought “Bananagram,” and others had difference games). It was such fun being together. And the lectures by Michael Wilcox have been fantastic. We laughed so hard during his lecture on Mark Twain! Some of our group left yesterday, including our dear friends Tyna and Jeff Bean. They flew home around noon, and Michael and others later in the day. More are flying from here (Maui) later today. And the rest of us will have another 5 sea days on our way to San Diego!

Yesterday we were on OAHU. So beautiful!! The mountains fascinate me! A long but good day. Leanne and I rented a car (we’d seen the local sites several times, so we didn’t join the group for Pearl Harbor, the PCC, and other stops) and drove to the Laie Temple and enjoyed the noon session.

And then we drove to visit my niece Wendy, who lives in Kailua. She and her daughter Elysia treated us to a delightful lunch on their porch, and we had a great visit. I ate a whole papaya (with lime juice) – I have been SO disappointed that the only place I’d had papaya so far was in Samoa; can’t figure out why they don’t have it on the ship!). It was great having time with them! (I’m going to try to post some pictures).

Today: MAUI. This is one island I’ve never been to. It’s beautiful. We have seen several WHALES! Frolicking! Such fun!!! One breeched and others just splashed around. Nice being on shore and seeing a marvelous banyan tree (like a group of trees) and lots of tourist attractions (shops and such-like).

And now back on the boat. I’m continuing to have a LOT of fun using some Tagalog with the workers from the Philippines, and Bahasa with those from Indonesia. Pretty unusual to have an old woman speaking their language and singing some songs. HA HA.

We’ve all been doing a lot of reading. Leanne and I are reading one together of a Vietnamese family who escaped on a boat in around 1979 and ended up in Arkansas. Very well written, and we’ve learned a lot about what so many of those “boat people” went through. I loved it that our taxi driver (to the Hertz place yesterday) was from Vietnam. I’ve read 3 other books (we share with each other).

It turns out that with Michael gone I was asked to give some talks. I gave a short message in our church meeting this recent Sunday, and I have 3 more opportunities before we get to San Diego. So I’d better spend some time preparing. Thanks for the notes and comments – I’m sorry I’m not responding, and not posting very much. Oh well. Thanks for “tuning in.” I hope you all had a nice Valentine’s Day. We were each (the women) given a long-stemmed rose. Leanne and I gave ours to some who didn’t get one (can you say “allergies” ?).  (I’m having a problem with the internet… it might be a while before I can post this).

 

BORA BORA

Incredible! A fantastic day! We went out on small “outrigger canoes” in groups of around 10 with native fellows as our guides, and we had a BLAST! We were “up and out” for around 6 hours, got off the boat three times – first for stingrays (and I kissed one! REALLY! And oh how I hope someone got a picture!!!). Next for little sharks (they only looked about 4-5 feet long and had the most exotic fins (if that’s what they’re called)—they looked hand-painted. And then we went towards the atoll which surrounds Bora Bora and folks did a whole lot of snorkeling. I “went under” a few times, and it really is “a whole new world.” What a great day! This place is SO beautiful! We had lots of rain – some lightning and thunder – and we all got SOAKED…again and again… but we sure had fun doing so. I wish I could send pictures! I will eventually. I’m not sure how well my camera’s working – everything got SO WET! It’s now Tuesday 07 February, I think (I’m so mixed up!). We did laundry last night and this morning (for the first time… so we had a LOT). Feels good to have everything clean. We’re at Mo’orea, French Polynesia today. Then it looks like 2 days in and near Papeete (French Polynesia). Then our 5 sea days as we head for HONOLULU. We’re having a great time. Eating plenty (yep… our clothes are a bit “tighter”). Sleeping well at night. NO nausea at all (and the seas have been a bit “choppy” at times). I still can hardly believe I’m seeing all these amazing places, meeting such kind and happy people, and having such unique experiences.  I’m sending lots of love!!  MEE

SOUTH PACIFIC-02 Feb2017

GOOD MORNING! It’s a beautiful day on the ship (finally – we got on board yesterday, and it feels great… we’ve had some pretty HOT and HUMID days “on shore.”).

I know I posted a short note on FB (maybe from Samoa?). I now have a package of 1000 minutes for the next almost 3 weeks. I’m using it carefully. Being online is 25 cents per minutes. So I’m writing things “off-line” and then will jump on and get them sent/posted.  (I know, I know… it’s such a brilliant idea). I’m hoping I can post a picture or two eventually … we’ll see (no success on that yet).

My favorite thing so far was Fiji. I love that place! It’s not nearly as hot and humid as Samoa or Tonga … and of course some of that is because I was in the “infinity pool” for 2 ½ hours! I was breathing freely, no sneezing… just a great time. AND: We found our dear friend Liti in the dining room! We made friends with her last year. As we approached her (after she’d had 2 days off!… I was afraid we weren’t going to be able to see her), I smiled and said “Do you remember us??” And we just squealed and hugged, and it was SO GOOD to see her again. She was SO kind to us last year.

We’ve had these amazing blessings with people. We met several returned missionaries in Samoa, and one of them had served in Perth and is acquainted with my companion Jill Bousfield (2nd mission in the Philippines), now Grinceri. Small world! One brother had served in Alaska, and he said it was so COLD, but that he LOVES Alaska! (I’m thinking I may have told you some of these things before… sorry about that. I need to keep track).

An incredibly wonderful young man helped us as we were leaving Samoa! He served in San Francisco and loved his mission so much. And he went out of his way to be kind to us. His name is Benson; he was named after the Prophet when he was born. He wheeled me the rest of the way and we had some good chats. Also met a fellow who served in Manila! And it was fun talking to him (and singing a Tagalog folk song to him).

The place we stayed in Fiji is the same place as a year ago, and it’s incredible! Really wonderful. More great people, too (of course). We ran into some people from Leanne’s ward – they were just finishing the same tour we took last year (Australia and New Zealand, and finishing up in Fiji before flying home).

2 days ago we flew from Fiji to Tonga. I have to say that we were all SO FINISHED with having to have 50 lbs in our big bag and only 15 lbs in our carry-on… but at the same time I have to say we were SO BLESSED, because they didn’t weigh our back packs as part of our carry-on. That would have been disastrous (ha).

It was great to land in Tonga – another place I’ve never been. Very hot, very tropical. Total chaos at the airport. HOT, muggy. But I got another wheelchair, and it turns out that the woman who helped me had served her mission in the PHILIPPINES! (We just kept running across great LDS people; it was great having so much in common). But ALL the people (with very few exceptions) have been so kind, so helpful.  I asked this woman if she remember Staccie West, my good friend (whom I met when I was her nursing instructor at BYU those many years ago). She served a health mission to Tonga. This young woman was SO EXCITED when I mentioned her name! “OH! We LOVE HER!!!” Fun. Such fun.

We had a LONG time in the heat there… we had to pay $16 (and so first had to get money exchanged) in order to get out of the airport and onboard the ship. We got outside… HOT!! And VERY humid. And they had an old school bus for us. No air conditioning. But we had to wait over an hour, because some luggage didn’t arrive (our smallish plane was stuff full, but not all luggage made it), so LOTS of paper work had to be filled out. That was hard. We drove about 3 minutes to the “Scenic Hotel.” All I wanted to do was get inside and go to sleep (ha… quite a wimp I am). We were all HOT and SWEATY. I don’t know if anyone ate dinner – I didn’t even look at it. The report was that it wasn’t too great.

Leanne and I had decided to skip the tour and come to the ship early. It was a fantastic decision (made more so by the reports we had of how HOT the tour was; I’d never have made it). We had a fun taxi driver for the 4 of us (a couple joined us). It turns out our taxi driver is the husband of the desk clerk there in Tonga – and they’re expecting a little girl in 5 months. Leo, our driver (and Leslie) are wonderful. He served in the Philippines! As we drove towards the port, Leo showed and explained lots of things we were seeing. Fascinating. We saw at least 4 LDS chapels; one is a middle school.

We’re on Holland America’s Maasdam, Rm 729. Leanne and I had some lunch yesterday, and then we had our assigned table for dinner with our 4 friends: The Dilworths (from Arkansas) and the Beans (from Vancouver WA). We had a great time. Our servers are from Indonesia,, and that made it extra fun. Our 2 room stewards are also Indonesian. And I’ve run into lots of Filipinos too.

This is MUCH longer than I had imagined… but it’s just fun sharing some of the adventures, and some of the SWEET experiences with people in these “faraway places with strange-sounding names.” Oh, I forgot to say that Leanne got me a little magnet from the Robert Louise Stevenson home in Samoa – you may remember that he retired there.  And I have to say that I get to celebrate my sister Charlotte’s 75th birthday TWICE!… (Groundhog Day). We re-cross the international dateline sometime tonight.

We’re stopped at Vavau today, the on to places like Nieue, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia . . . And we start our fantastic lectures onboard the ship from Mike Wilcox (he’s the reason we chose this particular trip). He’s SO GOOD!!!

I’ll write again when I can.  Thanks for the notes from you. I’m sorry I can’t respond to all of them. I’m thankful for the blessing of being part of this group and having such amazing experiences.  I’m going to try to include a picture or two. We’ll see . . . . (I haven’t had much success with that yet).  With much, much love, MEE

P.S. I haven’t been able to get on the internet, so I have NO idea how long it will be before I can post this. “Stay tuned” (ha ha).

In case you didn’t see this

At least 90% of you have read this, but in case you didn’t see it, I’m sharing (as I’m sure others have shared).  Robert Kirby is a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune. The title of this one is:K “Wait’ll you see how much the Mormon church pays me.” Enjoy. (15 January 2017)

 

Despite the fact that I have in ways large, small, and painful, worked for the LDS Church my entire life, I’ve never received a penny from it. Not even a coupon. Note: This includes the time I had to go to the hospital because I was knocked down twice in five minutes by the same church welfare cow. For my church, I’ve cleaned ditches, roofed houses, vaccinated livestock, fixed plumbing and even canned chili. I’ve also held various time-heavy jobs like being in bishoprics and serving as an Elders Quorum president. Not a pay stub to show for any of it. It gets even crazier. I once worked for two years as a full-time missionary in a faraway land, the privilege of which I had to pay for myself. Actually, I didn’t. My parents paid for it. Prior to receiving a call to work for free, I’d blown every nickel I had on riotous living. Pleased that I was still alive and not incarcerated at the age of 20, my parents were happy to kick in. For all the free work I’ve done, it has never bothered me that I didn’t get paid. Being a worker bee is part of the Mormon gig. We don’t flaunt that beehive emblem around for nothing. When the church wants some work out of us, it simply asks. The request comes as a “calling,” which is not the same thing as a job offer. There’s no negotiating of benefits or stock options. Among Mormons, there are only two proper replies to a church calling, both of which are “Yes.” The difference between them is actually following through and doing the job, and just pretending to. We are counseled to never say “no” to a calling, although I have. Several times, in fact. But always to the future benefit of the church. They have no idea how many PR bullets I’ve helped them dodge by saying, “Oh, &#@% no. I’m not doing that.” But some Mormons do get paid. My sister worked for the church. She got paid. I ride TRAX with both LDS missionaries (unpaid) and church employees (paid). None of them has ever complained about what they get paid. I don’t recall when I realized that LDS general authorities were compensated for their work. This almost certainly means the news didn’t bother me enough at the time to file it away for future grousing. It still doesn’t. When it comes to general authorities getting paid, I don’t really care how much it is so long as they don’t flaunt it like some rapper/pimp. Lots of bling, tricked-out rides, pinky rings, and gold grills are not the best delivery method for telling people to behave themselves. Now that we seem to know what LDS leaders are paid, it’s still OK with me. I say this because I wouldn’t do it for that much. Not even close. If you were to pay me for wearing a necktie even to bed, while simultaneously trying to keep people on the straight and narrow without a machine gun, it would have to be at least seven figures, each and every one of them a nine. I earn a lot less than that as a newspaper columnist. How much? Well, it’s none of your *&#@% business, is it? I do what I do for what I make because it’s an acceptable bargain between myself and a tough editor. Come to think of it, I don’t know what I make. I get paid by direct deposit. My wife handles it from there. She seems fine with it, so that’s all that really matters in my life.

More than I can handle

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I came across this thought a while ago and have been thinking about it a LOT. The more I’ve pondered, the more I began to agree. I can think of many specific experiences in my life where I was convinced I’d received more than I could handle. And I learned early that the sooner I turned to my Heavenly Father for Heavenly Help, the sooner I was able to handle the seemingly impossible things which came along. I love the way Mother Teresa (she was always a Saint) expressed this:

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When we’re faced with challenges – with experiences which seem impossible to handle – we know where to turn. Most of us could probably ask for priesthood blessings more than we do. Sometimes perhaps we have a feeling that “oh, I can handle this … I should probably get as few blessings as possible. I can take care of this on my own.” Uh… that might not be the best way to handle challenges in our days and lives. It sounds and feels a bit more like pride than humility.

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There are lessons to be learned from Job – from his grief and suffering. There is a divine purpose in the things we face in life. We need enough trust in God that we don’t let any suffering or discouragement cause bitterness. This is like poison to our soul. It is possible to handle sorrow, suffering, loneliness, fear, discouragement and so on in a positive way – with faith and trust. We are being tested. And our reaction to all that comes our way is an indication of how strong and deep our faith and trust are.

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I don’t know if I’ve expressed any of this very well. We might ask more often things like “What is my Heavenly Father trying to teach me right now?” “What am I to learn about myself through this experience?” “Have I ignored any promptings as to how I should respond to this situation?” There have been many times in my long-and-getting-longer life when I’ve felt I had reached the absolute outer limits of my abilities… and I know there are times when I’ve waited too long to plead for Help.

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I hope this post might help you (and mee too) as we face some challenging times as the days and years go by. This is food for thought, and I’ve been pondering it for several days, and am still not sure if I’ve expressed my thoughts adequately. Oh well. If it helps even one person to know that it’s TRUE that we won’t be given more than we – with Heavenly Help – can handle! We can always count on this Help as we respond to the invitation to “Come unto Christ.” He can help us become increasingly perfect: whole, complete, pure, holy). He can help us handle anything.

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I found this little poem which reminds me of my childhood. I was 9 years old when this poem appeared in the Improvement Era in 1949. It is called HANDS and was written by Ora Pate Stewart.

I DO NOT ask for sculptured ivory hands   Whose lily-whiteness softens to the touch-

Though beauty, for itself, is much desired.   The beauty I desire is not so much

Of scented lily cups. My hands will know   The moist warm feel of loamy, furrowed earth,

And more – the hard round handle of the hoe.   But make them soft enough to dry the cheeks

Where little tears are spilled; and skilled to mend   Where overalls, and hearts, and lives are torn;

And on occasion, strengthen them to lend   An ivory firmness when the cause is right.

But O toward the ending of the day,   Give them the suppleness to fold and pray.

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STUFF and THINGS – CLUTTER

I live in a storage unit. I’ll bet some of you didn’t know that. Well, I shouldn’t really call my home that… but there is SO MUCH CLUTTER! I can blame it on a lot of things (and I’m pretty good with creative excuses, in case you were wondering). I have a hard time letting go of things which are precious to me (there are just WAY TOO MANY “precious things!”)… Also I’m one of those who thinks that someday there will be time for a particular project or idea… or “someday I’ll need this!” Oh sure . . . . like when I’m 135.

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And little did I know, when I moved here 10 years ago, that I’d moved into a flood plain (I don’t know what else to call it). I’ve had 12 floods. This has been very disruptive to my plan for “getting organized” (I think I use that phrase more than any other… may it’s a tie between that and “aging is getting on my nerves!”). The basement is filled with matter unorganized. I’ve been working hard to change that. If I ever EVER really “get organized,” I think I’ll have an Open House so everyone can celebrate with me. At the rate I’m going, that will likely happen on my 90th birthday…

OK… I know some of you can understand what I’m saying. I’m giving my best effort to turning my storage unit back into a home. And I have to say that at least I can park my car in the garage (some of you cringed at that remark… maybe it’s been years since you’ve been able to do it). And there IS a trail through the basement….  But OH! The CLUTTER! (I wonder who thought up that word). Clutter is like a MAGNET!! Do you know what I mean? You put something down – an item of clothing, a piece of paper, a book… anything!… and within minutes there’s a PILE! YES! Some of you have experienced this phenomenon (with which I am way too familiar). We’re supposed to magnify our CALLINGS, not our CLUTTER! Sigh . . . . So much of my clutter brings back sweet memories to me. I used to look at the future more than the past, but that seems to be changing as I get older. I don’t LIVE in the past, but really enjoy visiting! And some of my “stuff and things” bring back the memories. Like I found a tiny piece of paper, folded so tightly for so long that I could hardly open it… and the memories flooded in – it was an assignment my violin teacher Mr. Halversen gave me. A short little note about Joseph Haydn that I kept in my small wooden violin case (it was my Dad’s, and I learned on it… it was a 3/4 size violin).  ….

But I’m having some feelings about clutter which make me uncomfortable. It’s not just when my youngest sister Ann talks to me about Feng Shui (I have a tiny TINY little book which makes me laugh: the title is “Feng Shui for Dummies”… I can’t remember whether or not I’ve given a copy to Ann). I know some of you may have read the book I wrote about “You can never get enough of what you don’t need,” and I even gave some advice (I think it was in that book) about how to LET GO of “stuff and things” (oh do I ever use THAT phrase a lot!!). I try to put in practice a couple of things I suggested – like taking pictures of things which are hard to let go of, to give away. Or saying to yourself “Self, there is likely someone who needs this more than I do,” and then donating it to D.I. or Good Will or whatever is close to you. So I’m trying to practice what I’ve preached. (Is this turning into a confession??) (Maybe).

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There are some things I’ve found (and “re-found”) which have been SO helpful. My friend Whitney shared information about a book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The author is Marie Kondo. She reminds me that “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.” And: “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.” Wow!

And there are lots of suggestions, like the 80/20 rule for clothing (and other “stuff”): If you’re only wearing 20% of the clothing in your closet(s) 80% of the time, get rid of the things you’re not wearing and will likely never wear again…. And you can do this with books (OUCH!!!), computer parts, doo-dads, kitchen stuff, ETC. If you’re not using it, let someone else use it! Give it away! (And don’t be tempted to fill the space you’ve created, ha ha).

And then there is this incredibly important advice from Elder William R. Bradford, which I’ve had and read several times since April of 1992(!!)…. I’m going to share it with you this morning, because I think there might be one or two of you who are struggling – as I am – with clutter. EEEEEEEK!!!!!!  UNCLUTTER YOUR LIVES!  “A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of,” Elder Bradford said. “It is a life in which the things you have surrounded yourself with, and allow to use your time, are controlling you, and negatively influencing your happiness and eternal progress.”  He said that lives can be cluttered by many things. Some are obvious, such as material things, “the stuff we collect.” Other things that clutter lives and use up time are not as obvious as the material. They are more subtle and just seem to evolve, taking control of lives. “We give our lives to that which we give our time,” Elder Bradford explained. To unclutter one’s life, Elder Bradford admonished, much has to be discarded. “To do this we need to develop a list of basics, a list of those things that are indispensable to our mortal welfare and happiness and our eternal salvation. This list must follow the gospel pattern and contain the elements needed for our sanctification and perfection. It must be the product of inspiration and prayerful judgment between the things we really need and the things we just want. It should separate need from greed.” At the top of a list of basics must be the family. “Next only to our devotion to God, the family comes first,” he emphasized. “A mother should never allow herself to become so involved with extras that she finds herself neglecting her divine role. A father must not let any activity, no matter how interesting or important it may seem, keep him from giving of himself in the one‑on‑one service and close, constant care of each member of the family.” Elder Bradford explained that young people need to learn that “none of the exciting, entertaining and fun things” are worth it if they take them off the path that will lead them back to their Heavenly Father. He said that one needs to ask some serious and soul‑searching questions. “One of these questions would surely be, ‘Do I have time for prayer?’ I mean sincere, honest, from the depths of the contrite spirit and a broken heart prayer. “The next question would be, ‘Do I study the scriptures?’ I solemnly testify to you that the holy scriptures are the word of God. Constant study of them is the act of holding to the rod of iron. They will guide you to the tree of life. I exhort you to go to the tree of life where you will find the pure love of God.” With an uncluttered life, he continued, “you will not be so busy doing terrestrial things that you do not have time to do those things which are celestial. God’s plan is a plan of simplicity. I urge you to clear away the clutter. Take your life back. Use your willpower. Learn to say no to those things that will rob you of your precious time and infringe upon your agency to choose to live in exactness to God’s plan of happiness and exaltation.”

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I like the way he related it to the fact that our LIVES may be cluttered, and not just our homes or garages or offices or basement or drawers or closets or . . . (OK, I’m getting carried away!). One thing I’ve done a couple of times and am going to do again is have a “MEE-MALL” for my family. I put out a “ton” of things I no longer need, and they can come on a certain day and take anything they want home with them! (Send your clutter to your children or your neighbors or friends!!). Then the rest goes to D.I. I’ve thought of having MEE-BAY, where I send an email with a list of things I no longer need which they might enjoy having, and the only cost is postage (or they can come and pick things up). My younger sister Charlotte and I used to “clean our room” (we shared a room until she turned 18 and went away to Ricks College) and then “hand it down” to our younger brothers and sisters. It made THEM happy, but not our Mother quite as much…. We tried to convince her we were “recycling.” She tried to teach us what “SPRING CLEANING” really meant.

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Someday I plan to post a Blog exclaiming that I am “clutter free!” (And I hope I live long enough to do that).   NOTE TO MEE-SELF:

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New Year’s Resolutions

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A BETTER WAY TO MAKE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

By Nancy Smyth, Director of Individual and Group Coaching, The Arbinger Institute – 14 Dec 2016

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Perhaps there is a better way to make New Year’s resolutions. Each year, people think about making resolutions in order to improve themselves. Perhaps you have already formed yours. Usually resolutions arise from thinking about what we want or need, which is like strategizing and planning a business without having other people in mind. Oftentimes those self-promises we make fade over time. When self-focused, our attention is directed at getting better, changing behavior or attaining something we crave. This way of thinking lacks the whole dimension of motivation and inspiration that could fuel the resolution—our relationship with others. Arbinger proposes that life is lived in relationship—from the most insignificant of projects, or ones that seem totally personal, to projects that impact people globally. When we start to think in terms of our relationship with other people we can begin to see that even a common resolution, like losing weight, is probably not just about me. Perhaps it’s about the energy I will have to engage with others as well as my health not being a worry to other people. When we include a focus on our relationships, we get to see who we are truly being, how we impact others and how we need to change. The solution to growth and change is in discovering our impact on others. If we are going to make resolutions in the familiar form, let’s add a few questions that will carry more inspiration and connection. Consider the following: How will ‘what I want to change’ be for the benefit of others?  How will their life be better when I __________ (fill in the blank)?  How will my relationships improve with this change?  Will this change allow more ease and joy with others?

Here is yet another approach to change that will open up pathways of great understanding and enormous growth this year. Begin without a set plan but commit to being more curious, more open, more present in the moment. If we pay attention, our own internal voice tells us if we are at peace and being responsive to situations and other people or if we are at odds with others. The distinction is palpable. This is when we know if we need a shift in our way of seeing and being. The daily asking of powerful questions can make 2017 an amazing experience for ourselves and others. Each day, consider asking yourself these questions:  Who is the person that needs me to be out of the box, or outward mindset?  What is the smallest thing I can do to shift to a heart at peace?  Who do I need to be or what resistance or image do I need to drop in order to help others get what they need?  How can I champion people in solving seemingly unsolvable problems? Living the answers to these questions will afford the happiness of living for others.

I think you’d enjoy reading/studying some of the blog posts from Arbinger – I find them interesting and thought-provoking.  https://arbinger.com/blog/

Here’s what happens to some of us….

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OR THIS . . . .

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Why I Love the Brethren

Here’s Alice’s talk which I promised to post today.

“WHY I LOVE THE BRETHREN,” ALICE A. WARNER – BYU WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – 1995   (Susette Fletcher Green, Dawn Hall Anderson, and Dlora Hall Dalton, eds., Hearts Knit Together: Talks from the 1995 Women’s Conference, p.21)  Alice A. Warner graduated from Brigham Young University and is president and CEO of an international management consulting firm. Alice served a mission in Taiwan and enjoys her calling as choir director. (There’s a LOT more that could be added, especially since this was over 20 years ago).

Like you, I have had occasion to think about the way Christ governs his Church and the Saints who belong to it. I am not in a position to correct or to preach. I intend simply to offer my testimony, to tell you why I love the Brethren as I do.

THE LORD’S ORDER

History proves over and over the dangers of succumbing to those who desire power over others. The quest for control has brought about the world’s greatest evils in nations, in schools, in homes. These devastating evils have given rise to many prevailing social ideas such as these: Life is what you make it, so take control of your life; you’re in charge. To be happy, be yourself. Honor your own feelings, whatever they may be. You will lose your identity, your true self, if you defer to the authority or direction of others. So assert yourself, defend yourself, stand for yourself.

This is not a new philosophy. Korihor, the great anti-Christ of the Book of Mormon, advocated this position very convincingly  (Alma 30:12-28).  He warned believers not “to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances” (v. 23). He said the priests would try to “usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance” (v. 23). So, he admonished, don’t be taken in by the idea of an atonement-a grand design in which we prosper through obedience, humility, and submission. Instead, Korihor taught, everyone will fare in this life according to his or her own genius and strength; in effect, assert yourself, defend yourself, stand for yourself.

Korihor’s doctrine makes perfect sense in a world without a loving Heavenly Father, a redeeming Savior, or a divine order ordained and authorized by them for the purpose of saving us. But in a world with a Father, a Savior, and their holy Church, bending our will to a higher order will indeed save us, not endanger us.

The Lord’s order is different in nature from any earthly system of governance or authority. This order is reflected in Christ’s relationship to his Father. “For I came down from heaven,” he said, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me”  (John 6:38).  In this and other scriptures like it, Christ made clear that he has a will of his own, but his choice-for him a life choice-was to turn his will over to the Father. In other words, then and now his position of authority derives not from the pursuit of power but from the spirit of submissiveness.

This divine order extends to special witnesses, revelators, and seers. Like the Savior’s position with the Father, their position is one of submission and discipleship. They, too, are called upon to say, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt”  (Matt. 26:39).  They have no authority or power independent of their personal willingness to submit, heart and soul, to those who direct and guide them. For this reason, their authority differs fundamentally from all other forms of authority in any institution or society on earth of which I know. Their authority is not born of a quest to dominate; it is a by-product of their quest to obey.

PERFECTION IS NOT A PREREQUISITE

It is easy to minimize the connection between submitting ourselves to Christ and obeying the Brethren. “Christ,” we may say, “was perfect, but the Brethren are just human.”

Many of us are now parents or someday will be. This is a very serious responsibility. The physical and spiritual lives of pure little children are or will be entrusted to us as parents. Perhaps perfection should be a prerequisite for such a lofty undertaking. Suppose that is what our children expected of us. The moment they believed we had made a mistake, they would feel no obligation to honor or sustain us anymore. Furthermore, they would feel compelled to advertise our shortcomings, convincing the other children that they need not obey either. It would be impossible to have a family under such circumstances.1

I was fifteen when I discovered my mother was not perfect. (I gave my dad a slightly longer grace period.) As I get older, I see more clearly their weaknesses and their defects-in part because I share so many of them. Did their humanness make them unworthy parents? Of course not. In fact, that they did what they did for me, in all of their humanness, affirms in my mind that Heavenly Father called them to oversee my upbringing. He upheld them, he taught them, and he compensated for their frailties. PERFECTION IS NOT A PREREQUISITE TO PARENTHOOD.

We may feel inclined to make the Brethren’s perfection a condition of our loyalty, to lay hold upon perceived shortcomings as an excuse for disobedience. On occasion, we may even be tempted to share a morsel of gossip or levy a criticism or spread a rumor that would diminish one of them. Whether the tidbit is true or not (and how would we know anyway?) is irrelevant. For if our hearts are right, we may discover that we are trying to justify our own sins. It’s as though casting doubt on their worthiness relieves us of our obligation to obey. But it doesn’t. Their defects, real or perceived, do not weaken the covenants we have made to follow them.

The Savior himself instituted the plan that authorizes certain human beings to represent him. He who is perfect must have noticed that they aren’t. And still he called them. Far from making the Lord’s plan questionable, this fact-that he anoints human beings to lead us-is a testament of his power to sanctify and to enlarge. That the Brethren do what they do for us, in their humanness, affirms in my mind that the Lord stands by them. He upholds them, he teaches them, and he compensates for their frailties. Perfection is not a prerequisite to ordination.

THE BURDEN OF LEADERSHIP

I have managed a consulting company for the past several years [Arbinger Institute]. Recently, in a reflective moment, I was struck by the virtue and nobility of my extraordinary colleagues. How absurd that I was trying to lead them! Overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, I considered resigning. Only two days later, I happened upon the following: “We who have been called to lead the church are ordinary men and women with ordinary capacities. . . . Some are disposed to find fault with us; surely that is easy for them to do. But they do not examine us more searchingly than we examine ourselves. . . . We are sorry for our inadequacies, sorry we are not better than we are.”2  I don’t want to trivialize the holy position of the Brethren by comparing it with my own, but it is the closest I can come to identifying, even in a small way, with what they must feel.

How would I feel if the next time I accepted a call, my bishop said, “Now, there are nine million good-hearted people depending upon you, Alice. Your every word and action will be thoroughly scrutinized. They will look to you for guidance about the conduct of their lives. If you make a mistake, it may adversely affect their devotion and faith. And, by the way, I hope you haven’t made any mistakes up to this point in your life-no gold-digging, no careless word, no giving of the slightest offense-or you may be roundly criticized. Your effectiveness in this role will depend upon your humble receptivity to inspiration and revelation. Thus, every choice you make must enhance your worthiness in every way. You will spend the rest of your life working full time under this burden, going where you are asked, when you are asked, doing exactly what you are asked.” What kind of person would the Lord entrust with such a challenge? What kind of person could meet it?

AND NO MAN TAKETH THIS HONOUR . . .

In answer, I would like to share a few stories about the lives of the Brethren. These are sacred stories, and I tell them with reverence.

A few years ago, I worked in a large, high-profile, international company on the East Coast. My boss, the founder and CEO of the company, was brilliant, eccentric, argumentative – and typically impervious to what is spiritually discerned. Twice he had occasion to meet with Elder Henry B. Eyring. After the first meeting, he reported that he had never met such a humble person and that he felt honored to be in Elder Eyring’s presence. He said, “It never occurred to me, Alice, that humility could be impressive.” After the second meeting, he told me in a quiet moment that Henry Eyring’s goodness made him want to be good. Yet, despite a long track record of affecting people in this way, when Elder Eyring was called to the apostleship, he seemed taken by surprise. He told us in his conference address, weeping, that during the hours between his private call and his public sustaining, he had “learned some things about [humility].”3  “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4). “And before honour is humility” (Proverbs 15:33).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell performed the marriage of my brother and his wife. He knows neither of them well, yet when he heard years later about their struggle with infertility, he offered to travel to their home to give a priesthood blessing. When asked how he could find time in his heavy schedule to visit distant acquaintances in need, he explained that he was called to minister and was merely fulfilling that call. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

Elder Marcus Helvécio Martins, the Church’s first black General Authority, was living with his wife in Brazil when plans for the São Paulo temple were announced. Because of his lineage, Elder Martins was not permitted to hold the priesthood at that time. His devoted service to the Church during those years is miraculous to me. But there is more. He and his wife sold their jewelry to contribute to the building of a temple they could not enter. “And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith” (Alma 13:4).

Not many years ago, President Howard W. Hunter lost the use of his legs. The loss, he was told, was permanent. But he felt he could not carry on effectively if he couldn’t walk. So, against advice, he began an intensive rehabilitation program that a family member described to me as physically excruciating. This he did so that he could serve us better and longer. This he did in behalf of our salvation. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls”  (Heb. 13:17).

Can I resist such love for me? Can I criticize such devotion? Must I worry about defending myself in the face of such goodness?

OBEDIENCE IS NEVER BLIND

I have noticed that despite clear scriptural warnings about its consequences, Korihor’s beguiling doctrine has a way of sneaking up on us. We get nervous about being in charge of our lives. We worry that followership will strip us of our identity, that submission may rob us of our intellect. Such self- concern draws us away from the warmth of the Lord’s light.

About four months before the end of my mission in Taiwan, I was working in an area where we had many baptisms, many who had committed to baptism, and a promising pool of investigators. I expected to finish my mission in this spot. We had planned a wonderful Christmas Nativity program with the ward members and our many investigators, complete with costumes and readings and music. On the afternoon of December 24, my mission president called. An elder who had developed feelings for a sister missionary had requested a transfer. But, my president explained, Elder William R. Bradford, our area president in Hong Kong, felt that the elder should not leave his important leadership position. So, rather than transfer the elder, he requested that I and another sister switch places. I was to board a train that very evening, unaccompanied, to the most unproductive part of the mission, where I would finish out my service. I was shocked and discouraged. My roommates and companion were downright angry. Our mission president was provincial, they said. And what about Elder Bradford – what was he doing interfering like that? These men marginalize women! Just because we don’t have priesthood callings-does that make us completely interchangeable? What about the ward Christmas program? I was responsible for the music and piano accompaniment. What about my investigators? I couldn’t say good-bye or explain. I would just disappear, and some other sister would step in-as if no one would notice or care! With a heavy and confused heart, I packed my clothes, books, and a copy of our little Nativity script and boarded the train. I didn’t want to feel bitter, but this turn of events was just too much to swallow with a smile on my face.

My new companion and two elders greeted me at the station when I arrived that evening. The first thing they asked was if I knew anything about music. The next day was Christmas, and the branch members wanted to stage a Christmas program like ones they had heard of in the established city wards. But neither they nor the other missionaries had any idea how to do it.

We went immediately to the small branch meeting rooms. All twenty branch members and some investigators were gathered, looking in library books to see what people in Israel wear. But discouragement was setting in, for the Israeli attire didn’t resemble anything they might pick up at the local Chinese clothing market! Drawing on my years as the orchestrator of the Warner family Christmas pageant, I helped the members and investigators round up robes and towels, shepherd canes, and cardboard crowns. Copying the little script I had tucked in my suitcase didn’t take long. We practiced our songs-even learned parts-and on Christmas shared the most worshipful evening of praise and remembrance I have ever experienced. Thus began the best months of my mission and some of the happiest of my life.

It doesn’t always turn out this way; I don’t always so readily see purpose in what I am asked to do. In fact, I have received-and followed-instructions about my life from Church leaders that still don’t make perfect sense to me. But even when I don’t fully understand why the instruction has come or what its consequences might be, I believe that humble obedience is still the right course.

I’ve heard people say, “Well, that’s just blind obedience.” Blind obedience. Those words imply following with no thought, no consideration, no inspiration, no insight. For me, to dismiss obedience as blind is to misunderstand what obedience  is.  Every moment a choice is presented to us: “How will I use my agency in this moment?” When I choose to obey or to submit, I have not blindly abdicated my freedom to choose. Rather, I have used it to choose the Lord.

In my experience, obedience to Church leaders requires more insight, wisdom, and thought than resistance. I obey because I see that there is a Christ who lived to redeem me. I obey because I see that my redemption, from moment to moment, depends upon giving myself to him and to his servants. I obey because I see that there is an atonement and that I stand in need of its purifying power. I obey because I see that this purifying power flows through his divine priesthood order, of which obedience makes me a part. I obey because of what I see, not because of what I am blind to.

TO WALK IN HIS LIGHT

It is easy to confuse worldly rhetoric with eternal truths. We may fear that if we obey in meekness and humility, our heads will be kept down, as Korihor said, and the flame of our identity will be snuffed out (see  Alma 30:23).  So we go about trying to create our own light-in the name of individual rights, or intellectualism, or self-assertiveness, or some other cause independent of the great cause of Christ. But the very act of trying to kindle our own light separates us from the Lord’s, convincing us further that there is not enough for us in his divine order.

Here’s how  Isaiah  said it: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow”  (Isa. 50:11).

Walking in the light of the Lord’s divine order requires that we abandon the security of our own meager flame. President Harold B. Lee taught that to find the Lord’s light, we must walk to the edge of ours and even a few steps into the darkness. We cannot at the same time stand in the flicker of our own willful sparks and bask in the warmth of his magnificent light.

The times in my life when I feel most whole, most liberated, most free, most me, are the times when my whole being is filled with the desire to stand not for myself but for and with the Brethren. I give up only my self-concern, my resistance, and my pride-and they aren’t me. Gentleness, peace, and a willing heart take their place.

When I stand squarely in the light of the Lord’s direction, it’s as though all of my faculties, enhanced by the Spirit, come alive with insight and vision and clarity. There is no longer a distinction between the intellectual and the spiritual. That is the closest I have come to experiencing what Paul calls having “the mind of Christ”  (1 Cor. 2:16).  That is the closest I have come to feeling my body full of the light, pure and penetrating, that comes when my eye is single to him (see  Matt. 6:22).

As Mordecai explained to  Esther  when what she was asked to do seemed too difficult for her, if we refuse to obey, the Lord will find other ways of carrying out his purpose. Our soul, not his work, will suffer. Who knows but what we were come “for such a time as this”  (Esth. 4:14)-a  time of great divisiveness and very tempting ideas, a time when obedience and submissiveness are derided as weak and unthinking, and a time when our salvation will depend upon our willingness to follow anyway. May we not be deceived. May we see and think as clearly as Christ when he yielded his will to his leader. May bending our will to our leaders, those chosen of the Lord and upheld by him, be our quest, and may our hearts be drawn out to them in submission, loyalty, and love.

NOTES

  1. I am indebted to my friend and colleague Duane Boyce for suggesting this analogy in his article “The Brethren and the Lord: A Letter to My Children,” This People, Fall 1995, 34-46. Both his article and his friendship significantly influenced this essay.
  2. Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 16.
  3. Henry B. Eyring, “Always Remember Him,” Ensign, May 1995, 25.

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A SHOUT-OUT FOR ALICE

I might get punished, shouted at, or even fired for doing this, but I can’t seem to help mee-self! I’m posting a shout-out to a friend whom I haven’t seen in way too long: Alice Warner Johnson. I read her article in the December Ensign (shared below) and felt sad that I hadn’t kept in touch with her. The “connection” started many years ago. During my childhood in Cedar City, one of my best friends, Betsy, often had visits from her cousin Susan Lillywhite (and it seems like Susan’s Mother knew my Grandmother Mary Middleton in Calif… but that may be a faulty memory… I have NO “hard drive,” and my brain has only about 3 GB of memory….). I always liked Susan. She was fun to be around and very bright. She eventually married Terry Warner, and what a team! Most of you probably know both of them (Susan was in the general presidency of the Primary, and Terry is an extraordinary, thoughtful soul who has accomplished SO much… he even did some early “Time Out for Women” events). Many years ago, Terry and Susan invited me to come to a Family Home Evening (I think this is something they did frequently – inviting guests to come). They asked me to share experience and feelings about being a missionary in Asia. They have 10 children… I’m not sure how many were present on that evening, but they had a LOT of great questions for me. I loved and respected them very much. And I still do!  And I just have to say that I could not “do justice” to Terry, Susan, Alice, or any other family member. I’m just “skimming along the surface.” (Just so you know).

Their second child is Alice. Amazing Alice. We were in touch for several years. One specific memory I have is when she spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference in 1995 on “Why I Love the Brethren.” (I’ll post that talk tomorrow). I was SO impressed by her message – the content, certainly, but also by her poise in teaching us. I could list a lot of accomplishments for this “accomplished” woman (including her work with the Arbinger Institute, found by her father), but she’s probably already pretty ticked off at me even doing this Blog post . . . .  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in my 76 years, and there are many whom I regret losing contact with. Alice is in that group – people I wish I’d been able to stay close to because of the lovely, powerful, happifying, thought-provoking influence their friendship brought. Thank you, Alice for being YOU!! And for you readers of this morning’s Blog, here is the article from the December Ensign.

HEAVY TRIALS, TENDER MERCIES – By Alice Warner Johnson – Ensign, December 2016 (The author lives in Idaho, USA)  (And here’s a picture of Paul and Alice)

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As one who has had to endure tribulation, I have learned that Heavenly Father can turn our suffering for our good.

After I became partially bedridden with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was asked to speak at a Relief Society meeting on the topic “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.” At that point I was no longer able to sing, play the piano or cello, conduct a choir, or even walk—activities that had brought me much joy in the past. However, along with these trials, I have experienced many unexpected blessings. So I altered the title of my talk to reflect what I have learned: “Trust in God That When Life Gives You Sour Lemons, He Will Make for You a Sweet Lemonade.”

THE TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE

My nine siblings and I were raised by faithful parents. My years of growing up, attending college, serving a full-time mission in Taiwan, working in Boston, and preparing for marriage to my husband, Paul, were very happy. By early 1999, we had two children, and Paul was serving as the bishop of our ward.

One morning I awoke with my left eye throbbing. An eye doctor sent me to the local hospital for a scan, which revealed that I had at least 12 cerebral and spinal lesions affecting my nerves. The multiple sclerosis was already widespread.

My husband, my father, and my brother gave me a priesthood blessing, which taught me two significant and unforgettable things. First, Heavenly Father had not inflicted me with this terrible disease. It was simply a consequence of coming to earth in a mortal body to have experiences that would help me grow. Second, I was told that Heavenly Father would not allow anything to happen to me that could not be turned for my good.

Later, in another blessing, I learned that there would be a significant period of time before I would experience the extreme difficulties that accompany my disease. During this period, and against strong medical advice, I gave birth to two more children. When Paul was released as bishop, we sold our home and moved to the Boise area in Idaho.

AFTER MUCH TRIBULATION COME THE BLESSINGS

It was during this period that the crippling effects of MS increased dramatically and, step by step, left me unable to do most things for myself. I had to decide how I was going to meet these challenges.

I began to see that Heavenly Father knew and appreciated our efforts to bring children into the world with a timing that would make it possible for them to know and learn from their mother before she became too infirm. This was just one of the tender mercies of the Lord that were given to me (see Psalm 69:16).

I also came to realize that I was being more than compensated for the loss of my musical abilities. Music—singing, playing, composing, and conducting—had been a joyful cornerstone of my earthly existence that I assumed would continue with me all my life. Instead, my delight in music found expression in my children. They all sing beautifully. Among them there is a flutist, a violinist, a cellist, and a composer and arranger. Several of them play the guitar and the piano. They not only honor and enjoy their musical gifts but also love using them to serve others. Often I have asked myself, “Given the choice between keeping my musical talents and having such talents blossom in my children, which would I choose?” The answer to that question has been made plain to me as my mother-heart has recognized what a sweet gift my children’s musical talents have been to us all.

Beyond the blessings of my children and their music, I have discovered the power—even the glory—of the loving-kindness of others. I have to be lifted, washed, dressed, and fed throughout the day, and many are the precious souls who have come to help me day after day. Family and friends from my past write, call, and travel long distances to visit and assist me. Many of those who have served me are burdened with their own hardships and trials, and yet they have not forgotten me. In their kindness I have seen the Lord’s outstretched hand as He provides to me an overflowing bounty in my seemingly hopeless situation. This reminds me that “after much tribulation come the blessings” (D&C 58:4).

ALL HAVE CHALLENGES

I believe that it is my Heavenly Father who has turned my trials into learning opportunities. I think of those I know and realize that they, too, face difficult challenges. For most of us, life does not unfold as we once imagined that it would. Nevertheless, for those who strive to remain faithful, the challenges that at first appear as sour lemons in our lives will ultimately be turned into the sweetest lemonade—through the loving-kindness of our God.

WHAT A WONDERFUL ARTICLE FROM A WONDERFUL SOUL!  Have you read any of her books?

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I’m going to add something else to this “shout-out tribute.” It’s a hymn Alice wrote in 2000. She wrote both the words and the music.

O LORD, WHO GAVE THEY LIFE FOR ME

O Lord, who gave they life for me, I come now in humility,

And here my sacrifice impart; A contrite soul, a broken heart.

O may thy love in mercy shine, And bind my sorrowing heart to thine.

Upon the alter here I lay my pride, My hurt, each willful way.

My burden all of sin and care, And in its place thy yoke I’ll bear.

O may thy love my soul refine, And bind my trusting heart to thine.

My heart is full of love for thee Because I know thou first loved me.

Now by that love I’ll seek to live, And freely, like thyself, forgive.

O may thy love my life define, And bind my willing heart to thine.

And as I strive to thus endure With cleaner hand and heart more pure,

In all around I see thy face And feel the bounties of thy grace.

O savior may thy love divine Now bind my grateful heart to thine.

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Paul, Alice and children a few years ago