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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Sacred Heritage

I have a mission box. In this box is several things I kept from my mission. Photos, mission scriptures discussions, letters, and other things I had decided to keep a long, long time ago. Among those trappings is a sheet of paper I received when I was ordained an Elder of the Melchizedek Priesthood. I don’t know how many of the brethren have this. It’s not something I ever hear talked about, so I’m assuming it’s not all that common. (Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm not.) It is my Priesthood Lineage:

Peter, James, and John were ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 16:13-19, 17:1-9Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36, 2 Peter 1:16-18)

Joseph Smith Jr. was ordained an Apostle of the Lord under the hands of Peter, James, and John in June of 1829. (Joseph Smith History 1:72Doctrine & Covenants 27:12, Doctrine & Covenants 128:20, Church History in the Fullness of Times)

Brigham Young was ordained a High Priest 14 February 1835 by the First Presidency of the church: Joseph Smith Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. He was ordained an Apostle by the Three witnesses the same day: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris the same day.

Joseph F. Smith was ordained an Apostle of the Lord 1 July 1866 by Brigham Young.

Joseph Fielding Smith was ordained an Apostle of the Lord 7 April 1910 by Joseph F. Smith.

Glen Obid Hamblin as ordained a High Priest 29 April 1940 by Joseph Fielding Smith.

Living Webb was ordained a High Priest 28 July 1966 by Glen Obid Hamblin,

Living Marcum was ordained a High Priest 8 February 1976 by Living Webb.

Living Peterson was ordained a High Priest 9 November 1986 by Living Marcum.

Living Mecham was ordained a High Priest 28 June 1987 by Living Marcum

I was ordained an Elder of the Melchizedek Priesthood 18 November 1998 by living Mecham.

As I look over this sacred lineage I find myself wondering, what is the Priesthood "DNA" I carry? How has the Priesthood that I carry been used by those who preceded me? What can I learn from them? Am I upholding my lineage? Would my fore-bearers approve of how I've carried on their heritage? I can only hope so.

Do you know your Priesthood Lineage? What great things have your fore-bearers done with their Priesthood? What are you doing to honor your Priesthood Lineage today?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

President Henry B. Eyring: A Priceless Heritage of Hope

This coming week we will be discussing President Henry B. Eyring's General Conference talk, "A Priceless Heritage of Hope."

I still think Pioneer Day is funny. I didn't grow up LDS, so I had never heard of Pioneer Day. Even after I joined the church I didn't hear about it for maybe ten years. I heard about the youth doing the handcart and wagon treks, but nobody ever said the words "Pioneer Day." I just thought it was something our stake did every summer.

*On a side note, I grew up in New Mexico, which is close enough to Utah for a day trip, but far enough to have never heard of Pioneer Day.

Wagon Train Trek Reenactment

I still remember the day I found out. It went something like this:

"July 24th? What happens July 24th?"
"Pioneer Day."
"Say what?"
"July 24th. Its Pioneer Day."
"Never heard of it."
"You're kidding, its a national holiday, with parades, and everything."
"In Utah?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
"That explains everything."

Okay, okay, let's move on

President Eyring talks about the heritage of our church membership, and the "pioneers" who led the way for us to discover, and join the church. He asks us to remember those who have come before, and to continue the work they started, the work of spreading the hope the gospel brings.

Since I shared my conversion story last post, I want to share another story this time. This story isn't about the church, but it is about carrying on a heritage of hope.


My grandfather Orville was an amazing man. He was born and raised in Kansas outside of a small town. He was raised with Baptist morals, and never strayed from that moral path. He was 6 foot 4 inches, and stout with unruly, curly red hair that stood up 6-8 inches above his head. He was a good fit for working as a farm hand in both Pocatello, Idaho, and Monte Vista, Colorado in his young adulthood. Idaho, and the San Luis Valley in Colorado both specialize in potatoes. In those years he also worked as a truck driver, probably balancing out his income for the slow season, but I don't have any details on that.

In 1955, or 1956 he moved his little family to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mother was 3-4 years old, and the younger of two girls. There, he worked at an asphalt plant, delivered propane, ran an oil refinery, (Not sure in what order), and was a volunteer firefighter. One of my favorite stories is that he had very long arms (which I inherited), and if a light burned out in the firehouse he would be called on to change the bulb because he had a longer reach than guys who were even taller than him.

Sometime during his life he joined the Methodist Church, and became a Deacon in his local congregation. I don't know the services Deacons perform in the Methodist Church, but I am sure he fulfilled his responsibilities with the utmost diligence, and reverence. He never drank, was never abusive, and never cursed. He was a man of kindness, and love. He worked hard to support his family, and never let a lack of jobs keep him from working. He was the embodiment of the American way.

I will always remember something he told me in his later years, about ten years after my grandma died. It is the principle by which I now try to live my life. It is the entire purpose of this post:

"You were always Marguerite's favorite (My grandma). She talked about you more than the other grandkids (there were only 5). She had more patience for you than anyone else. But I love all of you the same. I don't have any favorites, you're all different, but I love you all the same."
When he said that to me, I felt love from him, and knew that moment that our Heavenly Father feels the same way about his children. He loves us all the same, despite our differences. He wants to watch us grow. He winces at our indiscretions, revels in our success, and hopes that we will find the right way. That is my priceless heritage of hope, my lasting legacy of love. My brothers and sisters of this world are all different, but our Heavenly Father loves them all the same. It is the legacy, and principle I strive to live.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:34-35)

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Conversion Story

Disclaimer: Normally, I don't get all too personal on my blog. I have an aversion to feelings in general. Feelings are often uncomfortable, painful, and most disagreeable to the lacrimal glands, so I avoid them, much like rational people avoid asphyxiation, rattlesnakes, poisonous spiders, bears, dark alleys, and canned peas. So, consider this a special occasion, if you will.

Canned Pea Monster


I remember my own baptism well. The date was October 19, 1997. I was living in the small town of Farmington, New Mexico. I was 19 at the time. My father, in the midst of a difficult battle with hepatitis C, had committed suicide just over a year earlier. My family took it hard. Our lives had been turned upside down.

In search for answers I chose a comfortable set of beliefs. I chose to believe that when my father died he just stopped existing. He would never return. I would never have to see him again, and he could never hurt me again. (See the disclaimer). So, death was ultimate, unimaginable nothingness. There was no hope, no misery. No pain, no relief. The absence of being, the absence of consciousnesses. Nothing.

Through a train of influences and conversations I found myself talking with Elder Orr from small town Idaho, and his odd, violin playing, trunky companion. Over the next two weeks I would read from 1 Nephi through 3/4 of Alma, and the books of 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, and Moroni. (I read the rest later) The Spirit was strong with me at that time, enough to throw out all doubt that anything else could be true. It was truly amazing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the answer to every significant question I had about life, death, and deity. There was no question I couldn't answer by searching for it in the scriptures. One of those questions was answered in Alma 40:11. This scripture told me what happened to us after death. My Father, the unbeliever, the monster, dad, had been "taken home to that God who gave [him] life." 

Not since my father died had I experienced such strong emotions about his death. I cried as I read, and reread this verse. All of a sudden the death that released me from my own personal h*ll became the death that released my father from his own personal captivity. I could see Heavenly Father pulling my Earthly father in with a warm embrace. There was joy. There were tears (as much as a spirit can shed tears). There was no more unbelief. 

Heavenly Father would then have a frank conversation with him. He would show appreciation for his honest heart, and attempts to help those who couldn't help themselves. He would chastise him for his errors, and counsel with him on the work he needed to do. My Father would then get to work on his own repentance. The sweet out-weighed the bitter for the first time in at least 12 years.

My father in the army in the early 70s.
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers"
Malachi 4:6

So, two weeks after my first meeting, Elder Orr stood next to me, held my arms, said those magic words, and baptized me. I died. Then I was pulled out of the water, my old self gone. A new man rose from that warm, watery grave. A man of doubt, unbelief, and contention was buried, and a man of hope, love, and belief was given new life. An animal took it's last breath, and seconds later, a child of God took it's first. Like a newborn babe, my eyes were set to wonder. Life had taken on new meaning. Even the smallest, most mundane activity was in similitude of Christ's life, death, or resurrection. My life had new meaning. It was no longer about my Earthly success, but it was also about my spiritual success.

A year and a half I would return Elder Orr's favor and serve in the Idaho, Pocatello mission.

In two weeks my life was changed forever, quite literally, forever.