Monday, May 29, 2006


How much of our lives is spent waiting? There's the minor kind of waiting: in line at the grocery store; on hold on the phone; for that web page to load. But what about the bigger waiting: waiting until you get married; waiting until you graduate; waiting for births--and deaths.

Until my father was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago, I never realized how much waiting is involved in illness. Wait to find out if that suspicious mass is cancerous, wait to discover if it has spread throughout the body, wait to see how the chemo works, wait to see if radiation is called for, wait, wait, wait. I thought the days-long waits between doctor visits difficult; the week-long waits between full-body scans and the results were agonizing.

But nothing has been worse than the wait for Daddy to die. He lost his ability to speak above a whisper in the middle of April--the cancer has killed one of his vocal cords. The tumor in his spine causes extreme pain. Taking his medicines every four hours is an agonizing process because of his throat issues. He doesn't rest well, nor is he really very awake most of the time.

My parents called all the children down to Vegas just under two weeks ago--Daddy felt that everyone needed to come as soon as possible, to say good-bye. And that was a wonderful, heart-rending, terrible, beautiful experience. We were all able to talk to him, together and individually, all his brothers and sisters were in town to say good-bye, he was released from his stake calling in a special priesthood meeting.

And yet he still waits. With my angel mother and selfless sister at his side, he waits for death. And all of us--scattered back to our various homes--wait for the phone to ring, to tell us to come home for the funeral.

I hate waiting. Part of me wants this to happen quickly--selfishly, so I can get back to my life, not have to condition everything with "Well, I'd be happy to do that if I'm not in Vegas on Saturday". Wincing and hoping everytime the phone rings. I'm waiting to stop feeling guilty--it really will be a release, both for him and my mother, but something in me can't wish for the death of my father. My daddy. I'm waiting to stop feeling wretched. And I'm waiting for the time when I can see him again, happy and full of life.

I hate waiting.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Martin Harris and Me

My usually cheerful 2 year old was unusually whiney. He woke up from his nap in an uncontrollable fit. It took me twenty minutes of soothing talk and songs to get him calmed down enough for the two of us to get 30 more minutes of nap. When we awoke, we wandered upstairs to the living room and opened the Sunday paper.

I'd finished reading the paper and was flipping through the ads, looking for any especially good Memorial Day deals. I noted a good price on a carpet steam cleaner. I've wanted one for a long time and it came in very handy at Grandma and Grandpa's house last week when the kids were puking everywhere. I set the ad aside to show it to Keryn and discuss the purchase.

Ezra, the two year old, had been playing on the floor near me and then came up and asked if he could sit in my lap. "Lap? Sit in my lap?" he said. I let him climb up on my lap as we continued to flip through the ads. He started to whimper again. "Lay down?" I moved him off my lap and laid him down next to me on the couch.

After a short moment he started to cry again. I could see that he was pursing his lips. I quickly sat him back up and he gagged a couple of times. A tiny amount of fluid dribbled down his lip.

I quickly moved him into the tiled bathroom and wiped off his face. As I started to lead him out of the bathroom he protested. He wanted to stay in the bathroom. Darn those irrational two year olds! I figured that if I was going to be stuck in the bathroom with him, I had better grab a book.

I picked up the copy of "By the Hand of Mormon" that I purchased last week. I wasn't very far into the book and thought I could get a bit further as Ezra sat on my lap on the hard floor of the bathroom.

I read out loud about Martin Harris helping Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon. I read about Mrs. Harris's frustration at not being able to see the golden plates. I read (with particular drama) the lines where Joseph exclaimed in agony that his soul was lost when Martin lost the only copy of the 116 page manuscript they had translated thus far. It was very painful for Joseph, not only because he'd lost something so precious, but because the Lord had told him it wasn't a good thing to do... twice. But the Lord relented, Joseph lent the manuscript to Martin, and the pages were lost.

Before long both Ezra and my legs fell asleep. Gingerly I stood up and Ezra awoke. I explained that we were going to go sit on the couch and that he was still welcome to sit on my lap. He protested only slightly and we settled in on the couch. I continued my reading about the chastisement Joseph received for failing to pay attention to the things God was telling him. Ezra started to whimper again. "Lay down?" I moved him off my lap and laid him down next to me on the couch.

After a couple of minutes he started to point toward the door. "Over there! Over there!"

"You're okay," I assured him. I turned back to my book. I was pretty into it at this point. Shortly, I hear a little groan. Before I can do anything, I see Ezra, lying on his back with the equivalent of Old Faithful spewing from his mouth. Boy, clothes, and couch are drenched in filth.

I'm just so grateful that as I read about Martin Harris I was able to take the message of what I was reading to heart. That I was able to learn to watch for signs of things about to transpire and to trust in more informed voices than my own.

Now excuse me. I have to go move the laundry along.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dumb Risks

President Faust gave a talk in Priesthood session where he warned the young men about taking foolish risks.
Why did he jump [from an 80 foot cliff into the water]? What was he trying to prove? The young men who dared him didn’t care and probably don’t even remember that foolish act. But Kieth realized afterward that he had made what could easily have been a fatal decision. He had yielded to the pressure of friends expecting him to do what he didn’t want to do. He knew better. He said: “I was living in the world, and at that moment I was of the world because I was not in control of myself. I was not making decisions about my own life. The world made the decisions for me, … and [I] had barely avoided being in the world about six feet deep.”
A story on NPR this week illustrated the result of such decisions. An extreme skier, whose goal it was to be first person to ski backcountry mountain slopes, died at the age of 48. Not a bad old age for such a risky sport as the commentator seems to admit. The sad part is that he was not a bachelor. He left behind a two year old child. A child that must grow up fatherless because his father thought seeking thrills was being productive. I'm not convinced.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An End Draws Near

I watched my son, his blonde hair blowing in the Las Vegas wind. He stood outside the home of his maternal grandparents , briefly pausing from pushing a toddler's walker. At two and a half, he didn't need the walker but thoroughly enjoyed running up and down the front sidewalk with it.

Full of joy, he was unaware that his grandfather lay inside near death.

And why should he know? His life is so innocent and hopeful.

I looked at him and wondered what the scene might be like when it is his turn to face death. I wondered but dared not imagine. My mind couldn't linger long on the thought. It is too horrible to face; too painful for a parent who only sees the brightest future. Death is too grim for me to contemplate for my own offspring even though I believe in the glorious eternity beyond. My thoughts returned to the weakened figure inside the house. A sharp pain stung my heart and I fought to choke back the surge of emotion.

Perhaps I lack sufficient faith. I have a spiritual witness of the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ. That gives me an intellectual comfort when those I love face their passage from mortality. But there is still much pain associated with death in mortality in spite of the eternal truths I know in my mind.

Today a part of my pain is to consider that this little tow-head will not remember his grandfather. To miss an opportunity to know a man as great as Michael Dale Tobler is a sad thing indeed. Another part of the pain is to watch a mother watch her son dying of lung cancer--the same disease that took her husband. How she must chafe and wonder at the cruel irony that two stalwart Mormon men contract lung cancer having never touched a cigarette.

But the greatest pain in my heart is for a wife who must face the prospect of the remainder of her mortal probation without her helpmeet.

May God grant the peace that passeth all understanding and give us faith to overcome our sorrow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Consolation of Israel

While I was growing up, my siblings and I created a Christmas tradition. Every Christmas morning, starting when we moved into the "new" house (17 years ago now), we would put on a Christmas play. Usually heavily based on Disney cartoons--Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Christmas Carol according to Mickey (the first time we made up our own story, even we were bored silly) these plays had little or nothing to do with Christmas itself. Rather, it was a time to get the kids together doing something with costumes, special effects (aluminum foil over the windows, flashlights covered with green material), and rehearsals that only rarely ended in tears. On Christmas morning we would wake up extra early, practice one more time (all the while resisting the urge to peek at the tree downstairs), and finally wake Daddy and Mommy up for the theatrical event of the year. For an audience of two we would sing, dance, moan, cackle, laugh, and cry until the "happily ever after" ending. After accepting the applause, we would line up to troop downstairs for presents.

We kept this tradition going for years, even after my oldest sister (the main support of the project) went to college. We'd just cram our rehearsals into the few days before Christmas after she returned from school. We continued while she was on her mission in France, and even after the second oldest got married. But it got harder and harder, with half the siblings out of the house and starting their own lives. So the tradition died out.

But the last such "event" will always remain precious in my memory. It was the Christmas of 1999. My oldest sister had been teaching school for a year, my second sister had two children, my brother had returned from his mission just a few weeks previously. I was in my first year of grad school. We decided that a fairy tale play just wasn't going to happen, but we wanted to do something--and my oldest sister had a great idea (naturally). She'd noticed, in the Bible Dictionary, the long lists under the heading Christ, Names of. What if we put together a little devotional, for Christmas Eve, centered around the names and roles of Christ in our life? At Thanksgiving, we each chose a name we wanted to focus on and research, and then prepared during the month of December.

I chose "Consolation of Israel":
"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him." Luke 2:25
The man of Jerusalem, Simeon, had waited years for the birth of the Savior--waited for the rescue that the Consolation of Israel brings to all of us.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isaiah 9:2
Darkness is not just doubt, fear, pain, unhappiness, disappointment--it is also the doubt and fear that comes from sin--apostasy. This is the way that all of us need Christ, need the consolation that He brings, that He is. It is wonderful and essential for us to have Him to turn to when we are lonely or aching or afraid--but we have to turn to Him to save us from our sins, to rescue us from our apostasy. There is no other way, no other name, whereby salvation can come.

Christmas Eve was a very special night. My parents didn't have a clue that it wasn't going to be a play this time. We set up the big upstairs room with a table covered with symbols of Christ--a vine, bread, water, a crown, a rock, a candle, a shepherd's crook. We each presented the name we had chosen, and in between we read all the names of Christ from the Bible Dictionary. It was a beautiful, spiritual event that set the perfect tone for the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions--reading the Nativity story from the Bible, and then bearing our testimonies. It was the perfect final performance of the Christmas plays.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Burdens of Our Own Choosing

Today in fast and testimony meeting, a sister I'll call "Ann" stood and bore her testimony. She is fairly new in the ward, but I know a little about her because she has two Primary age children who sometimes (as will happen) have a hard time acting reverently in Primary. Ann spoke about how sometimes it's hard when she compares her life to her siblings' lives--they seem to have such easy and trial-free lives while hers is very, very difficult, and filled with a lot of burdens. But then she remembers what her dad tells her: "God won't give you more burdens than you can handle". Ann concluded, "God must know that I am strong enough to handle a lot of burdens." (Although I'm using Ann as a springboard for my thoughts on the subject, I want to be clear that I do not know everything about her life. There could be extenuating circumstances or details of which I am not aware.)

This struck me as perhaps fundamentally incorrect. I know that God won't tempt us beyond that which we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), and I know that He won't leave us to deal with our troubles alone, if we but ask and repent. But I think that our own choices account for many (NOT ALL) of our trials, and we can't put the responsibility for suffering those trials on God.

To use Ann as an example, she was raised in a stalwart LDS home. She wants to raise her children in a like manner, and she does her best to do so. She, however, married outside of the church. Some of the trials she mentioned (bringing the kids to church alone, trying to listen to the talks while wrestling with three children under the age of six, not making it every week because a lack of support) are a direct result of a choice she made.

It may be comforting to think, "I have these problems because God knows I'm strong enough", and oftentimes that may be harmless. But I see at least two problems with this way of thinking:
  • It doesn't teach true principles, and it may lead away from better choices and correct teachings. (If I don't think it was my own actions that led to my problems, I'm not likely to change my actions or discourage anyone from following my example.)
  • Many times the corollary to this way of thinking is that others don't have those problems because they aren't strong enough, or righteous enough. (Don't laugh. This has actually been mentioned to my parents in the context of righteous children: The strongest, most righteous families are sent the troublesome, wayward children, because those families are the only ones strong enough to raise them.)
This is a principle best applied to our own lives. After all, if we are honest with ourselves, we are the ones in the best position to judge if we are blaming our troubles on some whim of an experimenting, unfair God (God: "Let's see, oh he can handle this." ZAP!). And if we do realize that our own actions are the cause of our troubles, then perhaps with that new-found humility we can more easily gain the comfort and the support from heaven that we so desperately need.

The Foreknowledge of Man

Had Adam and Eve known the way their hearts would be tugged and torn, could they have ever partaken of the fruit? It appears that they had many children before they had Cain, Abel, and Seth. Those earlier children were all apparently raised without the gospel. They became pretty wicked. For a parent, who learns later how they might have done better in raising their children, it must be painful to watch as your offspring go their own way, ignoring your newfound wisdom.

Can you imagine the mental and emotional anguish that Eve and Adam must have gone through when Cain killed Abel? I'm sure that I cannot. How can a parent deal with such brutal information?

Satan tempted Adam and Eve into the Fall, not understanding the mind of God on the matter. So much for his foreknowledge. Suppose he had had just a bit more foreknowledge and persuasive power. Suppose that he told them about the things that were going to transpire with their children, including the homicide. Suppose he was able to help them understand what pain that was going to entail for them. Would they have foregone the fruit?

What parent, with perfect foreknowledge, would ever dare bring a child into the world? If Eve had known what Cain would become, how would she have treated him as an infant or a toddler in those precious moments when he was smiling up at her or giggling wildly as she tickled him?

I am so grateful that God has not given me foreknowledge in the matters pertaining to my own family. It leaves a "space for joy" in my daily interactions with my family. That phrase, "a space for joy," I'm borrowing from the excellent play, Polly: A One Woman Musical by Stephen Kapp Perry and performed by his wife Johanne Frechette Perry. Perhaps I'll write a fuller review of the DVD sometime. Until I do, just go buy it and watch it. It's worth it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We Feel So Famous!

It was fun to be featured in an interview at the Blogger of Jared. Thanks again to Eric for inviting Keryn and me to participate. It is amazing to me how broad the reach of something as simple as our blog can be.

Keryn and I have loved having Google Analytics installed for our site. It gives us a sense for how many humans visit our site each day (as opposed to web crawlers). One of my favorite things to look at is the map of locations where we get visitors from. The map shown here is an indication of where we've had visitors from during the past week. This includes both our religious blog and our political one, though mostly only people from Utah read the political blog.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Priesthood of Aaron: The Shocking Truth Behind the Title

The Aaronic Priesthood is named after Aaron, the brother of Moses. This is the same Aaron who buckled to peer pressure and fashioned a golden calf. This is the same Aaron who chaffed under the leadership of his fallible brother. This is the same Aaron who saw God.

This is the same priesthood held by teenage boys in the church today. All of the sudden it makes so much sense!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.