Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Change of Heart

Today (Sunday) was a difficult, yet rewarding, day. It happens frequently when you serve in a married student ward. We had several couples that today was their last Sunday in our ward. It is difficult to say goodbye knowing it may be the last time you see them. On the brighter side over the past few weeks we have had nine new couples move in. Most of the new couples when they introduce themselves say they have been married for two or three weeks, some less.

Many of the couples that are leaving have been married for two years or more and have one or two children. I know you will think I’m crazy, but one of the couples moving out of the ward have been married for four years, an eternity for a student ward! There is a definite difference in their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in their love for each other. They have grown from the honeymoon couple to a family committed to each other and the Gospel – They have experienced the “mighty change in your hearts” that Alma talked about, they have been “spiritually born of God” and “received his image in (their) countenances” (Alma 5:14).

The best part of serving in a married student ward is seeing them grow, not only in the gospel, but as couples. These couples grow in many ways; their priorities change as they focus on their spouses needs instead of their own. They are focused on getting through school and starting a new life with their eternal companion. They accept callings to serve in the ward and are dedicated to magnifying these callings. They really do experience an increase of the Savior’s image in their countenances when they lose themselves in the service of others.

I don’t want to paint some rosy picture perfect life that these couples are having because most couples go through some tough times because that is life. We have had couples that have dealt with cancer, miscarriages, unemployment, problems with school, and guess what they have even had problems getting along with their spouse! None of us are free from life’s challenges because that is the Lord’s plan to come here and experience life and learn how to cope. Most of the time these couples get through it, but sometimes they don’t and we help them the best we can.

Elder Mervyn B. Arnold in a BYU-Idaho devotional address spoke of how President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, got through his college years, he said:

But his career as an internationally renowned heart surgeon and medical researcher did not come easily. Because of advanced training and military service, the time between President Nelson getting his doctor’s degree and going into practice was 12½ years. During those long and lean years, the Nelsons welcomed their first five children.

Of his financial struggles as a newlywed, he remembers: “Finances eventually became so straitened that [my wife] Dantzel took a second job, working evenings as a clerk in a music store downtown. Once, when there was too much month at the end of [our] money, [we] found [our]selves in the hole by about forty-three dollars. On this occasion, [I] picked up Dantzel after school and took her to the LDS Hospital, where [we] each sold a pint of blood for twenty-five dollars. This gave [us] enough cash to retire [our] bills. As the needle was withdrawn from Dantzel’s arm, she said, … ‘Don’t forget to pay tithing on my blood money!’”26

Sister Arnold and I started out in about the same financial condition as President and Sister Nelson. I met Sister Arnold at BYU. After dating for a few months, I decided I wanted to ask her to go steady, so I bought some Neil Diamond tickets and asked her to go to the concert with me. On the way from Provo to Salt Lake, I asked how she would feel about not dating other boys for a time. She thought for what I felt was eternity at the time and then replied, “I guess we can try it for a little while.” On the way home from the concert, I asked her to marry me.

When we got married a few months later, we had a mere $42 to buy all our furniture. My mother bought us a bed for our wedding present, and the rest of our furniture we purchased from an older woman who was moving into an assisted living center. She gladly sold us all of her very old furniture for the $42.

I must admit that most of it looked like Moses had drug it through the Red Sea. The table and chairs were badly worn. The washer and dryer looked as though they had not been used in years, but, to our surprise, they both worked. The couch had only three legs. This actually turned out to be a blessing because my brother Robert gave us an old TV, and when you turned it on, the picture on the screen was on exactly the same slant as the three-legged couch. (Increasing in Christ, Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, BYU-Idaho Devotional, November 10, 2015))

This is a familiar story for the couples in the married student stake I serve in. They are all going through similar experiences and most of them are handling it like President Nelson and Elder Arnold did.

I have told the members of our ward that there are four reasons why we have student wards and not just have them attend the regular family wards:

  1. The members of our wards are all students and going through the same experiences.
  2. Student wards have a responsibility to be a buffer between the philosophies of men that are taught at the University and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can focus on it because all of them are students, are about the same age, and they understand what is going on with each other.
  3. We focus on the student’s situations and help them gain a foundation for their marriage and family life  so when the graduate and move on to other wards they will be contributing members.
  4. We help the members go through the process of being spiritually born of God and being committed to the Gospel and service in the kingdom of God.

To the members who are leaving, we pray that the Lord will bless you in all things. I know he will if you put him first in all things. We are grateful you shared your first years of marriage with us, and know your lives together will be a great journey if you keep the covenants you made in the temple.

To the new couples that have begun their lives together we are grateful you have chosen to have us be a part of your journey and I can promise if you will strive to experience an increase of the Savior’s image in your countenances that you will have that rebirth and mighty change of heart the scriptures testify will come to those who seek it.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Mirror of Erised

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Harry finds the Mirror of Erised. When Harry looks into the mirror he sees himself with his parents. When Ron looks into it he sees himself as Head Boy and the Quidditch Captain holding the Quidditch Cup. Professor Dumbledore explains that “the mirror shows us the deepest desires of our hearts. It gives us neither knowledge or truth. We must not dwell on dreams and forget to live”.

 The Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
One of the greatest thing about reading books like the Harry Potter series is we get to witness the epic lives of the characters in the books. We laugh with Harry when he traps Dudley in the snake pen, or when Harry tries to ask Cho to the Yule Ball. We cry with him when Serius or Dobby die. We swell with pride when Harry conjures his patronus for the first time. The same is true about the characters in Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t matter what the book or movie, we can lose ourselves in them just like the mirror of Erised. If we are not careful we can live our lives through the characters of a book instead of living our own lives. Saying that does not mean I don’t love to read, I do. I love the classics and other books. I really like to read the historical fiction where fictional characters are used to tell historical events.

When we look at our lives or our family and friends we don’t see the epic lives like we read in the books. But if we really look at our lives they are more epic than story book characters because they are real. When we read a biography or accounts from history, the people we read about probably did not think their lives were all that exciting or epic. There are some exceptions to this like the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I’m sure they knew that what they were doing would change history. But before that they probably thought their lives were mostly normal and not worthy of the history books.

When we take the time to write down events that happen in our lives, even ones that seem ordinary when we read them later you will see how epic our lives really are. Our family recently had a family reunion where we celebrated the 90th birthday of my mother. All six children, five boys and one girl, of mom and  dad (my dad passed away in 2006) were there along with many grandchildren and great grandchildren. One of the fun things we did was show movies of past family reunions when many of our children where the age of the great grandchildren. The great grandchildren loved watching their parents doing silly things. Each evening we sat around a fire or in the pavilion telling stories of when we were young. Stories were told of playing hide and seek with our friends as we ran all over the neighborhood, stories were told of growing up working at Hal’s Drive Inn (like McDonalds), stories of our town cop that looked and acted like Barney from the TV Show Andy Griffith, stories of how we managed to stay out of Dad’s court (he was the Justice of the Peace for our town) when we got into mischief, and stories of meeting our wives and getting married.

4 Generation of Potters - My part of the family is in red!
Some of the stories I told were falling in love with Peggy Sue in the third grade. All the boys were in love with Peggy Sue. I even bought her a plastic diamond ring. The story of how I broke the school cross country record running bare foot was a favorite with the great grandchildren. The time in high school when I flunked speech class when I gave a speech about making chocolate chip cookies (you had to be there) was my favorite. I told stories of practical jokes played on teachers, going to prom, how I managed to get accepted to Brigham Young University, dancing with the BYU Folk Dancers, playing soccer for BYU and eventually deciding to serve an LDS Mission.

The third generation (our children) are now old enough that they have exciting stories to tell. My son, John, told a story of when he went to Florida one summer to sell animated stories from the scriptures. It was a disaster for him and one day he was in a car accident and totaled his VW Rabbit. The car was still able to drive and he had no other way to get home so he drove the car 3000 miles from Florida to Utah. The windows were all broken out and the sides all bashed in but he could drive it. On the way home it rained and even snowed, he almost froze to death but he managed to get home to Logan, Utah. When he tells the story it is a lot funnier.

I am in the process of writing down stories from my life. The book is called Stories of the Real Harry Potter. I have included stories of growing up in Argos, Indiana; stories from my elementary and high school years, my college years, my mission, marriage and family. I have included faith promoting stories like “The Ironic Priesthood”, my dream of becoming an airline pilot, deciding to serve a mission, how I met and married my wife, my call as a bishop, and many other times when the Lord had a hand in directing my life and protecting me or my family.

Our children, great grandchildren and beyond will read these stories and know how epic our lives really were. But it will only happen if we take the time to record them. The inscription on the mirror of Erised (which is desire spelled backards) says “Erised stra ehru oy tube cafru oyt on wohsi”. If you look at that statement in a mirror and changed the spacing it reads “I show not your face but your heart’s desire”. What is it that we desire most of all? I believe it is that our posterity will know that the lives we lived were epic and that we lived lives of faith and integrity.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independency Day

Today, July 4th, is Independency day in the U.S. It is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Our nation is different than any other country. It took several years after July 4th, 1776 before the form of government we have today was formed. On May 25, 1787 delegates from 12 states sent representatives to Philadelphia with a mandate to revise the articles of confederation that proved ineffective. The constitutional convention ended on September 17, 1787 and the result was new form of government, one by the people that would be governed (“We the people…in order to form a more perfect union). Those who would govern would be chosen from the citizens of the country. All other nations were organized by those who would govern and the structure was to benefit the ruling class and the power they held over their citizens. The responsibility of power was divided into three bodies: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. There were limitations on each branch that prevented them from overstepping the powers granted to each branch and to prevent them from taking on the responsibilities of the other branches of government. There was also a division of powers between the federal government and the states. The constitution granted certain rights to the states that allowed them to be establish laws that the federal government had not authority over. James Madison commented:

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”
James Madison, Federalist No. 58, 1788

Another unique aspect of the founding of our nation was that God inspired the founding fathers as they declared their independence from Great Britain and established our constitutional government:

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (Doctrine & Covenants 101:80)

Thomas Paine had this to say about the importance of our nation remembering God and his commandments in the success of our nation:

“But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain...let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING.”
Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

Below are a few other quotes from some of those who were involved in the process of establishing our unique form of government and what they thought would be critical to its success. As you read them I would ask you to ask if we are still following their thoughts or have we strayed from what they intended our government to be? Is the balance between the three branches of government and between the federal branch and the states still the way our founding fathers intended?

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.
John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?"
Benjamin Franklin, To Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention

Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.
James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788

If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.
George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.
George Washington, letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May, 1789

It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.
George Washington, letter to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, September 5, 1789

I believe that if the 56 delegates to the constitutional convention in 1787 were alive today, many if not all would be outraged by what we the people have allowed to happen to the constitution that they fought and died for. James Madison said above that the citizens of our country need to be informed, to be involved in the process to insure its success. Are we informed? Do we actively seek righteous men and women to represent us?

The balance between the branches of government does not exist as it was intended. The executive branch has taken on the powers of the legislative branch by using executive orders to make laws. The legislative branch has failed in its duties completely and do nothing to benefit or uphold the constitution. The judicial branch instead of making decisions based on the laws set forth in the constitution are making laws by their decisions. The states have allowed the federal government to usurp its powers so much they now have no ability to govern themselves.

What can we do? We the people must return to the basic fundamental outlined in the constitution as it was written by our founding fathers. We need to return to the values of the Christian nation that we should be. The God of Heaven and his commandments were part of the foundation of our nation and we must go back to those principles and not give in to the evils that have eroded the basic fundamentals of morality and religious freedoms the constitution upholds. Only when we seek out individuals that will protect and defend the constitution of the United States as written, not as they interpret it, then will we have the liberty and freedom that God intends for us. The first paragraph of the declaration of Independence states:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

On this Independence day I would ask if it is time again for us to declare our independence from those who would enslave us and deny us of our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and our rights to worship the true God of Heaven?

Your comments and questions are welcome