Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day

Note:  I write a letter to missionaries from our ward, from my extended family, and a few others. I think I will post those letters here just for fun.

Hello Missionary Friends!                             May 28, 2016

Happy Memorial Day!  This is one of my favorite holidays, mainly because in Rexburg, where I grew up, it generally signaled the end of winter. There were sometimes more days of frost, but generally it was okay to put out the tomatoes by the end of May. Anyway, I hope you are having a wonderful holiday of remembering those who have blazed the trail, paved the way, and set the road signs for us, the followers. That’s why we remember them.

I have been reading the essays at that the Church is publishing to help clear us some misconceptions about who we are and what we believe.  They have some appeal to the honest and humble out there who really want to learn the truth.  Some of the sectarians still don’t get it, though. For instance, this guy, head of a large and prosperous seminary (which gives a good hint as to why he can’t change his tune) had this to say: 
"The foundational doctrine of Mormonism is that God is eternal but Jesus is not,” Land told OneNewsNow. “Until they get that doctrine right — the doctrine of the Trinity — how can they be approaching orthodoxy?"
"The Mormon Jesus is not our Jesus, and the Mormon God is not the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he contends. “It's that simple — Mormonism is another religion."
It makes me want to say, “Ah, come on! You are standing in darkness and you can’t even comprehend the light.”  But that is what the Lord told Joseph Smith, too. (D&C 6:21; 45:7; 88:49.)

Susa Young Gates in a great article entitled “The Apostate” in the April 1905 Improvement Era, wrote:  One apostatizes only from truth, not error.”  That explains why people can leave the Church but they can’t leave it alone. Interesting concept, don’t you think! The essence of being able to see and comprehend the light, and to tell the difference between light and darkness, is contained in the power and gift of The Holy Ghost. The pride of the world, represented by the Great and Spacious Building without a foundation so powerfully portrayed in Lehi and Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, is what prevents people from comprehending the light. Everybody, LDS or not, has to deal with that issue.

I really enjoy working in the Twin Falls temple every Wednesday morning, as I have said many times. I have noticed, however, that something has been missing, and I identified it as my own regular temple worship. Since I retired Gaye and I have gone weekly to do endowments or initiatory, but since we have been officiating, that regularity has dropped off. So I got up Thursday morning, skipped breakfast, and drove the 5 minutes to the temple to attend an endowment session. (Gaye couldn’t go with me.) WOW!  What an experience I had! It felt like I had not been to the temple in a long time, even though I am there for 8 hours every Wednesday, officiating in everything but sealings. (We get to participate in sealing sessions as patrons a couple of times a month during our temple shift, and that is a remarkable experience, too.)

One of the things I learned from this temple experience is that Satan loves to mock God. He tells lies as if they are truths. Sometimes the words really are true, as in saying that there really is no other way, but the circumstances and the intent are false. Sometimes people say that Satan tells half-truths. Really? There is no such thing as a half-truth. He is a liar from the beginning, and we would do well to stay out of his employ. Anyway, I felt light and warmth glowing into my soul until I thought I would burst. That is the kind of experience we pray for our friends and investigators, our home teaching families, our visit teaching families, our students in our Primary and Sunday school classes, and especially our families to have in every context associated with this marvelous Gospel. We want to see the light, comprehend the light, and enjoy the safety the light brings to our lives.

I remember so well how I felt the first week I was in South Africa as a young missionary. We had spent one week in the Missionary Home in Salt Lake before flying for three days to get to Johannesburg. Everything was out of whack in my biological clock. The sun came up in the wrong place, the people were culturally and racially very different from anything I had ever experienced, the language was completely uncomprehendable, the food was weird, I had to wear a suit and tie all the time, you know the feeling. Two days later I was on a train for a 24-hour ride to my first area, where I was with a South African elder who had not even been able to go to the temple before his mission service. The nearest temple was in London, England. I was so home sick I could not even think straight. The idea of another 2 ½ years of that, with no opportunity to ever speak with my family over that whole time, was almost more than I could bear. I wanted to die every night, and getting up was painful as I realized that I was still there. Until, that is, I had a dream that I had gone home and had to face everybody. Boy, I was glad to wake up in South Africa after that!  The 2 ½ years in front of me that had appeared to be forever from the front passed too quickly, and I was on my way home.

I love reading your letters, you who share them with me. For you who don’t, I also feel your spirit and enthusiasm as I visit with your parents about how you are doing. It is such a strengthening experience for me to read how you are out there tackling your own demons with faith and commitment. And I love to learn of the lessons you are gaining as you serve and grow. Keep it up!  You are all awesome!

Tons of smiles and love to you, 

Ken Patterson

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mission Reunion and General Conference

Several weeks ago we began to hear about a reunion at the home of Elder and Sister Zwick.  Just before we left Puerto Rico there was a crisis in the mission and the Zwick’s were sent down to help get things back on track.  We were only there 3-4 days with them before we finished our mission.  In that short time, however, we felt as though we had been reunited with long-lost friends.  It is amazing how the fellowship among the Saints will do that.
The reunion was planned for the Friday before Easter.  Since General Conference was also on Easter weekend this year, that created some conflicts.  We decided to go, however, and it was the right decision.  The drive to Salt Lake is always long and boring.  Sometimes Gaye and I talk a lot, and we use that time to resolve communication snags that have arisen in our relationship.  We have learned that those issues do not resolve themselves, so having opportunities to work through them is always a good thing.

For me the best part of the reunion was seeing the missionaries, old 

and young, 
whom we had grown to love while in the Caribbean.  
There were many who could not come, and there are even a few still out there who have not completed their missions.  We will see them next year.  Sister Zwick had arranged a nice meal, followed by a short devotional.  Sister Dew was also in attendance, and it was fun and uplifting to get to know her a little bit.  She has written a couple of biographies of Church presidents, as well as served in the General Relief Society Presidency.  She is CEO of Deseret Book and she travels the world on assignment from Church leaders.  Her example is a light for all of us.  I asked if I could take her photo and she said I could, so here is a photo of three lovely women.  There is a glow about them, don’t you think?

I have been trying to think of why this was such a heart-warming, fulfilling event.  We don’t get to go to the home of a General Authority very often.  In fact, just physically meeting one is a rare occurrence these days.  When I was a deacon there was a GA, often even one of the Twelve, present at our quarterly stake conference.  We would go up after the meeting and shake the visitor’s hand.  As the Church has grown those leaders are spread out more, however, and even the bi-annual stake conferences don’t have GA visitors very often now.  I have learned that they are simply ordinary people, like you and me, who have been given extraordinary assignments.  Most of them set a great example for the rest of us of how we should magnify our own callings.  Whether we serve as the hand, the eye, the head, or the little toe of the body of the Church, the thing that will make the biggest difference will be how we serve.  Paul fittingly described it in 1 Cor 12.  It is a beautiful concept.

We drove immediately back home, arriving just after midnight.  All our kids except the Alaska contingent were here for Conference and Easter.  It is one of our favorite family times.  When lived in Alaska we were blessed to receive a broadcast of one of the sessions, but it would come at 0700 on Sunday morning.  Our little kids didn’t like to get up that early. We would often try to have friends or neighbors over to share the Gospel message with them.  There were no recording devices then, so Gaye started making cinnamon rolls for the occasion.  We would have orange juice with the rolls as we watched the broadcast.  The circumstances have changed, but the tradition has continued.  So this Easter morning we had cinnamon rolls and orange juice as we watched the Choir broadcast and then the first Sunday session.  This year Gaye made the best cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted!

Just a brief mention of some things I learned from this year’s conference.  There has been a lot of commotion the past several months about same-gender marriage and the rights of LGBT people.  There has also been a big noise by some inside and some outside the Church about ordaining women.  There have been some high profile defections and church discipline actions when a couple of “members” have gotten way out of line.  In conference this year there were even some rude members who stood and shouted their disagreement when the church officers were presented for sustaining vote.  The instructions were given to raise their hands, which is what all who sustain the leaders did, but they decided to stand and shout.  President Uchtdorf recognized their dissention, and he instructed them to contact their stake presidents for further review and action.  We don’t contend with those who disagree with us.  God never argues with Satan, either.

It was very like the Sonya Johnson affair of several years ago when the Equal Rights Amendment (a title of pure propaganda value) was a big issue.  D&C 121, especially verse 33,  “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm…”  tells the truth.  Members might kick against the pricks and fight against God, but in the end, those who do so will be the ones who are hurt.  Gamaliel offered some advice to the Sanhedrin when the social opinions differed from the actions of Church leaders.   In Acts 5:39 he basically made this statement:  Either this Church is led by inspired men of God, and therefore by God himself, or it is not.  If God is in charge, then we will do best to get in line with what he tells us to do.  If God is not in charge, there is no hope and we might as well do what Peggy Lee said in her song “Is That All There Is?”—let’s break out the booze and have a ball.

I choose to believe that God is in charge.  I have learned that I am not smarter than God is.  He knows what is best, even for me.  I think we need to stop trying to persuade God to do things our way and just accept his wisdom.  Happiness lies in being obedient.  There is no other way.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Santo Domingo Temple

Br & Sis Allen at the temple

Detail of Santo Domingo Temple

Santo Domingo Temple, Dominican Republic

When we were sent to Nevis in June, 2013, we began to work with Br and Sister Allen.  
Br & Sis Allen and Young Elders
Nevis Group Activity
They are a sweet couple who have been members of the church for many years, but were sort of stalled.  We held FHE with them and immediately took a liking to them, and they to us.

Over the next 10 weeks we worked on Br Allen receiving the MP.  
With Son-in-law Elder Hanley
He was such a humble man, quiet spoken, always kind and patient with us and everybody else they had any contact with.  We taught them the temple preparation lessons and told them that we would love to go with them to the temple in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for Br Allen’s temple blessings and then for their temple marriage.  There is a fund to help first-time temple goers get there, but since Sister Allen had already been there she would need some help with her ticket.  He would receive assistance from the Church-administered fund.

Some of the details are too personal to present here, but 2 weeks ago Gaye and I boarded a plane in SLC and flew to Santo Domingo, where we met up with our dear friends flying in from St Kitts.  We had made arrangements to be picked up at the airport and to stay at the guest house next to the temple.  The shuttle driver even took us to a grocery store to get supplies for our 5-day stay there.

We bumped into one of the young men from St Kitts who had barely finished his training period at the MTC in Santo Domingo, also right next to the temple.  
Elder Jeffers
I had the privilege of interviewing Elder Jeffers for baptism shortly after we arrived on St Kitts, and now he is serving a mission. I am confident he will be a great missionary, too.

We spent a wonderful 5 days attending several sessions at the temple.  Sister Allen had some family names that they had the blessing of taking clear through all the ordinances.  It was a time of just plain joy.  Some will say that they were surely blessed by our helping them get there.  Gaye and I will respond that we are so thankful to have been in a position to meet them and help them get there.  Our lives are changed forever by this experience!

Sister Allen has trouble walking very far, so we borrowed a wheelchair from the MTC so we could go to Antonio’s Steak House, just a couple of blocks from the temple grounds.  She did not really want to ride in the wheelchair, but we convinced her that it would be better.  I told her that we wanted to have supper at Antonio’s, not breakfast.  She was a good sport about it, even when I tipped the chair back and did some wheelies!  
No More Wheelies!!!
After dinner we went to the park across the street, where hundreds of locals of all ages were participating in physical fitness activities like aerobic dancing, walking, biking, rollerskating, and just enjoying the perfect evening weather.  
Park across the street
We even saw the temple president and his wife headed over there to take their regular evening 2-mile stroll.

Worshipping in the temple, performing sacred ordinances for brothers and sisters who have concluded this part of their mortal journeys, is always a tremendous learning experience.  
Temple Door
We serve in the Twin Falls Temple every Wednesday morning starting at 0300.  It never gets boring.  In fact, it is becoming more interesting and mind-expanding every week. 

There are people who claim to be LDS but who feel that they are smarter than the prophets who lead the Church.  Some of those people, even some who are quite near and dear to us, feel that they can’t be fully committed to the Church because they have questions they can’t answer.  I have had lots of questions, and I am sure I will have more, but I have finally learned that I am not smarter than God.  That should seem obvious, but I have learned some very valuable lessons in recent months and years. Elder Maxwell said in a fireside at BYU in September 1974, that if we are not careful we might try to pray away the tests that our loving God designed specifically for each of us, so that we might become what he wants us to become. I have learned that the closest synonym to faith is not belief, it is trust.  Only God is smart enough to design the plan.  We are not smart enough to figure out how or why God does what he does.  In fact, we are not even permitted to know how or why he does most things.  (Mosiah 4:9-10). Be still and know that I am God (D&C 101:16) has been spoken to me, too.

Besides, if someone leaves the Church, what is he or she going to replace it with?  As Peter said, where would we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:67-68).  Is there no other way?  There is no other way, so stop kicking against the pricks and divest self of pride.  As Elder Holland said, the winning team is already known.  What we need to show is which jersey we will wear.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Guatemala 2015

 Sometimes we have an opportunity to do something that really makes a difference in someone else’s life.  This is about one such activity.

A few years ago Gaye and I had the opportunity to participate in a humanitarian service mission to Peru.  When I first learned about the activity I was attracted by a planned side trip.  The group would do our thing in a small village near the Amazon in Peru for 5 days.  Then we would go to Machu Picchu and Cuzco.  I reasoned that seeing the Inca archeological sites in the Peruvian Andes was on my bucket list and that this was probably the best opportunity I would ever have to go there.  So I signed up.

Machu Picchu is an amazing place.  Anything that anybody has ever said about it is understated.  The ruins at Sacsayhuamán (also known as Sacsahuaman) in Cuzco simply boggle the mind.  However, 6 years later, I remember the feelings and the people associated with the dental service with greater clarity and fondness than the trip to the mountains.  I will never forget the first dental patient I had there.  After finding the tooth that was causing her major grief, I numbed it and removed the offending member.  She stood up and turned around and gave me a big hug.  I was not expecting that and it brought tears to my eyes.  I have never been paid as well and as freely.

Since then I have been to Guatemala four more times, twice doing routine dental procedures and twice as part of a surgical team, all of them with Hirsche Smiles Foundation. Each trip has been to a different location.  Each has profoundly affected my life.

On the most recent such adventure I was basically in the operating rooms every day.  That is not where I have spent my career, so it was an adventure in itself.  Some of the nurses 

(not all, though) 

love to yell at people who act like they don’t know what they are doing there, and I fit that description.  “Don’t touch that!” was the most frequent admonition.  As one of the surgeons told me, "We practice sterile technique here, but with an asterisk.  The mouth is probably the most “unclean” place on the body."  Nevertheless, it was immensely gratifying to observe the artistry and professionalism of the two gifted surgeons who were the focal point of what went on in those OR settings.  One was a cranio-facial surgeon.  The other was a plastic surgeon.  Both were amazing.
Before surgery
Immediately after

The primary object of the mission was to help Guatemalan kids with cleft lips and palates.  The other major goal was to correct scars and other defects that affected the kids as they grew up in their own social atmospheres.  Kids who look different are often rejected by their peers, although rarely by their mothers.  Sometimes horrible scars from nasty burns made their lives miserable by altering their ability to function in their society, even in doing simple things like eating and drinking.  
17 years old, she had an infection at age 4 and lost her eye.
Some had been born without external ears.  The surgical results were often amazing.
External ear made from rib cartilage

My role was to remove teeth that were either in the surgical sight or that were badly decayed and causing grief for the kids.  One particular case has stayed with me more than the others.  The girl was about 11 and had had cleft repair surgery when she was much younger.  
The result was pretty good but there were some things that needed revision, mainly so she could take water into her mouth and it would not come out her nose.  When the marvelous anesthesiologist (there were two of them) got her to sleep it became apparent that there was some very active infection going on in her head.  With a little probing and hunting a huge, dirty foreign body was found and removed from her nose.  That thing had been there for years, and it was creating a near-septic condition.  The fistulas were closed and she went to recovery, where one of the talented recovery nurses, who had been a missionary in Paraguay and spoke fluent Spanish, determined that the young lady was suffering from some badly decayed lower teeth. 

I am quite comfortable doing difficult extractions when I am in my office with my instruments and assistants.  Things are more challenging in field situations, but I have learned to improvise.  My very bright anesthesiologist brother 
mixed up some anesthetic for me, I found a hypodermic syringe that would work, we used the feeble suction in the recovery room, my wonderful daughter assisted me, and we were able to remove 5 badly abscessed roots from her mandible.  
Daughter, Dad, Son-in-law
After that, she went to the floor where my talented pediatrician son-in-law put the patient on IV antibiotics for two days.  She went home later that week feeling a whole bunch better than she had felt in years.  It is quite likely that we saved her life.  The infection would have spread through her system and overwhelmed her resistance. 

I told my daughter that for me, if I accomplished nothing else on the whole mission, that was worth the trip.  It graphically showed me that God loves his children, and he wants to bless all of us. The mission treated 62 kids with more than 100 procedures, worth many thousands of dollars.  Those individuals and their family and friends have been blessed immensely through the hands and hearts of everybody who was involved in the service.  Their lives have been changed forever.  However, I think that the lives of each of us who served the humble people of Guatemala have been even more profoundly impacted.  Miracles happened every day as kids from all over Guatemala came in for procedures.  Sometimes the miracle was just in getting there.  I learned, again, that the Lord loves all of God’s children. The greatest manifestation of that love is the enabling and redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  He lived and died and lives now so that we might also live.  I also learned again that God most often blesses his children through us, their brothers and sisters.  It really is a family affair.