Who they were and what they did

My wife Sharon and I like many other people these days are searching for our ancestors.

This is something like saying the Lone Ranger and Tonto are searching for the outlaws. That’s not to say our kinfolk were outlaws necessarily. It’s to say we resemble the masked man and his faithful Native American assistant in our modus operandi. Lone Ranger did the tactical and strategy instructions, such as “Hyo Silver,” and Tonto chipped in with helpful observations like, “Not long gone Kimo Sabe. Campfire still warm.”

I have the Tonto part and Sharon is the dogged detective. She loves to do puzzles, figure out stuff, and even works hard at figuring out me.

Sharon knows how to find the ancestors. I contribute by analyzing (or fanticizing} what they and their lives were like. The goal, as the Old Testament prophet Malachi described it is to, “…turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).

The first priority is to do for them ordinances they didn’t have the opportunity to do when they were alive, but we also feel it helps us to bond with them, and they with us if we know something about the world they lived in.

In a show Sharon and I do on pioneer songs and stories I sometimes wander off into my fabricated family history. The part about our branch of the family coming from Mount Airy North Carolina is true. Most of rest is as authentic as my imagination could conjure it.

They were mountain williams to use the more formal term. The less formal is hill billies. They were very poor. So poor that they all slept in the same bed. My folks invented the family group sheet.

One day they met the Mormon missionaries. They liked what they heard about the church but grandpa was reluctant. He said “I’m not going to join any church that would have people like me in it.”

Later on he humbled himself, the family joined the church, and they went to Nauvoo Illinois to be with the Saints. Only to find that the Saints had left Nauvoo some 23 years earlier. Grandpa said, “Seems like we’re always late for church. “

Grandpa also said, We can’t even take the train, it’s already gone. See here’s its tracks“

Fortunately there was another train later. They came west and settled around Payson Utah.

A few generations before all this happened the family separated into Hiatts and Hyatts. Apparently the deal was the Hy’s would get the luxury hotels, and the Hi’s the gift of gab, and the humility.

Fair exchange I suppose. I’m not complaining, but as I’ve traveled around the country over the years I’ve sometimes looked up at a big elegant hotel and on the top the bold letters, “Hyatt House.” I’ve pondered, “There but for a Y, go I.”

But, of course, we all owe a great debt to our ancestors. Without them where would we be? Literally.

And no matter how colorful or quixotic our heritage, we are all one big family of brothers and sisters descended from noble parentage, Father Adam, and Mother Eve.

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Little Epistle: Smoothing Wrinkles

One of our daughters had a traumatic occurrence recently. Looking in the mirror one morning she saw a wrinkle in her face that had not been there before at least she hadn’t seen it. And she couldn’t find a way to smooth it out.

Knowing how bright and well informed young people are today, I am reluctant to offer counsel on many subjects, but I may be an authority on wrinkles. For a while I called mine smile lines or certifications of deep thinking and mature character. But at this point I am having a hard time selling that package even to myself. They are declarations of the cumulative winters on my head. They also proclaim a skeletal structure which is shrinking and a skin covering that refuses to join in, leaving it with no alternative but to wrinkle and sag.

I might be tempted to have a face lift, but then I would need a neck lift, some leg lifts and maybe even toe skin shrinkage to make the whole package match. Otherwise I would be a youthful face stuck on an ancient carcass.

Probably I’ll just join the distinguished fraternity of Yoda, Abraham Lincoln and King Tut. Lincoln once apologized to his audience that “… I am on this side of my face and you are on that side.”

I should also follow the counsel of my sister Jeanie who has progressed from a beautiful bride to a beautiful grandmother. She says, “I worked hard to get these wrinkles. Why would I want to cover then up?

I have found one secret place to hide my sagging jowls and slack jaw. I pin then to my cheek bones with a smile. This also improves my health and outlook. As old King Solomon counseled, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

I fancy people saying as I walk by, “Wasn’t that a merry spirited young looking man.”
“Yes, and did you notice how wet his bones were.”

Little Epistle: Changes in the Church

As you probably know there are big changes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, formerly called by some people the Mormons. And that’s one of the big changes. Now “Mormon” once again refers just to the compiler of the book bearing his name.

Like all changes these require some effort to be accomplished. For those who feel that using the full name of the church is a challenge, I invite you to be sympathetic with my friends the Tongans. That’s where I served my first mission. This is how you say the Church’s name in their language, Koe Siasi o Sisu Kalisi oe kau ma’onioni I he ngaahi aho ki moini.

Take a deep breath before you start on that.

Also as you may know we have combined the high priests with the elders. Our son Matt said, “We now have a quorum of the movers in the shakers.”

Brethren who have been involved in helping families move from one house to another know what he means. Picture a husky young elder hauling out a refrigerator followed by an aged high priest with a quivering stack of doilies each of them doing his best.

Also as you may know men who formerly were home teachers are now ministers, and sisters who were visiting teachers are also ministers. With the new names comes a change in the in the responsibilities. As a home teacher sometimes we brethren were content with visiting the family once a month, checking them off and then forgetting about them until the next month.

There were also some in-house jokes such as the home teacher who was asked by his leader, “Every year you faithfully get 10 out of 12 visits. Could you raise that to 12 visits for 12 months?“

Home teacher says, “Yes I suppose I could, but it would be awkward to go out on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.”

Or the brother boasting, “I always make my visits the first day of the month.”

Another responded, “Oh yeah, well I do mine the day before that.”

Even they were a cut above those who felt that if you saw your family while driving down the road and honked at them you could call that a home teaching visit.

Hopefully those were just jokes.

But today our responsibility is to get to know our families, find out how we can serve them, and pray for guidance from the Spirit to follow through. Everything from mowing lawns and fixing fences to finding sources of financial counsel, visiting them in the hospital, praying for them when hard times strike and giving priesthood blessings. I have done all these. Some took more time and resources than others, but all of them gave me the same feeling in various degrees, that in my small and weak mortal way I was following in the path of the Savior.

As I am learning my trade as a minister, I find that the Lord is involved not only in helping those to whom I minister, but in helping me.

I am still an apprentice working to become a master craftsman, but I can say this. The pay scale even at my level of expertise is spectacular. Basically the equation is if I put in a teaspoon of effort I receive back a bucketful of blessings running over.

I invite your comments and experiences on how you are affecting the ministering program, and how it is affecting you.

duanehiatt@gmail.com

What’s New at the Mortuary

What’s new at the Mortuary

NOTE: This is not an insinuation of any plans I have for the near future.

Do you remember this joke attributed to Will Rogers and others? “When I die I want to go like my grandpa did, peacefully in my sleep not screaming and hollering like those other people in the car.”

Today, that’s just the beginnings of your options. This is not your grandpa’s funeral. The dying business has gone high-tech and low tech. At the high tech end, you can have yourself cremated, and then have your ashes become part of a coral reef, a tree, a diamond ring, or some other medium you may choose I assume. You can also have a computer chip embedded in your coral reef, tree, diamond ring or other resting place so that your loved ones can find you in the future.

For those who want to be buried in a more traditional way, but are concerned about adding the more permanent concrete, steel, wood and other slow dissolving materials to the earth’s underground, there’s a low tech alternative. You can have a casket made from bamboo. Then you and the casket will sooner become a part of the earth from which we sprung.

I am interested in these new alternatives for returning dust to dust. My own preference is rather personal. When I was in high school I had a 1939 mercury coupe. Even then it was dated, but it had a certain charm. It was cute. But it was also too much car I thought. Too high, too long, too bulky and round. So in my youthful enthusiasm I took care of these manufacturer miscalculations, and cut it down to the sports car I could see in my mind.

Great lesson in life which it took me several years to learn. It is much easier to remove than to replace. Cutting it down took some elbow grease and time, but nothing compared to trying to put it back together in its new form. It took me years between high school and college basketball, dating, a mission to Tonga for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, marriage, and the first few of what would be a rather large contingent of children.

I ran out of time, money, and skill. In truth I ran out of skill first.

Still the dream lives on, and I confess I have my project sequestered in a semi-secret place. Unless the dream dies before I do, I have a wafting vision of passing away peacefully in my bed not my car. Then having a mortuary finish my customizing project, and setting my last mortal remains into the driver seat with hands on the steering wheel and rolling the package into my underground plot/garage in a cemetery to triumphantly drive out in the resurrection.

So far I haven’t seen any offers from funeral homes, to take on the project, but with all these new innovations who knows?

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Acres of Semi-precious stones

One of the more famous true stories turned parable was told by Russell H. Conwell founder of Temple University. Al Hafed a prosperous Middle East farmer sold his farm and wandered the world looking for a fabled field of diamonds. He never found them. He came back to his starting point worn out and broke. He then found to his dismay that the man who bought his farm had discovered diamonds in his back field, acres of diamonds.

We may or may not find diamonds right under our nose. But there is no question there is a load of semi precious gems piled in front of us every morning when we get out of bed. We may see them as gravel beneath our feet. They may irritate our bare toes and tempt us to walk around them, or just stay in bed away from them. They probably will not look like much since most of them are uncut gems. They need to be worked on, faceted, shined up to show their worth to us.

The gems may present themselves as work that needs to be done, or inconveniences that we’d rather not deal with. They may be problems to solve, people to help, some of whom will probably not even say thanks, the whole pile will be spread over with the dust of routine chores of every day.

We will have to wipe this off with the cloth of our daily commitment to do the mundane stuff that keeps our world just moving. But if that is all we do, we will dust a pile of rocks but never shine them up.

If on the other hand we dig in to those individual rocks we will find in our daily labors new skills, to develop. In our service to others we’ll unearth personalities, talents and gifts in the people all about us we never suspected. We will find joy and warmth in work well done even if we are the only ones who know who did it.

Acres of opportunity studded with at least semi precious stones and occasionally real gems lie within the range of every step we take in every day. Ours is the responsibility and the opportunity to see these little treasures, pick them up, shine them up, and leave them as sparkling sign posts along the path we have taken through life.

Family Projects

Decades ago I built a barn up the hill behind our house, and we put a couple of kids in it. Later we added more kids.

We got them because some of our children were allergic to cow’s milk, but did fine on goat’s milk. Also to help our boys learn responsibility and contribute to our dinner table.

The project was a mixed success. There is no animal cuter when they are young. Frisky, full of life, friendly, and they love to be cuddled and bottle fed.

When they mature they get more sedate and reasonable. But in their youth they are harder to handle. They are always looking for holes in the pen, or getting tangled up in their rope if you try to stake them.

No matter how pleasant the pasture is, they always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

They are intelligent, and infinitely curious and that often causes them to get entangled in various ways, and we have to get them straightened out.

Their feed is also an expense, and their table manners often leave a lot to be desired

This is also true of the goats.

But all in all, the project has been worth the effort. If nothing else, it still helps me exercise my body and my patience.

They have brought me more smiles than frowns. Given the choice, I would do it all again.

Young People Today


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Kids today; who can understand them? I read about their self-centeredness, their great expectations with minimal effort, low work ethic, addictions to digital media, and on and on.

And then I read about the Hardin-Central High School Cheerleaders in Missouri. Recently at one of their basketball games they saw that the other school had only one cheerleader. Her name was Tori Adams and she was uncomfortable and scared.

So the Hardin cheerleaders learned her cheers, and cheered for her team as well as their own. The cheerleaders cheered for everybody, and, everybody cheered for the cheer leaders.

Reminds me of the junior prom at our high school a few years ago. The junior class officers decreed that no junior girl would be without a date to the prom. They sold the package to their constituents, and the juniors made it happen.

We who knew this class were not surprised. They were a special group of kids. We also nodded our heads when we found out that Lucinda’s (not her real name) date would be one of the biggest men on campus, star athlete, handsome, and popular with everybody, one of the good guys.

Lucinda was also special. No one, even those who had been her classmates since grade school ever remembered her eating lunch alone. She had a quiet sensitivity that invited everybody to her friends.

I was told later that Lucinda’s date had been his usual popular self at the dance, but his friends got only a wave. His whole focus that night was listening and talking to Lucinda

At the end of the dance, we parents, and other friends waited around the foot of the of the county courthouse staircase where the prom was held. To us as they descended the long flight of stairs in the spotlights, every young man was a handsome prince, every junior girl on his arm was Cinderella. And we applauded them as such.

Then the thunderous applause, the cheering, dabbing at the eyes erupted when Lucinda appeared. She was not on her handsome escort’s arm. She was in his strong arms as he gently carried her down the stairs, and placed her carefully into her wheel chair. The chair and others like it is her only way to get around since the age of three when a medical condition left her with almost no use of her arms and legs.

She didn’t actually dance that night, but in her heart and mind I think she sang with Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady, “I only know when he began to dance with me, I could have danced, danced, danced all night.”

Young people today, bless them.

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Follow the Prophet Today


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What can we learn about following the prophet today? He won’t lead us astray.

Weary and cold already after only one day’s trek, these inexperienced small farmers, shopkeepers and craftsmen, mothers, fathers, and children dragged their wagons into a makeshift camp and tried to get rested for the next day of their trek across the plains and the mountains. Eventually more than 70,000 pioneers would show their faith in following their prophet Brigham Young. Six thousand would perish along the trail.
Their commitment to follow was tested in many ways. First driven out by mobs who hated their religion and hungered for their possessions, later in the valleys of their mountain home an army from their own country would menace them. Crickets would devour their crops cold and hot weather would endanger their existence. They were sustained by the words of their prophet Joseph Smith. Not long before he was murdered by a mob he declared they would become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.

Today their descendants and converts worldwide number in the millions. They have sufficient means to bless others hit by hurricanes, floods, war, pestilence and other natural and man-made calamities. Their missionaries carry a message of hope to the downtrodden, humility to the prosperous, and joy to all through the Savior Jesus Christ. They are a bright beacon to a dimming world.

A hundred years ago the prophet Heber J. Grant warned the world to beware of polluting their bodies with drugs including nicotine and alcohol. He quoted from the scriptures of “… evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days… “
Those who listened and followed, and their descendants have been largely spared the death and misery from the flood of drugs drowning much of the world. Interestingly the poisons are sometimes called, “designer” drugs. The same word Heber J. Grant read from the scriptures written back in 1833.

Twenty three years ago the Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley and other general authorities issued a proclamation to the world to honor and protect the family. Those who listened and followed have suffered much less from the disintegration of this most important foundation of civilization.

These examples are only three of the thousands of words of wisdom, counsel, and salvation given since the Lord began more than two centuries ago to send prophets again to the earth.

Today, thanks be to God, the prophet still speaks. Those who harken and follow will not go astray, because the prophet will not go astray, and he knows the way.

Follow the Prophet Daniel


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What can we learn by following the prophet Daniel? Trusting in the Lord will bring deliverance.

Years ago I was in an audience where President Hugh B. Brown Introduced the England Ambassador. He got a laugh from the Mormon audience and the Ambassador with this joke. “Our guest being a faithful member of the Church of England must feel like the Democrat who was asked to speak at a Republican rally. The speaker was nervous. The master of ceremonies whispered to him, ‘Just say a little prayer.’

“The speaker answered, ‘That’s the one thing I can’t do. I don’t want The Lord to know where I am.’”

Her majesty’s ambassador was equal to the occasion. He opened his speech saying, “On the contrary. I feel like a lion in a den of Daniels.”

Would that we all could be in a den of Daniels today. Our young people need heroes like the youthful Daniel and his friends refusing King Nebuchadnezzar’s wine and rich meats, and eating healthy food instead.

We older folks could use more examples such as the older Daniel bravely predicting the fall and rise of kingdoms including the one holding him and his people captive. He refused to stop praying to God even when he was sentenced to become lion food.

Many of Daniel’s prophecies have already come to pass. Others will. One prophecy is being fulfilled virtually every day of our lives. That prophecy declares that the kingdom of God will one day overcome all the kingdoms of the world and stand forever. (Daniel 2.)

TO RESPOND
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Follow the Prophet Stories

We had a complication doing the video this week. I expect we will pick up the discussion next week with “Follow the Prophet Daniel.”

For a little change of pace, I’d like to share with you some of the stories the little song has spawned over the years.

A couple of days ago as President and Prophet Russell M. Nelson was on his world-wide ministering journey a man stopped me in church, and said, “News reporters have picked up your message. The headline of a story in the paper this morning said, ‘Press and media follow the Prophet.’”

My daughter in law Marci told me of a primary teacher in her ward. One little boy was a handful, maybe several hands full. He wasn’t naughty, just enthusiastic. The only thing that slowed him down was to sit on the teacher’s lap. One day instead of his usual wrestling match with the teacher, he sat quietly humming a tune. Then he looked up into the teacher’s eyes and said, “Adam was a prophet. Did you know that?” She nodded. He went back to humming then looked up to her and said. “Enoch was a prophet. Did you know that?” She nodded. He went through all eight prophets and the last verse with humming in between. The teacher was stunned. He had been learning in Primary after all.

Kia Heaton a little girl about five, was hiking with her mother and little sister and littler brother. She kept running ahead saying, “I am the prophet. I’m the prophet.” Her mother said, “What does that mean?”
She answered, “You are supposed to follow me.”

My sister Diane told me of a family in Kansas who sang Follow the Prophet often for their home evenings etc. One day their small son saw a picture of President Hinckley, prophet at the time. He hollered, “Look. It’s Follow, the Prophet.”
When I tell the children this story, I remind them that follow is a verb, something we do, not a name like Smokey the Bear and Kermit the Frog.

Phil Carmack’s son who just started Sunbeams in primary came home singing. Phil wrote me from Redwood City California, “I heard him singing a new Primary song. He was belting out ‘Follow the Prophet you won’t go straight.’ ” A few days later he learned the correct words.

Joseph Walker called me from Sacramento California. He had his primary class write verses to “Follow the Prophet.” One little guy wrote, “Abinidi was a prophet… and then you hum the rest.”

Our daughter Katy told me about little boy in their neighborhood who adapted the song to instruct his younger brother in character development. He sings to him, “Follow the Prophet. Don’t be a jerk.”

If you speak Spanish you will enjoy our little friend Jorjito Alverado in Puerto Rico who sang “Sigue al profeta, deja el arroz,” which translates, “Follow the prophet, don’t eat the rice.” His mother corrected him that it was “deja el error” which means “don’t go astray.” I assume she also said “Coma el arroz.” “Eat your rice.”

The song was written for Primary children, but apparently the age range starts earlier. At a Primary leadership meeting in Riverton Utah Shirley Jolley about 6 months pregnant said her baby began to kick to the rhythm when we began to sing “Follow the Prophet.”

Apparently there is an appeal for the more mature also. Al Payne, a high school music teacher by career told me his high priests quartet featured it in their programs, and they “jazzed it up a little.” Way to go brethren, turn up those heart pacers and as they used to say in the big band era, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

The late Truman Madsen told me his granddaughter Molly was shopping with her mother in a grocery store in their town near San Francisco. Molly was following her mother singing “Follow the Prophet” at the top of her voice. Her mother tried to get her daughter to tone it down a few decibels. But the store manager happened to be behind them. He said, “No, you let that little girl sing. She’s got a good business sense. You follow the profit my dear; you’ll be successful in retail.”

One of my favorite stories includes a mature gentleman, a young man and a child. The gentleman was a stake president from Logan Utah who told me the story. A young man with problems in his stake had paid for a six pack of beer at a grocery store checkout stand. He started to leave when the voice of a child floated from another part of the store, “Follow the Prophet… he knows the way.”
The young man paused a moment then started for the door. The clerk called to him, “Hey, you forgot your beer. You paid for it.”
The youth called back as he walked out. “I know I forgot the beer, but I remembered something else.”

Notwithstanding their creative interpretations I’m grateful these little and big folks are spreading the word. Follow the Prophet.

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