Angel Fire

In high school I ran the mile race on the track team. I was not quick enough to compete with the sprinters. The mile race was considered more an act of stubborn determination than a race; at least the way I ran it. We assumed in those days that a one mile race was the maximum capability of a human being. One step beyond that and your body would dissolve into individual molecules and disappear into the cinders on which we ran. It was also assumed by much of the general public that the human body probably could never run a mile in less than four minutes.

Then wonder of wonders, one historic day in 1954, May 6 to be exact, Roger Bannister of England clocked a mile under four minutes. Then wonder of wonder of wonders a month and a half later John Landy of Australia did the same thing. Today wonder of etceteras four high school runners have beaten the impossible four minute clock.

Nearer the other end of the human life cycle people we considered “Ancient of days” when I was young are now clocking 50 to 100 times the one mile barrier that we high school runners staggered to. I happened to be in a hotel room in Hawaii that was on the finish line of the Iron man race. I heard the announcer call the number, name and age of contestant who crossed that line having completed a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile marathon run. One man who crossed the line was 59 years old. We used to think anybody this old in a race this long could cross the finish line only if the body was being carried by pall bearers.

The scenes you see here will be viewed by runners in an upcoming relay race in New Mexico next September. By then the snow will be gone. Our son Josh is one of the organizers. He and I were mapping the 180 mile course. Relay team members will take turns handing off the baton, and no person will run the whole distance, but each one of them will run far beyond the one mile drop dead limit we high school track enthusiasts imposed on ourselves. Also we ran a level track. These people will go from the relatively flatlands to a ski resort in the mountains named Angel Fire. These are not professional runners, just people having a good time with their friends.

I’m still not ready to admit that middle to Methuselah age run of the mill runners are in better shape than we were at age 18. But I readily admit to one thing. They think they can do it, and we were convinced we couldn’t.

So I ask myself as I often do, “What other marvels, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social would we humans accomplish if we only believed? As the old saying goes, “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Talking to Heavenly Father

In my presentations on Follow the Prophet, I explain that the Church music committee asked me to write a happy song. I tell the children in the audience that this was hard for me because my wife had died just two weeks before. I ask the children, “What do we do to get help in hard times?” They always know the answer, “We pray,” or the Spanish speaking children on our mission would say, “Oramos.” But last week I asked the question differently for some reason. I asked, “Who can help us?” This time the answers varied, “My parents, teacher, brothers and sisters, friends.” A little girl on the front row didn’t answer but she seemed deep in thought. I got down on one knee and gave her the microphone. “Who would you go to for help?” I asked. She shrugged. “How about Heavenly Father?” I prompted her. She nodded.

“How could you talk with him?” I asked her.

“You could die,” She replied. People chuckled. I smiled, and said, “That would be one way.” Is there another way?” We finally worked around to prayer, and she agreed that was an option.

After the show, a woman with gentle eyes and a warm smile came up to me. She said, “The little girl you talked with about prayer is my daughter. Her biological mother died five weeks ago.”

The scene came instantly into focus in my mind, and her answer made perfect sense.

“Where is Mama?” she had asked, and thought, and cried.

The new lady in her life had replied, “She’s with Heavenly Father.”

With a child’s straightforward faith, she held in her mind the picture of her loving mother talking to her Heavenly Father. She probably assumed (correctly) that one of the most important topics they discussed was how to help the mother’s little one get through this hard time. She probably didn’t think of this, but it’s true. The Holy Ghost was dispatched to console her and give her hope. Perhaps he helped bring the gentle lady who softly stroked her hair, provided a shoulder for her to cry on, and listened and talked with her at bedtime, and during the day when memories made her cry.

What a kind way for a loving Father in Heaven to help his little daughter through this hard time. And what pure faith she has to see her mother talking to Heavenly Father.

When Diane died, I read the advice of experts on how to help our children handle the loss. One authority said, “Level with your children. Tell them that mommy or daddy is dead, and is not coming back. Otherwise they will expect the person to return, and they will be disappointed.” But for me, that inference of death as the end is incorrect and misleading. If we do the right things, death is a temporary separation, followed by an eternal union.

I prefer my little friend’s perspective. Mama is talking to Heavenly Father, and one day I will talk with both of them again.

Finding joy in a world of troubles

Our goal in The Three D’s was, and my objective in writing and in performing on stage is to interest, entertain, and even inspire people; to give them thoughts and feelings they can carry away to keep the fires of hope burning inside. This objective appears even more needed now than it was those decades ago when we were on the road.

In pursuit of this dream, I’m going back on the road a bit. Sharon and I are headed out to Vista California, Phoenix Arizona, and Albuquerque New Mexico to visit family and friends, and also to present a new show based on a little song I wrote for the Primary titled “Follow the Prophet.”

The show is filled with music, humor, drama, and narration about what happens when people follow the prophets, and what befalls them when they don’t. I also tell the story of how I came to write the song. Sharon and I are presenting the show backed by local volunteers and an ad hoc children’s chorus we put together on location. We have had success with this format, and are looking forward to this tour.

I am encouraged to do this because of what I see around me. Many people are worried and afraid, but others are happy and optimistic even in the midst of today’s challenges. What is the difference?

Mike Wallace, the creator and long time host of the television show “60 Minutes” asked this question in another way. Following an interview of Gordon B. Hinckley, at that time president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wallace said to one of president Hinckley’s counselors James E. Faust, “I’ve never met a man with so much responsibility who is so optimistic. Why is he?”

“Because he knows how it is going to turn out,” President Faust answered. Despite the challenges and problems of today. Things are going to turn out magnificently. Righteousness will triumph. Wickedness will be overcome and banished. The peace and good will promised by the angels at Jesus birth will cover the earth.

There may well be some hard slogging ahead, but the future is bright, beautiful, and certain. The prophets have always known this truth even back in the days of the Old Testament, and they know it today. Those who have followed their counsel and direction have always shared in this consolation and hope.
That is the message we are taking to the stage, and putting into these writings on the web as well as on email, facebook and You Tube.

If you know others who would like to join us on this journey of joy, invite them to log on to this web page. Send us your own experiences and words of encouragement, and when we are in your area, if you have the opportunity, come and let us meet you.

“Gospel” is a Middle English word from the Old English “godspel”, a contraction of “God spell” or “God’s tale”, later becoming “good story” now translated as “good news.” This linguistic journey, seems to have rubbed the optimism off the original. Our aim is to help restore the luster and the hope of the good news. For as the current prophet and president of the Church Thomas S. Monson succinctly and eloquently said, “Your future is as bright as your faith.”

Outrunning you

Two guys are running away from a hungry bear. The bear is gaining. One guy stops and hastily changes into a pair or running shoes. His companion says, “You’re nuts. You’re never going to outrun that bear.”

Running shoe guy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

I’ve never liked that joke; not just because leaving your companion for bear road kill is not a hilarious image to me, but also because it gives a misleading impression of how to survive and succeed in the world. In the race of life we are competing against ourselves, not against each other. The challenge is between me as I am and me as I could be.

It has taken me a while to ingrain that idea. I was captain of our high school football and basket ball teams, and played basketball for Brigham Young University one year before my mission. I was known as a fairly fierce competitor. I still believe in competition for entertainment, and to compare specific skills. I don’t believe in it for evaluating people.

This is especially important in my roles as husband, father, and now grandfather. With 15 children, it would have been easy and tempting to make comparisons. “Why don’t you get as good grades as your brother/sister? You cause more trouble than any three of your siblings.” Even complimentary comparisons can be unsettling. “You are the smartest, or prettiest, or most lovable etc.” can make the person think, “Who’s in second place, and are they gaining on me?”

Competition and comparison between people is not accurate and not fair. I have told our children and other groups to whom I have lectured and taught, “The only reason you don’t have an Olympic medal around your neck or a Rhodes Scholar invitation in your pocket is because the contest was designed to maximize somebody else’s skills and not yours.” I could easily get the top grade in a test of questions like, “How did Duane Hiatt chip his front tooth in grade school, and what did he learn from that.” I’d have a pretty good chance of winning a race that was limited to people over six feet tall with a twice broken nose and 52 or more grandchildren. If I structured enough requirements to my advantage, I could win the gold. Unfortunately the big races and tests seem to be set up to favor other peoples’ advantages, like being fast and smart. So far I have not heard back from either the Rhodes scholarship or the Olympic committees about my proposal.

The no comparison approach is important as we formulate our New Year’s resolutions. It’s fine to use others as examples and even as role models. However, we will be happier and make more progress if we think of our future and ourselves as filled with infinite possibilities, and our Heavenly Father as our coach and cheer leader, and life as a stimulating open ended adventure, not a race in which the strong and speedy win and the slow and weak are bear breakfast.