It wasn't very long, and I don't remember much of what it said. But what my grandfather wrote at the end has stayed with me. He essentially wrote, "I don't know if anything I've said is helpful, but if it is, keep it. Throw the rest away."
In the ensuing years, I've marveled at the wisdom my grandfather gave me in such a compact package. It's part of the heritage I've received from all my grandparents. All have passed on, but their contributions to me remain with me. And it's those contributions that fill my heart with gratitude as I remember grandparents.
Remember the paternal
His wife a real Nosy Nellie, but she also had a kindness of her own while insisting others adopt a vigorous work ethic. She died of cancer while I was on my mission, but I had a special experience at the time through which I understood that she had moved to a better place.
Remember the maternal
I never knew my mother's father — at least not in this life — because he died while my mother served her mission. But I've had a special experience through which I've come to "know" him in a real and connected way.
He lived as a sharecropper growing some soybeans but mostly tobacco. His neighbors could never understand how my grandfather could be a Latter-day Saint and grow tobacco for a living. When asked about it, my grandfather would reply, "I don't smoke it or chew it. I just grow it." He was a down-to-earth, simple man who believed in hard work and worked hard with his own hands to support a growing family.
His wife was the only woman I've ever known who cooked better than my mother. Apologies to my other grandmother, who never would have tolerated something like that said in her presence, but it's true. She was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. The summers my brother and I spent on her farm are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Pay it forward
I've got so many memories flooding my mind now that I can't possibly describe them all in this monologue. But these memories form the bulk of the heritage my grandparents bequeathed me, a heritage I carry with me to this day and hope one day to bestow upon the children I still hope to have.
It's little wonder then why we have a day to commemorate the contribution of grandparents. What is a wonder is why the holiday isn't more well known. Everyone knows about Mother's Day and Father's Day. But I didn't know about Grandparents' Day before this year.
This Sunday, let's remember grandparents. What legacy have your grandparents left you? What memories of them influence you today? If they're still here, take some time on Sunday to thank your grandparents for whatever positive difference they made in your life. And if they're not, then do as I'm doing and reflect on the difference they made.
Either way, when you remember grandparents, you keep them alive in your heart. You carry the heritage they left behind, making it easier to leave that heritage to those who live after you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Christmas is right around the corner, and as long-time members of the audience know, Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we know why. There’s the time with family and friends, the food, the presents, the lights everywhere, and the general feeling of goodwill, just to name a few.
In addition, many of us will have our own slight adjustments to that list because we each have our own traditions for celebrating the season. Those traditions create memories that can last a lifetime. We can reflect back and relive the goodness of those moments, an experience bringing us joy again and again.
Yet we truly treasure those old memories when we allow them to motivate us in creating new memories to treasure and recording them in some way that allows us to bring these memories to future generations. By creating new memories as well as the means to share those memories with those coming after us, we truly treasure our memories of the season.
Relive past memories
We can all capture joy by reflecting back on treasured memories of past Christmases, particularly those that involve family traditions. Some of my most treasured memories of Christmas as I grew up involved two special traditions: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning breakfast.
Dinner on Christmas Eve was a huge smorgasbord. We would list everything we wanted to eat — pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken, Chinese, whatever. We’d intentionally get more than we could possibly eat in one setting so we’d have leftovers over the next 2-3 days and my mother wouldn’t have to cook. It was my father’s annual present to my mother.
But we needed to have Christmas breakfast before getting to that point, and that was also a feast in its own right. We’d have waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns — pretty much anything you’d want for a big breakfast. And just like the night before we’d have leftovers to eat the next couple of days.
What make these memories so treasured for me is that they required us to work together. Our Christmas Eve smorgasbord usually required 2-3 of us each traveling a different route to secure a portion of the whole feast. And we’d each take turns helping to fix parts of Christmas breakfast so each of us could shower and dress to get ready for it all. By the time we were all dressed and ready, so was breakfast.
Share past memories
Of course, treasured memories will die with us unless we create a channel to transmit them across the generations. It’s great that my treasured memories bring goodness into my life whenever I relive them. But how much more goodness can I bring into the world by recording my memories so that future generations can share in my joy?
Modern technology provides many options for all of us to record the memories we make each Christmas season. I’m something of an old school fan here; I prefer handwritten journals. But there’s plenty of other options. You can record audio conversations with family members, or take photos of family being together, or record video of family members participating in family traditions. Modern technology makes it really easy to capture the moments that make great memories.
And you don’t have to settle on just one channel for preserving and transmitting memories. Again, modern technology makes it super easy to utilize multiple channels. Some careful planning can maximize your readiness to capture the memory making moments you don’t anticipate as well the ones you do.
Don’t miss the opportunity
However you choose to proceed, don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your moments. The memories that bring us joy from years past and the memories that will bring us joy in years to come arise from the actions we take now. We truly treasure the memories we have today by working to make more memories we’ll have tomorrow.
And we amplify the goodness contained in those memories by creating channels for sharing it with future generations. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your circumstances to decide your level of activity. Even if you’re single without any direct descendants, don’t think there aren’t others in succeeding generations who’ll be interested in knowing more about your goodness. Like light that shines for all to see, the goodness we each have can make memories everyone can treasure for years to come.
So treasure the memories you have by making new ones and recording them in some way for future generations. When you do, you’ll expand the goodness you experience in our your own life and transmit that goodness to those who come after you. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Because it’s always good to know what the living Prophet said in the last Conference, my selection wasn’t difficult to make. In “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” President Russell M. Nelson spoke of our increasing need to include personal revelation in our lives. And he did so by sharing experiences with revelation from his own life.
Later he revealed (pun intended) how we can best receive that revelation in our lives.
We all have questions that can be answered and challenges that can be solved with the divine inspiration that comes from revelation. But do we have the power-packed combination President Nelson offered?
Pure and obedient
Increased purity and exact obedience go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. We increase our purity only by aligning ourselves more closely to standards of truth, and that means obeying the commandments with more exactness.
I remember on my mission we were constantly encouraged to be “Ammon missionaries.” Ammon performed every command given him (Alma 18:10) and as a result had wonderful missionary opportunities open to him. Years later, many of the sons of the converts Ammon taught went to battle under Helaman’s command. Mormon ascribes their miraculous preservation in battle to their faith, which they had because “they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21).
How exact are we in our obedience? Are we unable to receive the revelation we need to do wonderful things because our tolerance for impurity is too low? Are we kept from our best life solely by the essential bits of information we might have received had we been more committed?
Seeking and feasting
Just as purity and obedience go hand in hand, so too do earnest seeking and feasting daily from the Book of Mormon. Earnest seekers of answers to questions and solutions to challenges will look to hear God’s voice through many channels. And an obvious channel is the scriptures.
And in no book of scripture can we hear the voice of heaven more clearly than in the Book of Mormon. This book was prepared for us in our day. The ancient prophet Alma the Younger instructed his son Helaman that the Lord was preparing the plates from which the Book of Mormon was later translated “that he may show forth his power unto future generations” (Alma 37:14). I believe part of that “power” is an increased capacity to hear the voice of God provide answers to our questions and solutions to our challenges.
Of course, we don’t always get answers and solutions just for the asking. Some times we’re left to struggle with our questions and challenges because that struggle will help us to grow in a way we other wouldn’t if we received everything on demand. But, as President Nelson promises,
Certainly these blessings come after we do our part. So how are we doing? Are we earnestly seeking for answers while feasting every day in the Book of Mormon?
Committed to temple and family history work
The final part of President Nelson’s power-packed combination is like icing on a cake. Temples are natural places of revelation, and the family history work that supports temple work naturally invites revelation. Both provide ways for us to practice the increased receptivity to revelation gained from increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, and daily feasting in the Book of Mormon.
I confess that lately I’ve been slacking here. There’s no reason why I can’t attend the temple weekly. In fact, I’ve never before had so little excuse not to attend weekly as I live conveniently to two temples. But like most things in life, if you don’t schedule the time to go and then commit to follow that schedule, life can easily crowd out family history and temple service.
That’s why I like President Nelson’s description: “regular time committed.” We need to establish a time when we will go to the temple and when we will participate in some aspect of family history work. And then we need to commit ourselves to follow through on our plans.
What questions do you need answered? What challenges do you need solved? Revelation can help. When we follow President Nelson’s counsel, that blessing can be ours. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I have a love-hate relationship with RootsTech. I love the energy and excitement which RootsTech generates for family history work. But you can’t really talk about family history work without telling stories about ancestors who did this wonderful thing or left that inspiring heritage. And hearing those stories makes me bawl like a baby every time. Yeah, that’s right. Every time.
Stories connect us to our ancestors and help us discover who we are. Truly our hearts turn towards our fathers when we discover, gather, and share stories of our ancestors with the generations after us. That turning of the children’s hearts aligns very well with our innate yearning for our heavenly home. And that provides for a contribution we need to make.
What will you leave?
When I learned that Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2018 would feature President Oakes, I could hardly contain my excitement. Here we have the General Authority who’s perhaps more closely identified with LDS singles life and issues than any other General Authority.
Of course the presentation was outstanding. President and Sister Oakes told stories, and I broke yet another water main. But they also touched on a theme similar to Elder Uctdorf. The Oakeses emphasized the need not just to provide ordinances for our ancestors but also to retell the stories about those ancestors continuously for the benefit of future generations.
And they brought examples. President Oakes showed copies of journals from some of his ancestors and told how sharing those journals have benefitted his descendants. Sister Oakes described how the journals of her ancestors gave her a wonderful religious education. The testimonies they bore of the restored gospel taught her much.
It made me wonder, “What stories am I leaving for the generations that come after me?” You don’t need to be married to leave a strong testimony or inspire a wonderful heritage of faith and courage. But future generations will never know it unless someone records it.
Who will you follow?
Hearing the stories of our ancestors stirs a longing inside of us. We yearn to be united with those we love who have passed on before us. Yet the same Spirit which prompts us to turn our hearts towards our fathers also invites us to follow the Savior and return to our heavenly home.
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of how God knows each one of us intimately — “your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes.” He also declared that following the Lord on the path back to our heavenly home will make our lives better. Said he,
Is there any better way to follow the Savior than participating in family history and temple work? Surely the fruits of the Spirit will be ours when we contribute to this wonderful work. And LDS singles can make very meaningful contributions.
What will you contribute?
Those who embrace this cause on their journey home will reach a wonderful realization. Elder Uchtdorf declared this life isn’t about just you or me but all of us. We all feel the yearning to come home, and that puts all of us on the same journey back to that heavenly home.
President and Sister Oakes shared similar principles in their RootsTech presentation. We must be linked together with our ancestors because we cannot be saved without them, nor can they be saved without us.
If such grandiose visions make you question what role you could possibly have in such a cause, consider Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks when he offered these thoughts:
Family history and temple work isn’t just for old people. And I don’t care how much pioneer ancestry you have; there’s work for you to do! We singles can make mighty, meaningful contributions to advancing this work. We can discover, gather, and share the stories of our ancestors in ways that will inspire those who come after us — whether or not they are our literal descendants.
As Elder Uchtdorf testified,
Let us each move forward and embrace our own contribution to the cause. When we do, we’ll work miracles in the lives of others. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
This year I made living my best life my only goal for the year. When you think about it, that could easily break down into many smaller goals. I haven’t gone too far down that rabbit hole, though, because I think part of living your best life is just keeping things simple.
I think another part of living your best life is making sure you put first things first. How can you live your best life if you aren’t giving attention to what matters most? My thoughts lately have dwelt on this particular aspect, mostly because I’ve been working so much. I understand my reasons, but I also understand those reasons don’t justify the lack of attention to things that matter most.
One of my priorities should be family history. I know I need to do more to hasten this work, but that won’t happen if I don’t dedicate the time for it and then stick to that plan. I have the plan, but it’s the sticking part that gives me trouble.
Fortunately, repentance is part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. And this week provides the perfect opportunity to get on the right track. RootsTech is here again.
Make the time
Every February the world’s largest family history conference convenes in Salt Lake. I spoke about RootsTech last year. Actually, I think I talked about RootsTech the year before that as well. I’ve looked forward to RootsTech in years past for the time with my father.
This year neither one of us are in Salt Lake, but we can still spend time together around RootsTech. Selected sessions at the conference are streamed live over the Internet. Just go to the RootsTech home page to watch those sessions live. There’s also a live streaming schedule if you want to know in advance what sessions will be broadcast.
And if you miss a session you want to see, don’t worry. Recordings of the sessions will be available for a limited time afterwards on the RootsTech website. I appreciate that because one of the live streaming sessions that interests me will start while I’m teaching class.
I did make arrangements to cover my other teaching responsibilities so I could have the time to spend with my dad. And I’ve been looking forward to it. I do want to spend time with my dad, yes. I do want to get more involved in family history work, yes. I do want to put more first things first, yes. But honestly, there’s one reason why I’ve been looking forward to this that I feel more than spending time with my father. I’m not exactly proud to admit it, but it’s true all the same.
I need a break from the busyness of my work to get back on track with my priorities and restore a sense of balance to my life.
Make the opportunity
I didn’t wait for the opportunity to be handed to me. I believe in owning my life, so I made my own opportunity. RootsTech happening at the same time just makes it more convenient.
The time I spend with my father will be a highlight for me. But so will Family Discovery Day, a special part of RootsTech which the Church organizes to engage more Latter-day Saints in family history work.
I remember the last time I attended RootsTech in Salt Lake. The surge of attendance because of Family Discovery Day was huge. I didn’t attend any of the events connected with it because there were other sessions that piqued my interest more. But the huge turnout for Family Discovery Day did get me curious.
I’m not in Salt Lake this year. But I still plan on participating in Family Discovery Day. And this year the event will begin with a very special treat. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife Wendy will be the keynote speakers.
Just like RootsTech, Family Discovery Day will be streamed live across the Internet. You can find it on the Church website starting Saturday at 1 PM MST. And sessions will be recorded and posted for later access if you can’t make it.
Make the priority
I’ve been looking forward to this week. I need to regain my balance, and I know I’ll enjoy the time with my father. But I also know I need to be more involved in family history work than I have been. RootsTech and Family Discovery Day provide excellent pathways for repentance.
Your best life includes balanced attention to priorities and everyday responsibilities. Partner with the Lord to decide what your priorities should be. Then clear the space you need to put those priorities first and bring balance to your life. When you do, you’ll have more joy in your journey.
For the past year Church leaders have promoted renewed attention on keeping the Sabbath day holy. This fits right in with my blog for the past two weeks. Taking a regular break from the cares of our lives can rejuvenate us to start over. And clearing and respecting the space to honor the Sabbath helps us to live our best life.
But what can we do on the Sabbath? We commonly hear, “Spend time with family.” That answer doesn’t really help singles who don’t have their own family. Furthermore, single parents with children can easily feel the Sabbath is far from delightful when their children make constant demands on their attention.
Over the years I’ve heard singles complain there’s nothing for them to do on Sundays. These individuals often focus on the obstacles — what we’re told not to do — rather than the opportunities — the possibilities for making the Sabbath “a delight” (Isaiah 58:13).
Your focus becomes your reality. So let’s make our reality of Sabbath day observance delightful by focusing on some possibilities for honoring the Lord’s day.
Seed your creativity
A recent blog post on the Church website provides an original list of appropriate Sabbath activities. What I love most about this list is the seed it provides to one’s creativity in the search for possibilities of new but appropriate Sabbath-day observance.
Although geared towards families with children, the list contains some items perfectly suited towards singles. For instance,
Other items on the list are more family oriented, so if you're a single parent, this list can seed your thinking. But with a little adjustment, it can do likewise for singles without families of their own. For example,
Open the door
With a little creativity, you can open the door of possibilities. As just shown, that can mean adjusting ideas on the Church-provided list to your situation. But it can also mean opening your mind to many ideas not on that list.
Family history work. Family history work is a great way to spend the Sabbath. I personally don’t do family history work on Sunday because many others are, slowing down the servers. But if that doesn’t bother you, have at it! The refining and purifying effect of participation in family history work is a great way to make the Sabbath “a delight.”
Plan your week. The Sabbath “is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:10). A weekly planning session can help you do just that. Taking a step back from your weekly routine can help you see more clearly how well you’re keeping your covenants. Are you making time for what matters most? Planning your week can help you clear the spaces you need to respect in order to live your best life.
Learn a new language. Language study keeps your mind agile, helping you confront challenges during your week more effectively. Language study can also help you gain insights from the scriptures in other languages as well as share the gospel with more people (D&C 88:78-80). Plus it can help you to teach your children to speak other languages, preparing them for future missionary service. And it need not cost a lot of money. Most adequate foreign language dictionaries cost around $5, an introductory lesson series on MP3 from Pimsleur costs around $20, and many smartphone apps such as Duolingo are free. Resources abound; you just have to look for them.
Read a good book. I love reading, especially Sunday reading. It’s a great way to rest from my weekly cares and make the Sabbath truly delightful.
Of course, there are plenty more ideas out there. Partner with the Lord to find the ideas that make the Sabbath your delight. Then make it happen. And if you have an activity idea that has helped you, feel free to share it below. Let’s help each other make the Sabbath more delightful for all of us. Then we can all reap the blessings of keeping the Sabbath day holy.
Last week I discussed our need as LDS singles to make conscious choices to nourish ourselves. We need to fortify ourselves against the storms of life that will surely beat upon us — and not because we’re single (although being single in a family-centered culture is its own special trial) but because we’re eternal beings having a mortal experience.
I discussed in some detail the four aspects of ourselves (the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body) requiring nourishment. For some reason, the idea of nourishing our heart through family history work impresses me particularly. Maybe it’s just the idea I should be nourishing my heart this way.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I need to do more in that area. That’s pretty easy to say about anything, though, true as it may be.
Maybe it’s because this time of year I normally have a trip with my dad. That annual tradition we started not that long ago petered out this year. That meant we didn’t get to spend the quality time together we anticipated.
Maybe it’s because RootsTech 2016 just took place last week, and I didn’t get to go. Missing that annual jaunt to the hive nest of Mormondom wouldn’t be so disappointing if it weren’t for what I would be missing with it. Attending the largest family history conference in the world fills the air with a certain excitement. And the presentations in the past have been outstanding. One of them gave birth to Joy In The Journey Radio.
Seeking quality time
RootsTech has traditionally offered a wide spread of session offerings to cater to many family-history-related interests, providing my father and I with some quality father-son time. We have some overlapping interests but many diverse interests.
So we would share our lists of the sessions we wanted to attend. Often only one of us would attend a session interesting us both in order to allow the other to attend another session. We would then swap notes later in the evening while partaking of the downtown Salt Lake dining scene.
That’s part of the excitement I missed this year. I’ve always believed that family history, a work done for families, should be done by families. Attending RootsTech with my dad and engaging in discussions resulting from the presentations we each saw made being a part of that work more alive to me. And just having that time with my dad made it all the more special.
Missing the tradition
RootsTech 2016 happened, but not for my dad and I. We ended up not going this year. Looking at the offerings, I didn’t feel any special pull to attend the sessions. Many of their offerings seemed pared down in comparison with past years.
I also knew my mother (who no longer drives) would be more likely to let my dad go if I were to stay home with her in case she needed anything. So I volunteered to stay home. It was just as well because I had tons of work I ended up taking vacation in order to complete.
But the final word from my mother didn’t allow my father to go out of town and leave her. So my dad didn’t get to go either. I thought perhaps we might watch some of the sessions online. RootsTech broadcasts parts of the conference via live streaming on their website. I didn’t get to watch anything, though, as I had too much work calling my name.
Following the promptings
Replaying these memories, I realize what’s working inside of me. Partly it’s a longing for the anticipated yet absent quality time with my dad. I need to make some arrangements to do something else with my dad to compensate.
But it’s also the spirit of Elijah. For some reason, I need to increase my participation in this work. The Lord has promised added protective power to those who participate in this work, and perhaps this is why I’m prompted in this direction. It could very well be something else. I don’t know. And I don’t have to know to follow the promptings.
Family history work is for everyone. We LDS singles should be a part of this work. However the Spirit prompts you to participate, follow those promptings. The Lord is trying to bless us, and as we follow the promptings He provides, we can have joy in our journey regardless of our circumstances.
When you own your life, you know that the life best lived is one fully lived. That’s why on occasion I’ll post about one of the four main life areas, or what I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body.
Today we look at the mind, which treats the intellectual/mental aspect of life as well as culture. I love history, so I often go there to improve my mind.
And when it comes to history, nothing beats being in the places where history was made.
Seeking out history
History is made everywhere. And it’s very much worth knowing if it relates to you. For instance, many of my ancestors lived in Idaho, so knowing more about Idaho’s history can help me know more about them and the heritage I have received from them.
And that brings me to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historical Site.
Visiting the Old Idaho Penn
Not that my ancestors were criminals. At least I don’t think they were. But how society treats its derelicts reflects cultural values, and those values influenced the people living then, including my ancestors.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historical Site (hereafter called the Old Pen) is only a few miles east of downtown Boise. The facility operated for just over a century (1872-1973) and housed over 13000 inmates, 215 of whom were women.
In fact, there was a separate women’s ward built outside the walls of the Old Idaho Pen between 1905 and 1920. Not a single one of these women were executed, although seven had convictions for second-degree murder and one for first-degree murder. That last one was given a life sentence, of which she served only 13 years.
Not so for the men. Ten were executed. A gallows in the yard provided death by hanging until the Maximum Security Building was completed in 1954. And they constructed the hanging room right next to death row. I guess that just minimizes the chances of escape (not that they were that good otherwise).
Witnesses could watch through a glass window while the condemned, bound at both hands and feet, stood on a trap door with a noose placed around his neck.
The other end of the noose is attached securely to this ceiling hook.
The executioner pulls this lever when the final moment comes, and the condemned falls through the trap door.
Underneath the gallows floor is a place called the Drop Room. Here the body was collected and a doctor examined the body to verify death. An adjacent door led outside the building where a car could transport the body to a funeral home for services.
Idaho used this operation only once, just after midnight on 18 October 1957 on Raymond Snowden, also known as “Idaho’s Jack the Ripper.” If you follow the link to learn more about the execution, I warn you that it’s no bedtime story. It may also explain why Snowden was the only one to die here. Later in 1978 then Governor John Evans replaced hanging with lethal injection as Idaho’s method of prisoner execution.
A blaze of glory (or not)
Perhaps the most notorious resident of the Old Idaho Pen was Harry Orchard, who assassinated former Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905. Steunenberg quelled violence at a northern Idaho mining town in 1899 by declaring martial law and requesting federal troops. Many labor unionists felt betrayed by Steunenberg. Five years after leaving office, Steunenberg died outside his house after a bomb rigged to a side gate exploded.
I've known about the Steunenberg statue in front of the State Capitol for years, but I always thought it was erected because he had some influential reputation as a statesman. Now I see the statue was constructed to memorialize an assassinated governor. I had no idea that Idaho’s history had any assassinations. Looks like I got another rabbit hole to explore.
Bringing it all home
So what’s in your backyard? It’s really common to think you don’t have anything, but once you start looking you’ll find lots of rabbit holes to go down. And knowing more about what's down those rabbit holes can help make you a more interesting conversationalist. Both learning more and sharing what you learn help you live life more fully.
So find your rabbit hole and start exploring. You never know where it might take you.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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