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.)

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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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Follow the Prophet Jonah


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What can we learn from following the prophet Jonah?

Jonah is perhaps the most contradictory prophet in the Old Testament.

A man who praised the Lord as the creator of earth and sky and yet apparently thought he could run off to another country and be beyond the Lord’s jurisdiction.

Who; when the people he preached to repented, instead of being happy he went up on a hillside to watch the celestial fireworks destroy their city. When that didn’t happen, he sulked and grumbled to the Lord.

Who; is the subject of what appears to be a practical joke, and a gentle ribbing by the Lord. Kind of a “Hey get over it. We saved 120,000 people not to mention the cows.”

Who; was afraid to preach repentance to a wicked city, but convinced reluctant sailors to throw him overboard to save themselves and their ship.

Who; accomplished the impossible according to the experts. He got vomited out alive after spending three days in the belly of what the Bible calls “a great fish” (more likely a big shark than a whale incidentally. Their throats are bigger.)

Who; has an experience that is compared twice in the Bible to Jesus death and resurrection. Who makes the comparison? Jesus himself.

All these contradictories should intrigue us to go read Jonah’s story again, sing his verse in “Follow the Prophet” and believe the Lord will help us do hard things. Even if we are as reluctant as Jonah was.

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Follow the Prophet Samuel

Follow the Prophet Samuel
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What can we learn by following the prophet Samuel?
Hanna and Elkanah longed to have a son. Finally Hanna promised God that if he would grant their wish, they would dedicate their child to serve in the Lord’s tabernacle.

And so it came to pass, and they named their son Samuel.

Even as a young boy Samuel was a good and faithful servant. One day while working in the tabernacle he thought he heard his supervisor Eli call his name. But Eli said, “It wasn’t me. I believe it was the Lord. If he calls again, say ‘Speak for thy servant heareth.’” Samuel did that, and his life was changed forever. The Lord later called him to be a prophet to the nation. Again he served faithfully.

It wasn’t easy.

Israel wanted to have a king. Samuel warned them not to. They ignored him and soon saw the wisdom of his words. Saul the first king regressed from being a humble servant of the people to an unstable psychopath. He hated David the national hero who with his sling had killed the giant Goliath. David had since become a greater warrior than Saul. Insane with Jealousy, Saul tried to kill David, but couldn’t catch him. Saul committed suicide. David was anointed king.

But high office also corrupted David. He committed adultery, then had the woman’s husband killed in battle to cover his sin.

As Samuel had foretold, the king thing never did work out very well for Israel.

Through all this and more, Samuel remained the conscience of Israel chastening the powerful, and ministering to the poor and needy. His heart was as pure as it had been that day when God called his name, and he answered, “Speak. Thy servant heareth.”

Samuel’s life shows us the Lord speaks to people of all ages. He will speak to you and me, and anyone who sincerely prays to him. We may not hear his voice, but we will feel his spirit. Then, like Samuel we can weather the storms of life and one day hear the Lord say to us as he undoubtedly said to Samuel, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Follow the Prophet Moses

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What can we learn by following the prophet Moses?

It takes 11 days to travel from Egypt to Israel on foot. Unless you are travelling on an educational field trip. Then it can take 40 years and even then you may not arrive.

That is the story of the children of Israel’s exodus in the wilderness. Not that the curriculum was all that difficult. The Israelites only had to learn one concept, and pass one test. The concept from the Lord was simply, trust me, and trust my servant Moses.

To show them his awesome power, God parted the Red Sea, and let them cross without even getting their feet muddy. To feed them he sent manna six days a week. Perhaps to help them remember where their food was coming from, the Lord made the manna last for only one day. Every morning when they gathered their manna for breakfast they would be reminded that the Lord was providing their food. But the manna they gathered on the day before the sabbath lasted for two days. so they would be reminded to keep his commandment to rest on the sabbath day. Over and over Heavenly Father showed them they were his covenant people, and Moses was his prophet.

If you trust me, and keep my commandments I will care for you. It was a clear and simple agreement. But they never got it.

They paid lip service to the arrangement. They even paid leg service by wandering to and fro through the wilderness. But they never got the flesh pots of Egypt out of their minds and memories. They never totally committed to their covenant. As they old saying goes, they wanted to serve the Lord without offending the devil.

As a result, the Lord kept them wandering until that entire generation had passed away. Their children and grandchildren inherited the land they had been promised.

But before we shake our heads at their thick headedness, let us examine our own lives. Are we receiving all the protection, direction, strength, and blessings the Lord has prepared for us on our travel through this life toward the Promised Land?

Are we fully following the Lord’s anointed prophets? That’s the question echoing down through the ages from Moses, and the other prophets of old to our present prophet today. The Promised Land can be not only in the hereafter but the here if we follow the prophets.

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Follow the Prophet Abraham


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What can we learn from following the Prophet Abraham?

Abraham has been called the father of nations, and father of the the faithful. His life and character show us what it means to be a good and faithful father.

There are three kinds of fathers. The same holds true for mothers.

The worst father mistreats or abandons his children. The better father loves his children and provides for their needs. The best father loves and trusts the Lord. He shows his faith to his children by precept and example.

Such a father is worthy to receive guidance and help from heaven in his sacred responsibilities to preside, provide, and protect, his children. He knows and shows that his children are also God’s children, and he treats them as such.

There is no greater need in the world today than the need for good, faithful, loving, wise fathers.

The greatest example of Abraham as a father was when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God. Surely Abraham was stunned. This went against all he had been taught and experienced about God. But he had the faith to obey. Only the intervention of an angel at the last moment stopped him from killing his precious son.

What was the point of this exercise teetering on tragedy? The Lord explained it later in his first commandment. “…thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” Nothing, not even love for other people can come between us and our Heavenly Father.

And what of Isaac. Why was he willing to die as a sacrifice? Because he trusted in his father, and his Heavenly Father.

Doubtless Abraham also taught Isaac the gospel handed down through his fathers even from Adam the father of us all.

Abraham taught Isaac the doctrine that God our heavenly Father himself would one day allow his only begotten son Jesus the Christ to be tortured, sacrificed and die so that all of us could live forever.

The best fathers teach these truths to their children by precept and example.

There is no greater need in the world today than the need for fathers such as Abraham.