Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gratitude Talk

I was also asked to speak on gratitude. And I’d just like to say, that I’m very grateful for this last minute opportunity to speak on gratitude.

Ingratitude is an age-old problem. You will recall that the Savior healed ten lepers, but only one returned to give thanks.

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

(New Testament
Luke 17:12 - 18)

The Savior asked “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17)

We have been commanded to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7) and to “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). And we have been warned 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&C59:21).

It has been said that we in America live better than any king that has ever lived. None of them had all the luxuries that we enjoy. Most of us carry a phone that will allow us to talk to anyone almost anywhere; some are even smart enough to tell us where we are and take us where we want to go. When we leave here we will get in our car and drive home. That car will take us in an hour what used take them two days to travel. Or we can get on a plane and fly in an hour what used to take them a month to travel.

I work with a guy that is from a small country in Africa. The king of that country recently died. I was surprised to learn that he is in line to be the next king. I asked him if he was going to go back to be the king. He said no. He would rather live and work here than be a king.

President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us: “In many countries, the homes are barren and the cupboards are bare—no books, no radios, no pictures, no furniture, no fire—while we are housed adequately, clothed warmly, and fed extravagantly. Did we show our thanks by the proper devotion on our knees last night and this morning and tomorrow? Ingratitude, thou sinful habit!” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 252)

It’s so easy to see all the things of the world and become ungrateful because we don’t have more. When instead we should be very grateful for the things we have. When our daughter was younger she would see all the things ohtes had but we didn’t tell me life wasn’t fair. “I would tell her she was right, life it isn’t fair, if it was fair she would be living in a hut in China and scrambling for food every day. It’s not fair we have it way too good.” When she went to China to teach English, her first email back simply said “China humbled me”.

When our middle son Daniel was in High School his best friend was diagnosed with cancer. I was concerned how he would handle the possibility of his friend dying so I tried to talk to him about it. He refused to consider the possibility and lectured me about staying positive. Saying that no matter what we should always be positive and grateful. Some offended by the lecture, I proceeded to tell him that are times that life gets so difficult that it’s impossible to always be positive. That he may face that time someday and to not have unreal expectations about always being able to stay positive.

Later that year he watched his fried die a very traumatic death. After hearing of him watching his friend die, I rushed home, trying to think of what comfort I could possibly give him. When I arrived I found him positive and giving comfort to all his other friends. When I got a chance to talk to him, with all the concern of a parent i ask how he was doing he holding up, he simply said. “I got to help carry him into his house”. No bitterness, just gratitude that he was able to perform one last act of service for his friend. I learned a lot that day.

He is now in medical school studding to become a pediatric oncologist. He has a son on a trake, G-tube and vent. Through it all he manages to stay positive and grateful, I’m hoping I continue to be proven wrong.

What are some of the keys to being grateful and happy?

I think the first is humility. It seems to go hand in hand with gratitude. The more grateful we are, the more humble we are. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants are filled with warnings that we must humble ourselves. And we know that the sacrifice the Lord seeks from us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit (in essence, humility). What a great thing to know that we can accomplish two important things at one time—by becoming more grateful, we will also become more humble!

Second, we can focus our prayers on expressing thanks instead of asking for blessings and favors. In connection with that, we should fast to express thanks, rather than to only seek blessings. As President Joseph F. Smith once said: “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!” (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 263.)

Third, we can strive to appreciate what we have and not focus on the things we don’t have. But we should “Count your many blessings name them one by one” is not only a hymn; it is a good idea. As the ever commercialized Christmas season approaches we have a tendency to focus on and make list of the things we want. Perhaps we should also list the many things for which we are grateful. Benjamin Franklin also recommended that wise men and women diminish their wants as a way of finding happiness. Come Christmas don’t get wrapped up in the thing you want.

Last year when I asked my wife what she wanted for Christmas, she said “a water buffalo", the year before that it was a pig, year before that ducks. Who knows what it will be this year. I keep telling her I don’t think the HOA will approve them in our back yard. But she does not want them for us, she wants them for a poor family in an undeveloped country. And she I perfectly content if that is all she gets.

We have so much for which to be thankful—life itself; the atonement; our knowledge of the purpose of life; the restoration of the gospel; our family members and friends; our material possessions; our freedom; the influence of the Holy Ghost; the opportunity to serve as in the church; even to give talks on gratitude and much, much more. I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to serve, to know, to love and associate with the members of this ward. This church is true. The work we do here is the work of God. He will bless you for your grateful, and sometime not so grateful service. God lives, Jesus in the Christ, the savior and redeemer of the worlds.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Flour Bin

Going up as a child we were quite poor. Partially because my father owned his own saw mill. He had a partner that would help him haul logs from the woods and then saw them into lumber. Winters were especially hard because it was difficult haul logs from the woods because of the snow. Lumber sales were also down, because people didn’t do much building in the winter.
Being poor with seven children, my mom made a lot of bread. She had a flour bin that would hold at least a hundred pound sack of flour. As a child, I loved watching her make bread. She would get out a very large bread bowl. She would dip her large flour sifter into the bin several times in order to fill the large bowl with flour. She would then add warm water mixed with yeast, salt, sugar and other things. She would mix and kneed, wait for it to raise the kneed it again. Then she would repeat the process a couple times. During this weekly ritual she would make a dozen or so loaves of bread. Nothing was better than butter and honey on homemade bread, right out of the oven.
My father had been sick for some time and couldn’t work much, so there wasn’t much money. On my oldest brother 15th birthday my father passed away, leaving my mother with no money and seven children to feed.
After my father’s death, I remember watching my mother make bread as usual. I remember her opening the flower bin and it being nearly empty. I remember thinking there was hardly enough flour to fill the large sifter let alone make bread. But somehow she managed to scrape out enough flour to make her usual dozen or so loaves of bread for the week.
I wasn’t home at the time, but the week she baked another dozen loaves of bread again. I remember looking in the flower bin, when no one was looking thinking that someone must have bought her flour. But it was as empty as before.
The next week, I made extra effort to be home when she made bread. Again there was hardly any flour in the bin. I knew that there was not going to be enough flour, but somehow she managed to make her normal dozen or so loaves of bread. I remember wondering how she did it.
I think she made a couple more batches of bread, before going to the store and buying flour. I hadn’t thought much about the experience, until a couple years ago. We were at a family reunion and were telling stories from our childhood. My mother told the story that after my father had died; the flour bin didn’t go empty, until social security checks started coming in.

14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.

(Old Testament | 1 Kings 17:14)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Ducks

All I got my wife for Christmas were ducks. I wasn’t too surprised when she said that was all she wanted. She always says something like that. I never believe her, so I always try to get her something big, something that will totally impress her. But it seems to never work. Gifts really aren’t her thing.
We don’t have a place for ducks in our back yard. Even if we did the HOA wouldn’t go for it. I’m sure the quacking would get us lots of those nasty letters. Besides, who wants’ to clean up duck poop; dog poop is bad enough. So she didn’t actually get the ducks. The ducks went to some under privileged family in some underdeveloped country. My wife likes the charitable organization, Heifer International ( They provide livestock, training, and a “pass it along” program to help families become self sufficient.
I wasn’t going to get her just ducks this year. But I attended a (Mormon) Christmas devotional (,4945,8921-1-5016-2,00.html) and listened to President Monson speak and thought, “If all she wants for Christmas is something for others, why not?” There are a lot of people who are doing without this Christmas. Why should we spend a lot of money on each other while others are suffering? So this year our Christmas money went to helping others. Her gift to me was a scrapbook page listing some of the gifts and service we had given to others. But isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be all about?
This and being able to spend time with my family made this a great Christmas. My wife thinks I gave the best gift of all this year. Lucky me. Next year she wants a water buffalo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seeker of truth

My neighbor was put in a rest home to die. I felt that I needed to go visit him, and had some impressions as to what to say to him. We had often visited in the in the front yard. We hadn’t been close, but I think he considered me a friend. It is hard to go visit someone that knows they are dying. What do you say to comfort them?

During the visit, it was very clear that he was very scared of death. He had never been very religious, but knew that I was and was looking for some form of comfort. I assured him that death wasn’t the end. I explained some of my experiences after my fathers passing, when I felt his presence, which gave me the assurance that death wasn’t the end.

I then explained that the things that were important here weren’t going to be important on the other side. That the things that would be important on the other side would be Light and Truth, which he would need to seek it. I explained that when he died, he would have loved ones that had already died come to meet him.

I was nervous about what he would think about what I was telling him but he seamed to find comfort in it. He then said that he believed me because he had been very sick once and his mother who had died earlier had come to him.

I have often reflected back on that experience, the conversation and the feeling that was there. But is finding light and truth only important after we die?

We live in a world where truth is hard to find. Everyone is selfishly seeking their own interest and beliefs, bending the truth to confirm to their own desires. It’s sad when people use deceptions to manipulate others, the consequences are seldom good. I don’t want to hear someone’s opinion; I want to know the truth.

I love science, because of the truths it contains. But I find myself very frustrated with science being used for politics, or as a basis to either prove or disprove personal beliefs. I would often get frustrated in collage when the professor would go on about theories based on some claimed scientific finding. I would say to myself, “Just give me the scientific facts, if I want a theory, I will come up with it myself”. I mostly thought this when the theory would conflict with logic or it just didn’t feel true.

I love the word of God because it is filled with truth. In it, is a truth that builds upon truth, so by studying it you can gain a greater and greater level of truth.

I love the spirit of Truth. That by it (through studying and pondering) you can know the truth; past, present, or future. That by that spirit you can know often know of things to come, and be guided through life. By it I have often known thing that were going to happen, long before they happened. But the spirit of truth cannot teach truths we are not willing to hear, learn and understand.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Chainsaw

I was sitting on the floor working on homework when someone knocked on the front door. My mother answered the door. It was someone selling tickets for a fund raiser they were having in a neighboring town about 15 miles away. My mother told him that she couldn’t afford to buy a ticket. He seemed desperate to sell her one, but she was unwilling to buy one.

I had one dollar in my pocket and was tempted to buy a ticket, mostly because he seamed so desperate to sell them. The other reason was one of the prizes was a chainsaw. We needed to get wood for the winter, so we really needed a chainsaw. My father had passed away the year before and all the chainsaws he owned went with his business partner. I knew wood was our only means of keeping warm through the cold winters.

I remember my mothers concerned conversations with my older brother about what to do for wood and how to get it without a chainsaw. She had asked some of the neighbors about borrowing their saws, but they were reluctant. Perhaps for concern that only her young boys would be running it. They all talked about helping us, but no one seemed to have time.

I was just about to buy a ticket, when he said “OK” and left. I thought, it was just as well, “we probably wouldn’t win and why waste the only dollar I had”. I knew what my mother didn’t yet know what to do for winter wood. Perhaps she truly didn’t have any money, or like me thought we had no chance of winning and didn’t want to waste what little money she had.

Some time later she got a phone call telling her that she had won the chainsaw. To which she replied “There must be a mistake, we didn’t buy a ticket”. The man replied “All I know is that I have a ticket here with your name on it”.

We never found out how they got a ticket with my mothers name on it, or how it ended up being the one drawn. But we desperately need the saw. It allowed us to get the necessary wood we needed for the winter, so my mother could keep her seven children warm. Perhaps it was God’s way of rewarding us for the service my dad had given before he died, see

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cow Power (because Jo asked for it.)

When I was about 6 or 7, I was wandering through the back yard when I came upon my older brother. Who was in the process of using bailing wire to tie the wagon to the milk cow’s tail.

For the non hick people, my older brother would milk the cow night and morning. So she was been used to him doing unusual things to her, though I couldn’t understand her standing there and allowing him to do this. Also bailing wire is one of the greatest inventions on earth. Initial purpose is to keep bails of hay together, but a country hick can find a thousand uses for it. Could fix most anything with it, well it would usually hold for a little while anyway. So it was perfect for attaching the wagon to the cow’s tail.

Back to the story. So while wondering through the back yard I came across my brother in the process of attaching the wagon to the cows’ tail. I thought to myself “this could be entertaining, I should stay and watch”! I tried to stay my distance out of direct eyesight of my brother. I only wanted to be entertained and not be involved in any way.

It didn’t work my brother noticed me and said “George get in the wagon, and I’ll chase the cow”. Well, I may be a dumb little hick kid, but I’m not stupid, there was no way I was going to get in that wagon. He said “OK then, I’ll get in the wagon and you chase the cow”. To me that was a good idea, involvement I would risk.

So he got in the wagon. I don’t understand why cows ignore little kids jumping up and down and hollering at them. She just stood their chewing her cud. He said “see she is not going anywhere, you get in the wagon and I will chase her”. She really wasn’t going anywhere, so I got in the wagon.

My brother started hollering at her. She took a few steeps, that was enough for me I was ready to get out. But we had a cow dog. He was always very eager to help chase the cows when ever the opportunity arose. Just as I was about to get out, I heard the dog barking at the cow. And she took off running, with me still in the wagon.

All I could do is hold on and scream as though my life was about to end. I wasn’t sure it wasn’t going to. This excited the dog even more who started biting the cows heals. This made the cow run faster and me scream louder. Did the dog really think that, making the cow run faster was going to save me?

To make matters worse the cow was headed for the plowed section of the pasture. When you plow a field it leaves large ripples in the field. Each ripple was a little ramp to make me and the wagon become airborne, coming down just in time to become airborne by the next ripple. This added a whole new challenge to holding on to the wagon, screaming and keeping it from tipping over. I’m sure it also added some discomfort to the cow, not that I cared about the cow.

To my salvation my mother heard my screams. She looked out the kitchen window to see her son flying through the plowed field, in the little red wagon, behind the cow, screaming his head off. She called for my dad, who stepped out the back door and whistled for the dog. The dog immediately stopped chasing the cow, and come to my dads call. The cow immediately then stopped, probably now tired of pulling a screaming kid in a wagon, by her tail.

Not willing to chance any more of this experience, I jumped out of the wagon as fast as I could and headed for the house as fast as I could. My dad was walking out to where my brother was. My only comfort from the horrible humiliating ordeal, was knowing that my brother was going to get in big trouble.

When I got to where my dad and brother were, I realized that they were both laughing. This was horrible, I wanted some sort of vengeance on my brother, and I wasn’t getting it. Desperate of some sort of vengeance, I turned and gave the cow a dirty look. This made them both laugh even harder.

I had only wanted to be entertained, not be the entertainment.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Grandson

I have a new grandson. I’m very excited. My son looks good in Med scrubs, he will make a good Doctor.