Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Searching For Truth: The Problem with Uncertainty

(Disclaimer: The things I write in my "Searching for Truth" series are not intended to be doctrine. They are only my personal thoughts from my own perspective as I resolve my personal questions. I post them here in case someone else might find them interesting or gain insights for themselves - in agreement or not. If you have a comment that relates, something I may not have considered - in favor or against, please feel free to leave a respectful comment.)

I recently had someone who I love and trust tell me "If your current views are really correct, you shouldn’t be afraid to have them challenged. They should be able to stand against any test. If your views are not correct though, but you still want to hold onto them anyway, then new ideas ... can indeed be dangerous."  This person also appears to value uncertainty: "No matter what it is, you could be wrong, so let go of your pride and be brave enough to face the possibilities."

While this might be true when it comes to scientific facts, I don't believe it applies when it comes to spiritual beliefs. While part of me wants to "let go of [my] pride" and be humble enough to admit that I might be wrong, something in me really fights against it. It sounds right, but it feels wrong. Of course it is good to be humble! Of course I should try to understand other people's views and ideas. So what's wrong with it? 

As I've pondered this, I've realized something that (to me) is profound: There are some things that are true only because we believe in them. When these things are challenged, when uncertainty is introduced, it can cause us to feel doubt, and so they then cease to be true. This is why I try to avoid those things that seriously challenge my faith. It isn't so much fear that I might be proved wrong as it is self-preservation - I need these things to stay true for me.

For example: You hear of people in life and death situations having the strength to lift cars to save someone, while under normal circumstances, they wouldn't be able to. Whatever the physical reasons behind it, they are able to lift the car because they believe they can - if they didn't believe in that moment, they wouldn't try hard enough to succeed. They wouldn't be able to do it. 

When Peter believed that he could walk on water, he could do it (See Matt 14:25-33). It wasn't until he began to doubt that he started to sink. His view that he could walk on water was correct - he really did it. When that view was tested by the wind and the waves, he became uncertain. His belief didn't withstand the test - not because it wasn't true when he believed it, but because it ceased to be true when he started to doubt.

The scriptures tell us that faith can move mountains. But there is no room for doubt. If we say, "Well, I'm 99% sure I can move this mountain, but I might be wrong" then there is no way that we will ever have the power necessary to be able to move it. 

I believe that God can and does answer my prayers so I am watchful and listen for answers - and I find them. I am helped, guided, and comforted. If I began to doubt God's existence, would I still feel the comfort of knowing that there was someone watching over me? Would I continue to trust that there was someone with all wisdom that could guide me through the challenges that I face? Would I continue to have the power to do the things I don't believe I could do without His help? It isn't so much that my doubt would make any difference whether or not He actually exists, but rather that I would be cutting myself off from the blessings and the power that come from believing that He does. I would lose the ability to walk on water and I would sink.

When you ask me to suspend my faith, to even consider the possibility that I might be wrong, you are asking me to relinquish the power that my faith gives me. You are asking me, as Amalakiah asked Lehonti (see Alma 47:7-18), to come down off my mountain where I have power and security, to go down where I am vulnerable, at greater risk of being poisoned or worse. That's I don't want to go there.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A couple of Josh's Projects

Josh has been a theater technician for the last couple years. This year he is serving as the foreman, and that means that he has a lot of say when it comes to the sets for this year's high school plays. This week, his high school is performing "Bus Stop" by William Enge. (Performances are this Friday and Saturday at 6:30pm.) This activity gives him lots of experience using power tools (which is fun) and telling people what to do (which can be frustrating at times.)

The Spring Musical early next year is going to be "Little Shop of Horrors" and Josh is already gathering his ideas of what the set design for that will look like. He drew a top view of the rotating set piece he is envisioning, but then he was asked to show a front view. Finding it a challenge to get the perspective and angles right, he decided to instead make a 3D model.

Yesterday Josh made himself a chair out of scrap wood he found in the playroom. The legs need some reinforcing, and he made it to fit himself so my hips are too wide to sit in it comfortably, but it's a cool chair anyway. We had the missionaries over for dinner last night and one of the missionaries sat in Josh's chair for the entire evening and thought it was pretty cool.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Searching For Truth - Knowing for Myself

I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life. At first, I believed because that was what I was raised to believe. My parents believed it and taught it, and that was what I was used to. Last week, I wrote about personal experiences that I had which helped me to come to know for myself that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.

Is it important for people to figure out for themselves about what is true? If we just blindly obey what we are told is right, will we end up in the same place as those who search and struggle to learn for themselves? I don't believe so. I believe we must each find out for ourselves what is truth and right.

In the Beginning...
Before we came to this earth, we lived with our Heavenly Father and all our spiritual siblings. Our Father presented a plan that would give us experiences that would help us to progress and become more like him. He knew that we would make mistakes while we were learning, so he called for a volunteer to be our Savior, someone who would pay the price for those mistakes (because God is just, and justice has to be satisfied) so we could be forgiven and continue to progress.

Two volunteers came forward. One was Jehovah. He was willing to follow the Father's plan, and be sacrificed to pay for all of the mistakes that each of us would make while we were learning what is good and true and how to be perfect, like our Father. The second volunteer was Lucifer. He wanted to change the Father's plan so that no one would ever make mistakes - we would all be perfectly obedient, and no one would be lost. Plus he wanted the glory for coming up with this alternate plan.

Our Father chose to stick with his original plan. He saw that we needed our agency to learn for ourselves what was right. Forced blind obedience was not going to teach us the discernment, the self-mastery, or the wisdom we would need to progress. (For more on this topic, read a blog Steven wrote a week or so ago) If we were just going to be ignorant blind followers, we could have just stayed in heaven with our Father, not as children, but as pets.

Seek Learning by Study
So we came to earth with agency to choose what we will do. We come in ignorance, not remembering what happened before this life so part of our purpose here is to learn all that we can. We haven't been given all the answers to our questions about "life, the universe and everything" on a silver platter; we have to figure them out. So we go to school. We go to church. We read good books. We seek out the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

I like to think of truth as giant jigsaw puzzle. Every little bit of truth fits in somewhere. When we have all the truth, it will all fit together beautifully and reveal something amazing. One corner of the puzzle may relate to things of science while another corner relates to things of religion and there may be great gaps in the middle, but when all the pieces of truth have been found and put in their correct spots, it will all fit together perfectly. There may be some pieces that appear to fit now, but when the pieces around them are all put in place, they may need to be rotated or moved or maybe they won't fit at all and will need to be discarded.

If each of us had to piece together the entire puzzle on our own, it would be impossible. I don't have enough time in my life to rediscover every bit of known truth. I will probably never go to Mongolia, but I have seen enough evidence from other people's experience to know it exists. There are many such things that I can't test for myself, but I can search out what other people have said and experienced. I can then compare the things that I am learning with the things that I already know to be true, and see how they fit together. If they fit, then it is likely to be true. If not, then I can lay it aside.

Sometimes, however, studying what others have learned isn't enough for us to really understand and know what is true. Often different people have opposing views. How else can we learn what is truth?

Learn by Doing
Imagine a toddler starting to explore the dangerous world of a kitchen. Her parents may warn her not to touch the stove because it is hot, but it isn't until she actually touches a hot stove and gets burned (hopefully not too badly) that she will truly understand what they meant. Sometimes we just have to try something ourselves to really understand. 

The Savior said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17) 

I came to learn that the law of tithing was true when I tried it and it lived up to its promise. As I have ministered to others, I have seen the blessings that have come from ministering and have come to know that it is from God. 

When Alma taught the Zoramites in Alma 32, he compared the word of God to a seed. He invited them to plant the seed in order to see whether or not it is good. We plant things by trying them. 

One of the first things that missionaries do when they begin teaching someone is to invite them to read the Book of Mormon, because it is by reading that they can see the good in it. Other people may tell them that the Book of Mormon is true or that it is of the devil, but they won't really know anything about it until they read it. Then they can learn for themselves and make their own judgement whether it is of God or not. 

Seek Learning by ... Faith
Sometimes studying and trying things out doesn't completely satisfy our search for knowledge. Sometimes it is very hard to discern between what is truth and what is not and we need to turn to the Lord for answers. God has given us the Holy Ghost to help us in the discernment process, but we have to study it out, have the faith to ask for his help, and then we have to listen for his answer.

The Lord explained the process further to Oliver Cowdery when he said, "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong..." (D&C 9:7-9)

The fourteen year old Joseph Smith was confused about religion. There were plenty of people around- Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, who would preach what they believed to be true, but they contradicted and contended with each other. Joseph tried them out, attending their various meetings as often as he could. But still he was confused as to which was true. He studied some more, turning to the Bible, and came across James 1:5, which advised him to ask God. He experimented on the word, going to the grove of trees to pray. And he asked God which church he should join. God answered his prayer, and he learned truths that he could then share with the rest of us that would come after. (See JS-H 1:5-20)

But - we don't have to take his word for it. In fact, we shouldn't accept his word blindly. We must come to know for ourselves whether what he said about his experience was true or not.

Usually God doesn't appear or speak to us directly. But we do feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes that influence is felt in a moment of intuition or inspiration. Sometimes it is a random thought. If I have a simple yes/no question, I find it helps if I already have an answer in my head (I think this is true... Is it?) and wait to see if I feel peace (You're right) or continued confusion and doubt (Maybe rethink it...).

Often, the answers don't come immediately, but if I keep a question in the back of my mind and continue searching, I will notice things coming to my attention that are pertinent to what I am studying. Someone will post a quote on Facebook or I'll notice a scripture during my family or personal scripture reading that relates to my question. Sometimes a family member or acquaintance will mention something in passing that will give me a new insight. The answers come slowly, but if I keep searching, eventually God will lead me to an answer that feels like truth. I believe that this process is personal revelation.

To Sum Up
Whenever we hear something new, there is a process that we can go through to see if it is something that is good, to know for ourselves if it is true:
  1. We can study it out in our minds first. We can compare it to other things that we already know to be true. Does it fit with what we already know? Does it make sense? 
  2. We can try it out. What is the "fruit" or result of this idea? Does it feel good? Does it bring us  joy? Does it bring benefits and blessings?
  3. We can pray to ask God if it is true, and then listen and watch for the answers that come by the Spirit.
  4. We can continue learning and searching and trying and asking.
"Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God." (Jacob 4:8)

(Brigham Young gave a very interesting talk on the subject of Personal Revelation. You can read it here.)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Searching for Truth - Testimony building

I have a couple family members who have lost their faith in God. I love them dearly, and I greatly enjoy the time that I am able to spend with them, though it is rare because of distance and other factors. And yet I qualm when it comes to talking to them about things of religion. This morning I was pondering why that is.

I think for me it comes down to fear. I'm not afraid of them, but I am afraid of what effect talking with them will have on my own hard won faith. What if I lose the answers that I have prayed, studied, pondered, and prayed some more to achieve?

Both of them are powerful writers. They ask a lot of questions, and I don't have all the answers. Some times the only answer I have is that I don't know why, and yet, I have a firm testimony that it is so... and they don't accept a heart felt testimony as an answer - and I don't blame them. Like the five wise virgins in the Savior's parable, I can't give them my oil of testimony. They have to go and acquire it themselves. And yet, I'm realizing that maybe I can seek more oil myself so that my lamp can glow brighter and maybe illuminate the way for them to seek their own.

Like most people, my testimony has grown gradually. At first I believed because it was what I was taught to believe in my home as I was growing up. But as I got older, my testimony gradually grew a more solid foundation.

When I was a freshman in college, I realized that I needed to know for myself if the church of Jesus Christ was true. I had been taught that the process to do that was to read the Book of Mormon, and then ask God in prayer if it was true. And so I did that. And I received a witness that the Book of Mormon was indeed true. And by logic, if the Book of Mormon was true, then Joseph Smith was a true prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the church that he established is also true. The witness I received wasn't anything powerful or mind blowing. It was just a quiet thought, a conviction, "You already know that it is true." And I realized that I did.

A couple years later I decided to serve a mission. I don't remember now why I wanted to serve. Maybe it was just because I was graduating from college and wasn't sure what to do next, but felt that I "should" serve a mission. I walked out of my final interview with my stake president, my missionary papers completed and ready for him to submit, and as I walked back to my dorm, I felt an incredible feeling of joy. I wanted to start singing and dancing. I wanted to laugh and cry. It was the most powerful emotion that I had ever felt, and I had a conviction that my Heavenly Father was pleased with what I had chosen to do. I don't remember praying before to ask if I should serve a mission. I just believed that it was right so I acted in faith, and AFTER I had put everything in motion to go, I received the confirmation that it was right.

As a missionary, the experiences that helped my testimony to grow were almost daily. Every time I quoted Joseph Smith's experience in the grove in his own words, I felt something. I knew that the experience I was relating had really happened. It was true.  One time I was talking about how we have a living prophet, and I suddenly felt a conviction - I KNEW that President Gordon B Hinkley was a prophet of God.

Shortly after Steven and I were married, we faced a time of financial hardship. We were preparing for the birth of our first child. Steven was going to school. We had tuition payments and rent payments, and there was a time that we debated if we should pay our tithing. There didn't seem to be enough money to cover everything, and the church wasn't going to kick us out of our homes or school if we didn't pay immediately. But in faith we payed the tithing anyway. And then we watched the blessings come in. I don't remember now everything that happened. Steven may have received a scholarship. We may have been gifted money from some source. I do remember that we were given a bassinet, a crib, a changing table, tons of baby clothes, pretty much everything we needed for our new baby, and I remember looking around our now crowded little apartment and thinking, "Wow, the promise about paying tithing is true - we have been poured out so many blessings that we didn't have room to receive them all." I received a conviction that the law of tithing was true.

Sometimes there have been other things, more complicated things, that I have wondered about. As I keep the questions in the back of my mind as I read the scriptures or listen to talks, and as I go on walks and just think about them, answers come. They don't come all at once, but often a thought here and a thought there and they grow. Often when I have something on my mind, I will compose a blog about it because that helps me to focus my thoughts and as I write things out I see how things fit together. Are the answers I come up with truth? Maybe. Maybe they are just steps on the way towards truth and there is more that I still need to figure out. I'm okay with not knowing everything because I do know the important things - the Book of Mormon is true. The gospel is true. We have a living prophet on earth today.

I can tell these stories about how my testimony has been shaped and how it has been strengthened. I can tell people what I have come to believe because of my own studies and prayers and experiences, but I can't make anyone else believe based on my experiences. They can always say it was just a coincidence, or a figment of my imagination. But I don't believe it.

But what if they keep talking? What if they use their logic to confuse me? What if they persuade me to disbelieve or discredit the feelings that I have received? What if they pull me out into that morass of confusion and doubt that they appear to be wallowing in themselves? I don't want to go there. I want to remember the experiences that I have had and hold firm to what I have learned is true.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Letter to Missionaries... Snow and Halloween

Dear Hannah and John,

How are things going? John - I forgot to ask last week, but did you manage to finish reading the Book of Mormon by your deadline? How are you enjoying Osasco? How do you like teaching the gospel in the real world? Hannah - how are Adriano and Sueli doing? Any new investigators? I looked up everywhere that you served on the map, and discovered that your areas form a line that points almost directly toward Osasco, where John is.

This week started out with snow. Seminary was cancelled on Monday, and school was delayed by two hours. It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit, and by 9, the streets weren't too bad and the boys got to school okay.

Tuesday morning, Seminary was held as usual, even though it was actively snowing pretty hard. We made it there safely. During seminary, I stayed in the car, turning on the wipers occasionally to clear the quickly accumulating snow off the windows. When seminary let out though, I went to turn on the engine, and nothing happened. The battery was dead! We had to get it jump started before I could take the boys to school - which started as normal in spite of the heavy snow. The snow continued to fall and around 11am, I got notice from the school that they were letting the kids out early and that all after school activities were cancelled. By the time they let the boys out, the snow had eased significantly, and they were able to walk home.

Tuesday night we received notice that seminary and school would be cancelled on Wednesday. Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright, although super cold. So yes, the boys did get a snow day from school eventually. It would have been nice if it had been Tuesday rather than Wednesday, but apparently no one can accurately predict the weather here in Colorado.

Thursday was Halloween. Peter dressed up in his vampire kid costume. Josh kind of dressed up as Peter's responsible adult, and Dad drove them to the Ellis / Gailey/ Mission President's neighborhood to Trick or Treat. We actually got two groups of Trick or Treaters here at our house that night!

The time changed last night, so technically we could have had an extra hour to sleep last night. Unfortunately, Peter woke up at about 4:30 AM and we heard him racing to the bathroom to throw up. This has been repeated several times since then. I don't think he will be coming to church with us.

I think that's it for this week. I love you both, and I'm so glad that you've both chosen to serve the Lord. You are in our every prayer!!!


Monday, October 28, 2019

If There Was a God, He Would...

(Steven wrote this and gave me permission to post it here.)

I have heard many arguments from people who question the existence of God. Some things they say are: “I don’t think God would want to have so much suffering in the world,” “If there was a God, I don’t think he would want there to be wars fought over religion,” “I think God would not want there to be so much confusion about Him. He would reveal Himself more so that people would know He was real.”

These are all fair statements and other similar comments have been expressed by many people throughout the ages.They are thoughts that try to rationally and logically understand the world around them and how God and religion fit into the picture. The basic logic of most of these thoughts can be summed up as follows:
     A) If there was a God, he would [fill in the blank]
     B) The conditions of the world do not agree with (A)
     C) Therefore, there is no God

There is a certain logic in this argument, and people can be forgiven for accepting it. I will agree with them on one point - the God that they have defined in point (A) does not exist. That is certainly correct, as it logically follows from point (B). This is the main flaw in this whole argument - trying to define what God should or should not be based on our limited, mortal understanding. The only correct conclusion to come to from the argument above is:
     C) Since the conditions of the world contradict a God as defined in (A), the conditions of (A) must be wrong and I should consider other possible attributes of God.

Can it be possible that a God exists who does not conform to our expectations? Let us consider this. I’d like to present some other things that do not conform to our expectations of what should happen.

In the book of Revelation we read of a very interesting occurrence: “And there was war in heaven.” (Rev 12:7) Wait, war? In heaven? But I thought that heaven was a peaceful place. Isn’t heaven a place where God dwells and all his holy angels who sing praises to Him day and night?

And yet, there it is in black and white: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.” There was fighting! There was contention! There was disagreement intense enough to lead to battle.

What was all this fighting about, you ask? What was the cause of this war in this unlikely place? To answer that we have to go back to the beginning, back to before the foundations of the earth were laid. At this time God presented a plan, a plan that would require a savior as part of it.

Satan came forward and said “Here am I, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1)

This is where the problems began. Satan’s offer was in contradiction to that of Jehovah who said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2)

So we had two competing plans being presented - one in which all mankind would be saved, and one in which some may be lost.

Now, why wouldn’t anyone want to go with the plan where everyone would be saved? Think of it - no one would be lost! Surely if God loves all of His children he would want all of them to be saved and to return to Him, right?

Perhaps an analogy might help. Picture a dean of a medical school. The dean should love his students so much that he would want all of them to become doctors someday, right? He would want this so badly that he would give them the answers to the final exam. Think of it - no one would fail! All of the students would become doctors! Wouldn’t that be great? I will leave it to you to consider the consequences of such an action, and whether you would want to be a patient seen by one of that graduating class. Now consider that God is trying to make more of us than just doctors and perhaps you can see the merits of accepting the other plan.

This issue was contentious enough that the debate between the two sides became the “war in heaven” spoken of by John, and ends with Satan and his angels losing their place in heaven and being “cast out into the earth.” (Rev 12:8-9)

All of this demonstrates an important attribute of God: that God values man’s agency very highly. Even in that premortal council everyone was free to choose which plan he or she wanted to follow - to accept Jehovah as our savior, or to follow Lucifer. It is precisely because he “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3-4) that Lucifer became Satan and was cast out.

Now you would think that God would not want to lose any of His children before the earth was even created and yet we read that “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he [Satan] away from me [God] because of their agency.” (D&C 29:36)

Here’s another thing you probably would not expect: If God sent his only begotten Son to earth, surely He would not want him to be killed by wicked men. I mean, that wouldn’t make any sense at all right?


Well, we all know how this story goes. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem in a lowly stable to his mother Mary. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He taught the gospel, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead. After a brief three year ministry he was arrested, tried, condemned and executed by crucifixion atop Calvary’s hill.

Such a sad ending. You can be forgiven for asking “why did God allow that to happen? Why didn’t He stop it and save him?” Man, God sure does not behave how we would expect, does He? It’s almost as if God’s ways are higher than man’s ways and God’s thoughts higher than man’s thoughts. (see Isaiah 55:8)

You could almost say that God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

That is, if He really does exist...

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Another Letter to the Missionaries.... with Pictures!

Dear Hannah and John,

One of you asked for pictures, so here you go:

Josh recently made himself a coat rack that he can hang his coats and hats on.

Josh and Dad fixed the outlet that the lamp is plugged into in Josh's room. You know how the lamp plug was always loose in the outlet? Apparently that is a fire hazard and not good. So we finally managed to get it fixed. After it was fixed, Josh decided he wanted to rearrange the furniture in his room.

Here is the other side of Josh's room... He's standing in front of the little fridge he has in there.

Here's a picture of Lala, just in case you forgot what he looks like...

I finished the tie that I've been knitting. Peter wore it to church today, but decided it was too hot or something. Muffins doesn't seem to mind wearing it.

Last month there was a "free day" at the dump. We disposed of the swamp cooler and the couch and some other things that were in the playroom. Here is a glimpse of what it looks like now.

Yesterday, I took Peter shopping with me to get stuff for his Halloween costume and some groceries. He picked out a pumpkin to carve. Last night he emptied out the guts, but I don't think he's decided what he wants to carve yet.

It has been snowing today... really light, but all day. It's supposed to continue to snow for the next few days and we might get several inches. There isn't much to show for it right now though.

So a couple weeks ago I crocheted these little monster things. One is a squid with horns and the other is an eel with fins and a ridge down his back.
But after I made them, Peter decided that one was a two legged guy with curly hair, and the other was a type of slug with antennae. Dad agrees with Peter, so they keep turning them upside down, and then I turn them right side up again. It is an ongoing battle...

Dad brought all his trees into the playroom before the first snow of the season. They are looking kind of droopy at the moment, but hopefully they will survive the winter and come back next spring.

Speaking of plants, I transplanted my pineapple plant into soil a few weeks ago. It still seems to be doing okay. It's about a year old now!

In other random news, Zack C. spoke in sacrament meeting today. It was cool to see how much he matured during his mission. Craig J. was called to be the new Elders Quorum president today.

I guess that's all for this week. I love you both and I think you are both awesome.

Love you!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Why would God have a Chosen People?

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels
A little while ago I came across the question, "If God is the Heavenly Father of every person on earth, why would he have a chosen people?" By chosen people, I mean, of course, the House of Israel. How many times do the scriptures refer to the "God of Israel", or to Israel as the Lord's chosen people? If God is supposed to love all his children, why would he be so focused on this one family? Does he love the Israelites more than he loves his other children?

This morning I was reading Jacob 5, the allegory of the olive tree, but I also had this question in the back of my mind. There must have been many other trees in the vineyard besides this one. Why was he so focused on this particular tree? When I finished reading the chapter, I picked up my notebook and started writing the thoughts that had come to my mind relative to this question as I had been reading. Here are those thoughts, with others I've had this morning as I've pondered further:

  1. God has a plan for his children to return to his presence with greater knowledge and experience. God's "work and ...glory [is] to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) He wants all of his children to return to him, and I can't even imagine all the plans and preparations he needed to put into place for his plan to have any chance of succeeding. (Satan's plan where we would all be saved without faith or struggle might have been so much easier... but that would be like a test where the teacher gave us all the answers; we wouldn't learn what we needed to learn.)

    According to God's plan, the Savior of the world would have to be born on earth, and he could only be born one time, in one place, to one group of people. These people would have to have some foundation of truth so proper priesthood authority would exist and so Christ's teachings wouldn't be completely foreign and would be accepted by many people, and yet they would need to be wicked enough to kill an innocent man who had done nothing but good. It would also be necessary for the knowledge of Christ's ministry and teaching to be spread to as many as possible. This society of people would have to be selected carefully and nurtured so the Plan would be fulfilled properly.
  2. We don't have a lot of information about what happened between Noah, the tower of Babel, and Abraham's day. We know that the people were scattered and that their languages were changed. Therefore, the majority of the people on earth wouldn't have had readable records of God's teachings. We know Jared and his brother had one record which they took to the other continent. (Ether 1:3) How many other copies existed? Without written records, most of the people of the world would have forgotten all they might have known about the God who created them within a few generations (see Omni 1:17). Shem, Noah's son, probably would have had Adam's record, and he probably passed it down through his descendants. We know that Abraham was Shem's descendant, and that Abraham's fathers had turned to apostasy, but Abraham chose to be righteous and so he was able to preserve the records with God's teachings. (Abraham 1:31)

    In other words, almost all of God's children were scattered and lost, and only a small remnant, including Abraham, retained a knowledge of the truth of the Plan and the Savior.
  3. God loves all his children throughout the world. He wants them to know the truth of his plan, so he reveals himself to righteous men and women so they can be prophets to their own people. They preach of Christ, and they keep records so they can remember those teachings.

    But with the majority of his children scattered and lost to apostasy, how could God, whose greatest desire was to bring his children back to him, provide a way for all of them to learn about him and his plan? He used the tools he had. The Jaredite "tree" were his representatives for a while somewhere on the American continent, and Abraham's family were his representatives in the Middle East. Perhaps there were other "good trees" in other parts of the Lord's vineyard as well, but Abraham's family was chosen to be the society into which Christ would be born.
  4. The Lord favors the righteous, whoever they may be, whether descendants of Abraham or not. However, over time, people fall into apostasy. Prophets are rejected and killed. Records are destroyed or lost. Teachings of the prophets are forgotten. The Jaredite nation went in and out of apostasy many, many times. The house of Israel did as well, but in both nations, there was a written record of truth that could bring people back to the path. There were people who desired to be righteous who the Lord called to be prophets to call the rest of the people to repentance. There may have been other righteous civilizations in other parts of the world and they were surely favored of the Lord for as long as their righteousness lasted.
  5. Being God's "chosen people" didn't do the Israelites many favors. They were conquered and enslaved many times. They were carried into captivity. They were scattered and lost themselves. However, because God needed them to provide the proper environment for the Savior to be born, he preserved them from being destroyed completely. He sent prophets to remind them of the truths their fathers had known. At times he "pruned" or allowed the more wicked parts to be killed so they wouldn't drag the rest of the people into apostasy. He even granted miracles that would help them to retain an identity as a people, and to remember their God. Through the ages, the memory of who they were as a society continued, and somehow an unbroken chain of priesthood was preserved, so that when Christ was born, he was able to fulfill his part in the Plan.
  6. It wasn't just enough that God provide the proper environment for Christ to be born. It was also important that God spread the word of his plan and of Christ to his other children. This may have been one of the reasons for the scattering of Israel - to spread what they knew of the gospel to other people throughout the world. We know that groups of Israelites were scattered at various times in their history. Some were taken in war and carried off to parts unknown. Others, like Lehi's family, left of their own free will. In the allegory of the olive tree, the branches of the tree were scattered to different parts of the vineyard. The Book of Mormon people were just one of at least three branches that were scattered, but they were all still nourished by the master of the vineyard.
  7. Records of Christ would be most plentiful where Christ actually lived. He made an impression that continued on past his death. It, too, decayed into apostasy over time, but some records survived long enough to become the Bible. Christ also visited people in the Americas, hence another impression was made there, a record was preserved and God caused it to be found in our day as a second witness of Bible truths. By the Savior's teaching "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold..." (John 10:16, 3 Nephi 15:17) we know there are other people that Christ has visited of whom we still have no record. (See 2 Nephi 29:10-13)
  8. The wise men from the East came from another people who had heard of the prophecies of Christ. Were they of the house of Israel? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Maybe they had been taught of the Messiah by some branch that had been broken off. Or maybe they had been revealed the truth of God's plan some other way. I don't know. The wonderful thing is that they were close enough and rich enough that they were able to come witness Christ's birth and carry the news back to their own people. Were they chosen specially by God? Yes! Does it matter whether or not they were of the House of Israel? No!
  9. What about today? In all the talk about the gathering of Israel happening today, is God only concerned about gathering Abraham's direct descendants? No. The children of Israel are the ones that have been selected for the work of spreading the knowledge of God's Plan and the Savior to all of God's children. The Lord's chosen people, however, are all the righteous. The work of gathering is to gather everyone who will hear the gospel and accept it and be baptized. Missionary work and temple work today aren't limited to just certain people of certain lineage. It is for everyone on earth, past and present.
  10. So to sum up.... God wants his children to return to him - as many of them as are willing to accept Christ and the plan. These are the righteous - the good fruit, whoever or wherever they may be. Abraham's family was a tree that gave good fruit. They were righteous and had the necessary knowledge of God's plan. Because of this, they were chosen to do a job - to produce as much good fruit as possible. God gave them the protection and help (pruning, digging, nourishing) that they needed to accomplish that job. The Israelites were then scattered to bring the knowledge of the gospel to God's other children throughout the world where they continued to be nourished. Now in our day, through both missionary and temple work they all are being gathered from all over the world, back to a knowledge of the restored gospel, of God's plan, and the role of the Savior so we will be ready when he comes again.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Teeth, Babysitting, Snow and a Wedding...

(Excerpts from a letter to the missionaries...)

First of all, John's wall plaque arrived so now one side of the ward's missionary map is the "Hiatt side". Steven took pictures of it:

Sorry, this picture is a little blurry... But that is Hannah's plaque on top and John's on the bottom.

On Monday, I took the boys to the orthodontist. Peter had his expander taken out (It was a contraption that widened his upper jaw, and we had to turn it with a key every day for several days.) Peter was very relieved to get that off. However, that also means that in a few weeks he will get to have braces put on the rest of his teeth, instead of just on the front top teeth that he has now.

So this week was parent teacher conferences which meant that elementary schoolers didn't have school Wednesday through Friday, and high schoolers didn't have school on Friday. So on Wednesday I got to babysit little Josh (a boy in our ward.) He was dropped off a little after 7am, and went jogging/ walking with me. Later he played Legos, and then we played Clue several times (he cheats like crazy!) Then he played on his tablet for a while until Big Josh and Peter got home. Then they played together and finally Peter and little Josh went down to the park to play. It was kind of an adventure keeping a seven year old occupied for most of a day.

On Thursday we got our first snow fall. Luckily the only place I had to go after taking the boys to seminary and school was parent teacher conferences that evening so that was nice. The next day the boys got a "snow day" (because there wasn't school any way because of conferences..)

Also on Friday, we had the missionaries over for dinner. One of them was fresh from the MTC - and he went into the MTC on the same day John did.

Yesterday Steven and I went to Ethan H.'s wedding. It was a three hour drive away, out in the boonies beyond Salida. It was very pretty though, and it was a nice wedding, held at an outdoor chapel with the reception following in a barn type building. I think it is the first non-LDS wedding I've gone to, and apparently the guy who married them was one of Ethan's buddies who got his minister license on the internet from some random church I had never heard of. It was a really nice ceremony though. I was touched by the sweet vows that the couple wrote and read to each other.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

High School Threat

So this happened today at my boys' school.

At 11:30 this morning I received the following email:
Dear Northglenn High School Families,

In our ongoing effort to keep you informed of issues at our school, we want to let you know about a current safety situation at the school.

The school is currently in a hold and lockout due to a safety situation in the building. During a hold all students remain in their current class and do not travel to other parts of the building. During a lockout all exterior doors are secured and no one is allowed in or out of the building. 
Administration received a tip that someone in the school might have a weapon. Northglenn Police immediately made contact with the student in their class and confirmed that the student did in fact have a weapon. The student was immediately taken into custody. 
At this time all students and staff are safe. Additional police officers responded to the school to assist with this matter. The situation is ongoing and police are continuing to make contact with additional students to gather additional information regarding the situation.

While the investigation is ongoing, we ask that you do not come to the school. We will share more information with you as soon as available.

Thank you,

Sharee Blunt
At 1pm, another email arrived:
Dear Northglenn High School Families,

This is an update to our previous message about the safety situation at Northglenn High School.
As of 12:45 p.m. Northglenn Police released the school from the hold and lockOUT. The school day will continue on a modified schedule and have a normal dismissal. Through the police investigation, it has been determined that there is no threat of violence directed towards the school at this time. 
Lunch was made available for all students and staff who would like to grab some in the cafeteria before proceeding to the next class.

We did have a situation earlier today where we got reports that a student had a weapon, police immediately made contact with that student. When police made contact with that student it was confirmed that they were in possession of a handgun. The student was taken into custody without incident and the weapon was confiscated. 
Northglenn Police made contact with multiple students to gather additional information. Officers also searched student lockers and belongings of those who they previously made contact with. Through that investigation it has been determined that there is no specific threat towards the school at this time. 
Our school counselors and members of the district mental health team are available to meet with students, staff and families individually or in groups today or in the coming days. 
I appreciate the partnership we have with our students, staff and parents to keep our school safe. I will continue to keep you informed of important issues at our school.


Sharee Blunt
 So yeah. Fun stuff. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Flower Garden Photos

I loved our flower garden this year!  It's a strip of soil along the fence that faces the road. Last spring, Steven dug up the tired stuff that had been planted there, replaced the edging around the flowerbed and improved the soil. Then we bought an assortment of colorful flowers to fill the space. Through the summer, I've watched the various plants bloom in their season and every day I've loved the flurry of bright colors that greet us when we come home! 
This was the garden a month or so ago.

A couple days ago, I went out and took some closeup photos of some of the flowers so I can enjoy them as background screens on my desktop computer in the years to come. 

I also took a few pictures of some of my fall decorations... I think they're kind of pretty too:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Happy/Sad Tears for John

Yesterday Steven worked from home. He doesn't do that very often, but he did yesterday. He worked until about 11:30 and then he, John and I climbed into the car and drove to the airport.

Usually when we take someone to the airport, we drop them off at the curb, unload their luggage, give them a quick hug, and drive off. Yesterday we parked in the parking lot and walked into the airport with John. We helped him find the American Airlines check-in counter and get his luggage tags and check his luggage. We walked him as far as the lines for the security check, made sure he had his boarding pass and had some idea of where his gate was, and then I gave him a last hug, Steven shook his hand (John doesn't particularly like hugs, but he'll suffer through his mom's.) and then we watched him walk away and disappear into the crowd. And then we turned around, walked back to the car and returned home. Where we only have two children remaining. Steven returned to his work and I finished packing up the stuff John left behind and clearing out his room.

I admit that I've cried. It's kind of a happy cry, that I can turn to a laugh if I think about it. I'm sad that he's gone. I'm happy that he's going. I'll miss him, but he is going to meet so many people and make new friends. He'll be gone for two long years, but the time will go by fast, and I'll hear from him every week. The next two years will be so hard as he struggles to learn a new language and suffers disappointments and frustrations with both companions and investigators. But he is going to grow and learn and do so much good for others and for himself.

I don't remember feeling quite this way when Hannah left on her mission. But I think that may be because she had already been away at college before that. This is the first time John has been away from home for longer than a week long scout camp. I looked up what I wrote about dropping Hannah off at college the first time. That comes closer to how I feel now, only I'm a little worse now because he's gone for two years, and not just for a semester or two.

And I worry about him. I realize I'm parentoid. (parent + paranoid) I was so relieved this morning when I received his email to say he had arrived at the MTC in São Paulo safely. Over the last several months I've watched him confidently take a city bus into downtown Denver on his own. He's gotten apostilles and yellow fever shots and taken care of everything by himself. I've watched him do so many things with total self confidence. Now he'll be navigating a foreign country where he'll struggle to be able to communicate with anyone for months. But he isn't worried. He'll do fine. Why am I worrying?

And so I laugh at myself as I dry my stinging eyes and wipe my runny nose. This is his adventure. And he will be wonderful.

For anyone who would like to write to him, his email address is john.hiatt@missionary.org. His letters home will be posted at https://johnhiattmisson.blogspot.com/.

More Letters to Hannah


Dear Hannah,

Welcome to this week's installment of "What's happening at home?"

This week, we finally managed to submit all the paperwork for John's visa. We are desperately hoping that everything was submitted properly and that he will get his visa in time to attend the Brazilian CTM.

On Wednesday, I helped a lady in the ward get rid of her stuff. She has abundant health problems that have disabled her. She can't work any more and decided to move back to where her family is in Hawaii. This means that she can only take with her what will fit in a few suitcases. So we gathered up furniture, clothes, electronics, lamps, etc. and loaded up a couple truck fulls to take to Goodwill, and took several more loads to a dumpster. She doesn't actually leave until this week, so we'll go back Monday afternoon to finish and clean the apartment.

On Thursday, John and I drove down to the Deseret Book so John could get his temple things, and then on Saturday, bright and early, we took John to the temple for his endowment!!! Dan Clarine was his guide and officiated the session we attended. John will serve in the temple on Tuesday mornings until he leaves for the next couple months.

On Friday, Josh had a D&D party, where he spent all day as Dungeon Master for some epic adventure. They didn't finish their adventures however, so he returned on Saturday for the epic conclusion in which zombies were slain by the dozens (I assume... I wasn't there.) John attended the Friday adventures, not as a player, but as a spectator as he gathered material for yet another play which he is writing.

I have begun another tissue box cover project. This one is patriotic themed, and has an American Flag on it. I've completed the top, but I'm still figuring out how to do the sides.

Anyway, that's our week. I love you!!!!!!!



Dear Hannah,

How are things going?

On Monday I got to help a lady in the ward move. I mentioned her last week - she is moving to Hawaii so couldn't take much with her. I think in the end she only took clothes and what papers and stuff could fit in her carry on luggage. So we made a few trips to the Goodwill. A lot of her furniture will go to a family that recently moved into the ward with absolutely nothing. They have been living in a hotel for the last few weeks, but they are getting their own apartment on the 15th. [The Elder's Quorum president] is storing the stuff until then. It's kind of nice the way that all worked out. Anyway, we emptied out her place and cleaned, and then she spent Tuesday night with a ward member since her place was empty, and she flew to Hawaii Wednesday morning.

About once a week I've been giving [a sister in the ward] rides to physical therapy. That is a service that I kind of enjoy. I pick her up, drive her to the physical therapy place on the corner of Federal and 112th, get to read for about an hour, then take her home again. Sometimes she has an errand she'll want to do afterwards, and that usually isn't a big deal.

On Tuesday, one of the sisters I minister to had knee replacement surgery. She was in the hospital for a couple days, but I brought over dinner for her and her daughter on Thursday. She wasn't home from the hospital yet, but she was due back later that evening. I'm grateful for opportunities to serve.

Yesterday we spent a chunk of the day cleaning house. I asked each of the boys to good clean their assigned rooms (You can probably guess which one threw a fit about it...). I also pulled up the green indoor/outdoor carpet on the front porch. The tear on the edge of the step keeps getting bigger and I was afraid someone was going to trip over it. Anyway, with some puling and yanking we managed to get it up, but it left an ugly mess of hardened yellow glue underneath it. I went to Lowe's later and got a big metal scraper to help us scrape it off. Then we worked on scraping it for an hour or so and got maybe a third of the porch scraped off. Finally I threw down a new doormat and called it quits. We'll work on it more on other days and maybe eventually we'll get it all off.

We had the missionaries here over for dinner last night. They shared a message from Moses about how Enoch was slow of speech, and yet the Lord was able to use him to spread the gospel. I thought that was appropriate for our future missionary (-ies).

Tonight, one of my friends from elementary school is coming to visit. I haven't seen her since 4th grade! Anyway, she and her family will have dinner with us. It sounds like she has 7 kids so we'll have a house full. I've got roasts in both the crock pot and the instant pot. I hope we have enough! We'll also make rolls and salad and a green vegetable to go with it. She isn't a member of the Church, but I know that she has always been very involved in the church that she does attend. I'm looking forward to being able to catch up with her.

Good luck with the missionary work!

I love you!!!


Dear Hannah,

Hello, how are things going? We missed talking with you last week, but I'm sure you were off doing fun and exciting things. :)

Last week Monday, your dad had his medical procedure (a colonoscopy, doesn't that sound exciting?). Also the boys went to the dentist. The dentist strongly recommended that the boys (Josh and Peter anyway) get a water-pic to help them keep their teeth clean while they have braces on. I got one, but I don't know how much they've actually used it. To quote Peter, "It's weird!"

Tuesday was Josh's birthday. We got him some cool steampunk goggles and a smart phone with protective case and stuff. (His last phone only lasted a few weeks before he stuck it in a pocket with rocks and the screen broke.) I made his birthday cake - a two layer, round chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Nothing spectacular, but it did turn out well.

I don't remember if I told you last week, but on Saturday we pulled up the ugly green indoor/outdoor carpet on the front porch. It left behind a whole bunch of hardened glue that had to be scraped off. That has been my project this week - scraping glue. I got a big ugly blister on my finger which popped and then I think it tried to blister on top of that later even though I was wearing gloves. Anyway, on Friday I finally finished scraping and it looks great.

We're busy getting ready for our McClellan family reunion this week. Dad did most of the grocery shopping for it so today the living room is full of boxes of food and paper dishes and stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone - except you know, my brothers who can't come... Lindy is still kind of iffy... But I think the rest of my sisters are coming.

I guess that's it. I love you. I'm so glad that you are serving and you are always in our prayers.



Dear Hannah,

So this week we had our incredible 2019 McClellan Family Reunion of fun. It really was a lot of fun. Your dad did most of the planning... He reserved the yurts at the YMCA of the Rockies. He sent out surveys asking for opinions and the like. He bought the food.

So Monday afternoon, around 1pm, the Dawes arrived at our house and we caravanned to the YMCA. I got to drive the van with John and Peter, while Josh went with Dad in Scottie. Both vehicles were full of food and supplies. We arrived safely and checked in, and the rest family began to trickle in. The Brysons, the Betts, the McClellans (my parents) with Jessica Kerby, the Browns, the Cardons, and then Lindy and Tyler Kerby finally arrived at like 11:30pm. None of my brothers were able to come, and Heidi wasn't able to come with her family. *sad face* Still, we ended up with about 42 people there so it was quite a crowd.

The first evening was just spent greeting each other and talking. We had dinner, and then at our campfire that evening we did a talent show. That night, it was really cold. Each yurt had a queen size bed and two sets of bunk beds - so six people could sleep comfortably. Each bed came with sheets, pillow and a blanket - but that one blanket was not sufficient to keep us warm. The next day, your dad went to the laundry and was able to requisition a bunch more blankets, so we were more comfortable for the next couple days.

Tuesday we went rollerskating, played volleyball, and went tubing. Some people did archery and went swimming. It was a lot of fun. That evening, my parents shared their testimonies and answered some questions asked of them (e.g. what are some of the things that their children got in trouble for? I think my parents have forgotten (and forgiven) most or all of our childish offenses.)

On Wednesday we went for a hike and played miniature golf (just our family, not the entire clan). To sum up, we had a lot of fun. We did some activities as a big group (tubing, meals, and the evening campfires) did some activities as smaller groups (hiking, swimming, miniature golf) and we still had some time to relax and rest. We had plenty of food (I wish we could send you hot dog buns... we have plenty).

The boys drove back home Wednesday night so they could get to school at 7am the next morning. The Betts and the Cardons also left that day. Everyone else stayed one more night and left Thursday morning. Your Dad and I were the last ones in the yurt village Thursday making sure everything was cleaned up properly. And then we came home and spent the rest of that day and the next unpacking and resting. It is amazing how three days of "vacation" can be so exhausting!!!

I took plenty of pictures, and then invited my siblings who also took pictures to add theirs to the album. You can see them here: (https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipOfJ083_txKhTVRpDfav4geTs8UM-x-jSKNnanu-zlhRtDdnfX8IYUR7TJYNPP6Vg?key=YUxCRUEteG9aS25ybExqMHduV3FhcFF5cHhtYXNR)

Anyway, Josh and Peter are back in school and are enjoying it more or less. It still seems strange to think that Peter is in high school! I'm looking around for some things to do to keep myself busy for the next little while. Of course, I still have my calling, but it isn't a full time job, thank goodness! We do have a couple baptisms in the works. One 16 or 17 year old girl is getting baptized this Saturday, and another sister (RS aged) and her daughter will be baptized in the next week or so.

Also yesterday I took the boys to a real barbershop to get their hairs cut. Peter thought it was creepy. (pictures attached.)

I love you! I am so glad that you have chosen to serve the Lord.



Dear Hannah,

It's Sunday evening again. I'm trying to remember what happened this week. The younger boys are in school. John is keeping himself. We still need to do some shopping to get him the clothes and shoes and stuff he will need for his mission. I haven't done as much walking this week. My fitbit stopped working😣. I contacted customer service about it and they are sending me a new one... It should arrive on Tuesday.

I spent a good chunk of this past week helping [a sister in the ward] pack up all her stuff. On Friday she moved to Greeley to live with her daughter. I think that this will be a good change for her, but I will miss her. It's kind of funny, but as I have gotten to know her better, giving her rides to physical therapy and doctors appointments and the like, I have really come to like her and I will miss her.

Yesterday we did ministering interviews at the church. We had a fancy brunch set up in the Relief Society room with cream puffs (complete with pudding and chocolate sauce they could add), fruit salad, and tiny sandwiches. (Lisa Johnson helped plan and organize the brunch and wow!😲 The sandwiches had like four slices of bread with layers of tuna, cheese sauce, pimento and I don't know what else between them. The crusts were cut off and then they were sliced vertically into fourths. I got to garnish them by laying a quarter of a slice of cucumber on the top of each along with a tiny sprig of parsley. They were carefully arranged on serving platters, and I just looked at them and thought this was probably the fanciest thing I have ever been associated with.) Also they had a table where sisters could put together jars with a sugar scrub. The scrub smelled really good - kind of like lemon bars. So the point of the morning was that sisters could come do ministering interviews, but before or after meeting with a presidency member, they could eat and socialize and stuff. I think the sisters who came really appreciated it.

There was also a baptism in our ward on Saturday - right smack dab in the middle of our ministering interviews, but at the other building. [This girl is the grand daughter of one of the widows in the ward and sister of another girl] who was baptized a couple weeks ago. There will also be another baptism on Tuesday (same time as our other date for ministering interviews this quarter so once again I won't be able to go... but I will send a counselor who didn't have many people signed up that evening.) This baptism will be the wife and step daughter of a less-active member who is returning to the church. It is really exciting to see all the baptisms and reactivating happening in our ward.

I don't know if I'll have much opportunity to talk with you tomorrow. Josh and Peter have an orthodontist appointment in the morning at 11am, and I'm going to need to get them out of school for it. So just in case I don't get to talk with you, I love you so much!!! Keep up the good work!

Lots of love,


Dear Hannah,

How are things going? Did you enjoy the devotional with President Nelson? I know your Dad has been excited about that and is looking forward to hearing more about it.

Tomorrow is Labor Day and we are looking forward to a weekday off from school and work and the like. We were hoping that the boys would finish cleaning their rooms sufficiently yesterday that we could go hike or do something fun tomorrow, but they didn't quite finish so we'll see. My parents are coming on Wednesday to stay with us for a week, so it is important to me that the bedrooms get cleaned this weekend. I spent yesterday working on the rest of the house, including scrubbing the boys shower. *shudder* (That bathroom needs to be cleaned more often than it has been lately.)

This week I've had quite a bit of Relief Society stuff. We did another round of ministering interviews Tuesday evening. I missed the baptisms of a new member and her daughter that evening, but one of my counselors went to the baptism and I was able to visit with the newbie member the next morning. I also visited two sisters who recently moved into the ward within a few days of each other, and did some ministering visits of my own.

Josh and Peter went to the orthodontist on Monday. Josh got a thicker wire put in and Peter had a couple canines that have been hiding in the back connected to the wire so they can start moving forward into the spaces that have recently been created for them. As a result of all this, both boys spent the first couple days of the week in some discomfort. I tried to convince Peter to take some ibuprofen or something to ease the pain, but apparently taking a pill is worse than the pain from having his teeth rearranged.

I've taken John to do some more clothes shopping. I think we have all the clothing items he needs for his mission except for a few things we ordered online that should arrive in the next couple days. All that's left are odds and ends - like a first aid kit and moleskin. He only has a couple weeks left! We haven't received his travel plans yet, so I don't know if his visa has come.

I guess that is all the news from here. I love you!!!


Dear Hannah,

Hello! How are things going? I hope you have enjoyed your week.

Grandma and Grandpa came on Wednesday evening. I've loved having them here, playing games and just talking. Yesterday the boys and Grandma and Grandpa and I went to the park and had fun tossing a frisbee around, and then just sitting around in the shade enjoying the breeze. (I brought the camera, so here are a few pictures I took at the park.)

Last night they took all of us out to dinner at Applebees. That was a lot of fun, and then Grandma and I walked home to work off some of the delicious food we had eaten. I've liked having someone to walk with. 

Today John spoke in sacrament meeting. His topic was "Jesus Christ" (can you imagine a more generic topic?). He did a really good job, I thought. He took the scripture, "Learn of me and listen to my word, walk in the meekness of my spirit and you shall have peace in me." He broke it down and gave lots of scriptural examples. I think he is going to be a great teacher as a missionary... my biggest worries for him are more for communication with his companions. I think he has everything he needs for his mission now, except for his travel plans. We still don't know if he will be going to Provo or Sao Paulo on the 18th.

April and the kids came down and attended church with us to hear John speak. (Dean was on his way to Washington DC on a business trip.) They left Owen (their dog) at our house during church. Then we all had dinner together this evening (lasagna). It was kind of chaotic with everyone here (I'm sure you can imagine.) Mostly the dog stayed outside, carefully tied to a rope so he couldn't get at anything he shouldn't get to, but then it started to rain so they brought him inside and put him in a kennel, where he barked occasionally. Ishmael watched him from a wary distance, but Lala hid under my bed the whole time they were here.

I was hoping that Grandma and Grandpa would be around tomorrow to talk with you, but it sounds like they will be heading out early tomorrow morning. They are travelling to Missouri next to visit with the Browns and the Cardons.

I guess that's all the news from here. I love you! We always pray for you, but let us know if there are specific things that you would like us to pray for!


 Dear Hannah,

Happy,Happy Birthday!!! How does it feel to be 20? I hope your day is going well and that you have found some fun way to celebrate it!

So the big news here is that John got his visa, so he is heading to the Brazil CTM this week. His flight leaves here Tuesday around noon, but stops in Dallas, Texas for a couple hours before heading off to Brazil. I hope you get a chance to see him.

As far as other news... on Tuesday we had a RS activity. [A sister in the ward] answered questions about womens health. We talked about things like pregnancy and childbirth, how often certain health tests should be done, and ended up talking about mental health things like anxiety and depression. It was actually very interesting.

Peter talked to the Westminster City people again and has a definite plan for what his eagle project will be. Dad took him to Lowe's yesterday to start figuring out what all materials he will need and how much they would cost.

I'm not sure what else to tell you... I had a cold with a headache for a few days this week so basically sat around reading and not doing much else for the last half of the week.

I love you so much! I'm grateful that you have chosen to serve the Lord and I know that you are doing a great work! I'm so proud of you!!!