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.

Author Unknown

Questions-Sitting"An ounce of 'I didn't say it' is worth a pound of 'I didn't mean it'."—Author unknown

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”—Author unknown

“Different isn't always better, but better is always different.”—Author unknown

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you'd be worth if you lost all your money.”—Author unknown

"Those whose Bibles are falling apart seldom have lives that do."—Author unknown

“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”—Author unknown

Old Mr. Squirrel
The Squirrel family long since learned
That things are best when duly earned;
That play and fun are found in work
By him who does not try to shirk.
Thornton W. Burgess,
How Old Mr. Squirrel Became Thrifty”,
Mother West Wind “How” Stories,  1916

"One of the ironies of life is that we acquire love as we give it away; we increase in knowledge as we dispense what we have."Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement

“[c]riticism is futile because it puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment.” Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, 1936

Calvin Coolidge


"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

It is characteristic of the unlearned that they are forever proposing something which is old, and because it has recently come to their own attention, supposing it to be new.”

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd"—James Crook. Note, this quote is often attributed to Max Lucado. However, I found a reference to the quote, attributed to James Crook, in a  1951 issue of The Defender, a Christian magazine. Note, Max was born in 1955.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

  1. Temperance.—Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence.—Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order.—Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution.—Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality.—Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
  6. Industry.—Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity.—Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice.—Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation.—Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness.—Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility.—Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity .....
  13. Humility.—Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another; and so on, till I should have gone through the thirteen. And, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view, as they stand above.Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, p 149

Peter Drucker said, 'Our mission in life should be to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart or right we are .'2015”,—Marshall Goldsmith,Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be,

“Widespread distrust in a society imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity, a tax that high-trust societies do not have to pay.”Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, 1995

7 Social Sins,

  1. Politics without Principle
  2. Wealth without Work
  3. Pleasure without Conscience
  4. Knowledge without Character
  5. Commerce without Morality
  6. Science without Humanity
  7. Worship without Sacrifice
Mahatma Gandhi, 7 Social Sins, Young India, 22 October 1925, p360
source: Gandhi Heritage Portal

"If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be."—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Skate to where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.”—Wayne Gretzky, hockey legend

 Jeffrey R. Holland
There are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. ...

Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know!—Jeffrey R. Holland, The Laborers in the Vineyard, April 2012

"I sat in my study for a long time trying to think if I had ever known a happy person who was unkind or unpleasant to be with. And guess what? I couldn’t think of one—not a single, solitary one. So learn this great truth early in life: You can never build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness." Jeffrey R. Holland, The Gospel Path to Happiness, Ensign, September 2017. Taken from “Living after the Manner of Happiness,” delivered at Brigham Young University–Idaho on September 23, 2014. Quote starts at about 19 minutes in the video below.

 William George Jordan (1864-1928)
The William George Jordan 1918 - Leaders of the Twentieth Century 3second most deadly instrument of destruction is the gun—the first is the human tongue. The gun merely kills bodies; the tongue kills reputations and, ofttimes, ruins characters. Each gun works alone; each loaded tongue has a hundred accomplices. The havoc of the gun is visible at once. The full evil of the tongue lives through all the years; even the eye of Omniscience might grow tired in tracing it to its finality.”William George Jordan, "The Crimes of the Tongue", The Kingship of Self-Control, 1898

"There are many people in this world who want to live life over because they take such pride in their past. They resemble the beggars in the street who tell you they “have seen better days.” It is not what man was that shows character; it is what he progressively is."—William George Jordan, The Kingship of Self-Control, 1898, (HTML, PDF)

“True marriage is the consecrated comradeship of husband and wife, made permanent by love and mutual respect. It is the harmonizing of two individualities in a common interest, not the sacrifice of one to the other. The suppression of the individuality of either endangers the real happiness of both.”William George Jordan, "Respect for Each Other’s Individuality", Little Problems of Married Life, 1910

“In life as in war there are times when the wisest course is simply to stand still, to rest on one’s arms, to watch and to wait. When a mist of uncertainty enshrouds us and life seems to come to a pause, when we do not know just what to do, it is best to await the sunshine of revealing that will show us our way.”William George Jordan, “The Red Blood of Courage”, The Trusteeship of Life, 1921, (HTML, PDF)

The final test of the men of the ages is not what they had, but what they did with it.William George Jordan, The Trusteeship of Life, 1921

“Those who wisely live within an income rarely have to face the problem of trying to live without one.”—William George Jordan, “Providing for the Future”, Little Problems of Married Life, 1910

“It is only the progressive, installment plan Nature recognizes. No man can make a habit in a moment or break it in a moment. It is a matter of development, of growth. But at any moment man may begin to make or begin to break any habit. This view of the growth of character should be a mighty stimulus to the man who sincerely desires and determines to live nearer to the limit of his possibilities.”—William George Jordan, The Kingship of Self-Control, 1898, (HTML, PDF)

“There are two great things that education should do for the individual—It should train his senses, and teach him to think. Education, as we know it to-day, does not truly do either; it gives the individual only a vast accumulation of facts, unclassified, undigested, and seen in no true relations. Like seeds kept in a box, they may be retained, but they do not grow.”—William George Jordan, "Mental Training", 1894

"Calmness comes ever from within. It is the peace and restfulness of the depths of our nature. The fury of storm and of wind agitate only the surface of the sea; they can penetrate only two or three hundred feet; below that is the calm, unruffled deep. To be ready for the great crises of life we must learn serenity in our daily living. Calmness is the crown of self-control."—William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

To no man is permitted to know the future of his life, the finality. God commits to man ever only new beginnings, new wisdom, and new days to use the best of his knowledge.”, William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

"The world needs more individuality in its men and women. It needs them with the joy of individual freedom in their minds, the fresh blood of honest purpose in their hearts, and the courage of truth in their souls. It needs more people daring to think their own highest thoughts and strong vibrant voices to speak them, not human phonographs mechanically giving forth what someone else has talked into them. The world needs men and women led by the light of truth alone, and as powerless to suppress their highest convictions as Vesuvius to restrain its living fire.”—William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“If at the close of day we can think of even one human being whose sky has been darkened by our selfishness, one whose burden has been new-weighted by our unkindness, one whose pillow will be wet with sobs for our injustice, one whose faith in humanity has been weakened at a crucial moment by our bitterness or cruelty, let us make quick atonement. Let us write the letter our heart impels us to write, while foolish pride would stay the hand; let us speak the confession that will glorify the lips we fear it may humiliate; let us stretch out the hand of love in the darkness till it touches and inspires the faithful one that possibly never caused us real pain.”William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“True living brings peace to the soul, fibre to character, kingship over self, inspiration to others, but not necessarily—money and material prosperity”William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom, the assessments we pay on our stock of experience, the raw material of error to be transformed into higher living. Without them there would be no individual growth, no progress, no conquest.”William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“Religion to be worth aught must transform and sweeten and better lives or—it is only a self-deceiving formula. It must be a living impetus making them bear bravely their own burdens; it must broaden their shoulders to stand the strain of others’ needs; it must make them active, virile, aggressive, inspiring powers in the world. Religion, to be really worthwhile, should, by their living, fill men’s hearts with love, truth, right, justice, sweetness, honesty, faith, charity, trust and peace.”William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“Character is not a simple, uniform product. It cannot be judged as dress-goods—by a yard or so of sample unrolled from a bolt on the counter. It is complex, confused, uncertain, changing, subject to moods that contradict our conclusions. While knowing all this we dare to construct the whole life and character of one we may have never even met. We build it from a few hints, slurs, idle comments, or the vague rumours or absolute lies of newspaper reports—as scientists reconstruct an unknown prehistoric animal from a few bones. One judges a painting by the full view of the whole canvas; separate isolated square inches of colour are meaningless. Yet we dare to judge our fellow man by single acts and words, misleading glimpses, and deceptive moments of special strain. From these we magnify a mood into a character and an episode into a life”William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

Gossip is one of the popular crimes that has caused infinitely more sorrow in life than—murder. It is drunkenness of the tongue; it is assassination of reputations. It runs the cowardly gamut from mere ignorant, impertinent intrusion into the lives of others to malicious slander.William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 1909

“No man in the world ever attempted to wrong another without being injured in return,—someway, somehow, sometime.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Everything that is great in life is the product of slow growth; the newer, and greater, and higher, and nobler the work, the slower is its growth, the surer is its lasting success. Mushrooms attain their full power in a night; oaks require decades. A fad lives its life in a few weeks; a philosophy lives through generations and centuries.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Man’s conscious influence, when he is on dress-parade, when he is posing to impress those around him,—is woefully small. But his unconscious influence, the silent, subtle radiation of his personality, the effect of his words and acts, the trifles he never considers,—is tremendous.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Man can develop his self-reliance by seeking constantly to surpass himself. We try too much to surpass others. If we seek ever to surpass ourselves, we are moving on a uniform line of progress, that gives a harmonious unifying to our growth in all its parts.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Life is not really what comes to us, but what we get from it.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“The man who has a pessimist’s doubt of all things; who demands a certified guarantee of his future; who ever fears his work will not be recognized or appreciated; or that after all, it is really not worth-while, will never live his best. He is dulling his capacity for real progress by his hypnotic course of excuses for inactivity, instead of a strong tonic of reasons for action.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Content makes the world more comfortable for the individual, but it is the death-knell of progress. Man should be content with each step of progress merely as a station, discontented with it as a destination; contented with it as a step; discontented with it as a finality. There are times when a man should be content with what he has, but never with what he is.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900 

“Happiness consists not of having, but of being; not of possessing, but of enjoying. It is the warm glow of a heart at peace with itself.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Unhappiness is the hunger to get; happiness is the hunger to give… If the individual should set out for a single day to give happiness, to make life happier, brighter and sweeter, not for himself but for others, he would find a wondrous revelation of what happiness really is.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

Happiness represents a peaceful attunement of a life with a standard of living. It can never be made by the individual, by himself, for himself. It is one of the incidental by-products of an unselfish life.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

“Happiness is the greatest paradox in Nature. It can grow in any soil, live under any conditions. It defies environment. It comes from within; it is the revelation of the depths of the inner life as light and heat proclaim the sun from which they radiate.”William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1900 

Truth can stand alone, for it needs no chaperone or escort. Lies are cowardly, fearsome things that must travel in battalions. They are like a lot of drunken men, one vainly seeking to support another.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

“Lying is the partner and accomplice of all the other vices. It is the cancer of moral degeneracy in an individual life.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

When a man discovers a great truth in Nature he has the key to the understanding of a million phenomena; when he grasps a great truth in morals he has in it the key to his spiritual re-creation.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

A lie may live for a time, truth for all time. A lie never lives by its own vitality; it merely continues to exist because it simulates truth. When it is unmasked, it dies.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

The great question of life is not 'What have I?' but 'What am I?”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

Where there is untruth there is always conflict, discrepancy, impossibility. If all the truths of life and experience from the first second of time, or for any section of eternity, were brought together, there would be perfect harmony, perfect accord, union and unity, but if two lies come together, they quarrel and seek to destroy each other.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

In speech, the man who makes Truth his watchword is careful in his words, he seeks to be accurate, neither understating nor over-coloring. He never states as a fact that of which he is not sure. What he says has the ring of sincerity, the hallmark of pure gold. If he praises you, you accept his statement as “net,” you do not have to work out a problem in mental arithmetic on the side to see what discount you ought to make before you accept his judgment. His promise counts for something, you accept it as being as good as his bond, you know that no matter how much it may cost him to verify and fulfill is word by his deed, he will do it. His honesty is not policy. The man who is honest merely because it is “the best policy,” is not really honest, he is only politic. Usually such a man would forsake his seeming loyalty to truth and would work overtime for the devil ― if he could get better terms.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

Let us conceive of gratitude in its largest, most beautiful sense, that if we receive any kindness we are debtor, not merely to one man, but to the whole world. As we are each day indebted to thousands for the comforts, joys, consolations, and blessings of life, let us realize that it is only by kindness to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one, begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than in mere thoughts.”William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, 1902

“My challenge to you is simple but often very difficult … wear your armor of integrity … take full measure of its weight … find comfort in its protection … do not become lax. And always, always, remember that no one can take your integrity from you … you and only you can give it away!”—General Charles C. Krulak, USMC retired
"Integrity", Remarks at Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics, Jan 27, 2000 

“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour”. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist …,”—CS Lewis, “Letter to Mrs. Ashton”, Letters of C.S. Lewis, C. S. Lewis Pte, Ltd., 1988, p 447

“Sometimes we feel like if we could just increase our span of control we could affect great change; so we spend our energy trying to gain control. Once we achieve this we find that yet more control is needed. What we should do is spend our efforts expanding our field of influence. Influence must be earned but can span continents and generations.”Rod Mann, March 2013

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”—Apostle Paul, I Corinthians 13:1

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”W.T. Purkiser

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything originalKen Robinson with Lou Aronica, The Element, 2009, p. 15.

“If you wish to achieve financial success, if you wish to be happy, if you wish to be healthy, if you would be morally clean, if you wish to find religious peace of mind, there is only one sure way, and that is the straight and narrow path—the way of honor, the way of industry, of moderation, simplicity, and virtue.” —Pres. N. Eldon Tanner, Success is Gauged by Self Mastery,General Conference, Apr 1975.

“What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed.

“... When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.

“... it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.”Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Things That Matter Most", October 2010

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things: in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself. And so on the contrary.”—Susanna Wesley, Letter to son, John Wesley,  8 Jan 1725, Adam Clarke, Memoirs of the Wesley Family, 1823, p 270

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.