Thursday, October 31, 2013


This little video is an eye-opener.  Watch it.  Then smile, through your tears.  Hang in there moms, and dads, too.  We can do it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pottery and God

I am not a master potter, but I have learned a lot of things from my experience with working clay.  Jeremiah spoke of clay in the hands of the potter. Jeremiah 18:4-6.  It might seem that we are just lumps of clay and God will make us into whatever he desires.  But my experience has been that the clay has something to say about it, too.  The clay has to be wedged and pounded in preparation.  It might be a small lump or a large lump.  I can’t make a big bowl out of a small lump, nor a small bowl out of a big lump.  The moisture consistency has a lot to do with how easily the clay is worked.  Sometimes the clay has to be thrown back into the tub of water to be broken down and start over.

There have been times when I have wanted to make a bottle, but the clay would not cooperate and it ended up as a small bowl.  Sometimes I have just given up making something on the wheel and resorted to rolling out the slab to make something that way.  The clay, and often my own hands, would not cooperate any other way.  But the result has often been some of the most fascinating pieces, even though different from what I thought I wanted to make.  With God there are no failures or useless pieces.

There are also several different types of clay.  Some are smooth, some are grainy, they come in different colors, and they fuse at different temperatures.  Besides the differences in the clay material, there are different glazes, too.  Not only is it true that the materials are different from each other, it is almost impossible to make any two pieces exactly alike.  Just like people.

Does God get frustrated with us as lumps of clay?  Would he try to make us into things that we are not wanting to become?  He is a master potter, and he knows how to work with each type of clay, and with each individual lump of clay.  My role as the lump of clay is to not resist, but to be willing to become the vessel that God wants to make me.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The World We Live In

We had a senior conference today, held by Go-to-Meeting with all the senior missionaries attending online.  It was a good experience.  We held a couple of senior couple’s conferences earlier in the mission where we all flew to San Juan, at great expense.  This conference was more productive than either of those other two.  President Smartt read from the mission president’s handbook to answer a couple of questions.  Couples are not to be moved around, generally speaking, but should be left in one or two places for the duration of their missions. Hmmm.  Mission conferences for senior missionaries should be held no more than quarterly and at least annually.  Budget restraints must be considered.  Hmmm.  Senior missionaries should not be overly protective of the young missionaries, treating them like kids and grandkids.  Activities with the branches and wards must not develop dependancies of members upon the missionaries.  Hmmm.

President read a letter from the First Presidency saying that missionaries should never use complete names or personal details that might allow someone to access information about members or investigators or even missionaries from The Web.  There are evil souls out there who find investigators and new members and flood them with all kinds of anti-Mormon junk once they find them. There are disaffected parents of missionaries who want to tear down the Church and will not hesitate to destroy their own sons or daughters in the process.  President says this has happened in this mission.  So my blog has been in error.  Henceforth, I will not use complete names or information that might let someone identify anyone.  That is the world we live in.  It is sad, but it is real.

I was looking at a camera on the internet yesterday.  It was a specific camera on a specific website.  Today when I went to a blog I like to read, there was a commercial from that same online store offering a deal on the exact camera that I had been checking out.  This is getting really scary.  The classic George Orwell novel 1984 told things that would happen in the future that we all considered to be ridiculous in magnitude and subject.  The predictions seriously missed the mark.  They shot way too low.

President Benson said Helaman and Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon present a type or shadow of what will take place in the last days.  For that matter, it is throughout the whole book.  Alma encountered it, King Benjamin preached about it, Nephi saw it in the expanded version of his father Lehi’s vision.  Mormon and Ether and Moroni told how it happened and how it could have been prevented.  What does our future hold for us and our children and grandchildren?  The Book or Mormon tells it all.  But don’t despair, for the Book of Mormon also tells us how to escape what is coming.  Repent, be obedient, love God and fellow men, and spread the message of redemption through Jesus Christ.  There is no other way.  For those who do not like that message, then to paraphrase Joshua in the Old Testament, choose ye this day whom ye will serve. Make a decision.  Don’t claim to be of one kind of person and then act as a different kind of person.  Obedient people obey the commandments.  Faithful people are faithful to their covenants.  Choose which gods you will serve, and then serve them.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The conch is a common animal here.  Conch meat is available in the grocery store.  

When we visited Virgin Gorda in December last year I ate a conch burger, a mixture of conch and hamburger.  It tasted somewhat fishy and was more chewy than hamburger. I have seen many conch shells adorning people’s homes and even just strewn around in people’s yards like we would scatter lava rocks in Twin Falls.
When we left Nevis I mentioned to the elders that I had been looking for a place to get some shells.  When we went back a couple of weeks ago Elder Durfee showed us a big pile of shells that they had collected.  They had visited a beach where some conch fishermen said they would bring in some shells the next day, and they did.  Those young elders rode their bikes clear back to the apartment with backpacks and garbage bags filled with huge shells. That must have been quite a sight.  Elder Durfee said we could have some, but he also kept two and gave one to Francisca for cleaning their apartment.  So we decided it would be nice to get some shells for gifts for our family.

Terry Hanley is a local Kittitian, the son-in-law of Sister Allen and Brother Allen, with whom we worked to help them get prepared for the priesthood and to go to the temple. When I mentioned that I wanted some conch shells he said he would get some from his neighbor who is a conch fisherman.  A couple days later he called me to come and get a bag of shells. 
There were more than a dozen of various size and shape.  

I brought them home and began to clean them up.  When they live in the ocean they are covered with sand and moss and even seaweed attaches to their shells.  
When they are harvested the fisherman makes a hole in the back of the shell which allows the extraction of the snail-like critter that lives in the shell.  
The fishermen throw the shells back into the ocean unless someone wants them.  So they are not in the lovely condition that we see them in the tourist stores and in people’s homes.  
Cleaning shells, listening to Shostakovich
I bought a tub and a couple of brushes and spent one whole P-day scrubbing the shells to get rid of the extraneous accretions and allow the natural colors of the shells to come through.
The inside of the shells is really the pretty part.  

The colors are generally pink, but the hue and intensity vary greatly.  Each shells is its own masterpiece.  
Deciding which one to keep is the hard part.  If we send home for gifts it will be difficult to decide who gets which shell.  For that reason, I clean and Gaye decides.  But I am going to keep three or four for myself.  
Now we need to find boxes and packing to prepare them for shipment back home.  We are still looking, and we have less than 4 weeks before we will be moved to St Thomas.

Several days ago we took some time to go snorkeling on a beach right next to the Sea Bridge ferry that hauls people and vehicles between St Kitts peninsula and Nevis.  While I was paddling around observing the sea life beneath me I noticed a 6 foot long shark sort of sitting on the bottom, next to a sunken barge.  I mentioned that in a previous blog. I paddled away while looking over my shoulder, not an easy thing to do. Anyway, in the same area I noticed several conch shells on the bottom, so I actually dove down to pick one up off the sandy, grassy sea floor.  It was not like the ones we got from the fishermen, but it was still pretty.  I left it out there because I couldn’t figure out a way to get the critter out of the shell.  Maybe I will get another one some time.  For now, I have enough shells and I am trying to get them shipped home.  I can’t let it rest.  I want boxes to start packing.  Gaye says to relax.  I want the boxes.  She says I have tunnel vision.  I say I am focused.  Is there a difference?

Just some dried up crabs I found on the beach

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Joseph Fielding McConkie

I learned today that Joseph Fielding McConkie passed from this part of mortality into the next.  I pay a small tribute to him as a friend and teacher.  

When Gaye and I arrived in Seattle in September 1973 we found a place to live, got settled into our apartment and the University of Washington Student Branch, and began the rigors of dental school.  It was a challenging time, but it was also a time of growth and exploration. 

Our student branch met at the LDS Institute of Religion, immediately adjacent to the Health Sciences Complex where the hospital, medical school, dental school, and many other related science research and teaching activities were conducted.  The new director of the Institute was Joseph F McConkie.  With a name like that we expected, and it was quickly apparent, that we had an instructor who was a cut above the ordinary.  He had a PhD, he invited us to play basketball with him and others at the institute, and he invited us to attend a class to be held on campus, under the umbrella of LDSSA.  Because that is a student organization recognized at the school, we were allowed to schedule a classroom during the lunch break. We would sing a hymn, have a prayer, and then a discussion led by Br McConkie.  The format of the class for the first year was simply:  What are your questions?  He would proceed to answer questions and help us learn how to ask more questions.

For the next four years we held that weekly class at the Health Science Complex.  It was not always Br McConkie who led the discussions. Others of the Institute faculty heard of the exciting discussions we were having and they wanted to participate, so they would get their chance to rotate in as teacher.  But the discussions were never as enlivening and enlightening as they were when Joseph led them.  That is because Joseph was teaching us how to ask questions.

In 1977 we finished our dental school training and prepared to head out into the world.  Some of us went into the military.  Some went into private practice.  Some went for more training.  Joseph headed back to BYU.  He was invited to come back there by some of the Department of Ancient Scripture or Religion or whatever it was called because they needed him.  Some wanted someone who was expert in Greek. Others thought it was important to have someone trained in Hebrew.  The spokesman who won wanted Joseph because he was trained and expert in the Doctrines of the Restoration. 

Joseph had written a few books before and during his tenure at UW. He wrote more at BYU. But his main contribution to CES, and to my life in particular, was his unmatched ability to get his students to think beyond the level of Gospel scholarship and thinking where most of the adults in the Church stop. He showed us how to ask inspired questions. They were not questions about what color Nephi's hair was or whether the boat of travelers had stopped anywhere along the way to take on fresh water as they journeyed to the Land of Promise.  No, they were questions that led us to search deeply into the spiritual messages of the scriptures. They were questions that led to more questions, and in the process brought me to the point of realizing that the Gospel is not an academic exercise. It is given to us for our blessing and it is to be applied.  Joseph said he was just trying to get us to learn to study for our own selves, to gain our own testimonies, and to become the kind of workers in the Kingdom that were needed to prepare families and societies for the Second Coming.  

The result of my study with Joseph was to enter a life-long search for personal connection with God through faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, making and honoring the baptism covenants, seeking and receiving the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, and then being committed to stay engaged on the path, understanding the teachings of ancient and living prophets, and endure to the end.  That model of enduring was not to just somehow finish, it was to accelerate.  Joseph taught by example as well as by his unmatched scriptural knowledge that being solidly anchored in the mainstream of the Church with the teaching of the Brethren as the guiding beacon is the safe place to be.  It is also the most interesting, challenging, stimulating place to be.

So Joseph, while your body is now worn out and resting until the time of resurrection, your noble spirit is even more fully engaged in preaching and testifying to vast audiences and countless individuals on the other side.  The message you will deliver to them all is the same powerful testimony you shared with me and the others who attended those small classes in Seattle.  Thank you for your example, your friendship, and your invitation to follow the Savior.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A New Mormon Family

September 28-29, 2013

On September 28 we witnessed the baptism of Br and Sister Sundar. They are already a great addition to the St Kitts Branch. They asked me to perform the baptisms, but I explained that it would be better if they would have two local priesthood holders perform the baptisms and I would confirm them on Sunday.  We were talking about baptism a couple of days before the interview and I asked what they knew about The Holy Ghost.  Br Sundar said he knew about baptism but he didn't know about the laying on of hands for receiving The Holy Ghost.  I know the sisters taught them, though, so I began to review it when their older son, age 7, piped in with, "Yes.  There must be baptism of water and of fire!"  Well, he got that right.  We reviewed the importance of recognizing and receiving The Holy Ghost into our lives.  It was a great teaching opportunity.

The family was taught by the beautiful sisters sent here by President Smartt soon after he took the reins of the mission.  The elders had made contact earlier, but it just didn't get off the ground.  The sisters just marched in there and taught them the Restoration and all the subsequent lessons and they were converted before they even knew what hit them!  Sister Sierra got hold of a 15-step quit-smoking program.  We rehearsed it, went over and taught it, asked him to crush his cigarettes and get rid of anything in the house that reminded him of smoking, and that was it. He said he has not had an urge to smoke since then.

The thing that is most broken in the Caribbean, and probably in the world, is the family.  That is where we can do the most good.  The political "leaders" of our country are trying to be nice and correct without offending Satan.  In the process we are losing our connection to what is most important.  That will be corrected one family at a time.  We are not the only people who recognize that, but we are the ones who need to stand up and teach the world.  If we don't lead, and follow, it will not happen.  But it must happen!  This world is sinking into sin. It needs help.  It needs all of us.

So here are some photos.  We love these people!
Family Sundar

Younger son, age 3

Three weeks ago

The shirt says it all!

Eating roti at the Sundar home

Br and Sister Sundar

Br Browne, Br Sundar, Sister Sundar, Br Jeffers

Final Nevis Visit

October1, 2013, Tuesday

We were headed to Nevis but first I had to go to the church to meet the Sisters and inspect their vehicle.  
Sister Paredes (California) and Sister Rivas (Nicaragua)
They were there to interview with President Smartt over ooVoo or Skype or something. So I went there while Gaye stayed home to prepare for the Nevis trip.  The sisters had not done an inspection before, so I began the check list with them.  All was in order, except that a part of trim for the L rear door was ordered more than a month ago and has not come in yet.  Normal operating procedure around here.

I wanted to show the girls how to check the air pressure in the tires, so I asked for their gauge. It was broken, so I got mine out and gave it to them.  The tires were all low, but the last one we checked was dead flat!  Okay, this is a good time to show them how to change a tire.  We proceeded to get out the owners manual to see how to get the spare off and where to attach the jack.  I showed them each step and gave them the lug wrench to get the nuts loosened before we raised the car on the jack.  Sister Paredes stood on the wrench and nothing happened.  She jumped up and down and nothing happened.  She moved out towards the end of the wrench handle and jumped up and down, and finally it began to move.  I loosened the rest of the nuts before we put the jack under the car at the designated point.  
I had the girls take turns cranking up the scissors-type jack, 
at least enough to see that it is difficult and they have to work at it.  I pulled off the old flat tire, 
had the sisters look to see if the car was high enough (it was not), cranked up the jack a little more, and put on the new tire.  
I put on three of the nuts and had each of them begin to thread the remaining nuts. 
I tightened the nuts as tight as we could get them, then they helped me lower the jack.  We tightened the nuts with the lug wrench, put the spare in the trunk to take it to be repaired, where I paid for the repair and left them to wait for the tire store to fix the flat and put everything back on the vehicle.  No big deal, but it put us an hour behind our schedule.

One of the local members, Ricky Browne, wanted to go over to Nevis with us because he has been dating Precious, who lives over there.  So we picked him up and started out, but he remembered that he forgot his wallet back at the church where he left his car parked.  We turned back, but going back put us behind enough that we missed the ferry by 5 minutes.  The Sea Bridge ferry, the one that takes vehicles back and forth, is always late by at least 30 minutes.  Except for this time.  So we got to sit in the heat and wait 2 hours for the next ferry.  No problem because we had a good chance to visit with Br Browne. 
With Br Browne
He has only been in the church for about 18 months and is trying to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood. He can’t decide which of the eligible single ladies in the branch he wants to connect with. Stay tuned. He might end up with none of them.
Elder and Sister P, Precious (Nigeria), Francisca (Dominican Republic)
At the apartment in Nevis we took the elders to the store and bought supplies for the Closing Social to be held that night.  We had promised the members we would come back when we left Nevis, and this was fulfilling that promise.  Gaye boiled the chicken before we went over, so all we had to do was fire up the charcoal grill and brown the chicken.  Others were bringing the rest of the dishes and inviting others to join us.  We ended up with 18 people there!  That is more than showed up for the St Kitts branch Fun Night last Friday.  
Nevis Closing Social
We played dominoes, the favorite pastime of the Caribbean, we ate up all the food, and we played some Minute-to-Win-It games with everyone joining in.  Since half the people there speak Spanish, Elder Durfee gave the FHE message in both languages.  

Then Gaye and I tried to sleep on the extra bed there.  
Second Bedroom/Study Room

I am glad we don’t need to do that again. The sides of the frame are inside the edges of the mattress about 4 inches. That makes the edges of the mattress slope steeply upward, which causes both of us to roll towards the center of the mattress. It was sort of like trying to sleep two people in a hammock.  Neither of us slept much that night.

On Wednesday Br Terry Hanley came over on the ferry and we took the whole group of five (add in the elders) to lunch.  Then we drove up to the Allen home for a special meeting to take place.  Last Sunday afternoon President Smartt conducted a priesthood meeting of the Island District (although there is no Island District) of the mission.  It was a gathering by Go-to-Meeting that had all the island branches tuned in.  The main reason for the meeting was to present the names of brethren who were being presented for ordination to the office of elder.  Br Allen was one of those individuals.  Then President Smartt assigned me to conduct the ordination ceremony, which I did. We had a prayer and a song, I gave Br and Sister Allen the opportunity to raise their hands to sustain Br Allen in his new calling as an elder, and the conferring and ordination took place.  We finished with a song and a prayer. 
Br Hanley, Br and Sister Allen
The young elders enjoyed the experience, too.  Elder Durfee leaves to return to Utah next week.  Elder Rasmussen has been in the mission for about 6 weeks. They are both really fun young men who also know how to work hard and not complain. They ride their bikes all over the island. They enjoy getting out and meeting people. They conduct the meetings in Spanish and in English, often holding two meetings on Sundays because the Allen’s cant get to the apartment for the regular meeting.  They follow the rules to the letter, including the study schedule. They love the message of the restored Gospel and they love telling everybody they meet about it.  They even found a source of conch shells and hauled a dozen of them home to their apartment.  They even gave two of them to us.  We need to find some more. They are very plentiful here, and they are beautiful. 
The commercial conch fishermen just drill a small hole in the back of the shell to get the critter out, then they throw the shells back into the ocean.  They are happy to give the empty shells away.

Br Hanley has been district president when there was actually an island district.  He is a terrific leader, an example of a man who has been instructed by inspired leaders but who has also been instructed by The Holy Ghost.  He thinks well and he speaks well. The ordination was followed by testimonies by Br Hanley and Br Allen.  The young elders were with us and it was a spiritual treat for us to be there.
Elder Durfee, Sister Allen, Br Allen, Elder Rasmussen
Then we drove to the ferry, rode back to St Kitts, and made it home. After the bed in Nevis, sleeping on our own bed was a real treat.

So our service on Nevis has come to a close.  Br and Sister Allen will prepare to come to the temple in April, where we will meet them. We will do what we can do to help the Sundar family get fellowshipped into the branch.  We will continue to teach piano lessons when the students show up.  We will continue to teach the New Member lessons to recently baptized members who have not had those lessons.  We take care of the bills from phone and electric utilities and then get reimbursed, or we will get them set up to be paid online.  We are the “grandparents” of the young missionaries, where they can come to relax, do their weekly letters to their families, and eat a real meal prepared by Sister Patterson.
Notice Br Benjamin's long beautiful fingers
Then we will be moving to St Thomas the end of October.

By the way, this has been about the slowest hurricane season on record.  There have been only two hurricanes, Humberto and Ingrid, and they lasted less than 24 hours. Humberto was the only one out here in the Atlantic basin, but it never made it this far west and spun harmlessly into the North Atlantic. I must admit I am a little disappointed.  But I am also thankful that the locals did not need to go through one of those horrific storms.  It is heavy rain and terrible winds with palm trees flying through the air. They don’t like hurricanes around here.

A visitor outside the apartment door