Growing Toward the Son

This morning I got to give a spiritual thought at the Activity Days Camp at church. This is the summer camp for 7-11 year old girls. Their theme was “Growing Toward the Son.”

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens in a lot of plants where they will actually change direction to grow toward the sun. This effect is called phototropism. In very young plants this effect can be observed plainly over a relatively short period of time as shown in this brief video. Notice how the plants react as they grow.

I love the plants in that video that are growing longer and longer and then suddenly topple over as they are straining to get to the light. They don’t ever give up. They don’t think that it’s over just because they’re in a darker place than their neighbors. They consistently push toward the light. Sometime they shake around a bit as if they are unsure, but their course is firmly toward the light — the source of their energy.

We should be like this in our relationship with Christ. We know that we are supposed to be steadfast in our facing toward and focusing on Christ. Christ invites us:

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” – D&C 6:36-37

How are we do do this? What does it mean to look unto him in every thought? We need to read our scriptures regularly. We need to say our prayers. We need to partake of the sacrament. We need to learn the principles of the gospel — faith and repentance. We need to love our families.

“We are to ponder and apply the Book of Mormon and the words of prophets. Pray always. Be believing. Serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts for the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47–48). And above all, we are to be consistent and persistent in following prophetic counsel.” (Henry B. Eyring, Fear Not to Do Good, October 2017)

I know that in doing these little, everyday, things that we can keep our lives focused on the savior. I know that as we do that, we will, eventually, feel the love of the savior. We may be like the plant that falters along the way, but don’t give up. Hold on the way and keep pushing toward the light. He is the light. He is real. He does love us.

 

 

America Welcomes the World

 

In May of 1895, the ship Teutonic left the port in Liverpool, England, bound for the United States of America. On the ship was a three-year-old girl, Hannah Askew. She and her family were traveling to America to be reunited with her father. The family had moved from England to Australia in 1888, because of the shortage of work in England. Life in Australia, however, was not much better than life in England, so they had moved back to England. When the Panic of 1893 hit, Hannah’s father went to America to find work. He worked sporadically in different jobs until he got a well-paying job in the iron mines near Ishpeming, Michigan. After procuring lodging he sent for his family. Now the family was coming to meet him and begin their new life in the United States.

The ship had rough sailing and Hannah, her brother and sister, and mother were constantly sick. The quarters on the ship were cramped and miserable and she was kept inside for much of the voyage. The family finally arrived in the United States on July 3, 1895, and were welcomed at Ellis Island. That night they stayed at a friend’s house who fed them a dinner of bread and milk. They traveled from New York by train to Michigan and were reunited with their father. Hannah Askew is my great-grandmother and one of the millions of immigrants that came to America in the 1800’s.

As immigrants like Hannah entered New York Harbor, they passed under the welcoming arms of the Statue of Liberty. On the pedestal of the status are these immortal words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these the homeless tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door!”

The people who came to America were usually not the rich or the famous; they were the tired, the poor, and the wretched seeking a golden door. That golden door was opened for them in America and so they came seeking a golden opportunity an opportunity that was found in the great cotton and wool mills of the large cities, opportunity that was found in the mines, the farms, the west, and the railroad

These immigrants contributed to our culture and much of the richness that we now enjoy. Immigrants from Norway and the Netherlands brought many of our Christmas traditions. Italian immigrants brought some of our favorite foods. Immigrants from Ireland brought their legends of Saint Patrick. Movies were introduced to America by the Russian Jews and the Greeks. The log cabin was introduced by the Swedes, and the Germans organized symphonies and clubs. Because of the diversity of the cultures that are mixed to form the American culture, we have the richest culture in the world. America’s welcome became America’s wealth.

Since the days of the Ellis Island, we have continued to welcome immigrants and their descendants. We have strived to accept and befriend all people into our churches and our schools. We have elected them to public office and befriended them in our neighborhoods.

Although our doors may not be opened as wide as they were in 1895, when my great-grandmother arrived, our hearts are open still. In our hearts America still welcomes the world. We welcome them by carrying their burdens, by lighting their way, by reaching out to them.

The United States has helped people recover from war, and improved living conditions in third world countries. We have been a major contributor in disaster relief throughout the world and have been the intermediaries and helpers of many struggling governments.

In no war in which the United States has been engaged has it seized property or land from an enemy as a treasure of war. Always we have graciously helped the people in countries regain their lives. After World War II, the United States gave Japan millions of dollars to build steel factories and to help restore what had been destroyed by the war. When soviet armies blockaded Berlin, we airlifted thousands of tons of food through the winter to keep the people from starving.

The United States has also played a prominent role in disaster relief around the world. When there were earthquakes in India the US helped immediately. Rescue workers from the US were sent to help. Food was sent from the Red Cross and many religious institutions. When rain waters flooded the country of Bolivia, we again sent workers and food to help the suffering people.

Just as our government reaches out to others, so do our people. As individuals, we welcome the world. The United States is home to thousands of humanitarian organizations that routinely send help and supplies to the poor and needy of the world. In high school I traveled to Peru with one of these organizations. We took simple things such as nails, hammers, crayons, beads, and educational supplies, and we taught them how to use them. We taught them how to build an efficient stove out of mud, and helped put in a water system to help with sanitation problems. We helped them to improve their overall experience of life by taking America’s richness and sharing it with them.

Many other people help the poor and needy people of the world. We have organized groups like the Oulessabougou Alliance whose mission is to help the people of Mali. This organization raises money by selling goods produced by villagers in Mali to people in America. This money then goes back to Mali to pay teachers and to send educational and medical supplies. By helping in this way, they do not make the people dependent on America for leadership and organization. Almost all of the leaders in the alliance are from Mali and will continue to live there and support their country. The founders of the alliance have reached out with their hearts and helped to take the golden door to Mali.

America has welcomed the world in different ways throughout its history. In the 1800’s we welcomed thousands of people to our shores and our way of life. These people brought their culture with them and enriched our culture by it. People still come to America and we should welcome them still. Today we welcome the people of the world into our hearts as we not only welcome them to our shores but also build them up in their native lands and help them better their lives. Our welcome reaches across borders, it embraces all people, it seeks to better the whole world.


This text is a slightly reworked speech that I gave as part of a Independence Day speech competition in 2001. I think it is pertinent today

Respecting the Office of President of the United States

Today I decided to fly the American flag at my house to celebrate the office of President of the United States of America. In this country we have a remarkable pattern of peacefully transferring power from one president to another. This election was very contentions and divisive and for all that love America I would venture to guess it was saddening and painful in many respects.

However,  as we watch the Inauguration of Donald Trump today we should choose to honor the office of the President regardless of our political leanings. Regardless of who we voted for or what we believe to be the correct direction for this country we should remember that the office of President of the United States is one that deserves respect. It is due that respect from the citizens of the country and especially from the person that holds the office.

I did not vote for Trump and I am deeply concerned about the direction he may take our country. Today I hope that we will commit ourselves to doing our all to ensure that this country goes in the right direction. We should choose to do all that we individually can to contribute to this great country and remember that the President is first the servant of the people that elected him.

Vote FOR Evan McMullin . . . not AGAINST another candidate.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words seem, on this election day, to call to us from the grave. The Civil War had not yet ended when Lincoln spoke these words, yet they were a call to action. Today, as they were in 1865, they are a call for civility, a call for unity, a call for loving our neighbor.

While this election season has drawn out some of the worst in the citizenry of our great nation, it has also drawn out some of the best. I have seen friends thoughtfully and courteously engage with others in discussing the candidates and issues so vitally important in this election. I have seen neighbors kindly entertain conversations about the important problems and the great strengths of our country. I have seen politicians and statesmen stand up for just and true principles before the derisive noise of the popular media and powerful political influence.

Because I subscribe to Lincoln’s dearly held belief that we are better as a unified country, I have decided this election to vote for a man for president who I believe is uniquely qualified to help us achieve that unity – Evan McMullin. Evan McMullin is described quite well by a quote from years ago by a great religious leader and statesman, Ezra Taft Benson, who said: “Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just.” Evan McMulllin is this kind of man. He has taken a stand for our founding principles of individual liberty and our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He has taken this stand in the face of overwhelming odds and despite very low chances of actually winning the race for the Presidency.

If we as a country are to return to our moral and founding principles, I believe we must stand for what we believe in and cast our individual votes for people that embody those principles. Please don’t just vote against a candidate. Join me and hundreds of thousands of others in voting for Evan McMullin for President of the United States of America.
logo_icon_color