A Weekend Bonanza

Dear Will:

When my son Seth turned 12 in February, he was ordained a deacon. His best-friend-for-life, Cameron, was made a deacon around that same time. Since Cameron’s dad Warren and I are also good friends, he and I promised the boys we would take them to Salt Lake City to attend the Church’s semi-annual General Conference—our way of welcoming them into the priesthood. So it was that the four of us flew to Salt Lake last week in a four-seat Bonanza with Warren at the controls. The skies were clear and the weather was beautiful when we arrived—highs in the low 70s.

What a marvelous adventure! We had the sort of father/son bonding time that you would imagine and got to attend two of the five sessions of the conference in person. In the Priesthood session, we sat just a few rows back, directly in front of the Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson. Through incredible good fortune, the boys even got to meet six of the twelve Apostles (a thrill as big for the dads as for the boys, I must admit). But the fun was just beginning.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to several inches of snow on the ground—which delighted the boys, of course. Because of the weather, we waited until late in the afternoon to begin the flight home. Although it was still snowing when we took off, we soon found ourselves with a clear, sun-washed view of the Salt Lake valley. I can’t describe to you how beautiful it was, with a fresh blanket of white snow covering the hills and mountains all around. It was truly glorious.

Then as we flew south through the Utah desert, the snow disappeared. Although I have driven through that rocky corridor many times, I had never gotten that bird’s-eye view before. (Commercial airlines fly too high, but in the Bonanza we were at 12,000 feet.) It was the perfect time of day for the flight: early evening, when the sun was casting wonderful shadows off of the red rocks, buttes and mesas of southern Utah. Indescribable.

As I looked out the window that evening, it occurred to me that the flight home provided an apt metaphor for General Conference. The weekend of Conference allowed us to rise above our usual cares and concerns and get a perspective on the things that truly matter. As servants of God, our leaders enabled us to see farther and more clearly as we look off toward a distant horizon. And the view they provided was truly glorious.

In case you’re interested, the Church posts the transcripts and video from the Conference online. You can find the whole proceedings here.

Here are some of my favorite talks from the Conference that I would highly recommend:

I would also encourage you to review any of the messages from President Monson. If you get a chance to do so, you will feel lifted above your present cares, and you too will gain clarity and perspective to help you deal with your day-to-day challenges.


Just the Right Amount of Snow

Dear Will:

Last month I took my family up to the mountains of Wyoming for a family reunion. It promised to be a fun-filled week in the middle of paradise: a cabin on a private lake filled with good food and the people I love most.

Then it started to snow.

That’s right. Apparently Wyoming missed the meeting about summer beginning June 21, because snow started falling on June 22. My kids—born and raised in sunny California with almost no firsthand experience with snow—were thrilled to see those first few flakes. We told them not to get their hopes up, explaining that the little flurry they were seeing would do little else than wet their noses when they got out of the car. . . . Three days later, it was still snowing.

Needless to say, my family was not prepared to be snowed in. Fortunately we had brought warm jackets (we were at 9000 feet, after all), but nothing in the way of gloves or boots for the kids. Rather than fishing and hiking for a week, we spent a lot of time indoors playing dominoes and reading. It was forced togetherness for a group that had certainly intended to be together—just not that close together for so long.

I suppose I should mention that I have six siblings, all but one of whom were there with spouses and children. We are a close-knit family, I suppose, but we do not live near each other. As a result, we are almost never all together at the same time. This reunion was a rare event indeed (held to commemorate my parents 50th wedding anniversary). So to put the 40 of us together in three large cabins, with nothing much to do but wait for the weather to clear, promised to be an interesting test to say the least. I watched with curiosity to see how we would interact: how the cousins would get along, how the various in-laws would blend together—better yet, how my siblings and I would do, living together as a family for the first time in many, many years.

I won’t kid you; there were a few situations in which we got a little testy for one reason or another. But for the most part, the cabins were filled with laughter and geniality, with moments of tender and sometimes hilarious reminiscence mixed in with quiet expressions of admiration and love. It was, in spite of the snow—or perhaps because of it—what you would hope for from a week together, especially knowing that, with my parents growing older and our various families growing larger and more dispersed, it may be the last time we are all together in that fashion.

I suppose I could throw in a pithy comment or two here about the importance of families and eternity, but you already know all that, so let me just wish you the best of summers, with just the right amount of snow to keep you near the ones you love.