They Will Remain Within His Care

Dear Will:

Try as I might, I can’t seem to think about much else but war these days. It leaves me sad and troubled, especially as I allow myself to imagine the worst of where all this could lead. I am by nature an optimistic guy, but I confess that my disposition is being tested.

I catch myself looking at my kids a lot as I seek unsuccessfully to quell my inner turmoil. My oldest son is 12, too young to be threatened by all this, but still—I can’t help but wonder, What if . . . ? I see teary parents on the news who have lost a son already in this conflict, and when I put myself in their place, I feel the tears start to come.

I am reminded of the words of a favorite hymn, never more appropriate than now:

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart, searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows, where when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand? He, only One.

He answers privately, reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace He finds for my beseeching.
Constant He is and kind, love without end.

                                                –Emma Lou Thayne

As I transcribe these words it occurs to me that I may have shared them before. But no matter. They give me some comfort, and so I share them without reservation. More than anything I hope that you remember that in troubled times our faith in God transcends our earthly struggles. Although in times of war I may look upon my children with some sadness, I also do so with some measure of reassur­ance, knowing that ultimately they will remain within His care. I pray that our soldiers may feel that as well.


Could It Be You?

Dear Will:

My wife and I recently snuck off for a weekend getaway to Mendocino. Words fail to describe how beautiful it is there. God definitely put some of his best artists to work there during the Creation.

We spent a couple of hours one afternoon browsing through the shops in town, including one which, as it turned out, sold a lot of hemp products and books on the occult (it also had a “smoke shop” upstairs—we decided we weren’t the target audience). While I was reading up on why hemp fabric makes superior clothing, a loud horn shook the town (it has only 1,100 residents, by the way). When we asked the shopkeeper what was up, she calmly told us that it was the alarm for the Volunteer Fire Department.

Sure enough, as we left the shop and rounded the corner, we discovered that the fire station was open and the truck was gone. I suppose I knew that there were still volunteer fire departments functioning, but I have to admit that I imagined the scene as it might have played out in an old black and white movie, with some guy leaping up from the barber chair, his face only half shaven. In truth, I suppose that in this case the volunteers were accountants, construction workers, retirees—people like you and me who had agreed to drop everything when the blast sounded. I’d guess that some do it for fun, some for the thrill or the glamor, but all of them are motivated to one degree or another by a desire to look out for one another. In that respect, I guess a volunteer fire department is the ultimate in neighborliness.

When Jesus taught about loving our neighbors, he told of the Good Samaritan, illustrating as he did so that we should cultivate a genuine concern for others regardless of their race or religion or gender or political persuasion. He wanted us to recognize the brotherhood that binds us rather than the differences which seem so often to pull us apart.

Such thoughts are especially on my mind lately as I see our nation tilting, inexorably it seems, toward war. Throughout the ages nations have struggled to find ways to peacefully resolve their differences, the result being that hatred and misunderstanding lead us to kill and be killed. I can’t say that I feel like there is a lot I can do about all that on the global stage, unfortunately; but at a minimum I know I can try to be a little kinder, a little more thoughtful, a little more aware of those around me—probably starting right next door.

Here is, perhaps, a silly example of what I’m talking about. My next door neighbor owns a doughnut shop, and periodically he shows up on our doorstep with a dozen—just because. Although he speaks little English, he has found a way to speak a language that my children especially understand. As a result, I don’t ever think about our obvious cultural differences; instead I try to figure out something nice I could do for him to reciprocate.

In short, I’m feeling like the alarm has sounded and it’s time for me to get up out of the barber chair and figure out who needs my help. Could it be you?


The Times in Which We Live

Dear Will:

I have had a lingering sense of unease caused by the disaster of September 11 and its aftermath.  It’s not as if I feel immediately threatened (Orange isn’t exactly a hotbed of commerce or political activity); but it is certainly apparent that safety and security is something over which I ultimately have very little control.  That’s not easy to accept when you are the father of small children.  So I ask myself: How do I achieve any kind of peace-of-mind in this new world of ours?  It’s an important question.

I recently discovered a passage of scripture that seems to answer that question.  And the answer is this: If I want to be protected from the evil forces which now swirl around us, I must follow the counsel of the living prophet:

Wherefore, . . . thou shalt give heed unto all [the prophet’s] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. (Doctrine & Covenants 21:4-6)

That’s a pretty powerful promise, but if you’re anything like me, doing as you’re told is not always as easy as it should be.  I tend to be somewhat selective in what I will and will not do, and unfortunately that passage doesn’t seem to give me a lot of wiggle room: “as if from mine own mouth” seems to suggest that I’m not going to get away with much if I decide I know better than the prophet of God.

Now I realize that you may not consider Gordon B. Hinckley to be the Lord’s living oracle, but consider this: Do we need the help of a prophet any less than they did anciently?  Can’t we make the case that we need a prophet today more than ever?  I know I do.

In any case, I felt like I should share President Hinckley’s comments concerning “The Times in Which We Live,” delivered last month during a General Conference of the Church.  (You can find it here.) Ironically, his talk coincided with the commencement of the current military campaign in Afghanistan.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review his counsel and that it may redound to your benefit.

I pray that the blessings outlined in the verse above may become a reality for you and your family.