Follow the Prophet Intro

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In 1987 the Church music committee asked me to write a song for the new Primary song book. They wanted three elements in the song: 1. It should be about the Old Testament prophets. 2. It should sound like a Jewish folk song, and 3. It should be a happy song so the children would enjoy singing it. I told them I would give it my best. The third element was the biggest challenge since Diane my first wife, the mother of our 15 children had died of cancer just two weeks before. I didn’t have much happiness in me at the time, but the Lord blessed me to put joy, and even an occasional chuckle into the song.

Over the years Primaries and other groups have asked my wife Sharon and me to tell them the story of how it was written, and other stories about the song. We have enjoyed doing this, and thought these videos would help us reach others who might be interested in the song, and the subject.

I asked our children and grandchildren to participate, and some of them tell us how they feel about following the prophet.

The video is a little much to put on You Tube, so I have divided it up into ten segments, one for the introduction, and one each for the nine verses.

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I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Duane Hiatt

Epistle: Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

You may remember the theme music for the modestly produced, and enthusiastically received motion picture, Chariots of Fire. I’ve never figured out what the title referred to, but I’ve never forgotten the effect it had on me. Eric Liddell a Scotsman with world dominating athletic abilities and a chance for Olympic glory, facing crushing pressure from his countrymen and king to go for the gold in the 100 meter yet he refuses to compromise his Christian principles and run on Sunday.

The happy ending is, the power figures finally allow him to compete in the 400 meter on another day, and he wins the gold.

We had our own charioteer of fire named Eli Herring. One of America’s premier offensive linemen. On graduation from Brigham Young University he was offered a contract in the pros for one and a half million dollars with probably millions more to come. He turned it down and became a high school math teacher for $22.000 a year. Because he would have to play on Sunday.

Unlike Eric Liddell, there is no happy ending in terms of money or glory to Eli’s story. But twenty plus years later the husband and father of seven is convinced he made the right decision for him. He also stressed he is not passing judgement on what other Christian athletes may choose to do.

Today there is much discussion about how to keep the Sabbath day holy. Some people think Sunday is a day just for fun. They sometimes quote the Prophet Isaiah’s admonition to make the Sabbath “a delight.” Surely it is a good idea to plan and do interesting, good, and yea verily even delightful things on the Sabbath and every other day. But reading the rest of the scripture, it becomes apparent that on the Sabbath our goal should be not to bring delight to ourselves, but joy, and may we even say delight, to our Father in Heaven.

He then will provide us with blessings and joys beyond our expectations. They may not include Olympic gold medals, or millionaire football player salaries, but they will include golden days and memories, and eternal riches beyond our comprehension. In every case no commandment from the Lord we keep will go unrewarded.

Epistle: Scarlet Ribbons and Red Sports Cars

Do you remember the song Scarlet Ribbons about a child who prays for scarlet ribbons, and the sad parent who can’t provide them? But in the morning they miraculously appear on her bed. That’s a lovely old song. With a heartwarming ending.

But what about the times when the scarlet ribbons don’t appear?

That is one of the oldest questions philosophers, theologians and non-believers have wrestled for as long as there have been philosophers, theologians, and non-believers. Who knows how many people have lost their faith when their view of God as a cosmic Santa Clause didn’t come through for them? When we send our grocery list up to heaven, and the bag comes back half full or empty, what then? What about when we pray for things to get better, and they get worse?

Even Job in the Bible famous for his patience cries out as his woes multiply. He finally demands of God why is there such injustice in the world?

The Lord responds in a whirlwind, asking Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38) He follows with other equally difficult questions. Job realizes he is a freshman taking a post graduate level test in eternal principles. Essentially the Lord tells Job, “You can’t even understand the questions much less the answers.”

The saving grace of Job, and all of us, is this declaration, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15)

That approach will also get us closer to understanding the apparent uncertainties, injustices, unfulfilled dreams and seemingly unanswered prayers of our lives.

Once we lock into an unshaken faith of the ultimate wisdom and goodness of God; once we take a perspective that continues beyond the grave into eternity then the world makes more sense.

Otherwise, as the song says “If I live to be a hundred, I will ever know from where came those ribbons, lovely ribbons, scarlet ribbons for her hair”

Nor will I know why my prayer didn’t put a new Maserati sports car in my garage. But I trust the Lord had a good reason.

What do you think?

Remembering The Three D’s

A few months ago I got to thinking, “What can I give at this point in my life?” Maybe a little nostalgia mixed with some good philosophy and soothing music.

Out of that came a program called “Remembering The Three D’s” which includes selections from albums Dick Davis, Denis Sorenson, and I recorded and also comedy shticks and music Dick and I did after Denis went into other employment; and it has music and stories Sharon and I have done for the past thirty plus years of our marriage.

The recordings I do in a form I call, “Live Sync.” I sing along with our albums. For me it is a hoot. In my mind I’m together again with my two talented friends belting out the message songs, and harmonizing on the great melodies from the golden years of folk music.

This past month Sharon and I have been in southern Utah presenting the show to gatherings of our old friends, and making new ones.

Much of the music from that era was criticizing America, our society and values. The Three D’s took the opposite position praising our land, our people, and the soldiers who have sacrificed so much to defend us. We recorded an album of some of America’s great old songs. I sang some of these along with the recorded voices of Dick and Denis to veterans in a retirement home. These aged warriors were deeply moved by the music. Sharon and I were deeply moved by the soldiers.

A few minutes of music and memories may not be much to offer, but as the song goes, “Give then for Jesus Give… There is something all can give.

On the Road Again

Sharon and I are in southern Utah for the month of December doing a show we have titled “Remembering The Three D’s.” Part of the show is excerpts from The Three D’s albums including, “Songs and Scenes from the Mormon Epoch”, Mormon pioneer folk songs; and “Songs of our American Heritage” favorite songs from American history, and the settings that made them famous.

The show also includes selections from “The D’s Dick and Duane” albums including “Rhyme, Rhythm,and Reason,” poetry set to Dick’s original music, and “Songs and Stories of the Old Testament.” It also includes some of Dick and my classic comedy shticks.

We do these in what I call “live sync”. I sing them backed by the recordings. The result is an interesting blend of music and nostalgia.

Sharon, my talented wife who I always say, “Puts couth in our act,” and I do some additional numbers together, and she accompanies me on selections from my one-man-show “OlPort, Songs and Scenes of Porter Rockwell.”

We also do a story and singalong from a program we do about how I wrote the song, “Follow the Prophet.”

The whole show is a musical, comedy, and storytelling trip through my years in entertainment. We have been presenting it to various age groups. They seem to enjoy it, and we certainly do.

Because I’m away from my creative and talented camera man James O’Neal, I don’t have a video to accompany this message. I plan to get back to that when we return.

Little Epistle Old Friends

The other day I took my friend Martin, Martin Guitar in for a tune up, the sort of thing you do with your car every 20,000 miles or so. For Martin this would be, I suppose his 100,000 song tune up.

The guitar builder and repair master met me with a smile. “Well let’s take a look.” He opened up the case, then stepped back with a start, “Wow this is an old one.”

Sixty one years and counting,” I answered. His name is Martin.

“We’ve played in Canada, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Caribbean, Mexico, and every state including Hawaii and Alaska. Every state that is but North Dakota. I don’t know why we haven’t been invited there.

“Martin took a hit when we landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The tail hook snagged us and we stopped so fast it bulged out our eyeballs, and Martin went flying past my head and crashed into the bulk head of the plane, but he survived.

“He suffered a few cracks in Portland Oregon when the baggage handlers thought it would be a good idea to put him on the bottom of the pile. I wore out the frets and had to have them replaced. The black stuff on the top is charred from my blazing picking speed.” The guitar man didn’t believe the last line.

“Not exactly a museum piece.” He paused. “Or maybe it is.”

“Maybe he and I both are,” I said.

Beauty is in the eye, and the memory of the beholder. I was picking with my cool dude Grandson Stockton a while back. He has a beautiful new guitar. He looked at Martin and said, “I want my guitar to look just like that someday.”

A young man of exceedingly good taste I thought.

“Keep picking,” I counseled.

When my first wife Diane died, and I was blessed to marry Sharon she said, “We have a wonderful marriage except for one thing. We don’t have any memories.”

We took care of that problem in the last thirty years, and she like Martin, only more so, has grown even more beautiful to me with the years.

Guitars, friends, loved ones, good reputations, fine cheese, grandchildren; some things can only be purchased with the currency of time.

Little Epistle, Family Traditions

Hank why do you drink?
Hank, why do roll smoke?
Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
Stop and think it over,
Try and put yourself in my unique position
if I get stoned and sing all night long, it’s a family tradition!

That’s from a country song by Hank Williams Jr. I know that’s not a real polite way to open today’s post, but it does get your attention, and it even has a point. For that matter, it’s true. Hank Williams Sr. is an icon of early country music. At a relatively young age he passed away in what some said was a country music singer’s dream of his last scene, drunk– in the back of his Cadillac– headed for at gig at the Grand Ole’ Opry.

Wine, women and song aside, let’s talk about family traditions. I’ve heard some people, and I may have even said it myself, “We need to set up some family traditions.”

But we don’t need to. Family traditions set themselves up. Even a baby in the womb can hear the sounds, and even detect the ambiance of the family they’re going to join. Music, sounds, and the tone of conversations deliver to them a message.

Early childhood years can set patterns and attitudes that children may carry for the rest of their lives.

The effects of family traditions can persist for generations even centuries. The Book of Mormon is replete with wars and carnage brought on by what they called, “Traditions of the fathers.”

Whole nations today hate each other ostensibly over whether Ishmael or Isaac’s descendants are the rightful heirs to promises God made to Abraham.

I believe America is in trouble today because of the family traditions we have developed in too many homes, and the salvation of this nation lies in cleansing, and strengthening our families, and turning our homes into sacred space.

And I suggest with all due respect to country music lovers of which I am one, that the Hank Williams song we started this discussion with would not make a good children’s lullaby or a blueprint for family traditions.

Better would be a song like this. “There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home…”

Anxiously Engaged
“… men (and women) should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27-28. So says the Lord in scripture.

Anxiously engaged, that has given me cause to pause and ponder. At first glance, the anxious part could make you feel anxious. It has overtones of being worried, tentative, hesitant, all of which I’m quite sure were not intended in the scripture. Just the opposite.

But then I thought as a child I was anxious for Christmas to come, not worried, just excited. But somehow a stuffed Christmas sock doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Then last night I woke up still mulling the idea in my head. I thought, ‘When have I had such feelings as an adult?

“Aha,” I mumbled in my half sleep. Yes. I do remember when I was so elated that the anticipation tinged everything I did and thought. It was breathtaking anticipation I visualized over and over how much more rich and happy I would be when this came to pass. Great plans unfolded before me.

A little giddy, light headed with a feeling sweet as a love song, and as powerful as The Marine band playing Stars and Stripes Forever. I could hardly believe my good fortune. Sugar and spice, and everything nice. My cup runneth o’er, also my bucket and my barrel.

I wanted to focus all my ambition, hopes, plans, daydreams on this.

I would do everything in my power to make it happen. Sacrifice would be no sacrifice if I could just live this dream forever.

The feeling grew as the fulfillment grew closer and closer. I was totally, unequivocally committed to making this glorious vision come to pass.

In fact this life changing experience has happed to me twice. Once when I was a bachelor, and once when I was a widower.

In short, two times I have been anxiously engaged, and then marvelously married to an angel for eternity.

Little Epistle It Coulda Been Worse

You’ve heard the saying of course, the optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees it half empty. It seems to me these days more folks are seeing it half empty than half full or if it is half full the contents are polluted or fattening.

But a few blue birds of happiness are still chirping. Hooray for them.

Between the two poles are the unsinkables, people who acknowledge the problems but are not crushed by them. My mother was one of those. “It could have been worse,” she said when the kitchen caught fire, and after various other setbacks.

I like the story of a grandmother who said this whenever something bad happened. Her grandchildren had heard that so often they decided to test her limits. At a family picnic they ran to her shouting. “Gramma little Herman done been carried off by the devil.”

Sure enough, she replied, “Coulda been worse.”

“Gramma, how could it be worse?”

“The devil coulda made Herman carry him.”

At least Little Herman got a free ride.

I assume that’s just a story, but I have one that tops it, and this one is true.

Elder LeGrand Richards was an apostle in the church for many years. He was also a survivor of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Hamlet describes life. Elder Richards endured at least his share of life’s bumps and bruises, yet he remained an unsinkable optimist, or at least a “coulda been worseist”

Well into his later years I was asked to interview him, gather old photos and memorabilia and narrate and produce a documentary for television. When I talked with him he acknowledged he was pushing the envelope of mortality, but he was cheered by the good folks and experiences life had brought him and by the knowledge he would soon be with his beloved wife again.

A short time later because of his age and compromised blood circulation they had to amputate one of his feet. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy being on crutches for the rest of his life, but had a standard answer to his many friends who asked, “Elder Richards how are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m just glad they started on that end.”

That’s coulda been worse at its best.

Little Epistle: Hidden Motives

I was so young I only vaguely remember the incident. But I strongly remember the lesson. My busy father asked me to feed our cow. I threw her a puny mouthful of hay or two and went back to playing. Somehow in my still developing tiny brain I had the feeling my father would think this was cute. His little boy doing the best he could to feed the big cow with the big man-sized pitchfork. I miscalculated. He didn’t think his son was either small or cute. He marched me back to the barn and had me do it right.

Why didn’t that caper come off? The reason was I was kidding myself about my own motivation. I wasn’t trying to be cute. I was trying (and succeeding) to be lazy.

Sometimes our real motivations are subtle and shadowy. But Searching for them is worth the effort. Because once we find them we have struck gold in terms of seeing who we really are and how we can improve.

Sometimes the masquerading motivation is easy to spot, particularly when someone else is claiming it. Who of us buys these lines? “I’m only doing this for your own good.” “It’s not the money. It’s the principle of the thing.” (Note: It’s the money.) “I’m not prejudiced but…”

One day in Calcutta a woman from New York showed up to help Mother Teresa with her work. Mother Teresa cut short the woman’s ambitions and revealed her real motive with a simple question. “Are there no poor in New York?” I suspect the woman herself had not realized her real motivation was to identify with the famous saintly nun rather than participate in the kind of work that had gained Mother Teresa notoriety.

Concealing our true motives even from ourselves comes natural to us as children. When this fuzziness or professed ignorance of our motivations continues into adulthood however it can be a stumbling block to our progress. If we don’t analyze what prompts our thoughts and actions, we will wander along in a fog not quite realizing why life is not bringing to us what we hoped it would.

Philosophers, psychologists, even we common folk may wonder if we really can know what our deep motives are. The apostle Paul may have had something like this in mind when he wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

My experience has been that the best way to sort out our motives is to ask the Being who knows us better than we know ourselves. Go to Him in humble prayer, and he will help us not only identify our real motives, but improve them, and eventually purify them unto perfection.