Words: Good for Naming Stuff and Doing Things

83a384d8dbc5651bf8d5bf1e467eafc1Depending on your occupation, you hear anywhere between 30,000 – 100,000 words in a day.  On typical day at work, I’ll hear somewhere near 80,000. Some of those 80,000 words are phonetically fascinating like ‘acquiesce’ and ‘clatterfart’ (go ahead and snicker, it’s a word), ‘laceration’, ‘nefarious’, ‘paradisaical’, ‘rascality’…

And some just are intensely interesting in their definition like:

wun·der·kind n. from German wunder kind):  a little person of remarkable ability who achieves astounding success at an early age.

bel·gard n. from Italian bel guardo: a kind or loving look.

e·the·re·al  adj.  extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.

Other times, I hear words that are not so interesting like ‘engineering’ or ‘electrical’.  I don’t have a general bias against ‘e’ words, it’s just that I find these two especially exasperating.

Nevertheless, my job is to hear those as well as words that start with the other 25 letters.  Actually, the university pays me to listen to words, figure out what they mean and then find a way to say the same thing in a different language.

There’s a difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing is the ability to perceive sound.  We detect vibrations in the air then convert those vibrations into electrical activity which is sent to your brain via your nerves and voila!  You hear the toilet running.  It’s a physical phenomenon.

Listening is a mental phenomenon.  You can be unable to hear sound but still be a listener.  It’s a process of deriving meaning from what you hear and see.  Listening is an involved, empathetic effort to understand.  An illocutionary force.

This is the kind of stuff I studied in college.  Some of what I know about listening and language is useless (i.e. illocutionary force).  An illocutionary force or act refers to the type of function a speaker intends to accomplish in the course of producing an utterance.  It took me four years to learn that all of that means:  When someone says “I can’t carry a tune” it doesn’t mean she cannot physically lift and move a tune.  She really means “I will not be in the ward choir because I sing like an injured cat.”

Other stuff I’ve learned about language is useful like:

Words are good for naming stuff.  The Barenaked Ladies wrote a song about uvulas (those little fleshy punching bags that hang down in the back of our throats), philtrums and frenulums.  It’s called There’s a Word for That.  You’ll thank me for the reference next time you need to remember the name for the small fold of tissue that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth.

Humans, in one language or another, have named everything of which we can conceive.  Like cacti and couches.  Sovereignty and melancholy.  Googling, Pinning, snowshoeing and sneezing.  We’ve even designated words to name the things we just can’t quite recall.  Lethologica (or tip-of-the-tongue phenomena) is an individual’s inability to articulate his or her thoughts by temporarily forgetting words, phrases or names in conversation.

Kormorebi is a Japanese word for the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.

L’esprit de l’escalier (French for “stairway wit”) is a clever comeback that comes to mind after it’s too late to be useful.  Like when you’re in the shower.  Or weeding.  The closest phrase in English is “Doh!  I totally should’ve been like…”  Germans use the word “treppenwitz” to express the same idea.

In Russia, they have a word for that person who asks a lot of questions – a Pochemuchka.

And ‘sombremesa’ is the Spanish word for the time spent talking to the person or people with whom you just shared a meal.

We can invent words – very useful for when your sister is talking about something you don’t know how to label.  Reece, “I tried to wake up Emma but I couldn’t understand her.  She was talking blibberish.”

We can even use language to talk about language.  It’s called metalinguistics. That’s especially useful for writing blog posts about language.

But mostly we use words to make stuff happen – to communicate our intentions, to make people laugh, to instruct, to entertain, to hurt, to make better, to connect, to comfort.  You know how ‘sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits right into this empty place in your heart’?  That happens because words have power.

If you listened to John Keating in Dead Poets Society, you know that “no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  Absolutely words have the power to do that.  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and changed the course of civil history with his words “I have a dream…”  And at bedtime one night in August 2006, Sadie’s tiny 2 1/2 year old voice changed me with her words “Mom…you’re my best.”

An interesting fact about listening?  There is a limit.  People stop paying attention after so many words.  They don’t even realize they’re doing it.  There’s a word for that!  En·nui (an we) is a feeling of listlessness arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.  Tedium.

So make good use of your words!  Don’t walk around all day clatterfarting.  (ok, I don’t know if clatterfart can be used as a verb, but the shoe fits.)  Leaving a stream of dribbling nonsense terrifies me.  What trail are you leaving behind?

“Be still you when have nothing to say.  However, when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” -DH Lawrence.  Choose words that brim with substance. Make them simple but significant.

The average person speaks 16,000 words in a day.  Use tomorrow’s 15,987 words to change the world.  Say please.  Say thank you.  Be kind.  Speak with intention.  Don’t fill my or anyone else’s attention allocation with pointless, self-serving idiocy.

Be brave.  Use your words to mend a quarrel.  Seek out a friend.  Manifest your loyalty.  Forego a grudge.     Apologize.  Make a laugh.  Encourage.  Express your gratitude.  Protect.  Defend.  Comfort.  Heal. Words can do all of this and more.

So text it.  Tweet it.  Post it.  Say it.  Write it.  Sing it.  Sign it.  Whatever.  Do it right now.  Speak your love and then speak it again.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.  -Forrest Gump

The Talk

I always thought it would be a Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood moment.  You know, with all of my seasoned best-friend biddies rallying around one of our younglings.  Reminiscing, teaching, advising, piggy-backing off each other’s stories and laughing.  Always laughing.  Sometimes forgetting to breathe because of our laughing.

Well my dream was shattered.  That was not how “The Talk” happened.  It was just me and my youngling.  No old-friend biddies.  No gaudy, overstuffed journal with yellowing photos (ok, there were photos.  Lots of them.  Some of them humiliating.) This is how “The Talk” happened:

  • Me:  So…uh…Emma…you’re turning twelve.
  • Emma (sarcastically nodding):  Yes, Mom.  In March.
  • Me:  Yeah…in March.  So that means Young Women’s.
  • Em:  Yes Young Women’s.
  • Me:  Ok, cool.  So uh…that means girls’ camp.  Ok, well now that you’re older and [deep breath] in girls’ camp and all, there are things we need to talk about.

(Yes, I’m referring to a girls’ camp conversation as “The Talk”.  It holds a significance, even a reverence to both me and my Ya-Ya sisters hereafter known as Chongis.   Just as a side note, a “Chongi” is an adaptation of the Korean word for a boil – a gross thing.  But for reasons known to only a few, the true definition of a “Chongi” is a sister that destiny forgot to give me – a beautiful thing.  Girls’ camp is where the Chongis were born and where we came into full blown immaturity.)

  • Me:  Um..you’re gonna want to pack some grapes.   Probably 18.
  • Em:  Grapes.  Really.  What?

Me:  I mean, you can use the ones in the kitchen if you can get a leader to do the stuffing.  And you won’t need more than 18.  Sister Marcum, although she might deny involvement until the day she dies, fit 17 grapes in Aunt Ron’s mouth and that’s the record.  If you fit 18 in someone’s mouth – call me immediately!

And you will need a dead bloated cricket.  You might have to search for it and that’s ok.  Also, you may find one just floating there at the water pump.  That’s ok too.  If that’s the situation in which you find yourself, be courageous and do the right thing.  Scoop up that bug!  Take it directly to your leader’s pillow.  (Don’t go anywhere near mine.)  She’ll most likely think it is plastic and when she bends down to pick up the “gag” insect, it will puke up its dead bloated water stuff.  Sister Goodrich’s—I  mean—your leader’s chuckle will manifest into a blood-curdling scream.  This is all completely normal.

And I’m going to give you something.  This might have saved us the soul-wrenching guilt of almost killing our (now a member of the Seventy) Stake President.  Knee pads and a helmet.  They’re for skateboarding.  But in a pinch, they’re suitable for red Radio Flyer wagon flying.  When you’re at the top of that gigantic hill with an adrenalin junkie [ahem – Chelsea] at the wheel and she somehow talks your giant Stake President into going for a ride—do not stand by idly and watch through pain-foreseeing, squinted eyes.  You should immediately cram his limb-like legs into the knee pads and grab the nearest ladder to place the helmet on his not-yet graying head.  You never know, they could gain topknot speed and suddenly hit the only rock in the road.  They could veer sharply to the left, overturn and soar, giant-legged, into a ditch on the horizon.  They could crash.  Hard.  I mean, it’s all a possibility.

And here’s a pamphlet for you to look through.  Some things change, but some things never change.  This booklet has the lyrics to every Disney song ever written and a few other essentials like all 12 verses detailing Princess Pat’s epic voyage.  Also, know and be prepared for the consequences of certain songs.  Yes, consequences.  You don’t want to be caught not knowing what happens after the words “Silence please!  Everybody freeze!  Duh duh da da ta da…”

I think it’s time you learned Chongi 2’s original piece:

♫ ♪♫ Javelina  ♫ ♪♫…(You should repeat when I point to you)

Let’s start again.

  • Me:  ♫ ♪♫ Javelina  ♫ ♪♫
  • Em:    …Mom…ugh…javelina
  • Me:  How we hate you!
  • Em:   howwehateyou
  • Me:  Basking in the sun
  • Em:    …basking in the sun
  • Me:  Scaring everyone!
  • Em:   Scaring everyone.
  • Me:  (intense, wide-eyed) Snorting at us!
  • Em:  (compliant) Snorting at us!
  • Me:  (Pavarotti impersonation) Giiiiiiivvviiiiinng First Years heart aaaaattaaacccksss… ♫ ♪♫  (pause for effect)  Javelinas!  Don’t you bite our…backs!
  •          Learn it.  Love it.
  • Em:  k.

As soon as you get to camp, take a minute to seek out the best ferns.  Yes, ferns.  I’m not always going to be around when you go looking for ferns, so you have to pay attention.  The best ferns will cover enough of your face so that you’re obviously trying to camouflage your person but not so much of your person that your Stake leaders cannot recognize who is crashing their attempt at a spiritual, end-of-the-day wrap-up meeting that you and your obnoxious giggly friends got yourselves kicked out of in the first place.  The ferns must leave enough of your face visible so that, through the cabin windows, they can see your lips shushing them.  They will not have an ounce of patience left.  And their hair will be all messy and in their faces.  And their makeup will be cried off.  Lucky for you, the Stake Young Women’s President will break.  Her laugh will inevitably infect her counselor and she too will laugh.  Those two laughs will multiply exponentially until all the bone-tired women with messy hair are laughing and crying and laughing and crying.  What I’m going to tell you next, you must never forget.  The very second you see them stand to get out of their chairs – you RUN!  Run as fast as you can—in the dark, holding ferns in front of your faces and clutching your guts from laughing too hard—because they will come after you.

Also, you should put the ferns on their pillows.  Because…  Actually, why you should put ferns on their pillows is still beyond me.

The one thing you must absolutely remember to bring is your journal.  How else are you going to record the official grape stuffing count?  Or the color of the beach towel you’ll wear in the infamous “Pretty Woman” skit?  Or the way you feel when you see President Hamula and Sister Bawden dressed in white, standing in floodlights and whisper in your ear, “Welcome home.  I love you.”  The only way is to write it down.  Write everything down.

And the very last thing you have to do—no matter what—is thank those women.  It doesn’t matter if your thank you comes in the form of a brand new radio flyer that you build yourself (and probably not well) to replace the once-flying flyer.  Or crashing Sister Goodrich’s family home evening with your very best rendition of “Friends” even though you can’t get the words out because of the gigantic love lumps in your throats and you’ll probably sound (and look) reminiscent of a pond full of weeping, sunburnt frogs.  Or a note that says, “To our Honorary Chongi:  Thanks, we love you”.

Thank them for the months of endless list making, one more call making, meeting, and meeting again, planning, fasting, praying, worrying, praying, hoping, praying, working, praying.  Thank them for the meals, the belly laughs, the seemingly endless lip-syncs, the poi balls and the wood-bead necklace that you’ll work your tail off to earn every last bead – then keep for 30 years just to look at and remember those terrible, terrible reflection oven potatoes and Sister Standage’s patient smile as she said “mmm” but her eyes screamed “Boo!  Get them away!”

Thank them for stubbornly sleeping on a pillow that once cradled a bloated cricket, teaching you how to burn raw hamburger, wearing sweatpants under their skirts to a rainy camp Sacrament meeting so you wouldn’t feel embarrassed to do the same.  Thank them for crying their makeup off and meeting late at night to make sure you had the most perfect fireside.

And thank them for doing it all to foster your testimony of Jesus Christ.  Tell them, like Elder Holland, you are “grateful for Young Women leaders who go to girls’ camp and, without shampoo, showers, or mascara, turn smoky, campfire testimony meetings into some of the most riveting spiritual experiences you girls—and leaders—will experience in your lifetime.” (October 2010 General Conference)

This is why they’ll do it:

June 6th, 1993

The Savior lives.  He knows who I am.  He is my friend forever. 

A Mother’s Day helping of “Overheard”

“The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache.” ~ Marjorie Pay Hinckley

My kids say funny stuff.  All the time.  I love it  – I live for it.  This Mother’s Day, I’m sharing the hysterical things I’m fortunate enough to hear on a regular basis.  (Small-type disclaimer: Because my kids are real kids, there are multiple comments that refer to body functions, bodily fluids and pseudo-swearwords.  Not for the overly proper or faint of heart…)

—–

When our kids complain of random aches and pains, we often tell them it’s probably due to their bones growing. After a disappointing day, Reece found me crying and promptly comforted, “It’s ok Mom, maybe you’re growing.”  Little did he know.

—–

EmmaKaite  “Mom, you’re addicted to showers.  You take one like every day.”

—–

2 year old Reece sitting on my lap at church with his hands over his ears  “Dat singing is making me DEAD!”

—–

Reece   “Honeys don’t get divorced.”

—–

Me: Ugh, that dog shed all over me!

Reece: Don’t you mean “pooped”?

Me:  No Reece, I said “shed” not “sh…”.  Never mind.

—–

(During a discussion about not using the words “shut up” in our house)

Reece: I know…kissing! Kissing is a nice way to say “shut up”.

—–

Reece:  “No.  I didn’t break up with her.  Hannah Montana broke up with me…on the phone.”

—–

(For Robin.  After taking the Sacrament…)

Reece:  Water is gluten-free!

—–

Reece: Dad, how did we unlock Baby Mario?

Daniel: I can’t remember, but it took a lot of hard work.

Reece: Oh wait! I remember…pure awesomeness…that girls don’t have…except for mom.

—–

Sadie at breakfast, “Can I have my English muffin blind?…uh, no…naked?…I mean plain! with nothing on it!”

—–

Reece “My teachers at the Children’s House don’t wash their clothes”

—–

Daniel:  Why don’t you want me to put you to bed?  What does Mom do that’s so awesome?

Reece: I just like Mom better than you.

—–

Reece:  If someone gets lonely they can stab a cow with a knife and get a hamburger…if they have a bun…and some cheese…and some ketchup…and a pickle…oh, and some mayo…and salad…and mustard…and a potato…but I don’t even like those.

—–

(Just before Nathan got married, I asked Reece who he was voting for – Nathan or Amanda?)

Reece: It’s a wedding, Mom.  Nobody wins.

(After the laughter died down…)

Oh wait, everybody wins!

—–

EmmaKaite:  Sadie, your breath really stinks this morning.

Sadie: Does it smell like poop?

Emma: Yeah

Sadie (matter-of-factly): Oh, then that’s yours.

—–

Reece: I tried to wake up Emma but I couldn’t understand her.  She was talking bliberish.

—–

(At Nonnie’s funeral)

Reece:  Her hand is hard.

April:  Nonnie’s hand is hard because her spirit isn’t in her body anymore.

Reece:  Huh, so your spirit makes your body squishy.

—-

5 yr old Reece (at lunch):   So, I was just thinking about my future…

—–

2 yr old Sadie:  Mine bye-bye no hoop wah wah!

(Yeah, we’re still trying to figure that one out.  The closest we’ve come is “My car doesn’t drink water!”)

—–

Reece “You can hide but you can’t run.  No wait.  You can’t hide.  Ok.  You can run but you can’t hide!”

—–

(After questioning the kids why no one was laughing)

Sadie: Uh, Mom, no one ever laughs at jokes that aren’t funny.

—–

Daniel: Reece, you’re going to go to your soccer camp tomorrow.  Your coaches came all the way from England.  They’re British.

Sadie:  Oh, you mean they talk like they’re rich?

—–

Sadie:  Wanna play house?

Reece:  Can I be a plant that shoots?

Sadie:  No.

Reece:  Can I be a zombie?

Sadie:  No.

Reece:  Then no.

—–

Reece:  Mom, is it awesome being you?

—–

Reece:  Who doesn’t love Smarties?

—–

Sadie “I wish I could die and live with my guinea pig.  Actually, I wish he would come back alive and live with me.  I’m too young to die.”

—–

Reece:  Do spiders have lips?  If not, then how do they kiss people they love?

—–

Sadie:  “I only want to do the things I want to do!”

—–

Overheard Reece singing in the other room “♫♪♫ We founded love in a hopeless place…we founded love in a hOpeless place ♫♪♫”

—–

Sadie:  Reece, you have a police record.

Reece: What? No I don’t!

Sadie:  Yes you do.  You called 911.  You have a record.

—–

(Asking Daniel about seeds in the NCAA game)

Reece:  “Which team has more beans?”

—–

(Bedtime.  A tiny 2 1/2 year old voice)

Sadie:  Mom, you’re my best.

—–

(Random Florence and the Machine reference)

Reece:  She’s right.  It is hard to dance with the devil on your back…

—–

Reece after cleaning the playroom by himself   “I did a great job for a 6-year-old who really only wants to just play.”

—–

Sadie:  “Oh man!  That eel is biting the octopus’s squench-acles!  I mean arms!”

—–

EmmaKaite (to me):  Heh heh.  When you drive, your arms kind of flap . . . right there on the bottom part.

—–

And, par for course, I received this note from Sadie just this afternoon:

“Dear Mom,

Thank you for being really nice to me!  And before I forget, I really really want rollerblades!  I am so happy that you are my mom!!!

Love, Sadie”

—–

For more Mother’s Day Madness, here’s last year’s post “The Day I Saved My Kid’s Life”:  https://justjodie.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/the-day-i-saved-my-kids-life-a-mothers-tale/

Of Bees and Knees

Have you ever tried to take a blankie away from a toddler?  It is no small feat.  There’s sweat and tears, pleading, wailing and teeth gnashing.  The kid doesn’t behave civilly either.

That’s because her lovey isn’t just a ratty, old, Cheetos-stained rag.  To the child, a blankie is security, comfort and companionship.  It’s a pair of familiar arms wrapped around her or a soft hand on her cheek.  When you take away the blanket, you take away a sanctuary of sorts, a friend.  Who wouldn’t throw a fit when that is snatched away?

I had a security blanket once.  Only I wasn’t 3 years old, I was 34.  And it wasn’t a blanket, it was book.

My dear friend Cindy loaned me The Secret Life of Bees to read while I recovered from knee surgery.  Three pages into the book, I fell in love – with the characters, the story line, the setting.  I knew it would keep me entertained throughout the entire ordeal.

I was buried in Bees when the nurses started my IV, marked the correct knee, donned hair nets and generally fussed over me.  I had to lay the book on my stomach so I could put on my own fluffy blue net of hairlessness.  After removing my glasses, one of the nurses reached over to take my book.  I shook my head and muttered “Nuh uh.  We’ll just leave this right here.”  Consulting each other with their eyes, the nurses left me and my Bees to fetch Dr. Nelson (not unlike two kids running off  hollering “We’re gonna go get Dad!”)  Those two turkeys had already taken everything they could from me – my underclothes, my ring, my phone, my glasses, the freedom to wear my hair long and unrestrained.  The only item I had left in that cold and lonely room was the little book Cindy loaned me.  I wasn’t about to give it up to a couple of snitches or their dad.

Dr. Nelson returned with his two flying monkeys in tow and took a stab at grabbing the book.  With an air of confidence he stuck out his hand and said “Ok, let’s get that book put away and we’ll take you down to the O.R.”  That’s when I, a 34 year-old grown woman, threw a tantrum – complete with a knuckle-white death grip, an overly determined head shake and a “Nuh uh!” that really meant “I imagine you, as a practiced surgeon, value your hands.  If that is the case, do not again attempt to remove this book from my possession.”  They begrudgingly allowed me to keep it.

Without my glasses, the book was no good for reading.  But I held it tight and it was an absolutely perfect something-to-hold.  The team wheeled my bed down a long hall into the operating room.  I held the book to my chest the entire way – partly to curb my mounting anxiety and partly to prevent the cold breeze from blowing my gown up for the whole world to see what I wasn’t wearing underneath.

In the O.R., the anesthesiologist noticed Bees and told me to give it up.  Again, I shook my head, “Nuh uh.”  (You know what they say about the terrible mid-thirties – you cannot reason with a 34 year old.)  Momentarily ignoring my irrational attachment to the book, the doctor explained the reasoning behind the leads on my chest and breathing tube placer.  They were there just in case I crashed under the anesthetics.  I gripped that little book even tighter.

Sliding over onto the operating table, the nurses began their latest evil book-snatching scheme. Under the guise of gently strapping me to the table, an arm flew up out of nowhere and attempted to swipe my book!  Surprised, but determined to not be bested, I firmly shook my head, “Nuh uh.  Not.Yet.”

It worked!  I temporarily won another 30 seconds of security with my beloved Bees.

Collectively, there must have been 100 years of education in that operating room and all of it conspired against me in the final attempt to win the book.  The anesthesiologist and the conniving flying monkeys devised a brilliant plan.  Feigning warm concern, the good doctor said “Ok, you breathe into this mask 3 times while I stand over here doing nothing in particular to your arm….doo dee dum dee dum…I’m not administering unconscious drugs or anything…”

In my heart of hearts I knew what they were doing.  Even I had to admit brilliance when I recognized it.  Since the guy literally held my life in his hands and I technically still had the book in mine, I obeyed.  First breath.  Second breath…I felt the book slip out of my hands.  I attempted to shake my head “Nuh…”  That was it.  They won.  My lovey was gone.  So was I.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you I’m overly stubborn and highly independent.  I never imagined I would need that kind of comfort, a lovey-like security object.

And I’m sure Cindy had no idea that’s what she was giving me when she loaned me her book.  I imagine her thinking it was no big deal to grab a book for me on her way out the door.  A small kindness.  However, there is no such thing as a small kindness.  In the fable about the Lion and the Mouse, Aesop reminds us “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  Loaning me her book may have seemed small at the time, but it meant the world to me.

I wonder if sometimes we think our modest efforts of kindness are meaningless, that they have no serious or lasting implications. I’m sure occasionally we feel discouraged as we give into the idea that we cannot change the world.  That our small contributions are inconsequential or that we don’t have the time or means to be concerned for others.  However, as a recipient of a multitude of little acts of kindness, I know that our seemingly small endeavors are more valuable than we imagine.

David O. McKay spoke of the power of small and simple acts:

“There is no one great thing that we can do to obtain eternal life, and it seems to me that the great lesson to be learned in the world today is to apply in the little acts and duties of life the glorious principles of the Gospel.  Let us not think that because some of the things named this afternoon may seem small and trivial, that they are unimportant.  Life, after all, is made up of little things. Our life, our being, physically, is made up here of little heart beats.  Let that little heart stop beating, and life in this world ceases.

The great sun is a mighty force in the universe, but we receive the blessings of his rays because they come to us as little beams, which, taken in the aggregate, fill the whole world with sunlight. The dark night is made pleasant by the glimmer of what seem to be little stars; and so the true Christian life is made up of little Christ-like acts performed this hour, this minute, in the home, in the quorum, in the organization, in the town, wherever our life and acts may be cast” (Conference Report, Oct. 1914).

I wonder if the post op staff knew that little gem because when I came around, they slipped book back under my arm.  They didn’t give me my glasses because I didn’t need them – I wasn’t going to read again for hours.  The worth of the book wasn’t in reading it, but in the book itself and what it represented.  Those 302 pages held an emotional value that is still hard for me to put into words.  Maybe its the idea that security objects are more than just their physical properties.  What I didn’t want them to take away wasn’t the book, but the extension of the loved one who gave me the book.

And also, maybe I should apologize for calling my nurses conniving flying monkeys and thank them for eventually seeing the greater value of the book.  And while I’m at it, I should probably apologize for threatening to bilaterally amputate my surgeon at the wrists.  However, I would’ve allowed him to keep his woobie – that would’ve been the kind thing to do.

All is Well!

So today we’re celebrating Pioneer Day with a non-competitive fun run, a fantastic parade, food, music, dancing and fireworks! Here’s a post in honor of the reason for our festivities today…

(2010)  This has been an epic summer for us.  We had the opportunity to walk through Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, Sweetwater Camp, Martin’s Cove and Rock Creek Hollow.  We spent much time on hallowed ground.  There is a spirit in each of those sites that settled into my heart and I felt the presence of our gospel forbearers.

 President Hinckley said of Rock Creek Hollow, “A spirit of peace and reverence and sacred remembrance will hover over this whole area as a beneficent cloud on a hot summer day.  The memories of those who here perished are deeply and indelibly etched, and this ground must forever hold for us a feeling of great sanctity.”

 While visiting those sacred places, I read and heard countless stories – tragedy and suffering almost impossible to describe.  The sacrifices of our beloved pioneers were greater than we understand.  Their reward, however, was just as substantial.  They slowly came to know the Savior in a very unique and deeply personal way.

The Willie Handcart Company suffered beyond imagination.  An early storm brought freezing temperatures and severe snow fall.  They were slowly freezing to death in their threadbare clothes and thin-soled shoes.  Exhausted from lack of food, they couldn’t push any further.  They stopped and waited to be rescued.  Thirteen Saints died that day and were buried in a common grave. The next day, two more died and were buried nearby.

Francis Webster was a boy in the Martin Handcart Company.  Looking back on his life, he wrote “We suffered beyond anything you can imagine.  Many died of exposure and starvation.  We became acquainted with God in our extremities.”

Brother Webster told of looking ahead to see a spot on the trail and saying, “I can pull the handcart only that far.”  And when he got to that point, his cart started pushing him.  It was then that he said he knew God and angels were helping him push.  Brother Webster wrote, “Was I sorry that I chose to come by Handcart?  No.  Neither then nor one moment of my life since.  The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company.”  Brother Webster considered his suffering a privilege to bear.  Through his suffering he came to know God.

Years before the pioneers pulled their handcarts west, the Saints became well acquainted with grief.  Driven out of their beautiful Nauvoo, the Saints left behind all they had – only to face the bone-chilling cold and the unknown.

Pres Hinkley said, “Leaving Nauvoo was a remarkable act of faith. There was much of hardship ahead for these pioneers, but they had faith in their leaders and faith in the Lord and His goodness, faith that He would once again lead His people to the promised land, faith that they would not fail. So they walked out into a wild place, their journey showed  faith – in every footstep.”

Daniel and I walked a long gray dirt path in Nauvoo traditionally known as “The Trail of Tears”.  My eyes were drawn to a single yellow butterfly landing almost in the middle of the path like a tiny spark of hope.  I wondered if President Hinckley saw something similar when he renamed the path “The Trail of Hope.

A series of quotes from the journals of these Saints now decorates the trail leading out of Nauvoo. To my amazement, I found in several of the quotes – not desperation and discouragement – but confidence and commitment and even joy!  They were filled with hope!

Sarah DeArmon Rich wrote “To start out on such a journey in the winter would seem like walking into the jaws of death but we had faith … [and] we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”

Zina Young said “There on the bank of the Chariton River, I was delivered of a fine son. Occasionally the wagon had to be stopped that I might take a breath. Thus I journeyed on. But I did not mind the hardship of my situation, for my life had been preserved, and my babe was so beautiful!”

Orson Pratt recorded,  “Our camp resounded with songs of joy and praise to God — all were cheerful and happy in the anticipation of finding a resting place from persecution.”

And Brother B. H. Roberts wrote, “With this advanced camp of the great exodus, there had come a brass band, led by Captain Pitt. After encampment was made and the toils of the day were over, the snow would be scraped away, a huge fire or several of them kindled within the wagoned enclosure, and there to the inspiring music of Pitt’s band, song and dance often beguiled the exiles into forgetfulness of their trials and discomfort.”

Hope is what filled the hearts of the Saints as they undertook their monumental journey.  Hope is what continued to sustain the Saints nearly ten years later when the handcart companies traveled west.

John Latey observed two companies as they arrived in Florence, Nebraska.  He wrote to Elder John Taylor:

“They were in fine health and spirits, singing as they came along Elder McAllister’s handcart song “some must push and some must pull…”  One would not think that they had come from Iowa City, a long and rough journey of 300 miles, except by their dust-stained garments and sunburned faces.  My heart is gladdened as I write this, for methinks I see their merry countenances and buoyant step, and the strains of the handcart song seems ringing in my ears – like sweet music heard at eventide or in a dream…In giving you this description of the feelings of the first companies, I give you, in effect, the feelings of the whole.”

These early Saints were no doubt in destitute and desperate situations, but they were not hopeless. Many of their hearts were broken, but their spirits were strong as they sang with full conviction “But with joy, wend your way” and “Happy day!  All is well!”

They learned a profound lesson. They learned that hope, with its attendant blessings of peace and joy, does not depend upon circumstance. They discovered the true source of happiness — hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His atonement.

Elder Ballard said “We all face Rocky Ridges with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon.  Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision.  Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed.”

 It is at the very moment we think we cannot take another step, that we so desperately need to “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that [we] must build [our] foundation.  That when the devil shall send forth his mighty wind, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon [you], it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build,  they cannot fall.”  (Helaman 5:12)

The prophet Mormon was no stranger to difficult circumstances.  He understood and clearly taught this doctrine.  “And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope.  Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ, and this because of your faith in Him, according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41)

Hope comes from faith in Jesus Christ. Your happiness now and forever is conditioned upon the degree to which you believe that.  He has already overcome the world, death, all pain, and all grief.  He promised that He will wipe away our tears if we will turn to Him and believe and follow with faith – in every footstep.

Tapping our reservoirs of hope and endurance that comes from faith in Christ, we can, as did our beloved handcart pioneers, push ever onward toward that day when our voices will join with theirs, singing, “All is well!  All is Well!”