Saturday, December 28, 2013

Did You Hear The Bells this Christmas?

Nativity-SceneMy wife and I were the speakers in last Sunday’s Christmas program that included choral and congregational songs plus a little narration. We were asked to prepare seven minute talks on the subject of Christmas. Although we prepared our remarks independently they complemented each other as if we had collaborated on them. Each of our talks referenced hymns that “coincidentally” were sung before we spoke (we had no prior knowledge of rest of the program). Suzanne’s hymn was “God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son” and mine was “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The program opened with a short introductory narration which surprisingly included quotes from the scriptures that my wife included in her talk. Someone attending would have thought that each part of the program was orchestrated in advance, and I suppose it was, but not by the bishop or the music director.

The following is the text of my remarks (or at least a close approximation):

Over 2,000 years ago the first Christmas arrived and the heavens rejoiced. A new star appeared in the sky. Wise men took note and began their journey to find the king of the Jews and bring him gifts. Angelic choirs sang the words “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will towards man.”

Today during the Christmas season beautiful lights appear throughout our neighborhoods, people begin their quests to find gifts for loved ones and choirs sing carols celebrating the birth of our Savior. One of my favorite carols is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I love it because it speaks not only of the joy of the season but also of the trials of life.

The lyrics were written by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas day 1863. He had recently been informed that his son was gravely wounded in a civil war battle and still grieved over the death of his wife two years previous. She died as the result of burns she received when her dress caught fire at home. Longfellow had rushed to aid her and put out the fire but her burns were too severe and she died the following day.

Ed Hermann shares story surrounding Longfellow’s poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” with the Mormon Tabernacle in the background. If you have not seen this before it is quite moving and well worth your time.

This was not the happy Christmas of youth. Henry was struggling as we do at times. His was a struggle filled with personal tragedy, the loss of a spouse and the serious injury of a child. In our case it may be that we are simply overwhelmed by life and our responsibilities, saddened by difficulties that friends or members are facing, or even burdened with the consequences of personal choices.

Although we often speak of the joy surrounding the birth of Christ, I wonder if Mary had imagined giving birth to the son of God in a stable away from family. I wonder if she considered the possibility that she would have to flee her native country, or watch her son be crucified. Even for the mother of Christ the Savior of the world there were hardships to bear.

It is ironic that for the Savior, who’s atoning sacrifice opened the doors of Heaven for the world, there was no room in the inn at his birth, no room in his country during his youth, and in the end no room on the earth. Yet, despite the unkindness and cruelty expressed by many to him, Christ showed love and compassion to others throughout his life.

A bible story that has become of favorite of mine in the last year is the one about Jesus and the rich young man. It can be found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. But perhaps, like me, you may have missed  a couple of points that are found in the version told in Mark 10:17-27.

A wealthy man runs up to the Savior as He is walking down a road with His disciples and asked what he should do to inherit eternal life. Christ recites the commandments to him and the man replies “all these have I observed from my youth”.

Now here is the first item I missed until earlier in this year, just after the passing of my mother. “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, … .” My mother used to put her hands on my cheeks, look me in the eyes and tell me that she loved me. She knew most of my faults, she knew of many of the stupidities of my youth and yet she loved me. That is how I picture Christ looking at the man and perhaps that is why when I read this after my mother died I was drawn to the words; “Jesus beholding him loved him.” 

Christ then continues. “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” The man “was sad at that saying, and went away grieved”. Now Jesus knew that this would be the man’s initial response. Perhaps, He made the effort to visibly show His love to give the man something to consider as he went his way. Who knows, before he reached home the rich man could very well have decided to do as the Savior asked.

After the man had left Christ turned to his disciples and told them, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” After his disciples expressed surprised at his words he repeated them with a qualifier, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” He then continued with the familiar statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” To which his disciples responded “Who then can be saved?

Christ’s next statement is the second item that caught my attention earlier this year, especially as I thought about the rich man that Christ loved; “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” This brings me back to the lyrics of  “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  1. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men.
    In this verse I can feel the happy Christmas of youth.

  2. I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along the unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men.
    Knowing Henry’s story, I can see him looking everyone else’s happiness during the course of the day and yet not being able to share in it. Perhaps, becoming even a bit bitter because of their joy and his sadness.

  3. And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said,
    "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."
    Now we hear his silent cry. He looks at his own life, the circumstances of the world and is on the verge of losing hope. A circumstance that we may occasionally find ourselves in, perhaps even today.

  4. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men."
    However, Henry looks deeper into the meaning of Christmas and finds strength in his faith in the Savior; comfort, that with God all things are possible; and peace, in the knowledge that in the end the wrong shall fail and the right will prevail.

  5. Till, ringing singing, on its way, The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, Of peace on earth, good will to men!
    With hope renewed life continues and while the world might be in turmoil yet he is at peace within.

Like Longfellow, I have a testimony that there is a God and that, from an eternal perspective, the wrong shall fail and the right will prevail. I close with this thought; that wherever we are in life, that no matter the circumstances, there is a path forward for “with God all things are possible”. I can visualize the Savior beholding us and loving us; telling us it may not be easy, it may not always be “fun” but there will always be peace and joy in following Him. Let us enjoy Christmas with this knowledge and start the new year with hope and a renewed determination to follow Christ. In His holy name amen!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Favorite Life Quotes

Below you’ll find some of my favorite “life” quotes. I have another post that contains my favorite political quotes.

“If you want to go fast, go alone, If you want to go far, go together” —African Proverb

James Allen (1864-1912)
James_Allen“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.”—James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, 1902

Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, 1902

"Never give up. However deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happened, and for how short or long they persist, you are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith and trust in God. ... The Savior is our good Samaritan sent to heal the brokenhearted. He comes to us when others pass us by. With compassion He places His healing balm on our wounds and binds them up. He carries us. He cares for us."—Niel Anderson, General Conference Address, October 7, 2018.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

City Council Meeting Dec 3, 2013

At the council meeting a number of items were discussed and approved or continued:


  1. An ordinance mandating a process for planning an executing road projects. City staff must provide council with a road plan for the next fiscal year by April 1st of each year, a 5 year plan is required which is to be updated each year and posted online no later than 45 days after the beginning of each fiscal year. There are changes the will need to be made to the ordinance (as pointed out by Tom Butler and which I don't think anyone disagrees with) because it is too proscriptive. But, it is a great start. Thanks Brian for getting the ball rolling. Vote was 3 to 2.
  2. A new 6 year contract with the Transfer Station (trash). Although it appears to be in our best interest but I'm surprised it was approved (3 to 2) without legal review or the clause "approved subject to legal review". I would have voted to continue the item to next council to provide adequate time for council to review the contract and for legal review. Note, the council received a copy of the contract the day previous. Vote was 3 to 2
  3. It was agreed that the city would participate in the Cedar Hills recreational program. Cedar Hills does not charge non-residents extra fees to participate in their programs but would like utilize Highland fields to allow the program to expand and support Highland and Alpine residents. Cedar Hills will manage the programs and Highland will get funding to help mitigate the increased wear and tear on fields. The proposed payment will be $2.00 for every Highland resident who participates in any program where Highland fields are used. This may be revised by city managers. Highland staff will also need to develop a field use policy. Currently no policy exists – it is simply first come first serve. Vote was 5 to 0.

Continued Items:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Communication Is Essential

communicationAfter attending council meetings for the last two years my personal view is that the biggest issue facing the city is lack of communication. I have believe those serving are doing their best and have good intentions. And while I may not appreciate the style of some members and don't agree with their votes I appreciate their willingness to serve.

Before I dive into specific examples of where I think the city could to better, l’d like to share a story from a book I recently read on change entitled “Switch: How to change things when change is is hard”, by Chip and Dan Heath. 

Researchers studied why college students did or did not donate to canned food drives. They knew that some would be more charitable than others and wanted to see if they could change the behavior of those who did not give.

First to distinguish “saints” from “jerks” researchers polled all students in a particular dorm. They asked them to assess which dorm-mates (out of roughly 100) were most likely and least likely to make a donation. Then one of two letters were randomly sent to each student announcing a food drive. Some received a basic letter asking them to bring canned food to a booth at one of the plazas on campus. Others received a letter that had more details. It included a map showing the exact spot on campus where the food could be dropped off, asked students to bring a can of beans and suggested that they think of a time when their normal schedule brought them near the drop off point.

Once the drive was completed researchers knew exactly who had and hadn't donated food. 8% of the “saints” (somewhat disappointing) and none of the "jerks" (not surprising) who received the basic letter donated. However, 42% of the saints and 25% of the jerks who were sent the detailed letter donated. Wow! Overall participation in the program rose 850% when more explicit information was provided. Better informed “jerks” were 3 times more likely to donate than less informed “saints.” So in reality were those classified as “jerks” just “saints” who did not have enough information?

Saints and Jerks

Let me cite a current example where better communication could have made a difference. 

Property Tax and Road Fee

Last year, after the council passed a property tax increase with primary objective of improving roads, a group of residents circulated a petition to allow all residents to vote on the issue. Enough signatures were gathered to make that happen but not in time to put it on last years ballot. Because they had sufficient signatures the tax increase was put on hold until it could be voted on.

Now fast forward one year. I wonder what would have happened if the city had made an effort to reach out to those involved in the petition and provide more information to them (and all residents) on the roads, what was needed and what funds were available. Would that have changed behaviors? Could a combined resident, staff, and council budget committee come up with viable alternatives? Would they have been able to share more information with residents and thus engender increased participation in addressing the issue up front instead of instead of fighting a decision after the fact? 

The following maps and charts were taken from Alpine City's website and is part of the city’s 2013 Budget Report. It provides a historical perspective on what road work has been completed, what work is planned for the current year and a detailed table of the costs associated with each segment of road to be worked on.

2013 Alpine City Historical Street Maintenance 2013 Alpine City Proposed Street Maintenace

2013 Alpine City Street Maintenance Cost Estimate

Without a published plan residents have no context for evaluating any single road issue and cannot provide meaningful feedback. When they are operating blind they waste time worrying about issues that may have been already resolved. When they are not fully informed residents are limited in their ability to provide meaningful feedback before decisions are cast in concrete (or asphalt as the case may be).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lesson’s I’ve Learned about Fatherhood by Pat White

I am dedicating this post to my step-father Jerry Iverson who passed away June 7th, a little over a week before Father’s Day, and who’s funeral was held today. His life was the embodiment of many of the principles outlined below, especially the central theme of unconditional love. He loved his darling daughter, step-children, and grand-children without condition. He spent time with them, he cared for them, worried about them and loved them. I never heard a negative word pass his lips about anyone, including those he knew so very well. I will miss him but I’m sure my mother is delighted to be reunited with him after a short absence. They absolutely adored each other. Jerry, I am so appreciative of everything you did for mom and our family. You are one of the good ones. I am honored and blessed to have known you. God speed and Aloha.

Jerry Iverson Funeral

On Father’s Day, June 16th 2013, I heard one of the best talks on fatherhood and parenting in general at church. I asked the speaker and friend, Pat White if I could get a copy and share it with my blog readers. He graciously said yes. Please note, some of the references included are from LDS scriptures that you may not be familiar with but they teach universal principles.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Persistence Wins: The Battle for Spion Kop

What do Mahatma Gandhi, Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Baden Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), and Rudyard Kipling have in common? They were all participants in the 2nd Boer War which pitted the British Empire and the Cape Colony against the Boers of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. This was a brutal war, one in which the Boers initially held the upper hand but which later devolved into a guerilla war that the heavily outnumbered Boers eventually lost. A battle early in the war provides an example of how persistence (faith amidst adversity) can overcome incredible odds.

Map of Spion Kop and surrounding hills. Points A & B are on Spion Kop, from the book, "My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War" by General Ben Viljoen, pubished in 1902

Spion Kop was the highest hill on a ridgeline that separated a British force of over 20,000 troops from 5,500 British troops held under siege in the town. In order to rescue the troops at Ladysmith the British plan was to seize Spion Kop, use it to shell the Boer on the other side, and open a path to the town of Ladysmith.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Utah Compact, One Mann’s Analysis

The Utah CompactIn March of this year the Utah County Republican Central Committee considered replacing the text in its platform regarding immigration with the Utah Compact. Prior to this I had not taken the time to do a critical view of Compact. The Central Committee rejected the change bit did adopt a compromise measure. This measure needed to be ratified at the county organizing convention but was rejected today. Given that the original immigration plank remains I suspect the issue of adopting The Compact or similar language will be raised again. Below is the Compact followed by my analysis of it related to adopting it as part of a party platform.

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Rush to Make Fundamental Changes in Utah’s Political System?

Best States For Business 3

Utah leads the nation in volunteerism  and charitable giving by significant margins [1]. Forbes awarded Utah the best state for business in 2012 for the third straight year [2] and the best state in the nation for debt management in 2009 [3]; The Pew Center in a 2008 report which graded the states indicated that they consider Utah to be the best managed state in the nation [4]; in January of 2011 The Milken Institute gave Utah the highest rating in the nation for Technology and Dynamism [5].

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Redwood Trees Illustrate How Teams Can Reach Great Heights

If you want to go fast, go alone
If you want to go far, go together.
– African proverb –

At work I manage a team responsible for global alliances and partners for our business unit. A while ago we had a discussion centered on the following.

RedwoodsRedwood trees can grow over 350 ft. tall, have a diameter of 20 plus ft., have a life span in excess of 2,000 years; yet they have no taproot, their average root diameter is about an inch, and their root system spreads out about 50 to 80 feet at a maximum depth of 6 to 12 feet. How is it possible that they grow so high and live so long? Are there any correlations to work and life?

Here are some of the comments made by members of the group:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Royal Road to Happiness by William George Jordan

Tibet-roadThere has been so much of sorrow and trials for many in the previous year that I think William George Jordan’s words from his essay entitled “The Royal Road to Happiness” are a fitting way to help us look forward to the new year with a positive attitude. His thoughts on happiness are like a seven-course meal. They should not be consumed in a haste but savored; one paragraph and sometimes one sentence at a time.

Note, this essay is from Jordan’s book The Majesty of Calmness. Links to downloadable versions of this book and his others can be found in my post Books by William George Jordan.