Monday, June 30, 2008

One Nation, Under God

Corey and I spoke in Church yesterday. Here's a copy of Corey's Talk

"One Nation, Under God"

To help get us in the right frame of mind for the 4th of July, we've been asked to speak on the phrase: "One Nation, Under God."

The words, of course, come from the United States' pledge of allegiance. The pledge is an oath of loyalty recited at many public events. When I was in school, we'd frequently recite the pledge before the start of class. My wife is an avid student of history, but I have a lot more to learn. I just assumed that the pledge of allegiance spontaneously appeared (by inspiration of course) on July 4, 1776 along with the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Star Spangled Banner, Washington D.C. and many other tokens of America.

So, I was quite surprised to learn that the pledge was actually written in 1892 by a Socialist by the name of Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was forced to leave his ministerial position at a Baptist Church in Boston because of his extreme socialist sermons. He later went to work for the National Public School System where he published the pledge in a children's magazine. The pledge originally read like this: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". It did not refer to the United States and did not have the phrase "under God". Bellamy revered the slogan of the French Revolution "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" and strongly considered putting the word "equality" into the pledge.

Today, we put our hands over our heart when we recite the pledge, but in Bellamy's day, children would raise their arm straight toward the flag just like the Nazi salute. I was quite surprised to learn about this seemingly un-American aspect of the pledge. It was the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution that pushed for the change from "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States of America.". When reading history, it's interesting to see how things that we take for granted often come with a struggle, and evolve over time. Only in very rare occasions does God seem to intervene in a moment. Most of the time, it He lets things take their natural course. And even when He does intervene, he usually does so through people actively seeking to do His will. It seems that our Heavenly Father prefers that we struggle back-and-forth through this life with the consequences of our own decisions – both good and bad.

The pledge is a good example of this. It started out with a socialist bent, but was later modified to contrast with the socialist Soviet Republic. In the 1950's, the Catholic Fraternity Knights of Columbus adopted resolutions to urge Congress to include the words "under God" in the pledge. Without it, they felt like the socialist Soviets could utter the same pledge to their flag and country. Inserting "under God" emphasized the contrast.

The Knights of Columbus took inspiration from Abraham Lincoln who, when giving the Gettysburg Address, spontaneously inserted the words "under God". Lincoln made a proclamation during the Civil War that gives insight into what he meant by the words "under God." After the Union army's defeat at Bull Run, Lincoln wrote:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

"But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
"Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Lincoln warned that we had become "too self-sufficient". To me this is a great paradox. God clearly wants us to be self-sufficient. We have the example of Oliver Cowdery who was admonished to "study it out in [his] mind; then … ask if it be right". The Lord likewise left it up to the Brother of Jared to decide how to cross the ocean with light. "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" The Lord led the Children of Israel out of Egypt with pillars by day and by night, but they still had to exercise faith. Latter-day Saints followed the prophet to their own promised land, but they still had to pull their wagons with their own strength. It seems that the Lord takes every opportunity to stretch us, and yet simultaneously declares:

"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things
As with so many Gospel things, it's easier to understand the nature of our Heavenly Father through our own life lessons in parenting. We recently decided that it was time our baby girl Abigail sleep through the night on her own. We prepared a room and a crib and left her alone to cry herself to sleep. I sat outside listening to her tears, and in a moment of weakness, went inside to assure her. I held her until she fell asleep and - of course - the moment I left she was again screaming her version of "why have you forsaken me?" I couldn't think of any way to communicate that it was for the best. In reality, she would just have to suffer through it. In time, she would grow and mature enough to endure it well.

Speaking of endurance, about a year and a half ago I took my pregnant wife and five children on an adventure, leaving our townhouse in Northern Virginia to live in São Paulo, Brazil. We went to do market research for a business idea that I had that uses popular movies to teach English. Brazil has a huge English-teaching industry and we spent four months in the country to determine if this business idea had validity.

Before making the move I had done significant research on how we would make it work – but I hadn't totally committed to the venture. Everything was lined up, but I still needed to do some irreversible things such as: put money down on a place to live, quit my job, and end our housing lease. I was very anxious about the decision and went to the temple for guidance. I reasoned that the worst-case scenario was that we would return back to the US broke, in debt, with no job or place to live and would have to move into my parent's basement. I thought that things would surely go better than that, and decided to take the risk.

I went to the bank to wire a housing deposit to Brazil, but was still scared. I sat in the bank lobby for over an hour trying to muster up the courage to take the plunge. The longer I waited, the less courage I had. I felt like I knew the Lord's answer, but wanted assurance. I wanted him to reach down from heaven and compel me to the counter – but he didn't. I felt like I was all on my own and had to eventually force myself to the window before the bank closed. It was an extremely scary decision, but after I committed myself all sorts of wonderful things began to happen. In the days and weeks that followed I thought often of the inspirational quote frequently attributed to Germany's Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: (gerte)

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

For the next several weeks after making the decision I was on an emotional (perhaps even spiritual) high. I felt like I had near perfect faith and could do anything, that the power of faith transcended even the physical. Joseph Smith once said:

"If I were sunk into the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on the top of the heap."

In the excitement of committing to my dream, I began to wonder if Joseph wasn't speaking figuratively, but literally. It felt like the power to move mountains was almost within reach.

So, we moved to Brazil. But true to pattern, God let us suffer and struggle often in our new environment. We lived in the country about 20 minutes form civilization. We drank water from a well and my poor wife washed cloths and dishes by hand. Tiffanie began to think often about Lehi sojourn into the wilderness and freely confessed she would have been part of the murmur ing side of their family as they followed their visionary patriarch into the wilderness. It felt like we had to struggle for everything. Nothing seemed to just work out like we hoped or expected.

For instance, it took many days before we could purchase a car – nobody at the used car dealership seemed to be in any hurry and I had to wait and wait and wait. It took a long time to select a car and then more days to come back and actually buy. They had cars that wouldn't sell in the US for $500 washed and ready to go with the year brightly painted on the front window: "'92, '89, '90". Part of me cried inside that we agreed to pay $6,000 for a '92 VW Santana station-wagon. But I was told it was a great deal by the locals and would be very reliable. And, we could sell it back in a few months at about the same price. The dealership also had a 100% guarantee and assured me that we could pay with our American Express credit card.

The next day we discovered that the dealership doesn't accept credit cards, but their buddies down the street at a gas station would arrange for us to buy several thousand dollars of gas instead. It didn't occur to me until later that we probably violated the terms of agreement on my credit card. I used every bank card I had and ran around for a couple of hours to various ATMs trying to pull out the most cash I could before my daily limit was reached or my account was locked on suspicion of fraud. It was bizarre circus, but I was finally satisfied with myself when I gave the dealership a combination of cash and gas credits. I was proud to drive home in our fancy new ride and felt a degree of accomplishment to have actually gotten something done.

The next morning when the car wouldn't start I learned that their guarantee didn't apply on holidays or weekends. We rigged a work-around with some wire until the dealership could apply a patch. Weeks later the car overheated and the engine mount cracked – this was getting expensive. Weeks into the country, we were still carpooling, borrowing, and ferrying groceries home on the wild bus rides. I finally went back to the dealership with Ethan and Hyrum late one night to pick up our fixed car. My friend Luis drove us towards the dealership, but his car broke down on the way. Nothing in Brazil seemed to work.

We walked for several blocks with my tired and anxious kids on our shoulders fearing the dealership had closed. But, we were thrilled to see that our salesperson was still there. It was a great moment to get back into that car. 20 minutes later, my boys and I were on the freeway when the front hood flew up and cracked the windshield. I couldn't see anything as we were driving about 55 MPH. I carefully veered off the side of the road into the grass and sat in the dark night with my scared sons wondering what to do. The accident could have easily been fatal, and yet I felt warm assurance of protection. The words of Hyrum Smith to his brother Joseph in a more difficult situation immediately came to my mind "The Lord is in it." Almost as if he were waiting for us, a man with an official-looking uniform with a flashlight ran over to help us. He called a tow truck and we were soon at Luis' house with our broken car.

I had done my absolute best and failed. We didn't have the resources to buy or rent another car and our situation was looking grim. As you can imagine, Tiffanie was very stressed - and so was I. We had done all that we could do, and I couldn't think of anything else. Fortunately God's grace entered the picture. As I paced the floor in worry, one of my friends contacted me to ask how we were doing, and if he could lend us his car for the rest of our stay in Brazil. It was an absolute miracle – without a doubt. God had directly intervened through another person. He was aware of our situation and cared. And it turns out that the car we borrowed – a 2-door hatchback – was just the right size for a family of 7.

We had some positive experiences in Brazil, but it was about 90% struggle. One of my greatest experiences there was teaching classes to members of the church interested in attending graduate school at BYU. My classes aimed to help them pass the GMAT entrance exam. One of our students once told me 'If you wanted to stay in Brazil and teach these classes to the public – you could live like a king.' I thought for a moment about the money he said I could make and then responded that "In America, everyone lives like a king." Comparatively speaking, it's absolutely true. We have been tremendously blessed. Our time in Brazil made us all the more aware of the wonderful blessing we have in this country.

Not only do we live in abundance, but we are free from fear. We tend trust our public officials and believe in the rule of law. I absolutely love Brazil, but it's kind of like the wild-wild west where most everyone lives behind iron bars outside their home. Everyone, it seems, has first-hand stories of kidnappings, ransoms, shootings, and altercations with the police. Back home in Utah everything seems to abound in wealth, beauty, and peace. The other night Tiffanie and I recognized the contrast when we discovered our greatest annoyance with our house has been the dead spots on our lawn.

We've had about a dozen students from my classes admitted to BYU. One wrote me after arriving in Utah saying simply: "You live in an amazing country!" He's absolutely right.

We felt protected by God while living in Brazil, and I looked forward to things getting easier when we returned home. We had significant market research on the English teaching industry and a working product prototype. However, things with our business didn't just take off as expected. In fact, my worst-case scenario came true. We returned to the US broke, in debt, with no job or place and living in my parent's basement. We kept working and waiting for something to happen, but it never seemed to come. Apparently Lord felt there was more we could do on our own. It has been a rough ride, and I find myself often wondering about the hand of the Lord – and wanting more direct help on his part.

A few weeks ago our children were out learning to ride bikes for the first time. Joseph didn't have any sense of balance, so I held onto the bike most of the time and chased alongside him. The most comfortable position for me was to grab onto the back of his neck. As a result, he tended to lean into me and ride at about a 70 degree angle. He put all of his weight into my hand with absolute and total dependence. I wanted to be there for him, but I also wanted him to be self-sufficient. Eventually I felt like the best thing to do was to let him struggle on his own. I stayed near and gave tips and advice – but he had to figure his way through it. Joseph can now ride just great – and likewise – things are beginning to pick up with our business. The Lord is there, but he stands back enough so we can grow.

I've often wished that the Lord would hold onto the back of my neck – that he'd hold me and let me ride above my ability. And then sometimes, I wish he'd back off a little. Years before I married my wife I hung up from a phone call with her. I felt very much in love and said a quick prayer telling the Lord that she was the woman I would choose to marry. To my great surprise, I had a very strong, immediate, and unambiguous answer of "Yes!" It shocked me – and I even resented it. I wasn't really ready for that answer and certainly not to commit myself. I actually felt like my free agency had been taken away. It was only my first year of BYU and there were lots of women I'd still like to date.

No, God's usual pattern is to whisper. Rather than seek God's overt intervention – it's better to seek his will. That is what I believe being "under God" truly means. Don't seek for divine intervention; seek out his will. Elder Neil A. Maxwell has said:

"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give,' … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!"

The Lord is not going to intervene and dictate the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. If the recent movement to remove the words "under God" from the pledge succeeds, God will not stop it. Likewise, God will not unilaterally stop the redefinition of the family that is occurring in many parts of our world. God is also not likely to overrule the voice of the people in who we elect as our next President. Frankly, he's placed us here to steer our nation and put it "under God." We live in a land that is both promised and cursed. If we seek the Lord, we "shall prosper upon the face of this land; and … be kept from all other nations." Our country was established for the Lord's purposes, and we must not distance ourselves or our country from Him.

That said, we also live in a pluralistic society – with a belief that the separation of Church and State is absolute. So, I can understand the hesitancy one may have to keep God in the public sphere. However, if we choose not to be a nation "under God"; we aren't choosing to be independent and free from influence. We will simply choose another influence.

In this month's First Presidency message, President Henry B. Eyring says:
"men and women have falsely argued from the beginning of time, that to take counsel from the servants of God is to surrender God-given rights of independence. But the argument is false because it misrepresents reality. When we reject the counsel that comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence….In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred.

Our country was founded and has prospered on a Christian world-view. We now appear to be adopting a new State religion of Secularism. Adherence to God is being replaced with piety for Mother Nature. My point is, if we drive God out of our country, he will not intervene, and we will simply believe in something else. During the First World War, German prisoners of war were all found with Bibles. But in the Second World War, there was hardly a Bible found. Germans instead carried with them lucky charms, lucky swastikas, and rabbits' feet.

We should not sit on the sidelines expecting God's voice to thunder when things go wrong. We should seek to discover His will and advance it. That is what it means to be "under God."

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

In God We Trust

Corey and I spoke in Church yesterday. Here's a copy of my talk


I love the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner ~ it reads:

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"

We will be a nation under God as each of us as individual citizens and people learn through our daily experiences and trials to cleave to God and put our complete trust in Him. In beginning my remarks on Trust in God, I'd like to share with you an experience I had that has helped me remember God's goodness to me...

Corey finished graduate school at BYU two years ago. At a Stake Conference we attended during our time there, a newly called Stake Presidency and their wives were invited to share their testimonies. As part of one of the wive's testimonies, she said "I know I married the right person." As she said that, I was impressed that I should remember God goodness in hearing my prayers and giving me the right person. I also realized that my marriage is a part of my testimony of the Gospel. I know God answered my prayers in giving Corey to me.

For I did pray, long and hard, to have him. Corey and I met at the beginning of 7th grade in a HomeEc class. I knew at that time that he was the kind of man (boy) that I wanted to marry. I don't have proof of that until the 9th grade, where I wrote in my journal that I wanted to marry him... or... someone exactly like him. Through Jr. High and High School I spent my freetime calculating my plan of attack. I took up rollerhockey, joined the chess club, science club, asked him to Prom dances, took AP courses, memorized his class schedule and found out his locker combination and did everything else I could in effort to be in the same room or hallway as him. ...and, although marriage was far off, I prayed to God at that time and on into my college years and asked God to let me marry him ...and it was then, in college - after he entered the "find your companion" atmosphere of BYU - that he finally began to come around and thought he might like to date me.

I'm forever grateful to BYU's dating and courtship environment that finally after 6 years helped Corey relent and give me a chance at winning his affection. It was a little harder at that time cause we were going to college at different schools, but lucky for us, that year of 1994 was the year our colleges began to use EMAIL. So we have a good record of our very first email messages to each other and officially started dating. On February 19, 1995, we had our first kiss. After I returned home that night, I got out a 5 year calendar and after calculating the time that serving missions would separate, I WROTE DOWN in my journal that night that I would marry him in exactly four years on February 19, 1999, which was a Friday, so it would work out good. He left for his mission to Santiago Chile, and I served a Spanish speaking mission in Tempe Arizona, and I flew down to my mission the same week his parent's flew to Chile to pick him up from his mission. So we missed each other by a few days and a couple thousand miles, but it would turn out to be 3 and a half years of letter writing before we saw each other again. Two months after I got home from my mission, we were married...(just like I had written in my journal...) on February 19, 1999, the day of the 4 year anniversary of our first kiss. So right now I want to testify of the importance of writing in your journal and writing down your goals!

So I did pray to marry Corey, but during one difficult time on my mission, when he was an RM, dating, at BYU, I felt I needed to be willing to consider the possibility of him not marrying me. I remember asking God to take away my concerns about home and help me to focus more on the work. ...And in a small way of turning my will over to the Lord, I told him I was willing to sacrifice what I wanted most for what God wanted. Looking back, that my prayers were eventually answered in the way I wanted, but at that time going forward, when I did not know what the future would hold, I had to exercise faith and learn to TRUST IN GOD and his timing.

I testify that we can turn our lives over to God, and he will not give us a stone when we ask for bread. As the Savior taught, "If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask him.

But we are often times challenged to endure, to trust in God and his timing. I love the hymn "Come thou font of Every blessing, particularly where it sings "Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, o take a seal it, Seal it for thy courts above." I have felt the spirit testify to me strongly at times that the Gospel is true and at those times I pray for God to help me remember how wonderful it feels and to burn those memories into my heart. But I know it will only be a short time before I am struggling again and am having a hard time feeling His Spirit close to me guiding me. That is a natural pattern in this fallen world where the natural man in us is prone to wander and forget the God we love.

I'd like to speak on 3 ways we can show God that we trust him: Through PATIENCE, GRATITUDE, and ENDURANCE


Patience is tied very closely to trust in our Heavenly Father. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that "when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His" ("Patience," Ensign, Oct. 1980, 28).

We can grow in faith only if we are willing to wait patiently for God's purposes and patterns to unfold in our lives, on His timetable.

When we lived near DC two years ago, we traveled to Yorktown for the 225th anniversary of the Siege at Yorktown, which in 1781 was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War campaign that eventually secured America's victory. That battle was fought in 1781, but it was not for two more years that the war formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During those two years, the future still was uncertain, and they endured with patience and trust in God.

A 2nd way to show God we trust him is to be Grateful. I love the Thanksgiving holiday. It became very special to me when I first read the Thanksgiving Proclamation that George Washington issued in October 1789. It states:

It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and to acknowledge with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

The proclamation continues by recognizing God as that "great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be;" I know that God is good and am so grateful for this free nation that he established for us.

A third way to show our Trust is through enduring to the end.

Elder Eyring said "the test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty, it is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remember him and the commandments he gave us. And to endure well those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us." (April 2004)

Difficult circumstances surround us that are consistent with prophesy about the last days which surround us in these last days, we must never let fear divert us from faithful living. There have always been questions about the future.

Every person in every era has had to walk by faith into what has always been some uncertainty—starting with Adam and Eve in those first tremulous steps out of the Garden of Eden to Moses, Lehi, and Brigham Young, each leaving their homes for the desert and wilderness. But that is all right - this is the plan. Just press forward. Like those pioneers, you do have to keep moving—one step and then another and then the next. That is how tasks are accomplished, that is how goals are achieved, and that is how frontiers are conquered.

Elder Holland
"God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities."

"God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe."

George Washington called the founding of the United States a miracle, and I think he would know. He was more aware than anyone of all the problems and difficulties America faced. Yet he pressed forward. Also, as we look back upon the founding of this country from the privileged perspective of the present, it can read with the charm of a great adventure story with a happy ending for the American Side, but this is not a version that Washington would have recognized or endorsed. "Hindsight History" glides smoothly toward reordained conclusions, but for Washington and the founders, they traveled a bumpy road toward an uncertain destination.

I read 1776 by David McCollough. That book made me feel like I was in the midst of that terrible, miraculous year. It is amazing to read how close we came to failure. And inspiring to read of the courage and perseverence in the face of such desperation.

When we lived in Virginia, I was able to visit the Brandywine Battlefield in Pennsylvania. The US lost this battle in 1777, Perhaps they doubted God's support for them and felt abandoned. There is a story that proves that even though they lost, God was there:

Patrick Fergueson was a soldier for the British. The muskets most of the soldiery used in the Revolutionary war were guns that did not shoot straight - the balls would bounce of the sides of the barrel as they were shot out, but Fergueson was an excellent rifleman and designed his own breechloading rifle that had amazing accuracy. At the battle of Brandywine, he had in target an American officer, but decided to not pull the trigger because it was ungentlemanly to shoot a man in the back of the head. He later learned that this man was George Washington, but said even knowing that he still would not have shot.

So they were in the third year of the Revolutionary War, they lost that battle, and it might seem like God wasn't helping them? But God was there, and protected Washington, the only truly indispensible figure in the founding of this nation.

--------(That was all of the talk that I gave, I cut it short to make sure Corey had enough time for all his talk, which he had read to me at home and I thought it was great. But if I had finished, here's the rest of what I would have said, and ended it with my testimony of how God has blessed America.)-------

Perhaps we rationalized - Well, those were the Founders, God says he raised them up for that purpose. But there's nothing too incredible or important going on here right now or in my life, that's why I'm just another average person." Well, I think the Founders and God may have more faith in us that we have in ourselves. What are we capable of accomplishing?

"When one young man tried to congratulate (John Adams) for belonging to a truly heroic generation, Adams felt obliged to correct him: "I ought not to object to your reverence for your fathers, meaning those concerned with the direction of public affiars," he cautioned, "but to tell you a very great secret, as far as I am capable of comparing the merit of different periods, I have no reason to believe that we were better than you are."

Elder Maxwell
"When in situations of stress we wonder if there is any more in us to give, we can be comforted to know that God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed. No one was foreordained to fail or to be wicked. When we have been weighed and found wanting, let us remember that we were measured before and we were found equal to our tasks; and, therefore, let us continue, but with a more determined discipleship. When we feel overwhelmed, let us recall the assurance that God will not overprogram us; he will not press upon us more than we can bear (D&C 50:40)." ("Meeting the Challenges of Today," in Devotional Speeches of the Year, Provo: Brigham Young University, 1978, p. 156.)

President Benson
"A few years ago, we knew our Elder Brother and our Father in heaven well. We rejoiced at the upcoming opportunity for earth life that could make it possible for us to have a fullness of joy like they had. We could hardly wait to demonstrate to our Father and our Brother, the Lord, how much we loved them and how we would be obedient to them in spite of the earthly opposition of the evil one.

And now we're here—our memories are veiled—and we're showing God and ourselves what we can do. And nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us. And then, as President Brigham Young said, we're going to wonder why we were so stupid in the flesh.

God loves us. He's watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we'll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, there are heavenly hosts pulling for us—friends in heaven that we can't remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do—what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Washington and Patrick Ferguson

GEORGE WASHINGTON - The only truly indispensable figure in the American Revolution, and one of my all time heros.

Corey and I are giving talks at church on Sunday, and since it is the Sunday before the 4th of July, we have been given the topic of "One Nation Under God". I am having a little bit of a hard time finding a nitch to focus my remarks around, but I think it will be about how we show our unity as a nation by the things we do individually to demonstrate our Trust in God, and a tangent I might go on in how we don't have to worry about our lives, (which you have to admit we really don't have much control over anyway) because we have been promised that if we are righteous, we will not be taken before our appointed time. That made me think of the following story that I read about when we were living near DC and went up to Pennsylvania to visit the Brandywine Battlefield. First, a little background:


Joining the British army at age 15, Patrick Ferguson was a well known marksman and the inventor of a breechloading rifle. The son of a Scottish judge, Ferguson had an affable disposition, a gentle face and was slight of build. Nevertheless, his soldiers named him "Bulldog."

Ferguson distinguished himself early on in his military career. Serving as a cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons, Ferguson was considered by his superiors as a courageous fighter during the wars of Flanders and Germany in the 1760's. In 1768, he joined the Seventieth Regiment of Foot in the West Indies, where British troops engaged in guerilla warfare with the native Carib tribes. Ferguson went for garrison duty at Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1773 but soon became bored.

Ferguson's ability with a rifle was well known. While visiting his family's estate in Scotland before the American Revolution, he began to develop a rifle of his own. After completing the invention, Ferguson displayed the rifle for military leaders and even King George III witnessed one of Ferguson's demonstrations.

During one demonstration, Ferguson fired at a rate of 4-6 shots per minute during pouring rain and high wind. Apparently, Ferguson only missed the target three times while firing from a distance of 200 yards -- this was not possible with the British Brown Bess musket. A patent was issued and a limited number of the breechloading rifles were produced. Ferguson established an elite rifle corps which joined Sir Henry Clinton in America. Their mission: to help stop the rebellion in the colonies.


At the Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777), Ferguson had an American officer in his gun sight. However, Ferguson did not pull the trigger, saying that "it is ungentlemanly to shoot a man in the back of the head."

Ferguson himself mentioned the incident in a letter he dictated a few months later. During the battle, he did not realize the identity of the American officer. While recuperating in the hospital from his arm injury, he discovered that the American officer in question was George Washington. Ferguson wrote that even if he had known, he would not have pulled the trigger. (Ferguson's letters are available in the library at Edinburgh University.)

Mexican Riviera Cruise with Royal Caribbean

May 18th - 25th we went on a cruise with Corey's family. With our group of 8 adults and 10 kids, we were a conspicuous gathering and caught the eyes of most passer-bys.
Corey at the airport, trying to keep the kids entertained and together in a group by reading them the tales of Mike Ramsdell in his book "A Train to Potevka" (great book I must say, a quick read and exciting, mostly about his experience as a spy in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed. I bought it at Costco and Mike was there and signed it for us. He is married to one of my cousins, Bonnie)

At the beach in Cabo with the cruise ship in the background - Hyrum is up on Corey's shoulders. What's the matter with him?
He was afraid of a dog at the beach and climbed on us the whole time shouting "I wanna go home!!!" We gotta do something to break that fear. He gets absolutely hysterical around dogs.

Formal Dinner night - The kids got lots of compliments for good behavior
from everyone in the dining hall that had a table near us.

Wesley enjoying his milk at dinner...

...then enjoying a lemonade the next day in Mazatlan.
The boy likes his drinks, nice and slow, through a straw. Gulp - Aaah!

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