Who they were and what they did
My wife Sharon and I like many other people these days are searching for our ancestors.
This is something like saying the Lone Ranger and Tonto are searching for the outlaws. That’s not to say our kinfolk were outlaws necessarily. It’s to say we resemble the masked man and his faithful Native American assistant in our modus operandi. Lone Ranger did the tactical and strategy instructions, such as “Hyo Silver,” and Tonto chipped in with helpful observations like, “Not long gone Kimo Sabe. Campfire still warm.”
I have the Tonto part and Sharon is the dogged detective. She loves to do puzzles, figure out stuff, and even works hard at figuring out me.
Sharon knows how to find the ancestors. I contribute by analyzing (or fanticizing} what they and their lives were like. The goal, as the Old Testament prophet Malachi described it is to, “…turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).
The first priority is to do for them ordinances they didn’t have the opportunity to do when they were alive, but we also feel it helps us to bond with them, and they with us if we know something about the world they lived in.
In a show Sharon and I do on pioneer songs and stories I sometimes wander off into my fabricated family history. The part about our branch of the family coming from Mount Airy North Carolina is true. Most of rest is as authentic as my imagination could conjure it.
They were mountain williams to use the more formal term. The less formal is hill billies. They were very poor. So poor that they all slept in the same bed. My folks invented the family group sheet.
One day they met the Mormon missionaries. They liked what they heard about the church but grandpa was reluctant. He said “I’m not going to join any church that would have people like me in it.”
Later on he humbled himself, the family joined the church, and they went to Nauvoo Illinois to be with the Saints. Only to find that the Saints had left Nauvoo some 23 years earlier. Grandpa said, “Seems like we’re always late for church. “
Grandpa also said, We can’t even take the train, it’s already gone. See here’s its tracks“
Fortunately there was another train later. They came west and settled around Payson Utah.
A few generations before all this happened the family separated into Hiatts and Hyatts. Apparently the deal was the Hy’s would get the luxury hotels, and the Hi’s the gift of gab, and the humility.
Fair exchange I suppose. I’m not complaining, but as I’ve traveled around the country over the years I’ve sometimes looked up at a big elegant hotel and on the top the bold letters, “Hyatt House.” I’ve pondered, “There but for a Y, go I.”
But, of course, we all owe a great debt to our ancestors. Without them where would we be? Literally.
And no matter how colorful or quixotic our heritage, we are all one big family of brothers and sisters descended from noble parentage, Father Adam, and Mother Eve.
Little Epistle: Smoothing Wrinkles
One of our daughters had a traumatic occurrence recently. Looking in the mirror one morning she saw a wrinkle in her face that had not been there before at least she hadn’t seen it. And she couldn’t find a way to smooth it out.
Knowing how bright and well informed young people are today, I am reluctant to offer counsel on many subjects, but I may be an authority on wrinkles. For a while I called mine smile lines or certifications of deep thinking and mature character. But at this point I am having a hard time selling that package even to myself. They are declarations of the cumulative winters on my head. They also proclaim a skeletal structure which is shrinking and a skin covering that refuses to join in, leaving it with no alternative but to wrinkle and sag.
I might be tempted to have a face lift, but then I would need a neck lift, some leg lifts and maybe even toe skin shrinkage to make the whole package match. Otherwise I would be a youthful face stuck on an ancient carcass.
Probably I’ll just join the distinguished fraternity of Yoda, Abraham Lincoln and King Tut. Lincoln once apologized to his audience that “… I am on this side of my face and you are on that side.”
I should also follow the counsel of my sister Jeanie who has progressed from a beautiful bride to a beautiful grandmother. She says, “I worked hard to get these wrinkles. Why would I want to cover then up?
I have found one secret place to hide my sagging jowls and slack jaw. I pin then to my cheek bones with a smile. This also improves my health and outlook. As old King Solomon counseled, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
I fancy people saying as I walk by, “Wasn’t that a merry spirited young looking man.”
“Yes, and did you notice how wet his bones were.”
Little Epistle: Changes in the Church
As you probably know there are big changes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, formerly called by some people the Mormons. And that’s one of the big changes. Now “Mormon” once again refers just to the compiler of the book bearing his name.
Like all changes these require some effort to be accomplished. For those who feel that using the full name of the church is a challenge, I invite you to be sympathetic with my friends the Tongans. That’s where I served my first mission. This is how you say the Church’s name in their language, Koe Siasi o Sisu Kalisi oe kau ma’onioni I he ngaahi aho ki moini.
Take a deep breath before you start on that.
Also as you may know we have combined the high priests with the elders. Our son Matt said, “We now have a quorum of the movers in the shakers.”
Brethren who have been involved in helping families move from one house to another know what he means. Picture a husky young elder hauling out a refrigerator followed by an aged high priest with a quivering stack of doilies each of them doing his best.
Also as you may know men who formerly were home teachers are now ministers, and sisters who were visiting teachers are also ministers. With the new names comes a change in the in the responsibilities. As a home teacher sometimes we brethren were content with visiting the family once a month, checking them off and then forgetting about them until the next month.
There were also some in-house jokes such as the home teacher who was asked by his leader, “Every year you faithfully get 10 out of 12 visits. Could you raise that to 12 visits for 12 months?“
Home teacher says, “Yes I suppose I could, but it would be awkward to go out on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.”
Or the brother boasting, “I always make my visits the first day of the month.”
Another responded, “Oh yeah, well I do mine the day before that.”
Even they were a cut above those who felt that if you saw your family while driving down the road and honked at them you could call that a home teaching visit.
Hopefully those were just jokes.
But today our responsibility is to get to know our families, find out how we can serve them, and pray for guidance from the Spirit to follow through. Everything from mowing lawns and fixing fences to finding sources of financial counsel, visiting them in the hospital, praying for them when hard times strike and giving priesthood blessings. I have done all these. Some took more time and resources than others, but all of them gave me the same feeling in various degrees, that in my small and weak mortal way I was following in the path of the Savior.
As I am learning my trade as a minister, I find that the Lord is involved not only in helping those to whom I minister, but in helping me.
I am still an apprentice working to become a master craftsman, but I can say this. The pay scale even at my level of expertise is spectacular. Basically the equation is if I put in a teaspoon of effort I receive back a bucketful of blessings running over.
I invite your comments and experiences on how you are affecting the ministering program, and how it is affecting you.
What's New at the Mortuary
What’s new at the Mortuary
NOTE: This is not an insinuation of any plans I have for the near future.
Do you remember this joke attributed to Will Rogers and others? “When I die I want to go like my grandpa did, peacefully in my sleep not screaming and hollering like those other people in the car.”
Today, that’s just the beginnings of your options. This is not your grandpa’s funeral. The dying business has gone high-tech and low tech. At the high tech end, you can have yourself cremated, and then have your ashes become part of a coral reef, a tree, a diamond ring, or some other medium you may choose I assume. You can also have a computer chip embedded in your coral reef, tree, diamond ring or other resting place so that your loved ones can find you in the future.
For those who want to be buried in a more traditional way, but are concerned about adding the more permanent concrete, steel, wood and other slow dissolving materials to the earth’s underground, there’s a low tech alternative. You can have a casket made from bamboo. Then you and the casket will sooner become a part of the earth from which we sprung.
I am interested in these new alternatives for returning dust to dust. My own preference is rather personal. When I was in high school I had a 1939 mercury coupe. Even then it was dated, but it had a certain charm. It was cute. But it was also too much car I thought. Too high, too long, too bulky and round. So in my youthful enthusiasm I took care of these manufacturer miscalculations, and cut it down to the sports car I could see in my mind.
Great lesson in life which it took me several years to learn. It is much easier to remove than to replace. Cutting it down took some elbow grease and time, but nothing compared to trying to put it back together in its new form. It took me years between high school and college basketball, dating, a mission to Tonga for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, marriage, and the first few of what would be a rather large contingent of children.
I ran out of time, money, and skill. In truth I ran out of skill first.
Still the dream lives on, and I confess I have my project sequestered in a semi-secret place. Unless the dream dies before I do, I have a wafting vision of passing away peacefully in my bed not my car. Then having a mortuary finish my customizing project, and setting my last mortal remains into the driver seat with hands on the steering wheel and rolling the package into my underground plot/garage in a cemetery to triumphantly drive out in the resurrection.
So far I haven’t seen any offers from funeral homes, to take on the project, but with all these new innovations who knows?
Acres of Semi-precious stones
One of the more famous true stories turned parable was told by Russell H. Conwell founder of Temple University. Al Hafed a prosperous Middle East farmer sold his farm and wandered the world looking for a fabled field of diamonds. He never found them. He came back to his starting point worn out and broke. He then found to his dismay that the man who bought his farm had discovered diamonds in his back field, acres of diamonds.
We may or may not find diamonds right under our nose. But there is no question there is a load of semi precious gems piled in front of us every morning when we get out of bed. We may see them as gravel beneath our feet. They may irritate our bare toes and tempt us to walk around them, or just stay in bed away from them. They probably will not look like much since most of them are uncut gems. They need to be worked on, faceted, shined up to show their worth to us.
The gems may present themselves as work that needs to be done, or inconveniences that we’d rather not deal with. They may be problems to solve, people to help, some of whom will probably not even say thanks, the whole pile will be spread over with the dust of routine chores of every day.
We will have to wipe this off with the cloth of our daily commitment to do the mundane stuff that keeps our world just moving. But if that is all we do, we will dust a pile of rocks but never shine them up.
If on the other hand we dig in to those individual rocks we will find in our daily labors new skills, to develop. In our service to others we’ll unearth personalities, talents and gifts in the people all about us we never suspected. We will find joy and warmth in work well done even if we are the only ones who know who did it.
Acres of opportunity studded with at least semi precious stones and occasionally real gems lie within the range of every step we take in every day. Ours is the responsibility and the opportunity to see these little treasures, pick them up, shine them up, and leave them as sparkling sign posts along the path we have taken through life.