Monday, December 23, 2013

Week Twenty-Five


  It has been written that it all began with a new star in the heavens, heralding the advent of the sacred babe in Bethlehem. Yet a record of this event predates the star by thousands of years, when the Firstborn of the Father fully accepted and covenanted to fulfill the role critical to the whole of the Plan of Salvation and to become the Savior of the world. We find ourselves this Christmas season wondering about those animals privileged to be there as the only witnesses, other than Joseph and Mary, of this sacred event. Were they too selected for their role and will they someday bear witness of the wonders of what they saw as we ourselves, wonder and give reverent thanks to the joy that swells our souls in recognition of this seminal event.

The London family, members of the Lake Forest ward brought to our attention a story appearing in the Meridian magazine about a young boy in Eastern Europe being adopted by a Haddock family in Lindon, Utah. At eighteen and following some very special dreams, he receives his mission call to the country from which he came and is assigned unknowingly to the very town where his mother and other relatives are living. I told them we were not related to our knowledge and we marveled at the many “coincidences” that brought this story to fruition.

Brother David Bass also of the Lake Forest ward has been appointed to the role as City Councilman in Lake Forest and we along with many members of the ward attend the city council meeting for the ceremonial swearing in performed by another member of the ward who is a sitting Superior Court judge. I mentioned his all dressed up in his robes and he said, “They are good to hide food stains.” The Mayor announced the program beginning with the swearing in and then a five minute recess to allow family and friends of Dave Bass to leave. Nearly the whole crowd got up and left during the recess.

We had lunch with the Lake Forest elders at Chipotles, our first visit there, both the salad and tacos we had were delicious. We then took them over to meet  the One family as Elder Marrs’ home is very close to where Brother One was raised and he wanted to meet this new elder. We had a pleasant visit with Brother One explaining how the hundreds of Christian faiths were designed to meet the needs of their members but he is unwilling so far to draw the conclusion that the very thing he describes is reason for the restoration.

A mission wide Christmas Party was held on Thursday with each zone doing a skit, two stories from a professional story teller and Christmas music from the mission choir. The event lasted nearly five hours but we didn’t.

Elder and Sister Johnson, who live in Nellie Gail, a posh area here in Laguna Hills, invited fellow Senior Missionaries to dinner Friday evening. A house across the street and down two or three homes was in the ABC Battle of Christmas Lights and is drawing big crowds. So they also invited one-half of the Missionary Choir (40 members) to carol in their driveway for about one-half hour. Several stopped briefly on the way to and fro but a man and woman lingered, joined in the singing and remarked that I had a good base voice and was standing on the wrong side of the sidewalk. Of course Jan had been talking with them for about 15 minutes already even though nary a one of the missionaries in the crowd, probably 20 or more, had spoken with a single individual. They were Mike and Elaine Gold, she from Bristol, England and working as a Nanny just down the street on Mustang Drive and he from the Bronx, strong accent and all. We had a nice friendly visit. She asked, “I can’t believe this family would organize a choir to sing in their driveway.” We explained we were missionaries, what we did and what Church we represented. They attend the Basked of Life Church. Elaine also said that the used to love to carol in England. They would knock at the door first and ask if they could sing a carol. When invited to do so they would commence to sing. They took one of our cards and as they were leaving we noticed the choir, the watchers, and all the other missionaries were gone. It was exciting that we alone had made the only contact and that only happened because of Jan’s perpetual willingness to open her mouth as the Lord as directed.

We learned there was a possibility with a new set of Seasoned Missionaries coming out that we could relocate to an apartment closer to the wards we are serving but after giving it consideration with all the trouble we had in lining us doctors the thought of moving seemed too daunting.

Spent considerable time in discussion with Jan as to why the area has not been more productive missionary wise. We have two very missionary minded bishops, two WML who are terrific, a gang of ward missionaries in each ward who are doing everything they can and three sets of young missionaries who faith, diligence and effort seem outstanding. Yet the results are sparse. The idea that the Lord won’t touch the hearts of those who are ready because the members are not ready to receive and bless them doesn’t seem to hold water. Is it a fact that there are no people, families particularly, in this area who are ready? In other words it doesn’t matter what is being done. Do I have the right to importune the Lord in this matter? How come investigators are not coming to the door asking for baptism as I had so often happen on my mission? Lots of questions as our hearts begin to yearn for these young missionaries.

In meeting with the Six family Sister H mentioned that she had spoken with our grandson Trajan who moaned when he learned we still have another year to go. To which Brother Six said, “Well, next time you talk with him tell him there are people here who are sad that you only have another year here.”

We called and set up an appointment for us to visit the Fifteen Family and share a Christmas message with their two children, Audrey and Nathan. I read the Little One Christmas story book and they were so touched by the story we felt to give the book to them.

About twenty minutes before church Sunday, the WML called and had an emergency necessitating him taking his oldest daughter to urgent care. He asked if I could take the Gospel Essentials class for him. I said certainly what did he want the message on and he said Joy. So I was able to teach the class with Brother Two in attendance for the first time I had taught a class. He called to tell express his appreciation. “As you began to teach a special spirit came into the room. It made me at ease so I felt I could comment and participate. I think Jesus was with you because you were so confident and at ease.” I told him I suspect that He was teaching him rather than me.


Week Twenty-Four

WEEK TWENTY-FOUR December 16, 2013

We were invited to breakfast with the One Family a little bump in the road whose sign didn’t even carry all the letters of the name, yet inside was a nice clean diner whose patrons were mostly police, fire fighters, city workers and school teachers. Sister H and I shared French toast (best I’ve ever had) and a plate of eggs, bacon, and potatoes. Just proves you really can’t tell a book by its cover AND the importance of checking with “locals” to find where to eat. We enjoyed a nice gospel discussion together and have gone from “why are you here” to “can you come over” in our relationship. We haven’t been able to pull of the Elder and Sister though, we are Jerry and Jan to them. The relationship has been so warm both Brother One and I have wondered if our paths crossed when I was serving in Erie, PA and he was attending Edinboro State.

Had another Melchizedek Priesthood preparation discussion with Brother Twenty who is shooting for January to visit with the Bishop. He seems very earnest.

We invited the Elders Quorum president of the Aliso Creek Ward to visit with us with the Twenty-first family. Although baptized nearly a year ago in Elsinore, the ward was divided and the new bishop suffered a stroke leaving this young family largely on their own. They then moved to Irvine and with the last couple of weeks into this ward. President Miner had asked if he needed to prepare anything as we were going to discuss the Plan of Salvation and I told him no. But as we all sat together visiting I felt impressed to change the subject and told Brother Twenty-One that we were going to quiz the Elder’s Quorum President. So I asked him what he did for a living, how he met his wife, about his family, then did the same with his first counselor, second counselor and secretary. Asked for quorum objectives, how welcome Brother Twenty-One would feel in the quorum, whether he would be receiving a HT assignment quickly and whether a HT would be assigned to their home. In nine months in Elsinore he had never been asked to HT and their HT had only made one visit. The President was terrific, very warm, caring and supportive. I think if was a better visit than discussing the Plan of Salvation as this was that plan in action.

We have been working with Brother Two to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood when it occurred to me that when older brethren receive the Aaronic Priesthood following baptism they miss out on the opportunity of administering the Sacrament. So with the permission of the bishop I contacted the elder’s quorum president, the same who had visited the TwentyOne family with us, who just happens to be the home teaching companion of Brother Two, to see if he would assist by sitting at the Sacrament table with Brother Six. He gladly accepted and got with Brother Two regarding the format and particulars. Sunday he performed the ordinance of the Sacrament. The bishop told me, “He did it like an old pro. I looked over to him and nodded when he finished and he gave me a thumbs up sign with a big grin.” Sister H and I were in the other ward so missed out on the experience but when I sent him a text of what the bishop said his response was “I was quite anxious. So the power of prayer was demonstrated.” Left me to wonder if anyone before has ever given a thumbs up sign after speaking the Sacrament prayer. Wish I had been there to see it. I’m quite confident the Lord was pleased.

One of the young missionaries in the Aliso Creek ward asked me how one could tell the difference between their own thoughts and promptings of the Holy Spirit. He was particularly interested in how to act when there seemingly is no answer. I told him experience had taught me he was asking the wrong question, i.e., is it the Lord or me? So proceeding along that path would only lead to further confusion, self-doubt, and worry over something that is meaningless. In other words his question just didn’t really matter.

The proper questions one needs to ask may include: Am I living worthy to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit? Have I sought the Lord in the way He has appointed? Do I have the requisite real intent, i.e., am I fully committed to follow whatever direction the Lord gives, regardless of consequence? Have I committed the appropriate effort to determine for myself the answer to my question? Have I reached a conclusion that fits my experience and common sense? Is my decision in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and living prophets? Is this decision within my realm of stewardship? Does this decision lead me toward Christ? Am I willing to patiently wait upon the Lord, both as to His timing and as to His method of answering me?

If the answers to those questions are positive, then he should proceed, trusting the Lord and giving Him the credit for everything. You have chosen to live so the Lord can trust you and are willing to act regardless of consequence. Should such honest actions be in error the Lord will gently intrude, when the time is right, and you will be given course corrections enabling you to be and stay on the path the Lord directs.

We had lunch with the Two family and Dinner with the King family of the Lake Forest Ward and met several new couples. All on Jan’s birthday. What a way to celebrate.  

We also attended a dinner with many from our Bible Study group and we were going to see the Follow the Star program but got interrupted with some other visits that needed to be made. But the next night we took the Thirty family, the ones who decided we weren’t weird and the Six family to Follow the Star. A Live manger scene complete with animals sponsored by the Santa Margarita Stake and a crèche exhibit of several hundred manger scenes. The presentation was about twenty minutes and excellent. They welcomed the community to this gift from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Thirty family asked for us to wait as they went back to pick up a picture of the Savior that was being presented. They were very impressed. Then the six of us had dinner at Macaroni Grill in Irvine.

One of the home teachers arranged for us to visit along with them to a single sister, the ThirtyThird family, who had joined the church in Menifee but has not progressed very much. We got well acquainted. She told how she has trouble understanding the Book of Mormon and accepted our invitation to visit regularly to discuss the Book of Mormon. We promised to get a couple of books for her and come back for another visit.

We held Family Home Evening with the Six family as they hadn’t “gotten around to it” yet. We brought the treats, a game, and the lesson and had their seven year old daughter conduct. Everyone seemed to have a good time. There was so much laughing Brother Six called the next day to apologize and I told him that was how all our family home evenings went. In fact, I told him, we pulled the drapes as we didn’t want neighbors to see just how much fun we were having. I think we gave them a new vision of what FHE could be. Brother Six said he was having a hard time with “this becoming God’s” stuff. As I question him the concern was how we could ever displace God. I told him, “Whatever it is you attain unto beyond the veil, God will always be the boss.” “Oh,” he said, “Now I understand.” His wife called the next day to tell us that little comment had made a big difference for both of them.

Sister H had a nice visit on the telephone with Sister Sondra Jones, our good friend back home and learned about their family. She also sent Sister H a happy birthday message (as did the Relief Society) that was appreciated.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Week Twenty-Three

WEEK TWENTY-THREE December 9, 2013

Each day fly’s by so fast I’m beginning to wonder if we will be able to accomplish anything when we get home. There just isn’t enough time in a given day. We are sure having a hard time shoehorning in everything we need to get done out here. Seems we get up, then its lunch, and dinner and we’re off to bed.

We’ve been meeting with the Nineteen Family seated around a table as I keep finding myself drawing what I am trying to explain. Each time one of the dogs sniffs around Jan’s purse which is on the floor. They told us that one night on the dog’s bed was a rubber band bracelet the 11-year old daughter of the Fifteen Family had made for Jan and 4 unwrapped but uneaten cough drop all from Jan’s purse.

We had our first discussion, a very engaging one on the godhead, with the Twenty-first family this week. In asking whether they we had covered the subject thoroughly enough for them, the both remarked, she a lifelong member and he recently baptized, that they had learned more about the godhead than they had ever been exposed to before. Next week we are going to review the testimony of the living apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ. We encouraged them to write up the inspiring story of the two dreams that led to Brother Twenty-first’s baptism.

Meeting with Brother Twenty he was anxious for more information from the Bible as the need for authority in Christ’s church. That has been a recurring theme. In fact I had a bible study meeting scheduled this week to cover that topic but it had to be postponed to later in the month. Holiday season no matter how often I hear (I heard the same thing as a young missionary) that Christmas is such a wonderful time to share the gospel I have not found that to be true. People are just too busy and have little time for anything other than family. Made a suggestion to the bishop that this brother who is unable to work be considered for some volunteer duty at the Bishop’s storehouse to keep him busy and engaged and the bishop said he would follow up on that.

At their request we had a wonderful meeting with the One Family. The change in our reception has been remarkable as they have actively been seeking us out to share gospel messages with them.

Our scheduled meeting with the Nineteen Family was cancelled and they didn’t accept our invitation to come with us to the Sing Noel Christmas presentation of the Santa Margarita Stake on Saturday evening, just too busy. Wow, what a presentation. The quality of the musicians, the singing the orchestration and presentation itself were beyond anything we could compare it with. What a wonderful experience we were absolutely thrilled with it all. As a nice side note we have the Six Family and the Thirty Family there with us. The Thirty Family are friends of the Six Family who when they were invited had a very unflattering view of “senior missionaries” imaging us in dowdy clothes and pulling a wagon filled with Bibles. After the visit and presentation they told the Six Family, and maybe the best compliment we have ever received, “They are not weird at all.” We also received an invitation from them for dinner this holiday season. They live outside our mission in Anaheim Hills. So remember friends, we are not weird at all.

I have tried to enlist the support of home and visiting teachers to set up appointments for us with families they feel we could bless with our special talent of “time.” This week a home teacher in the Aliso Creek arranged for us to visit a sister with them, the Thirty-First family who is an enforcement officer with IRS. She had two large cats and by large I mean close to mountain lion size so I found myself silently praying that I could survive the allergic reaction I have to cats, praying that my throat would not well shut as has normally happened. I was wise enough to locate a sit far from any perch. We had a good visit, not sure how often we can visit there however although we would be welcome. When we got home I hung my clothes outside our room for a couple of days and immediately took some Benadryl and other than some coughing, congestion and tiredness for a couple of days, made it okay thanks be to God.


1.    Jesus Christ organized His church with priesthood authority during His mortal ministry
2.    He continued to direct His church through the priesthood after His resurrection
3.    The apostasy and loss of priesthood authority was foretold
4.    The need for a subsequent restoration was prophesied

Jesus received His instructions from His Father in Heaven and personally instructed and directed the leaders of the church

HEBREWS 1:1-3               Instructed by the Father

MATTHEW 16:16-19         Church to be directed by revelation

MATTHEW 28:19-20         He would guide church leaders from heaven

JOHN 14:26                      Holy Ghost sent in fulfillment

ACTS 10                           Peter directed to teach gospel to the whole world

The ordinances and principles of the gospel are only administered through the priesthood

HEBREWS 5:4-6               God have this authority to Jesus Christ

Christ ordained apostles and gave them power and authority of the priesthood

JOHN 15:16                      I have chosen and ordained you

To maintain order in the church, Jesus gave the greatest responsibility and authority to the Twelve Apostles

EPHESIANS 2:19-21         Church was carefully organized and compared to a building, its sure foundation being prophets and apostles

MATTHEW 16:19              Peter was appointed the chief apostle

LUKE 10:1                         Seventies appointed in pairs to assist the Twelve

The pattern and appointment continued after Christ was resurrected

ACTS 1:1-2                       Gave commandments to the Apostles through the Holy Ghost

ACTS 1:23-24                    Revelation from heaven designated who was to be called
The priesthood was necessary to do missionary work, perform ordinances, instruct and inspire Church members and maintain order and consistency, until—

EPHESIANS 4:12-13         Come to a unity of the faith, unto a perfect man

The organization of the Church was intended to continue

ACTS 13:1-3                     Priesthood ordination by the laying on of hands following revelation

EPHESIANS 4:4-6             One Lord, one faith, one baptism

The Bible predicts the great apostasy

ISAIAH 24:1, 3, 5-6            Transgressed laws, changed ordinances, broken everlasting covenant

AMOS 8:11-12                   Famine from hearing the word of the Lord

ACTS 20:29-30                  Apostasy within the church established by Christ

2 THESS. 2:1-3                 Christ will not return until after there has been a falling away first

2 TIMOTHY 3:1, 5             Apostasy will come because people deny priesthood authority

Paul’s letters are perhaps one of the best witnesses of the eroding forces washing away the foundation of the Church as he spends considerable energy trying to smother the flames of apostasy

GALATIANS 1:6-7             Marvel you are so soon removed from the gospel of Christ

Since God loves all his children in all ages, His gospel, including ordinances and authority, was introduced in the beginning of time

Moses 5:58-59                   Gospel preached from the beginning by an holy ordinance

Alma 13:2-7                       Ordained unto the high priesthood, which order was from the foundation of the world

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day is the Church of Jesus Christ, re-established 6 April 1830

D&C 1:30                          The only true and living church
D&C 115:3-5                      A standard for the nations

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week Twenty-Two

WEEK TWENTY-TWO December 2, 2013

Had another visit with the eye doc for Jan and learned we had some hemorrhaging on optic nerve in her right eye. We think this came from the visit with Dr. Normand in Newport Beach. She is also noticing some vision changes. So there is some concern. But later in the week, on Friday evening, with my brother Rick in town and nephew Nick we gave Jan and blessing and the Lord seemed to say “don’t worry” which caused our daughter Kerri to text that we need another blessing to keep her from worrying. It was really a nice blessing to have my brother in town at the right moment to add his faith to the process.

Attended our first transfer meeting. Never had anything like it in my mission as a young elder. On Saturday evening those involved were told they needed to be to the meeting but not where or who was going. At the meeting a name was called and the new companion and area with each assignment apparently required to show more enthusiasm than any previous. Quite a wild event. I’m glad we just got a phone call of letter telling us to be somewhere at a certain time. Members have to bring the missionaries to the transfer meeting and sit there about two plus hours for it all to unfold. Told the mission president if he was considering changing my companion I was going home. He laughed.

At the transfer meeting one of the zone leaders asked me "What is the Priesthood? I know what it does and why it is necessary but what is it? For example, I know what gasoline does but I also know the chemical composition of gasoline, that's what it is." Mom asked him if he wanted me to send him something and he said, "No my mind is already too jumbled up." As I thought about the question I think that only as resurrected beings can we enjoy the power and glory that God has but a portion of that power and glory is given to us on the earth to prepare us to receive the fulness as resurrected beings in the world to come, and that portion we call the priesthood. So I suggested this definition which seemed to come to me—The Priesthood of God is a manifestation of the power of God, being a portion of the light and glory God possesses and the “channel though which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 166-67) and is delegated to and becomes operational in man only through faith, righteousness and the will of God.

We received an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, turkey gumbo and another dinner on Friday and a third thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. We were well taken care of as we had three more dinner offers that we couldn’t accept. As a young missionary had back to back thanksgiving dinners once and thought I was going to suffer a slow death by bursting of the stomach.

At the Thursday dinner me a sister from England who shared with us a lot about Yorkshire and the North Riding. She believed the name Haddock came from that area. When I looked at the letter my great-grandmother Haddock wrote to my grandfather describing there conversion it was in Middlesbrough, North Riding, Yorkshire. Even though the family had lived in Wales for two hundred years, at the time of their conversion, they and her parents, all born in Wales, were living in Middlesbrough. It was fun to hear about the area, the people and the things to see there. I was able to present a message at the gathering.

Friday we shared turkey gumbo with a member family and non-member relatives the Twenty-ninth family, and a message about Christmas. Must have hit the right notes as there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. A very sweet spirit prevailed. We first looked at the video Christmas is Christ. I shared that the focal point in human history was the birth of the Savior which was represented by a new star in the heavens. The birth was witnessed by the young Joseph, a beautiful virgin mother and animal who had not the power to utter the sacredness they saw. I pointed out that shepherds would soon arrive and sometime later wise men. Eventually there would come Santa Claus and Frosty and Rudolph—and all would be welcome according to Elder Holland. Just a little family No toys. No tree or tinsel. That was how Christmas began. Then shared President Hunter’s suggestion for a new star—“ This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.” Following that visit we made contact with my brother and his son and their family.

Saturday morning we helped clean the Lake Forest chapel which surprised everyone. Had dinner with the 6th Family and another discussion with them Sunday.

The Two family had some needs and called asking us to pray for them. We were happy to receive a note of appreciation thanking us for “all your prayers great day today. Apparently that went so well, a few days later we were invited to pray for Sister Two’s sister who was also in need. While Sister Two was away we had hot dogs with the rest of the family and continued our discussion on preparation for the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Had a number of meetings cancelled this week again with the respiratory virus taking the area by storm. The 21 Family hoped to be over things by the week after Thanksgiving. We are still laboring under this as well. We placed a thanksgiving card on the doorstep of the 19th Family who were also unavailable, which read “Two wonderful examples of Thanks-living” and shared the following quote from Harold B. Lee, “Gratitude is expressed in prayer and thanksgiving; but more so in living lives of honor and integrity, of kindness and compassion, in awareness of others and their needs, and an honest expression of gratitude for all those who bless and affect our lives for good. Thanksgiving is best expressed in thanks-living—in lives of goodness and obedience and love and service.” (Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974).

Shared with our ward mission leaders my thoughts on our skill as senior missionaries. The one thing we can offer that no one else in the ward can offer is time. Even retired couples don't have the time that we have just because of the demands of everyday life that we have left behind. It occurs to me that using that "skill" we might be able to accomplish the objective of Hastening the Work (members and missionaries working together) by encouraging Home and Visiting Teachers to be on the lookout for needs that "time" can address and coordinating with us to set up appropriate appointments with those families.