Cold, Teaching, Spooky, Water, Shooting, and Smuggling: All in a Few Days' Work.

This time of the year it’s typically freezing (my idea of freezing is anything below 60 degrees) in the morning, so I lay in bed, surrounded by dog-heaters (they are actually good for something), looking though my phone until the furnace earns its keep and makes it possible for me to get out of bed. (I am finding, in my “old” age that temperature is important to me. The house has to be the right degree on the thermostat, cold or hot, for me to be content; and the pool water has to be 89 degrees for me to put a toe in the water. No matter if it’s a blistering hot summer day. Cold water is not my jam. Occasionally those who visit the pool make the mistake of saying out loud that the water is too hot. My response? “Get out and go home.” As far as I’m concerned, the gift of hot water is a direct blessing from a Higher Source.)

This morning, while I waited for a warm house, I realized I haven’t made a blog entry, religious or otherwise, in ages. And be it far from me to deprive my band of loyal blog followers—all eight of them—any longer than necessary. 

(One dare not judge their popularity, by one way or the other, by the number of individuals who read their social media postings.)

Yesterday I gratefully dispatched a Stake Relief Society gospel study class lesson I had been working on for weeks. “The Gathering of Latter-day Israel” was not a subject in my current wheelhouse, so I had to hit the “books” and try and understand what I was supposed to teach. As is always, the teacher learns more than the student. And what did I learn? That there is a lot more to learn when it comes to this subject. But I did my best, and the most satisfying part of the lesson has come to pass: the end of it. Now on to fretting over the lesson I teach next month. 

On a less religious note, a couple weeks ago I hosted the first Elk-Ridge-House-Spooky-Dinner. When we lived in Provo, this was a yearly event, but, since moving “down south” I have held the Halloween Carnival for the grandkids every year. The daughters thought that the children would be old enough to appreciate the Spooky Dinner, so I pulled out the stops and threw one heck of a one. We dined on Rat Butts, Monster Toes, Rotting Mummy Teeth, Ghose Orbs and Slime, Bat Poo, Lizard Legs, Blood and Tombstones, Canned Witch Spit,  and Swamp Sludge. (These items might be commonly known as chicken thighs, roasted potatoes, corn, rolls and butter, olives, pickles, chips and salsa, soda, and jello.) The evening was topped off with a rousing game of Halloween Pictionary, then brownies and ice cream. I sent the kids home with eyeball gum balls and gummy body parts. (I tried to eat one of the gummy brains, but couldn’t do it and had to spit it out. It was like a grayish color and everything….gross)

The next night, actual Halloween, I became the witch (but did I really? Or did I just shed the mask of Sue and become my real self?) and did my best to scare little children. I had a measure of success. It was quite satisfying. 

While I was sitting on the front step waiting for my next victim, the Husband came home. He didn’t know my plans and was caught off guard by his wife, huddled over a cauldron of candy, wearing a witch nose, covered in green skin, and wearing a full witch costume. His reaction was priceless. 

Today is water the plants day. This is every Friday, more or less. I can tell when they need moisture because Hippy begins to droop and Snag and Bruce look sad. Everyone has their “crazy,” and mine is naming my plants (purses is another-but let’s not discuss that), all 30-some of my green friends. (Jim’s crazy was lightbulbs. He left Megan a closetful.) I truly think that Cain and Abel, Candy, Flash, Cash, Ike, Delilah, Francesca, Eve the Mother of All Living, Count VonPlant, Italics, Slick, Hilts, Fred and George Weasley, Burt and Ernie, Sugar, Ivy Walker, Glen and Marilyn, Spike, Janice, Plant Pualani, Chuck, Liz, LaFern, The Frat Boys, Mufasa, and Gandhi benefit from having an identity. 

What is your crazy? We all have one.

Onna had a birthday. For her present, I took her shooting. Coni, my A Girl and a Gun Central Utah Chapter boss, agreed to give her some instruction. Coni was awesome and really helped Onna. By the end of the session, Onna was a certifiable danger to anyone who might attack her. I took the opportunity to work through two boxes of ammo to try and fix my aim with my pistol. I’m still pulling down and to the left a bit. Dang.  

Operation MTC Pizza. 
Last week I got an email from Elder Hansen (great-nephew, Briggs, who is in the Missionary Training Center in Provo getting ready to serve his two-year mission to St. George, Utah), requesting pizza. The conversation went something like this:
Email #1:
“Aunt Sue. Bring me a pepperoni pizza and a Utah flag to the drop off point behind the MTC on Monday at 9pm.”
Email #2:
“Briggs, are you serious?”
Email #3:
Email #4:
“And just where is this ‘drop off point’?”
Email #5:
I receive a Google Map picture of the area, with a red dot designating the “drop off.”
Email #6:
“I will be at the drop off at 9 with three pizzas and a full-size Utah state flag.”

So Monday evening, under cover of night, I pull up to said drop off point. Out of the darkness run two missionaries (they always come in pairs), complete with their missionary badges. We meet at the 7’ fence. I pass the flag through the slats, and the pizza boxes over the fence into the waiting hands of nephew Briggs. He says to me, “Better go before the cameras catch you.” And then he is off, disappearing into the recesses of the MTC. I speed away, feeling very much like I’m in an episode of Mission Impossible. 

Whitney said in high school she used to bring Taco Bell to friends who were at the MTC and hankering for “normal food.” I have now joined the honored ranks of fast food smugglers. It’s just my way of supporting the Church’s mission efforts. We do what we can to further the work.

Punctuation Saves Lives, and Other Truths

A great truth reoccurred to me this morning: Punctuation saves lives. 
"Let's eat Grandma." 
"Let's eat, Grandma."

Moving on. I have spent a couple mornings thinking about, and dissecting, the following verse:

"O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation." 2 Nephi 9:44-45

Gotta love that prophet Jacob. 

A few thoughts have come from my "chewings" on this verse. First, look at the power words: turn away; shake off; chains; bind you fast; and rock. 

I am reminded of one of the meanings of repentance—it is to turn from what you shouldn't be doing, and turn to the Savior.

We all know that famous painting of Christ knocking at the door that has no doorknob. We take away the message that we have to open the door; our Savior does not break the door down and force His way into our lives— EVER. We have to turn to Him. But, one thing I realized this week that I hadn't seen before: He can look through the window and hear through the door what is going on inside. He may not break the door down, but that doesn't mean He is ignorant of what we are doing. Can't hide one thing from God. Maybe that is one of the reasons He keeps knocking.

(Leaving the squirrel I just ran after, I return now to the verse.) 

Though I didn't want to go there, "shake off" took me to Taylor Swift and her song, "Shake It Off." Thanks a lot, Tay-Tay.

To bind is to tie with a flexible cord, some might even say a flaxen cord: "and [Satan] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever." (2 Nephi 26:22) A strand of flax alone cannot hold you, but many strands woven together will. One bad choice after another will bind you—restrain you—and you might as well be chained.

I had to ask myself, "Self, what 'flaxen cord' choices are you making that will lead to a chain that is harder to break? GET OUT NOW!"

You bind with flexibility ("I can do this one little thing, it won't hurt…" famous last words) until it's too late to get away easily. 

But, lest we despair, the verse ends with the rock of our salvation who is Jesus Christ. 

Few things are firmer than a rock that is anchored in the earth. Like an iceberg, you can't see what is below the surface. So it is with the Savior. To the casual observer, Christ looks like a nice guy with good values; a gifted teacher. But look deeper, dig into His gospel, and you find His deeper Self—the grace, mercy, love, patience, guidance, sacrifice, help, peace, vision, forgiveness, direction, and strength which go on forever. 

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

Compose a song about THAT, Tay-Tay. I dare you.

"Isaiah, dude, why?"

“Oh, Isaiah, how hard are thy words to comprehend!”


“Dude, why do you, like, talk that way? I totally don’t get you.”

I have heard it said that if you take the time to decipher the words of Isaiah, your ability to understand all scripture will increase. I think there is truth to that. 

But, seriously, he is so hard to get! 

I have just brushed the surface of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and as I hold my breath and get ready to dive in, I am totally afraid I might drown—again. Each time I get to this place on the dock, I think that this will be the time I work harder to “get him,” and if not swim, at least float.

Today I read the following:
“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee…” (2 Nephi 7:4; compare Isaiah 50)

Isaiah is speaking Messianically, so he is speaking as if the Lord is. It makes perfect sense that Father in Heaven gave His Son a learned tongue. This makes me wonder that if a Father gave that Child something, would He be willing to give this child something similar?

Now, if you are wondering, not for one moment am I comparing myself to Jesus Christ. I know better. He is glorious, perfect, and powerful, I am a flawed, weak, amoeba; but, I am also a child of God, as is Christ. In my own amoeba-ish way I think I receive gifts from my Father as the Savior did. 

Christ has the tongue of the learned. He knows how to talk to us in a way we can understand. And after following the scriptural chain this idea took me on, I came to believe that Father in Heaven will also fill our mouths, if we take the time to fill our minds. 

In scriptural terms:
“Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted [measured] unto every man.” (D&C 84:85)

For some reason the Lord has seen fit to make me a teacher of  His gospel. For that I am grateful. I have had those moments when the Holy Ghost takes over in a lesson and stuff comes out of my mouth that I never planned. It just comes. Experiences I’ve had, things I’ve read that I totally forgot, come to mind and spill out of my mouth. I think this is D&C 84:85 in action. 

My challenge is to have more faith in that process. 

“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate [practice, prepare] before what ye shall answer:  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay [speak against, oppose] nor resist. (Luke 21:14-15)

I remember once being asked at the last minute to give a fireside talk at Girl’s Camp. I spent a couple hours wandering the hills practicing what I would say. When I gave the presentation it was a total flop—dry, empty, blah, blank. I wonder if I had spent those couple hours studying and praying—filling my mind—not practicing, I would have presented something with substance. Hopefully lesson learned. 

Because of the “fear of man,” I am hesitant to let go and let the Lord fill my mouth. What if I fail? What if my mind goes blank (which it has done…)? Will I look like a total fool? (“Hello there, Pride and Vanity, my old friends.”)

Though it may seem trite and a little irreverent, “Let go and let God” seems to fit here. 

I often stand on my mental soap box and think to myself that I have soooo much faith; then the Lord knocks me off and reminds me that I have work to do when it comes to opening my mouth with faith. Trusting that if I have put the information in my head, He will cause it to spill out of my mouth. 

“Oh, Sue, how hard is thy head to understand!”


“Dude, why do you, like, behave that way? I totally don’t get why you don’t have more faith.”

You Can Bet Your Beset

“I am encompassed about because of the temptations which so easily beset me.” (2 Nephi 4:18)

Did you know that encompassed and beset mean the same thing? Yup. Encircled; surrounded; enclosed; pressed in on all sides;  besieged.

For me, this verse could be said another way: “I am surrounded by the temptations which find it so easy to press in on me from all sides.” 

Yeah, Nephi my pal, aren’t we all. 

A friend told me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that many other faiths believe that when trials come upon you, it’s because you’ve done something wrong—punishment, so to speak. If that’s the case, I must be screwing up on a consistent basis. 

Latter-day Saints have a different view. Trials and tribulations, aka crap, come to us because we are in school. This life is the time to prove ourselves to ourselves. Our Father in Heaven knows what we’re made of, but we have to gain that knowledge. This requires some serious wading through crap to become stronger and smarter. 

Case in point: The Lord told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac not because God wondered just what Abraham and Isaac would do, He knew full well; Abraham and Isaac needed to realize just how far they would go to obey the Lord.  They needed to learn what they were made of.

We are no different, though thankfully we aren’t asked to sacrifice our children. (But there are those times… sorry, I digress.) 

We will be surrounded by trials and temptations. There is no escaping it. Consider what Helaman has to say, “ .. that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind … ” (Helaman 5:12)

Note it does not say, “maybe when,” just “when.” And if you want a good visual to go along with this verse, think of arrows in a tornado. Such is the way of hardships and temptations. They come at you from all sides. And they WILL come. You can bet your bottom dollar. (Just what is a “bottom dollar” anyway? Regardless, I will bet it. )

Alma had a few words to say on the matter. If we are true to Christ, “[we] shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall [we] be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh [we] shall be gathered together in [our] place, that the storm cannot penetrate [us]; yea, neither shall [we] be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry [us].”
(Alma 26:6)

All words to rally to, but note the “certainess” of the verse. These things will happen as we live out our lives here on the Big Blue Marble. 

My faith may be strong, and I may have a pretty good understanding of why crap falls on me, but regardless, there are times I cry: 

“Master, carest thou not that [I] perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto [me], Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
(Mark 4:37-40)

Hard times will come. Temptations will beset. Trials will besiege. But, the Master of the wind and waves has overcome them all. I have no reason to be fearful. Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

Death by Chocolate

Nephi: ca 600 BC; Paul: ca 100 AD

Two of the greats in scripture; one in the Book of Mormon, one in the New Testament. Both were superb writers and prophets, and though their birthdays have a 700 year difference, they have these scriptures in common:

“O wretched man that I am!” 2 Nephi 4:17
“O wretched man that I am!” Romans 7:24

Centuries apart, the same lament—word for word. And not only that, but these are the good guys who “preached and teached.” Can we really consider them “wretched?” And if they were wretched, then what are we? What’s 100x below wretched? Basement wretched? Earth mantle wretched?

But, ah ha, what does the the word wretched really mean? For some uninformed reason I took the word to mean that you are a horrible individual. I went on the word “wretch,” which does mean “a deplorable or despicable character,” ( worthy to follow in the cinematic footsteps of Despicable Me 1, 2, and 3. 

My using the same definition to explain wretched is wrong (which wrongness on this, and other subjects, I’m unhappy to report happens often). The word “wretched,” in my trusty research spots—Strong’s Concordance, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, and—all mean the same thing: it’s the situation you’re in that’s the problem. You find yourself beset with trials that seem to go on forever. Life experience is the wretch, not you. 

Both of our cited great prophets follow their “O wretched …” declarations with lamentations over the flesh: 
Nephi: “Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh.”
Paul: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Let’s face it, the flesh can be a real bummer sometimes. Sure, the body is a gift, but in its current fallen state it’s the cheap knock-off, not the name brand.  

Dear Reader, this whole harangue has the sole purpose of stating the fact that the soul is not
a wretch, if only because of its Heavenly Parentage. We sometimes get ourselves in wretched situations through our bad choices, but we, us, kids of God, are not horrid wretches. 

And thanks to the help of Saint Dictionary, I have reached back through the centuries and I think I understand what Paul and Nephi were trying to say. Therefore I declare: 

“O wretched woman that I am! Who shall deliver me from the death of this chocolate? Yea, my thighs sorroweth because of my addiction to sugar.”

The Tale of Twins

It’s 8am and the babies are fed, changed, and asleep. After tag-teaming the 7am feeding/changing routine, I sent Daddy-Tadd to bed as he’d had the night shift. Caitlyn helped with the 2:30am. They let me have a full, uninterrupted night sleep. I feel like a new woman. 

Franklin, or Frankie, is a noisy sleeper. I have come to call him “Squeaky McSqueaker” because of all the racket he makes while he dreams. You are never sure if he is awake or asleep until you actually look at him. After he eats he likes to be propped up in the corner of the couch so he can survey the living room—or the blurs of the living room, depending on how a newborn sees the world— until his milk coma takes over and he falls asleep, which doesn’t take too long.

Sally has become a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) child. Whereas Frankie stays awake a tiny bit after polishing off a bottle, little Miss FOMO keeps her eyes brightly open so she won’t miss a thing. She doesn’t fuss, just lays there looking around—waiting and watching. She must be FBI-in-Training.  FOMO FBIT.

Neither of these little twins are super fussy or colicky, and we thank our lucky stars for that. But they are twins, and everything is times two. Lots of diapers, wipes, and laundry. 

I have the privilege of being here in their house for the first weeks of their lives. How often does a grandma get to do that? Sure, Tadd, Caitlyn, and I are sleep-deprived, but we are told that will pass—there are no indicators of that yet, but we have hope. Hope springs eternal in the hearts of parents and grandparents. 

I am fortunate in that Tadd doesn’t hate having his mother-in-law around, at least he is not letting on if he does. We are working together to take care of these babies so Caitlyn can get some much needed rest. Her body has been through the ringer. First you consider she carried these two babies to full twin-term, and then underwent a vaginal birth AND a c-section to get them here. She can nap for three hours, get up and move around for a bit, and then go down for another nap. She says she feels guilty for sleeping so much, but I told her yesterday she has ONE job: sleeping. That’s it. We can handle the rest.

Thankfully these babies are bottle fed, so anyone can take care of them (well, not really anyone, but anyone on the trusted list). Caitlyn bought a nifty machine called a BabyBreeza, which makes a perfectly mixed and heated bottle in like 30 seconds. I can’t tell you how much that helps. 

Thus far, Frankie and Sally have had their first outing (to the doctor for a checkup—does that count?), first bath, and their first trip to Grandpa Jack and Grandma Sue’s for family swim day. They lounged in the shade by the pool and were passed from one set of hands to another, until oldest cousin, Jack, insisted they be brought inside while the lawn boys were working on the grass. 

These babies have older brothers. Samson. six, is the ever attentive biggest brother. He loves to hold Sally (the novel sister), and is learning how to feed and burp her and her twin brother. I keep trying to hand off diaper changing to him, but he’s not having any part of that. 

Walt, three, on the other hand, could give a flip less about the two new family members. All he cares about is Otter Pops, string cheese, and Mickey’s Playhouse. As long as there are plenty of those, life is good. 

He is also digging the string of play days he is having with cousins. Caitlyn’s sisters, Whitney and Haley, and sister-in-law, Lindey, have truly stepped up to the plate and taken turns corralling the two big brothers. It’s just one party-day after another for Sam and Walt. 

Grandma Camme comes by often to get some twin time. Face it, these babies must be held. She also heeded a request from Samson for spaghetti. He wanted some Camme-ghetti for snacking, and she complied. 

Charity is in full force and there has been a parade of dinners coming in. Ladies in the neighborhood have brought by meals, which have helped immensely.  I’m beginning to behave like Pavlov’s dog and start salivating at 5pm. And my understanding is family and friends have signed up to continue feeding us for the next couple weeks. 

Today I have my assignment at the Payson Temple, so Whitney is coming down to help out while I am gone. She and family friend, Kalli, are committed to come here and take a night shift sometime this coming week. My only concern is Kalli putting a twin in her pocket and taking him or her home. We must perform a pat-down before she leaves. 

Yes, twins are a trip. You have these moments you look at the two little bassinets in the living room and think to yourself, “Holy crap, there are really two of them. Seriously, two of them,” and you have a mental moment of freak out. Then you hear that unmistakeable sound of someone filing their diaper, or a burp with some spit up to follow, or the dryer buzzing to tell you a load of clothes is ready to fold, and you get back to work. Double the work, double the magic, and, most of all, very double the blessings.  

Wade Through the Dark

“And we did … wade through much affliction in the wilderness.”

Yes, Nephi, we know it was tough out there in the wilderness with that nightmare of a family, but why use the word wade?

Webster’s definition of wade is “to walk through any substance that yields to the feet, like water; to walk through on the bottom, like a river; to move or pass through with difficulty.”

What an excellent way to describe our “walk” through life, which, at times, is really more like a wade through quicksand.  Down here in this fallen world, we are on the bottom. (I don’t mean to infer we are bottom dwellers.) The apostle Paul describes it this way: “we see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) 

Looking up from the bottom here on earth to the heavens above, our vision is obscured and reality is elusive. The reality I speak of is God and Christ. They are what is real. This earth life is merely a stage for us to act out our life on and prove to ourselves what we’re made of. It’s not permanent, people, so don’t get too attached to it. 

Nephi’s use of the word wade helps me understand that even though the way might be hard to travel, I’m still able to move forward. It might be difficult, but it’s possible. This phrase might be trite and overused, but truly “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

And I hate to be Debbie Downer, but just so you know, life will eventually kill you. 

My Poor Sunday School Class...

each week I subject them to my ideas and interpretations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh sure, I back up my thoughts with scriptures and the words of the prophets, but overall my 16-18 year olds are my captives for 40 minutes and I take advantage of the time I have them in my clutches.

There are three things—directives—I am trying to beat into them this year: 1) Gain a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. Do that and you are on the road to good things. Life will make more sense and you will have the strength to withstand the crap thrown at you.  He is the Beginning and the End. He is the Answer and the Way. He is Everything.

2) If you have doubts and questions about the gospel or the church, ask God—your Father in Heaven—not Google. Look to the right source for your answers. You will have questions and doubts throughout your life—there is nothing wrong with that—the problem lies in WHERE you look for answers. Joe Somebody who lives in his parent's basements and spends his days cruising the internet is not the best source for doctrinal answers, and neither is the professor who uses his large brain to pick apart the Mormon church. Faith does not fit in a tidy box. God's ways are not man's, and we don't have the intelligence to understand everything gospel related. Bottom line: God is a lot smarter than we are, and it's plain arrogance to think we know better than He does.

3) Keep promises. In our day a person's word means squat. This is why we have attorneys and the court system. (Oh for the days when your word was your bond.) When you make it to the temple, it's all about covenants. We promise this, and God promises that. His promises are pretty awesome and worth seeking. He always keeps His end of the deal. ALWAYS. We are required to do the same. When we make temple covenants, we don't sign documents, we just say "yes." That's it. I tell my Sunday School kids that if you practice keeping your promises now, then the temple covenants you make in the future will be easier to keep.

Last week I asked them what the three class directives were this year, and they gave me blank looks. Apparently I'm not doing my job very well. Thank goodness I have these kids in my grasp for seven more months.

Plain. Precious.

(WARNING: here we go again. Another religious rant. Proceed with caution.)

Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.
Plain and precious.

For the prophets of old, writing scripture was not an easy task. You’d have papyrus, animal skins, or metal plates to record your life and revelations on. None of these mediums were  found in neat packaging at the local office supply store. They were usually made by the individual writing on therm. And writing instruments were hard to work with as well. Ever try writing a book with a stick or quill dipped in homemade ink? Or pound out letters and symbols with a chisel?

My point is this - writing, condensing, abridging, transcribing, and printing scripture was a labor-intensive process; so when a phrase is repeated many times over, it must mean something. So it is with “plain and precious.”

In the Book of Mormon,  chapter 13  in the book of 1st Nephi, the phrase “plain and precious” is mentioned 10 times. You know me, I have to ask, “Why is that?”

I have thought about this for the last couple days and not really come up with a concrete answer to appease my curiosity. But I have had some ancillary thoughts. 

Plain means clear to the mind, distinct, simple, evident, and free from ambiguity or evasion. Precious is defined as of great value, costly, and highly esteemed  for some spiritual or moral quality. 

How better can you explain the principles of the gospel? They are clear, simple, and of great value. 

You’ll note that one of the definitions is “costly.” No kidding. Scripture and the gospel have cost some individuals greatly, even to the point of their blood. 

As I consider “plain and precious,” I think of the “straight and narrow.” (Don’t ask me how I got there…it just happened.) The world’s way is the polar opposite of plain and precious. It is gaudy and cheap. Fancy on the outside, empty on the inside. Conflicting, confusing, and easily obtained. Like the wide road of the world, there are many different notions traveling side by side. Choose one and link arms with it. It might be fun for awhile, but you will go nowhere. 

The gospel path is narrow. It’s simple and plain. There is one individual leading the way, and that Individual is Jesus Christ. Follow close behind Him and you end up at the feet of your Father in Heaven. Christ is plain and precious. Clear and valuable. Free from ambiguity and of great worth. 

Maybe that is the message for me. Keep it simple, Sue. Remember the value of what you know and believe. Stay behind the Savior. He is plain, clear, honest, trustworthy, of infinite worth, and offers you something of unimaginable value: Life eternal with God the Fatherand it's pretty plain to me that's precious.

One, Two, Three

(WARNING: Yet another religious rant ahead. Gee, Sue, what is the deal? Can't you write about anything else?)

Interesting how one verse—and it’s not even the whole verse—in the good ol' Book of Mormon, can have so much information in it.

Take for example 1 Nephi 11:1 (lots of “1s” there). Here Nephi is outlining a great way to get answers from Above. He has listened to the words of his prophet father, Lehi, and wonders just what they mean. So our pal, Nephi, tells us the formula for receiving personal revelation. In the LDS church, personal revelation is a thing.

First Nephi says, “I had desired to know.” Step One: you want to know. How many truths have you wanted to know? Understand? Untangle? Doubts and questions about the gospel are fine, actually good, because it means you are thinking. What matters the most is where you go for those answers. Ask God, not Google.

Step Two in the process: “Believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me.” Here is the faith stuff. You have no doubt God can answer you. It doesn’t say He must, or will, or should, but that He is able if He chooses to and thinks it’s the right thing for you at the time. (Again, the God Timetable Principle we all have such a hard time with.)

Then the Third Step, “Pondering.” This is the Turn Off, Tune In, Think About, Deliberate, Consider, Meditate—whatever term you want to use for “getting into your head and listening with you heart.” And the cool thing is that our Father in Heaven, because He knows all of us so well (He is our Father, after all), knows exactly how to talk to us. He knows the  language, examples, thoughts, words, and analogies that will get through our thick heads and really resonate with us. 

If you continue to read chapter 11 in 1 Nephi, you will see that this formula worked pretty darn good for our friend, Nephi. And I am pretty certain it will work for each of us. 


(WARNING: Religious Rant Ahead. Proceed with Caution)

In 1 Nephi 10:13, Lehi tells his family that the Lord wants them to go to the “land of promise” being “led with one accord.” What is the meaning of accord in 1838 when the Book of Mormon was translated? It means to be in agreement and harmony; to consent and have a concurrence of options or will. 

Unfortunately, Lehi’s kids didn’t all go “with one accord,” even though they did go.

In the book of Moroni, chapter 10, verse 7, we are told that the Lord works by the power of the Holy Ghost “according to the faith of the children of men.”

Can this according and the former accord have the same meaning? “According” to Webster, yes, they do (duh), and when put in this context, we come out with the idea that the Holy Ghost can work in our lives if we are in agreement and harmony with God, and consenting to His will. (Again, duh)

As Lehi and his family were “led with one accord” across the ocean to the Americas, we too can be led through this life by the Holy Ghost, “according” to our faith in, and compliance to, our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.


(WARNING: Religious Reflection and Rant Ahead. Proceed with caution.)

So, a couple of thoughts and cool “coincidences” in 1 Nephi, chapter 7 this morning.  (Are there really such things as coincidences when it comes to the gospel? I think when I contribute something to coincidence, I’m just trying to find a way to say, “Whoa, if God is behind this—and I'm having doubts He is—I would have to take it seriously and do something about it; so let’s just say He isn’t, and chalk this up to fate. That would make my life a whole lot easier.”)

Before I jump into the non-coincidence stuff, let me just say how bad I feel for Lehi and Sariah. Talk about a dysfunctional family. Here you have a prophet who has kids trying to beat, tie up, and kill their sibling. Talk about contention in the family. I know I shouldn’t take comfort in someone else’s misfortunes, but knowing a cool, inspired guy like Lehi had family issues (and rather bad ones), takes the pressure off me for achieving the “perfect family.” 

Anyway, after yet another sibling quarrel, Nephi gives one of his “why don’t you stand up and fly right” pep talks to Laman and Lemuel; and at the end of his rant (it was a good rant) he says in verse 15: “for the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak …”

Constraineth. Hmm. I wondered just what that meant. So I pulled up my trusty 1828 Webster’s Dictionary ( “Why Webster’s 1828” you ask? Well, folks, when the Prophet Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, the words in Webster’s 1828 were the words of his day, and no doubt the translation was in terms Joseph best understood. And if you compare some of the word meanings of his day, against our day, sometimes there are slight differences.

Anyhow, the world “Constrained” means the following: Urged irresistibly or powerfully; compelled; forced; bound; necessitated. To my limited understanding, our pal, Nephi, HAD to tear into Laman and Lemuel— the two who had helped  to create the yin and yang in the family.

I suppose when you’re of the caliber of Nephi, being constrained by the Spirit means you MUST open your mouth and say what the Lord wants you to say, whether your audience likes it or not, and whether it puts your life in danger or not. (Case in point: Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite. I would say they were constrained, the latter fairing better in the end than the former… How hot was that fire, Abinadi?)

Now, given I have delivered my rant on the word “constraineth,”, let’s jump across the column in 1 Nephi 7 to the 21st verse. Ishmael’s daughter (I wonder, did she marry Nephi after this? my romantic self wants to know), and her mother (it stands to reason this woman became Nephi’s mother-in-law at some point—the pool of women to choose a bride from was pretty small for Nephi. either he married a sister [eww], or one of Ishmael’s girls), and one of Ishmael’s sons (a soon to be brother-in-law), talked Laman and Lemuel out of beating up Nephi. Their powers of persuasion must have been pretty good, because Laman and Lemuel were “sorrowful,” did “bow down before” Nephi, and “plead” for forgiveness. I really wonder what in the world those people in Ishmael’s family said? Could they give a fireside in persuasive discourse?

Anyway, moving on, Nephi, being the good kid he was, responded to his brothers in this way: “I did frankly forgive them.” Cool, right? But, as is my pattern, I was snagged by a word, this time, “frankly.” I asked myself, “Self, what would Webster have to say about the word ‘frankly’?”

This is what Webster had to say, “Frankly: openly; freely; ingenuously; without reserve, CONSTRAINT, or disguise …” “What?!” says I, “there is that word again? Self, what could this possibly mean??”

Self has this thought: just as the Spirit can urge us forcefully to speak, we are also urged to forgive without being forced, and to forgive without bounds or restrictions. Seventy times seven, the Lord tells us. (Interesting side note: the number seven means “complete.” Think on that for awhile.)

I’m Irish. There is a joke among those of us who are of Irish descent: “What is Irish Alzheimers? You forget everything but the grudges.” Most of us who have had an Irish relative know just what this means. But taking the counsel I got from two words on one page of the Book of Mormon this morning, my lesson is clear: “Sue, when your little feelings are hurt, or you’re offended, the Spirit constraineth you to frankly forgive without constraints.”

Must Be.

(WARNING: Religious Reflection Ahead.)

A phrase in 1 Nephi 7:13 reached out and grabbed me this morning:  “… and ye shall know at some future period, that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem: for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.”

Now, I’m not all hung up on the “destruction of Jerusalem” part—what’s done is done—but what got my attention was:  “ye shall know at some future period,” and, “must be fulfilled.

Sometimes it’s a bummer that God works on the principle of faith. That I have to believe before I receive. “You want a witness? Show me you believe in one before I give it to you.” Seems backwards, but it’s how God works. I guess it builds character, or something like that. I guess it’s like planting a seed and knowing it will sprout. Course I have to water faith and belief with prayer,  patience, trust, hope, and thought; but do that, and eventually a witness or answer will sprout. Then there is God’s timetable, which is horribly contrary to my own, but that’s another subject. 

Now the “must be fulfilled” part in the verse. I really thought about that. It doesn’t say, “will be,” “could be,” “might be,” or, “should be.” No, it’s “MUST be.” What does that mean to me? That there is no choice in the matter. The choice was made when the declaration was made. It will happen. It has to. This is integrity at its finest. The kind of integrity our world has little concept of today. I think of the Prophet Joseph, who said of the First Vision, “I knew it, and I knew God knew it, and I could not deny it.” Powerful integrity stuff. 

I also remember what the Savior said to the Nephites when He appeared to them after His resurrection, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.” If I’m a prophet, and for years I have promised that something “must be,” I would think it rather cool that the first thing the Lord does when He shows up is validate me. 

I’ve been thinking about the kids in my class—I do that a lot. I want them to understand they can ask God for answers, and now I want them to get the concept of integrity when it comes to making promises. If you make one, it’s as good as keeping it. When Nephi caught Zoram and asked him to come along with the family and take off into the wilderness (“Hey, don’t want to be a servant?  Laban is dead anyway, so what’s the point? Come along with us! Freedom! And you won’t get destroyed along with Jerusalem!” Nothing was said about wandering, camping, building a boat, or sailing across the ocean—I suppose those were details the boys didn’t need to know at the time), all Zoram had to do was make an oath, and BAM, he was trusted and off they went into the wilds. What kind of power did one’s word have back then? What kind of power does is have now? Neither one of us has to make a comment on that, we both know the answer. 

So proof requires trust and patience; and integrity requires honesty and follow-through. Seems like a lot of work. But I have faith it works, and am committed to keep my word. (Will I screw up? Probably to some degree. But then we have that whole repentance/atonement stuff, which is a whole ‘nother subject for a whole ‘nother time.)


(WARNING: Religious Reflection Ahead.)

I realized something the other day: Our Father in Heaven is a God of addition. 

From what I have observed, Heavenly Father is always trying to add something to us. No matter where we are, what we believe, don’t believe, or what we are doing, God is trying to make us more than what we presently are. Even if we have no idea who He is, or do know of Him, but have no intentions of obeying Him, He is reaching out to us and trying to teach us—add to us. Never does God ignore us or give up on us. He believes in our potential, even if we have no idea that we have any. 

And because of our spiritual DNA, we as His children are always trying to be more and do more, whether we acknowledge it or not. We are beings that have the desire to create, obtain, improve, and grow. Even on days we stay in our pajamas and mold in front of a television or computer, we don’t live in stasis. We are not designed that way. Every day we inch towards being more than we were yesterday. This growth, or “addition,” may be so small it’s imperceptible, but it’s happening nonetheless. 

I don’t do math. It is not in my wheelhouse; but I do know the principle of addition when it comes to God’s children. It happens every day, to every one of us, and it’s all because of our heavenly Parentage.  

M R-E & S E P in NYC

For the past few days I have had the chance to spend time with my oldest kid. She has been generous enough to take her old mother to New York City. We have stayed at the Park Lane Hotel, which is literally across the street from Central Park. We are on the 44th floor and look out over the park. Pretty ugly. 

We have gone on a carriage ride though part of the park; visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (to which I am in love and want to go back and spend about three days there); attended a taping of the Jimmy Fallon show; went to the top of Rockefeller Center; met my first cousin (on Mom’s side) John, and his wife, Margaret, face to face for the first time, and had lunch with them in a historic tavern; and not merely rode the Staten Island Ferry, but drove it. 

We saw the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange building; Alexander Hamilton’s grave, World Trade Center Memorial pools, The Wall Street Bull, complete with the new statue of the little girl challenging the Bull. Tonight we went to see Wicked, at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. 

Tomorrow we go back to our real worlds. I have never been to NYC before and have been enchanted by streets bordered with man-made mountains know as skyscrapers. The wind whistles though “canyons” made by buildings so tall, I walk down the street and can’t help by look up constantly—amazed at what mankind has created here. I realized today that this place is about as far removed and different from my little Elk Ridge as you can get. 

I am grateful to Meganand Jim, who actually arranged this trip before he died. Unfortunately, he did not get to enjoy it. But he has blessed my life through it, even in death. 

And to Megan, who has been a trooper, even though she misses Jim, and has had to put up with her mother’s snoring…

Ch. One - Tandy Pomander

Written for Addie: 
The Amazing Adventures of Tandy Pomander

Chapter One

Ten-year-old Tandy slowly opened the door. As she pushed against the aged wood the creaking hinges complained loudly, as if they were annoyed at being disturbed. She pushed the towering door open just enough to slip into the darkened room. Carefully stepping over the threshold, the smell of dust and age instantly wrapped itself around her. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she noticed the windows were covered with thick, heavy drapes, which seemed to be fighting against the afternoon sunlight that was struggling to peek through them. The room was full of old, heavy furniture. Over-stuffed couches, an immense sideboard burdened with framed pictures and crystal vases, two book cases groaning under a load of large, dusty books, floor lamps with Tiffany shades, and a jumble of puffy chairs that looked like they would swallow you if you sat in them.  As she continued to take in her surroundings, she saw the old woman sitting in a chair at the far end of the room. 
“Come over here girl.” The old woman spoke sharply and with authority. It was not a request, but a command. “Hurry up.” Her voice was scratchy and sounded a little like the creaking door hinges. 
Focusing her attention on the woman, Tandy quickly crossed the room, walking over ancient rugs that smothered the floor. As she came closer to the woman she noticed her wreath of white hair and the deep wrinkles that cut across her face. She looked older than humanly possible and Tandy was reminded of the mummies she saw in her history books at school. Even the woman’s clothing was old. She wore a long-sleeved, high-necked, floor-length dress made of red and pink rose patterned fabric that tried to be cheery, but failed. Tandy wondered if she had entered a time machine when she came into the room and had come out in the days of the pioneers. Not wanting to get too close to the woman, she stopped a safe distance from her.
The woman held a carved wooden cane with a gold handle that glowed in what little light leaked though the gaps between the heavy curtains. Her bony fingers were wrapped around the handle and she tapped one of them impatiently on a carved figure of a dragon. “Took you long enough. Come closer. Let me take a look at you.”
The last thing Tandy wanted to do was stand any closer to this woman, but Uncle Horus said it was important she come to Dame Alabaster for her training. 
Tandy slowly approached the woman and was surprised, and frightened, when the old lady’s hand darted out and grabbed her arm with firmness and amazing speed—like a snake snatching its prey. 
Dame Alabaster roughly pulled Tandy so close to her wrinkled face that Tandy could smell peppermint on her breath. Sneering, Dame Alabaster stared into Tandy’s eyes. “So you are the one they all talk about.” 
Tandy wasn’t sure who “they all” were, or what “they all” were talking about, but as the old woman continued searching her brown eyes, Tandy felt as if her brain was starting to melt.
“Hmm, interesting,” Dame Alabaster finally said, and she released Tandy’s arm and pushed her away. “What do you have to say for yourself, girl?”
Certainly Tandy had been scared at first, and certainly this woman was somewhat terrifying, but Tandy suddenly refused to be frightened. She squared her shoulders and defiantly said, “I’m not ‘girl.’ My name is Tandy Pomander.”
For just a moment Tandy thought she saw a sparkle of amusement on Dame Alabaster’s face, but if she did, it was quickly replaced with a frown. “Don’t get cheeky with me, girl. I’d hate to destroy you before your career even gets started.” 
Tandy thought that, for the sake of her future as a forest fairy, she had better curb her tongue, “I’m sorry, Dame Alabaster.”
The tension in the room eased. “That’s better, Tandy.”  Dame Alabaster added emphasis to Tandy’s name to show her acceptance of the apology. 
“So you come from Bathgate? By the woods?”  Dame Alabaster asked, and Tandy gathered that her interview had started. 
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What gave you to believe you have forest magic?”
Tandy realized Dame Alabaster was not going to waste time on simple pleasant conversation; she was cutting right to the meat of the matter.
“I was hiking with my friends in the forest and heard the voices of the Leaf Sprites—Uncle Horus told me later they were Leaf Sprites. None of my friends heard them, and they all thought I was crazy when I told them I was hearing small, squeaky voices. I went back later on my own to see if I really was crazy, and I heard them again. They were talking about a pine tree that was sick and dying.”
Dame Alabaster’s face took on a serious look. “Did you try and talk to them?”
“No. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Good. No use upsetting the Mistress of the Leaf Sprites. She insists you get permission from her first before you address any of her subjects.” Dame Alabaster rolled her eyes. “If you ask me, she is a little too controlling.”
This was all so new to Tandy that she didn’t know how to respond. To be polite she simply acknowledged that she was listening. “Oh, okay.”
Quickly getting back to business, Dame Alabaster fired off the next question. “Any other hints as to who you might be?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I was walking in the forest, and all of sudden I really wanted to climb a tree. I mean really climb a tree bad. I didn’t know why, I just had to. I climbed as far up as I could go, and when I looked out over the forest, I saw little twinkles of light through the leaves everywhere. The lights were all different colors, and they were bunched together by color. Like a big bunch of blue twinkling lights over here, and then a bunch of orange ones over there. It was so awesome that I forgot where I was and lost my balance, but I didn’t fall. I sort of ‘floated’ out of the tree and back onto the ground.”
“Have you told anyone else about this?”
“Just Uncle Horus. Who else would believe me?”
“Indeed,” Dame Alabaster replied. While still staring intently at Tandy, she began rubbing her finger across the brow of the golden dragon on her cane’s handle. Tandy could have sworn the dragon moved slightly under her finger. 
“The lights you saw, there are many forest kinsfolk you will need to learn about. They all emit different colored lights, and have many different customs and traditions. Seed Pixies are blue and don’t like to be looked at in the eyes. Grass Elfs are green, and if you don’t look at them in the eyes, they are offended and spit on your feet. Bark Imps shine orange and if you don’t bring gifts when you approach their leaders, they disappear and you won’t see them again for years.” She stopped and shook her head. “Bark Imps hold grudges better than any forest kinsfolk I have ever met.”
Tandy was overwhelmed and shocked by what Dame Alabaster was telling her. It had just been two weeks since she was having dinner with Uncle Horus at their small kitchen table and accidentally mentioned she had heard voices in the forest. Uncle Horus suddenly sat up very straight and asked her to repeat what she had said.
“What was that? Voices in the forest?”
Tandy immediately regretted what she had let slip. “Oh, it was nothing.”
But Uncle Horus was insistent. “It’s okay, Tan-dandy,” that was his pet name for her, “don’t be afraid. Just tell me honestly what happened.”
Tandy loved and trusted Uncle Horus. It had been just the two of them since her parents disappeared five years ago. So she took a deep breath and told him what she had heard in the forest, and was surprised when a large grin crossed his face. 
“Tan-dandy! That's wonderful!”
“Uncle Horus, are you making fun of me?”
“Oh, heavens no! Now I can tell you that you are descended from forest fairy folk!”
That had begun a very confusing and revealing time for Tandy. She learned that her mother had been a forest guardian and had strong forest magic. “Your mother would be so proud,” Uncle Horus happily exclaimed. 
As Tandy told Uncle Horus of her experience in the tree, he became very serious and told her she was most likely a Leaflet Forest Fairy, the most powerful of the human forest fairy folk, and that she needed to be trained by Dame Alabaster. 
All Tandy knew of the old lady was that she lived in a huge house on a hill outside of her town. No one had ever seen the woman, but there were legends of her stealing children and keeping them chained in her basement. Every time Tandy told Uncle Horus about the new “has to be true” horrible story about Dame Alabaster, he would just shake his head and reply, “She would never do such a thing. She is a divine creature.” Tandy had a hard time wondering why he had called this recluse of a woman a “divine creature,” but now she was beginning to understand why.
“She is the oldest of the forest guardians and supervises training of all humans who have forest magic,” Uncle Horus told Tandy. “You must have an interview with her.” 
And so here Tandy was, face to face and ready to be interviewed—and hopefully trained—by an elderly, “divine,” forest guardian who was full of forest magic. As the old woman named off the many forest folk that had lived, unknown, around mankind for thousands of years, she talked as easily as if she were reciting a grocery list.
“Watch out for Stone Brownies, because they put stickers in your socks if they think you are trying to steal their rocks. But Cloud Nymphs, now there is a pleasant race. Not much you can do to upset a Cloud Nymph.” Dame Alabaster paused as she looked at Tandy, who was open-mouthed and speechless. “What’s wrong with you, gir—Tandy? Were you arrogant enough to think humans and animals were the only living beings on this earth? Who else would take care of the forests? And I won’t even go into the desert or water folk.”
Finally able to find her voice, Tandy responded, “There are others?”
Dame Alabaster was growing tired of the conversation and was ready to dismiss Tandy for the day. “Of course, but for now you just need to learn about the forest folk. It’s obvious you are a Leaflet Forest Fairy, which means you have a lot to learn before you begin your life’s work.”
Life’s work?” Tandy exclaimed, shocked.
Huffing impatiently, Dame Alabaster replied, “Of course your whole life. What else are you going to be doing once you grow your wings?”
Tandy gasped. “WINGS?”

(To be continued.)