We Will Miss Him

Dear Will:

As you may have heard, Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died last week. He was 97. His funeral was on Saturday

I got a phone call a couple of Sundays ago from my mother who was calling to share the news of his passing. When I got off the phone, I told my wife and son Seth what I had just learned. Now Seth, who is almost nine, has always been a tender-hearted soul, one who feels deeply the suffering of others (including, or perhaps especially, all types of animals). Upon learning of President Hinckley’s death, Seth began to sob. We held him close, of course, and asked him to tell us what he thought of our dear prophet. Through his tears, Seth said simply: “He was a really nice man.”

As you might guess, Seth has never met Gordon B. Hinckley, but such was the power of this aged man that even a child such as Seth could feel the warmth of his love and sense the true Christian spirit which he possessed. The thing that I always admired about him was that he was so good and making people feel good even as he was admonishing them to try harder, stand taller, do more, be better. He was not the sort to shame you into changing your ways. Rather he made you want to be better than you are.

As it turns out, I was privileged to hear one of his last sermons. On Sunday, January 13, just two weeks before his death, he spoke via satellite to all Church members throughout Southern California. I sat with my family as he counseled us regarding our relationships with one another. He identified four cornerstones which should secure the foundation of each family:

1. Mutual Respect
He reminded couples to respect one another’s differences, which are not necessarily undesirable. Those differences make our companionships more interesting. He pointed out that we would all be better off if we expressed an “anxious concern” for one another. He encouraged us to look for virtues rather than faults. He said: “Love sees more, but chooses to see less.”

2. The Soft Answer
We are told in Proverbs that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). President Hinckley reminded us that when we talk to one another quietly we are speaking the language of God. God spoke to Elijah in “a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) We should follow that example.

3. Financial Honesty
The Prophet reported that money causes more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined. He encouraged us all to pay an honest tithe so that God might open up the windows of heaven. Couples, he said, should provide one another freedom and independence on most day-to-day expenses but come to an agreement before making any large expenditures.

4. Family Prayer
When we pray together, President Hinckley told us, we will have peace in our hearts and joy in our lives. Family prayer in particular will strengthen our love for each other while providing our children with a greater sense of security.

After that meeting concluded, Dana and I typed those four cornerstones onto a piece of paper and gathered our kids to discuss their importance. We have a long way to go before we can pretend to live true to President Hinckley’s good counsel, but we’re now trying harder than before. As I said, he was always the sort of person that had a way to make you want to be a better person.

We will miss him.

PW

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A Gratitude List

Dear Will:

Two or three weeks ago, my wife and I invited the kids to help us make a list of the things we’re thankful for. After writing down 100 or so, we left the pad of paper out and invited everyone in the family to add to the list as we counted down the days until Thanksgiving. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the items on the final list we came up with:

Luke, Bryn, and Seth (our kids)
Dana (my wife)
Barnum (the dog)
Gordon B. Hinckley (the Prophet)
Animals
Grass
Saturday soccer games
Cookies—especially warm ones
Gaynor Mindens (ballet shoes)
Memories
Swings
A good bed
Shelter
Chip & Pounce (stuffed animals)
Ballet
Books and stories
Health
Insects
Trees
Computers
The Book of Mormon
The beach
Electric lights
The Temple
Sports
Good music
Mountain lakes
Friends
The Olympics
Good theater
Sunrises & sunsets
The USA
Colors
Colorado
Scriptures
Toys
Hot showers
Thomas Jefferson
Money
Grandparents
Photographs
The UCLA Bruins
The rumba (don’t ask)
The Armed Forces
Rainforests
Rainstorms
Family time
Eyes
The stars & moon
School
Good food in abundance
Swimming pools
Games
Water
Laughter
Flush toilets
Abraham Lincoln
Libraries
Paper
Candy
Taking walks with Bryn
Thanksgiving
Good movies
Doctors
A peaceful neighborhood
Down comforters
Hot chocolate
Puffy clouds
Markers
Grateful kids
Tumbleweeds
Flapjacks
Vacation
Words
Playing ball with Seth
Best friends
Really cool rocks

As you might guess, the full list also includes a lot of our favorite people, including neighbors, teachers, and friends.

Isn’t it great to be reminded each November to take time to notice the things we are most grateful for? Hope you enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving.

PW

To See Farther and Better and More Clearly

Dear Will:

A couple of years ago there was a movie out called The Other Side of Heaven. The film stars mostly people you and I have never heard of (I think the only recognizable name might be Anne Hathaway, who has made a name for herself playing princesses in The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted). The movie tells the true story of John Groberg’s experiences as a missionary in the South Pacific (Tonga? I can’t remember for sure.) It’s an amazing tale, full of drama and miracles. And while a cynic like me would guess that a movie about a Mormon missionary would be a low-budget disappointment, I thought this film was pretty well done. Although it didn’t enjoy huge box-office success, you can still rent it at your local Blockbuster. I would recommend it—it’s worth the three bucks for the rental in any case.

The reason I bring this up is because I wanted to share with you one of Groberg’s stories, here now in his own words:

I was assigned as a district president to administer the affairs of the Church and preach the gospel in a group of fifteen small, scattered islands. We traveled almost exclusively by sailboat. . . .

On one occasion, we received word that a missionary was very ill on a somewhat distant island. The weather was threatening. . . . Extra heavy seas slowed our progress, and it was late afternoon before we arrived. The missionary was indeed very ill. Fervent prayer was followed by administration, during which the impression came very strongly to get him back to the hospital on the main island, and to do it now! . . .

There was much . . . talk about the darkness, the storm, the formidable reef with its extremely narrow opening to the harbor . . . but soon eight persons, including an ill missionary, a very experienced captain, and a somewhat concerned district president, boarded the boat. . . .

No sooner had we made our commitment to the open seas than the intensity of the storm seemed to increase sevenfold. . . . The thick clouds and driving rain increased the blackness of our already dark universe—no stars, no moon, no rest—only turmoil. . . .

As we rolled and tossed closer and closer to the reef, all eyes searched for the light that marked the opening—the only entry to our home. Where was it? . . . The rain slashed at our faces and tore at our eyes—eyes vainly searching for that life-giving light.

Then I heard the chilling sound of the waves crashing and chewing against the reef! It was close—too close. Where was that light? Unless we hit the opening exactly, we would be smashed against the reef and ripped and torn by that thousand-toothed monster. . . .

Some began to whimper, others to moan and cry, and one or two even to scream in hysteria. At the height of this panic when many were pleading to turn to the left or to the right, . . . I looked at the captain—and there I saw the face of calmness, the ageless face of wisdom and experience, as his eyes penetrated the darkness ahead. Quietly his weather-roughened lips parted, and without moving his fixed gaze and just perceptibly shifting the wheel, he breathed those life-giving words, . . . “There is the light!” . . .

I could not see the light, but the captain could see it. And I knew that he could see it. . . . And so with one last great swell we were hurtled through the opening and into calmer waters. . . .

We were in the protected harbor. We were home. . . .

And so the great lesson: There are those who, through years of experience and training, and by virtue of special divine callings, can see farther and better and more clearly—and can and will save us in those situations where serious injury or death—both spiritual and physical—would be upon us before we ourselves could see (in Ensign, Nov. 1976, pp. 44–45).

I bring this up because General Conference will be on this coming weekend. The Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, will be speaking. Hope you get a chance to tune in.

PW