Category Archives: Your Stories

The Vernonia Flood

by Terry Grosnick

We’ve read all too often of flooding around the world as well as here at home; so often in fact that we may simply glance through the story and move on to what is happening on the political front or who is playing who in the sport’s world. I want to share with you the story behind the story. The story of brave families that have come face to face with a flood disaster, after which perhaps some of you volunteered your time and your talents to help after the Vernonia flood of December 3, 2007.
That flood began occurring before 8:30 in the morning in Vernonia, Oregon, a rural but quaint lumber town situated in our own back yard about an hour and a half west of Portland with a population of 2,100. It’s the kind of rural community that we often search out on the weekends looking for just the right vase for Aunt Mary or that certain pocket knife for Uncle Fred. Quaint! Friendly! And Homey!
The Vernonia citizens are down-to-earth good people that help one another in times of need and attend church on Sundays just like you & I, but that flood was more than they could handle on their own. Especially since many of those same citizens had already been through the 500 year flood in 1996, and their pocket books were thin from putting their homes back together after that disaster.
The community was caught completely by surprise and swift moving currents made rescues especially difficult. The roads going in and out of town were closed and Vernonia became an island. They had no outside help for the first twenty-four hours since even the Air National Guard couldn’t fly that day because of weather conditions and didn’t arrive until the morning of December 4th. Outside agencies couldn’t reach them because the roads were closed. They only had each other to rely on. Because the flood waters became so deep, sometimes they couldn’t even get to their neighbors. It was just too dangerous.

This is where my story begins; the story behind the story.
Brother & Sister Scott Rice were one of those couples that put their home back together after the 1996 flood. They were only one of many families that survived that disaster a lot wiser and a lot more prepared. For them, by the time 2007 rolled around their family had increased to six.
The Rice’s watched the water flowing down Douglas Street like a water slide, almost pleasant as it inched its way to the pond across from their home. They were not concerned in the beginning however, because they had raised the foundation of their home in ’96 and thought all was well. As they watched though, the water quickly became deeper and deeper lapping at the tires of their vehicles and flowing into their garage. They all knelt for family prayer. What should they do? Their children became increasingly concerned and with the further depth of water they decided they had to leave in their own boat.
They planned to ride the boat up the street to the main highway west to get to higher ground. However, the propeller of the boat became entangled in the barbed-wire fencing from around the pond. It had been lifted from the ground by the force of the water. This family of six, along with two young people who came to rescue them in a much smaller boat, and the family cat in a box that yowled continually from fear found themselves stranded in deep water in the middle of their own street. The family prayed several times in the boat discerning what Heavenly Father wished for them to do.
There was so much debris in the water that kept crashing into the boat that it became an impossible situation. They called 911, not because they feared for their lives but because they were freezing in the cold and pouring December weather and their children were afraid and soaked to the skin. The heavy rains continued until the boat was raised above the wire fencing. This time they aimed the boat toward the mountainside at the east end of their street. As their boat moved away, they watched the flood waters move in and claim their home.
The family was able to clamor onto the hillside among the berry briers and the snow, making their way the distance of two blocks to their Branch President’s home & safety. A day or two later, they moved into an apartment over Scott’s brothers garage well away from the flood waters and the yellow muck & mud left behind as the flood waters receded.
Sister Rice had learned some important lessons from the previous flood. Everyone take note: Don’t keep any items in cardboard boxes. Their family items were kept in plastic tubs and picked up and put away every evening. This included cardboard laundry and dishwasher soaps. Everything was kept portable and contained.
Before they left their home they put everything they could up onto stationary counter tops and built-ins; not tables or other furnishings that the swiftness of the water could up-end. Even refrigerators are easily tipped over by the force of flood water.
Sister Rice always keeps their important papers & pictures where they can easily be grabbed & taken with them. When a church contractor came to help repair their home later, he built a ledge around the middle of the garage where power tools and expensive, irreplaceable, items could be safely stored. And, yes, their home foundation was once again raised.
Last winter while their oldest daughter was living in a basement apartment in Corvallis, she followed her mom’s instructions and kept all her possessions in plastic tubs. That became an invaluable piece of knowledge when her apartment flooded. Nearly all of Laura’s things were safe but her roommate, not followings Sister’s Rice’s advice, lost nearly everything.
The family now has a generator because the Vernonia Community often loses their electricity throughout the year. Her husband found one, on the internet, that needed repair. Being an engineer, he had it in working order in no time. Now their freezer food will always remain cold.
Once work began restoring the Rice home, Sister Rice was asked to go over to over and see what was happening there. When she arrived, there were about 25 men inside tearing out the floor before it could begin molding. There was a woman & her daughter that the family didn’t know that wiped down the front door & completely cleaned the bathroom. There were men everywhere outside picking up debris including the yellow shirts we all know and love and fellow workers at Intel and church members and many others that remain nameless.
Sister Rice hurried back home, returning with her four children so that they could see all the work that was being done on their home. She wanted them to know the generosity of people and that it was the love of the Lord that brought them to help out their family. This kind of service was going on all over Vernonia.
An elderly sister who lived right across the highway from the Nehalem River told me she watched the water come over the road and bring logs and log debris with it, bumping into her home’s foundation and front & back steps all night long. She had raised her house about 8’ after the 1996 flood. Yes, she was safe, but she talked about how frightening it was to feel & hear those sounds since she lived alone and was unable to get out of her house because of flooding.
Brother Bob Grosnick & Brother Keith Atchley checked on the flood waters at the corner of Hwy 47 and Scappoose-Vernonia Highway about 4 PM, December 3. They stayed well back as they watched debris, including a washing machine being swept over the bridge from the force of the raging waters.
Steven Perry and his family lived about 500 feet from the Vernonia church building. Equipped with a rain coat and fishing waders, every hour on the hour, Brother Perry forced his way through torrents of water to keep the church parking lot drains free of debris. Between his efforts and the grace of the Lord, their church building was spared any water damage.
Alison & Jerry Dinger had recently installed new flooring and new carpet on the main level of their home. That was ruined, of course, as were the floors and many items in their out-buildings. Their property, as well of their neighborhood, became a lake with houses planted here and there. They were able to live in their upstairs until the main level was cleaned and flooring replaced. It is impossible to realize how much sludge and smelly refuge a flood can leave in its trail.
Sister Gienah Cheney said later in a RS meeting, “I didn’t have enough chocolate when our basement flooded right up to the top step of the main floor.” Well, everyone laughed as you probably are doing right now, but when you are in the middle of a disaster it is the familiar that brings you peace and comfort. When the Cheney family were exhausted and emotionally spent, they would gather around one another and have a piece of chocolate heaven. Regroup! And go back to work. (Families should only store those foods that your loved ones will enjoy eating in times of crisis.)
Later, the Vernonia Branch Building was opened as a head-quarters to volunteer workers to gather and receive instruction as to where they were needed. The center was manned by the local Relief Society sisters. They also prepared lunches for those hungry volunteers and there were many workers over the weeks to come. The church storehouse brought one of the first trucks into town and made frequent deliveries of canned foods to be given out to the community.
Sister Tori Fallau, working at the local Senior Center, waited too long to drive the six blocks to her two-story town house where her son & daughter were at home alone. The flood waters came up to the bottom of the doors of her old pick-up truck. She abandoned it and pushed through on her own. The apartment was flooding when she arrived home so they gathered what they could, including their two cats and put everything on the second floor. With her six year old son between them, they managed to walk through waist-high water to a steep section of the main highway and to the safety of a friend’s home, even though raging & powerful flood waters were pouring over them the whole time.
A National Guard helicopter was able to rescue a community woman and her daughter when their jeep was swept into the Nehalem River. They were able to escape the vehicle and were standing on the roof top when they were found.
There were 17 church missionaries that came to the local Vernonia Cares Food Bank building, mucked it out and restored clean & sanitary order to a chaotic mess. All the foods that were stored there for the residents to choose from were destroyed, but once the missionaries cleaned out the building, donations replaced all that was lost and much more. To this day, you can still see the flood water marks on the double doors about 5’ off the floor. Did I mention the building has about a three foot foundation?
The Food Bank Board and many, many volunteers stepped up to put the building and food items right. Sandy Welch, the Food Bank’s manager was unable to be there in the beginning since her home had also flooded. Others willingly did their best to replace Sandy’s wonderful leadership. This was another time when the strength and courage of the community shined through.
It is important that I mention the 200 state prison inmates from the four correctional facilities that were able to serve Vernonia residents with clean up. I, for one, was working at the Vernonia Cares Food Bank while inmates were building shelving for all of the hundreds of pounds of food that was donated by those caring families from the Valley, Safeway Foods, Fred Meyer and many other businesses. With the inmates help, residents were able to push a grocery cart up and down shelved isles to take whatever their families could use. The inmates were happy to be helping and the Vernonian’s were happy to have their help.
The Cedar Ridge Retreat Center opened their doors to displaced residents needing a shower and a warm, dry bed. The Retreat kitchen staff fed people as did St. Mary’s Catholic Church. St. Mary’s shelter was overrun with 168 flood victims staying there. It had a capacity for 70.
As donations poured in, the old Lincoln Grade School, well up on a hillside, was opened to accept furniture, beds, and appliances in the basement level and clothing and dry goods on the main floor.
There was no phone service and no electrical power, leaving citizens in the dark, unable to reach out to their families for several days.
As the waters began to recede, rescue efforts were bolstered by the arrival of Air National Guard Troops who used inflatable rafts and high clearance vehicles to help evacuate residents.
Relief efforts began pouring into the community from everywhere. There were so many Portland-area businesses that assisted, they are too numerous to mention. Individuals & groups in outlying areas brought clothing, food, toys, furniture, and financial donations.
Another courageous woman of Vernonia was Dr. Phillis Gillmore. She was the only Vernonia Medical Physician. The Providence Clinic was built right on the banks of Rock Creek in the middle of town. She told me that her office chair was in her office in the very front of the building and when she went in after the flood it was clear in the back of the building. The force of water is an interesting phenomenon.
Providence brought in and set up yurt-like tents in the clinic parking lot. Dr. Gillmore would go from tent to tent seeing patients. There was an epidemic of pneumonia and skin/eye infections from all the septic tank sewerage and flood water & mud muck.
The local dentist’s office building, belonging to Brother Chris Scheuerman, was also along the banks of Rock Creek with severe flood damage. He was able to have a large dental van brought in to continue serving the community.
Before the flood, the grade, middle and high schools were on the main drag through town, Highway 47. Not any longer! Since the flood, a new building housing all grades has been built on higher ground. However, the museum and the fire & police departments can still be found at each end of town. All three buildings were built on high ground and unaffected by the flood.
The story of the 2007 Vernonia Flood could not be told without mentioning “Trash Mountain”. Daily trucks and cars would be lined up through town waiting to unload their flood garbage at a designated dump site. A back hoe was used to mound it into a “mountain” of trash, and then load it into dump trucks to be hauled away each day. Property owners were also allowed to leave their flood garbage at the end of their streets and it was picked up and hauled away.
With Christmas just around the corner, many, many donations were received in the form of presents for the children. It was a heart-warming Christmas for the Vernonia children and a welcome financial relief for the parents.
When it came close to Christmas and time for the branch Christmas dinner, the Stake members stepped in and supplied a sit-down dinner for the entire attending branch. Everyone was so exhausted from repairing their own homes or helping with other’s repairs that the idea of putting together a Christmas dinner was an unsurmountable thought. The stake will never know what a choice blessing they gave the Vernonia Branch members in preparing and serving that dinner.
Without schools to attend, the branch young men and young women worked diligently, helping the community muck out their houses and clearing the insulation, venting, and the aftermath of the flood from beneath homes. When it came time, in January, for the youth to go back to school, they complained. They didn’t want to go to school! They just wanted to keep doing the Lord’s work and help others.
In closing, one last story: Sister Kimberly Perry loaded her suburban with as many church sanitary buckets as it would hold, driving around town and handing them out. She had pulled up to a curb when a resident asked if she could have one of the buckets. Sister Perry quickly got out and gave her a bucket from the back of her vehicle. When the flood victim saw Christ’s picture on the front of our buckets, she said, “There is Jesus. He couldn’t stop the flood, but he never forgot us. He has been here all the time.”
There are so many stories within stories to tell of brave, courageous individuals that shared and cared with families, neighbors and friends through a difficult time in their lives. They rose to the challenge of the 2007 Vernonia flood. Their testimonies were tried and tested. They rose to the challenge, victorious as were our pioneers ancestors.
I hope I have inspired readers to prayerfully look at what you have put away for emergencies and what needs to be done yet and begin again gathering and organizing.
I leave you my testimony that Christ is here with us through all the disasters that come our way, but he expects us to do our share. Let’s gather our families around us, make a plan, and get to work filling in those things that need completing. A feeling of peace and comfort will abide with you and your loved ones as you work toward being completely prepared.

Sister Terry Grosnick,  previous member of the Vernonia Branch.

To learn more about emergency preparedness, click here

‘Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without’ The Internet can help!

by Laraine L. Thompson

Play Doh and Other Delights

You know how it is. Your child or grandchild wants to use your rolling pin to make pies and cookies. No time to make a real dough of any sort and, welcoming the child’s desire for any creativity that doesn’t involve your I-Pad, your Smartphone, or, Heaven forbid, the television, you happily find the Play Doh, open it up and there it is. Inside sits a clunk of something that vaguely resembles a hockey puck or even a pet rock. A wonderful morning/afternoon of kiddie creativity, right in to the garbage, soon to be followed by wails of disappointment or complaints of, “I’m Bored………..”

Now what? Wipe the tears away? Tell them to go outside and find something to do? Oh wait! It’s raining—again. Somewhere, in the recesses of your creatively challenged mind, you hear Great Grandma repeating, ‘Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without’. Now, why is Great Grandma intruding upon your dilemma? Hold on a minute. Maybe she was on to something. We can’t eat up the play doh. It’s already too late to wear it out and your children’s wails will not allow you to do without. What’s left? Make do? Quick, to the internet—“How to Fix dried out Play Doh”. Just add water and knead? Really? That simple? Desperate, you try it and, wonder of wonders, it works. The drier the dough, the more water it requires, the longer the knead. But it does work. Who knew? You thought you might need some sort of chemical from the local hardware or craft store. Just add water. Now, never mind that your hands will turn the color of the play doh as you work. It is messy, wear an apron. But the kids will love it! And it may last the better part of a morning. Oh, and be sure you secure the lids tightly so that the newly constituted dough does not dry out anytime soon.

I lived this scenario this past week as I attempted to take care of my grandchildren. I was one desperate grandma and then I remembered the internet. I can find anything on the internet! Just ask a question and there’s the answer. It made me think of this assignment to write about frugality—eating up, wearing out, making do, or doing without. It takes some real creativity to live frugally and some days, creativity is the least of my skills. Thank goodness for the internet. What a great gift this magical search engine in the sky has become to me. I find myself on many occasions grateful for its magic and often express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for its power. Whether it is a better way to repair or hem an old pair of jeans, or a way to use food storage for a delicious quick meal, or how to fix dried out Play Doh, the internet can help. Frugality is so much easier than it used to be. Give it a try. It really is fun!



Photo source: public domain

Animated gif by LDS Intelligent Living

The Ultimate Object Lesson in Preparedness

by Laraine L. Thompson

Talk about a powerful object lesson in preparedness! This coming July 17-20 the youth of our stake will embark on a Pioneer Trek, Zion: One Heart, One Mind. Youth, ages 12-18 in groups of 20 or more—“families” each headed by a ma and pa—will hike and experience conditions similar to what our pioneer ancestors endured as they traveled over 1,000 miles from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley in the 1840’s. They will hike along the Barlow Trail near Mt. Hood. Each youth will dress in pioneer garb as they push or pull a handcart. They will hike anywhere from 2-10 miles per day. They will sleep each night in tents. Food will be pioneer simple. They will truly begin to understand what it takes to be a pioneer.

Brother and Sister Ron and Sylvia L. of the C R Ward are the stake specialists for this event. They, along with their stake committee, have been planning this event for months now. Youth are in the midst of registering for this event. In order to participate, each youth must do a number of things to be ready:

Register for the Trek
Attend meetings with Ma and Pa
Make/Obtain a pioneer outfit to wear.
Find a pioneer story to share on the trek—hopefully about a pioneer relative)
Participate in three hikes in preparation—one 3, one 5, and one 10 mile hike
Prepare a meal using a Dutch Oven
Complete and submit a medical form
Pack and turn in your bucket to the Trail Boss

Each youth has a card with 8 punch out areas representing each of the above 8 items required to participate. Each of these boxes must be punched out in order for a youth to be a part of the trek. The wards are in charge of seeing to it that the youth are as prepared for this event. Just making certain that a card is completely punched is great training! Beyond that, the trek will test the mettle of each—youth and adults alike.

Obviously, there is much more preparation than those items listed above. There will be medical needs, sanitation needs, transportation to and from the trek venue, enrichment activities, spiritual activities. The list is endless. Coordinating this event is a Herculean task. We are blessed to have so many dedicated adults and youth who are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel—literally—to see that this event will be one to be remembered positively for years to come.

We have heard wonderful stories about the experiences of those in our stake who have participated in previous treks in other locations. Throughout the church, a trek is a common stake/ward event. This is the first time that our stake has opted to plan such an experience. We are thrilled for the opportunities that a trek represents and hope that our youth, by participating, will truly learn what it means to be prepared.

Photo source: LDS Media Library

Breaching that Brick Wall

by Laraine L. Thompson

For many years I, as my father before me, have worked to find the parents of my second great grandfather. He was born in 1813 in Kentucky, probably in one of the many forts erected along the Cumberland Gap trail and beyond. In 1820 he and his family migrated through SW Indiana to SE Illinois. They met or left off many relatives along the way. In Illinois, a will from 1837 lists his mother’s name. He, along with three other, supposed, brothers appear as signers of the will. Their X’s are clearly visible. A history of the county tells of my grandfather’s arrival, along with that of another family. Tracing the genealogy of the accompanying family has produced nothing to tell me more about my great grandfather’s parents.

We, my father and I, had stood at the bottom of that proverbial brick wall for far too long. My father died in 1984, long before DNA testing was available to the masses. Dreaming of finally being able to breach that wall, I was thrilled when DNA testing became a realization. I urged my brother, the only known living male relative on my father’s side to submit his DNA. Testing the Y chromosome is the most accurate way to trace one’s lineage. At first, we paid for the 12 marker test, then the 24 marker and ended, some years later, paying for the 67 marker test. The results arrived and I was excitedly anticipating seeing other men with the same last surname. My anticipation was not rewarded. I received, and so far, continue to receive periodic updates with the names of matched men who, it turns out, share with me a common ancestor—a long, long, long time ago. We know our haplogroup which identifies us with a very common group of ancestors who migrated from the upper mid east through Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, to America. We are like countless others with the same haplogroup identification. I knew that we were very ordinary people, but reality is still difficult to accept sometimes.

I have this dream that my great, great grandfather will one day stand over my shoulder and dictate to me the details of his life and that of his parents and hopefully, his grandparents. Until then, I will have to content myself with mining and re-mining the depths of the records that are already here. And one day, just one day, someone with the same sir name will appear on that DNA list and my research will begin to make more sense. I have and will continue to join sir name projects associated with the DNA testing sites. Notice the plural use of the word, sites. It pays, pun intended, to submit DNA to more than one site, to join the sir name groups of each site. I have also learned that it is of value to submit my own mitochondrial DNA to better insure a more detailed outcome.

There are a number of genetic testing websites:


Several cautions:

  • Testing is not particularly cheap
  • There are privacy issues (there are ways to insure privacy, but what would be the point?)
  • You may find skeletons in the closet (an illegitimate child from some unknown father has DNA totally different from what one would expect)
  • Take care not to overreach when interpreting results, particularly Mitochondrial DNA results

Would I do this again? Absolutely! While there have been no results yet to connect me with that elusive 3rd great grandfather, I know that our DNA is recorded. The technology is increasing in its effectiveness to trace our genealogies. As more people submit their DNA, the data banks increase, thus increasing our chances of a match with the same sir name. Twenty years ago a DNA test was only a dream. Twenty years from now, who knows what might be possible? Knowing that the last male member of my father’s family will be dead, I want his DNA, our family data to already be there. Just as I would prepare for any eventuality by storing water, food, fuel, I want my brother’s stored DNA to one day link us to loved ones who, for now, are only a dream.

Photo source: LDS Media Library

The Chosen

By Laraine L. Thompson

Suffering all of his life from the effects of asthma, my father, in his waning years had what was referred to as organic brain syndrome. Its cause was restricted oxygen to the brain as a result of those debilitating asthma attacks. It resulted in symptoms sometimes similar to those of Alzheimer’s Disease. He would often forget the events of the recent past. It seemed that we were constantly reminding him of the important details of his life, just lived. The one constant in his life however was genealogy work. He never seemed to lose his ability to do it. He indeed was the one who had been called to do that work and as such, he had become on of the chosen….

We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors, to put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy  is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing [another] life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us, “Tell our story.” So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.”  How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say. It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who I am, and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying, “I can’t let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach–that we might be born who we are–that we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before.

Della M. Cummings Wright

Continuing his legacy, I too now seem to be one of the chosen. Reader Beware: It can become an obsessive pursuit. Remembering the novel and the movie after the same name, I call it a magnificent obsession. Unlike my father and others of his generation who had to type each record by hand, have it checked for proof and accuracy by two other persons before submitting the content to the church family history department, I use my computer. And with a mere toggle, I am anywhere on earth that might have a thread of information that will identify those of my family.  Message boards/public family trees have connected me to long lost, distant cousins. Many e-mails later, I now have photos to match many of the names in my records. A marvelous chosen one in North Carolina has just sent me a portion of Indiana marriage records to transcribe and return to her so that she can then publish them on a county’s genealogy website for all to see. I cannot overstate the effect that her work has had upon me and the work that I love to do. As a result of her work in Indiana, I was able to solve a 40 year old family mystery. There are countless more just like her. They are just a click away. They constitute people participating in the second most popular hobby behind gardening.

With the internet and ever evolving software programs, genealogy has never been easier to do. Its ease would take what was remaining of my father’s precious breath away! I thank the Lord daily for modern technology which has allowed us to make exponential leaps forward in our ability to access and store vast amounts of information. Even with all of this, New Family Search estimates that roughly only 5% of records have been retrieved and recorded through their efforts. The future possibilities are beyond staggering to the imagination.

Stake genealogy libraries dot the world. They are staffed by happy volunteers eager to help those who come, most of whom are not members of our church. The libraries are there for all to use. I was in New York City recently and found 3-5 people eagerly working cheek by jowl in a very small Manhattan Stake Family History Library. Every computer, every microfilm reading machine was in use. That scene is being repeated everywhere.

It seems incumbent upon us to add to our list of preparation/intelligent living the ability to do our genealogy. It is so easy and will undoubtedly only become easier with time. In doing so, we may find that we will truly join the ranks of the chosen.

To access the world’s largest online resource for family documents and family trees, click here…

Photo source: LDS Media Library

Establishing a Beach Head

By Laraine L. Thompson

June 6, 1944 is a date with which we older, at least, Americans are very familiar. It marks the anniversary of D Day. It was the day when thousands upon thousands of American and allied troops stormed ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France. It truly marked the beginning of the end for Hitler’s stranglehold over Europe, his monstrous reign of power. The death toll that morning was overwhelming as soldier after soldier fell before ever advancing the beach. Their goal of course was to establish a beach head—a fortified position of power from which they could plan further attack, a position of relative safety from the opposing forces.

My father was a second generation member of the church. Of his three brothers, he remained the only active member of the church. As such, he keenly felt the responsibility to teach the Gospel to his children, to help insure that they would continue in building a beach head of activity and dedication to the Gospel that would give them that position of power and safety from which they could not be moved. He would often refer us to an incident in the life of Count Leo Tolstoy, the famed Russian author of War and Peace:

From the February, 1939 Improvement Era:

In 1892, on a visit to America, Tolstoy asked his American host, Andrew W. White, “I wish you would tell me about your American religion.” “We have no state church in America,” replied Dr. White. “I know that, but what about your American religion?” Dr. White explained to Tolstoy that in America each person is free to belong to the particular church in which he is interested.

Tolstoy impatiently replied: “I know all of this, but I want to know about the American religion…. The Church to which I refer originated in America and is commonly known as the Mormon Church. What can you tell me of the teaching of the Mormons?” Doctor White said, “I know very little concerning them.”

Then Count Tolstoy rebuked the ambassador. “Dr. White, I am greatly surprised and disappointed that a man of your great learning and position should be so ignorant on this important subject. Their principles teach the people not only of heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this church, nothing can stop their progress—it will be limitless.”

Tolstoy continued, “There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known.”

My father knew that I and my siblings represented the third generation of Mormons in our family. And like the soldiers on D Day, he was adamant that we should establish a beach head that would protect not only ourselves but those of our family’s fourth and fifth generations. He truly believed Tolstoy when he prophesied if we could do this, we would become part of ‘…the greatest power the world has ever known.”

As I teach my family, as I am actively involved in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Tolstoy’s words, spoken repeatedly through my father’s mouth, continue to inform me. So far, the beach head seems to be holding. I think my father would be pleased….


Learning from the Scriptures Line upon Line

by Donna Norris

When we begin reading the scriptures, we start by decoding letters into words. Even when we are older we need to decode words correctly, like knowing Nephi isn’t pronounced Nephee. We also begin the habit of reading, and learn it is enjoyable to read the scriptures. Next in our progression, we learn scripture stories. We connect people to places and understand timelines. We also start matching the stories to the book of scripture it is from. The third step is relating the stories we have learned to our own lives. We figure out the significance of relationships between people. We see patterns of behavior. We connect prophesies with its fulfillment. We recognize which prophesies are yet to come. Last, we see and understand symbolism. We understand our part in these prophesies. We read to find answers to our own problems. We also share our knowledge with others. We see eternal significance of the scriptures in our lives. Then we change our behavior to match it to God’s will.

Here is a very good article entitled ” The Glory of God Is Intelligence” by Elder David A. Bednar.

I have spent most of my life involved in education. When I was younger, I thought education meant going to school, taking tests, and getting good grades. But as I grew older, I began to learn the difference between doing well in school and becoming educated. A person can do well on tests and still not be educated. True education is learning how to learn…continue reading here…

Photo source: LDS Media Library

Of Life and Death

By Laraine L. Thompson

Knowing that our peas did not grow as well as they might have last year because the ground lacked proper drainage, we took pains this year to prepare the soil more carefully. We tilled the earth, added a fertilizer amendment and finally added an agent that would allow the ground to drain more readily. We inoculated our peas and soaked them in water in preparation for planting. They are planted and I anxiously await the little signs of green that will indicate that our preparations were not in vain.

At the same time we are preparing for the new life of our garden, we find ourselves facing the death of an elderly loved one. The introduction of the subject of death may seem a strange juxtaposition here. However, it has occurred to me that just as we needed to properly prepare the earth to accept and grow our planted seeds, we also need to properly prepare ourselves for the end of life.

When my mother died several years ago, I lacked the understanding I needed to recognize the signs of her imminent death. I misunderstood that like, countless before her, she was, if ever so unconsciously, preparing to die. I took personally her withdrawal from society, her detachment from all that she seemed to formerly love. We tried to cheer her up, to encourage her to re-engage in countless ways. Of course, it did no good.  And sadly, we didn’t speak of death with her at all.  It was only in reading the Hospice literature supplied to us after her death that I realized what she, along with us, had been experiencing.

Again, with our loved one now, we are facing a similar situation. And, like my mother, the same symptoms of impending death are presenting themselves. And I find myself remembering with great gratitude the words that I read in that literature supplied to my by an organization I have grown to admire very greatly—The Hospice Society.

The Hospice Society is again guiding us through our present preparation for the death of our loved one. Knowing what to expect has given us comfort, thus sparing us unnecessary frustration. Though there may be slight variations, there are almost always these milestones along the way:

One to Three Months Prior to Death

  • Withdrawal from society, even family and friends
  • Decrease in appetite or refusal to eat at all
  • Increase in sleep

One to Two Weeks Prior to Death

Mental Changes

  • Further increase in sleep, non-responsive
  • Disorientation, delusional behavior
  • Seeing, speaking to those unseen. The veil is thinning.
  • Agitation

Physical Changes

  • Body temperature may drop
  • Blood pressure lowers
  • Pulse becomes irregular
  • Skin color changes
  • Breathing becomes irregular, often accompanied by congestion which may cause rattled breathing
  • Speech and communication is slowed

The Journey Ends

  • Energy surge, desire for food, urge to talk—usually of very short duration
  • Previous signs become much more pronounced
  • Breathing irregularities increase dramatically, slow, rapid, shallow, complete cessation and beginning again, “death rattle” is more prominent
  • Skin color changes dramatically
  • Eyes may be open or semi-shut
  • Hearing is believed to be the last sense to leave, so talking with loved one is believed to be comforting to them. Often a loved one will be reluctant to leave until given permission to do so
  • Breathing stops. Death has occurred.

For us, as members of the church, death is an important part of life. Most of the time, as it is now for us, it is a step in a natural progression of events. But, like our gardens, it becomes an easier journey when we prepare the soil of our hearts, our minds, and our spirits properly. When we are prepared, when we know what to expect, the so-called harvest of our good-byes can be more abundant, far sweeter, more meaningful than they otherwise would be were we to remain in ignorance.

Photo source: LDS Media Library

Parenting our Teens with Strength and Good Courage

By Laraine L. Thompson

Louis Sponseller, former member of our stake and past president of the Portland Stake held many parents and youth leaders at complete attention at a recent adult fireside sponsored by our stake presidency. Using a power point presentation, he skillfully described the often overwhelming challenges faced by today’s youth and conversely, the parents of those youth. It is no dark secret that the youth are more challenged than ever before. The adversarial powers have combined to make their lives unbearable at times. Young women have been told for a quarter of a century now that they can survive quite independently without the companionship of man. Young men, as a result, are confused about their care giving, protective roles. As a result, they are adrift; floundering in a world that somehow no longer needs them. Talk about frightening! He told the story of a father who arrived home one evening only to find his teenage daughter sitting alone in a darkened living room. When he realized that she was crying, he asked her the reason. Through her tears, she sobbed, “Home is the only place where I can feel safe!” It was fortunate for her that her home afforded her that sort of comfort. What a pity for many more youth, even those within our church, whose homes do not provide them much, if any safety—particularly spiritual safety.

The cover of the March Ensign with a headline reading, “Home—A Sacred and Safe Haven” echoes the words of President Sponseller. Inside the reader finds a selection of art from around the world that embodies the power that is ours as parents if we will but fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it genuinely, fully, and lovingly within the walls of our homes. The result of not doing just this is taking a staggering toll on our youth.

President Sponseller repeatedly referenced two important books, Restoring the Teenage Soul: Nurturing Sound Hearts and Minds in a Confused Culture, written by Margaret J. Meeker and Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. He described that President Gordon B. Hinckley himself had, upon occasion referred to these books as well. They are difficult to find in local bookstores but are available through Amazon Books at very reasonable prices. Citing statistics from Soul Searching… it would seem that Latter-day Saint youth are doing well in understanding and living their religion. The temptation to be smug emerges, but then we realize, we must check those impulses! We know that we can and must do better.

We learned as we already knew that as our children grow and become more independent, we hug and kiss them less and less. It seems a natural thing for us. After all, they begin to pull away from us and almost seem embarrassed by our affections. We want to accommodate their burgeoning maturity, but we may be doing them a disservice. A mere touch to the face or the stroke of a teenager’s hair sends a powerful signal to them that they are loved, that we are still there to continue to protect and nurture them. Mother Teresa knew well that this simple act could provide miracles in the lives of touch deprived orphans in India. With all that she did to mend broken hearts, touch was her primary weapon against a cruel and wicked world. Such a simple act….no matter the age of our children, touch we must, hug, we must, affirm, we must.

President Sponseller shared a video in which President Gordon B. Hinckley in a worldwide leadership training broadcast a few years back emphasized the critical importance of maintaining our relationship with our youth and particularly our young women. He said, “When you save a girl, you save generations!” What an astounding thought! It invigorates our imagination, our determination; it prompts us to increase our efforts as parents and leaders.

Time of course was its usual thief. We had precious little to explore the critical truths shared with us by President Sponseller. He left us hungry for much, much more. This subject is very near and dear to his heart. He will willingly share it again and again—in a ward setting, in another stake setting. Truly, it was a night that those of us who attended will not soon forget.

Photo source: LDS Media Library

Mother or Smother?

By Laraine L. Thompson

In our well intentioned efforts to be good, nurturing parents do we end up smothering rather than mothering—or fathering for that matter? We have all smothered from time to time. We want our children to know that we love them. We think that the way to show them that love is to do for them—things that they can and should be doing for themselves. We launder and iron their clothes. We tidy their rooms. We prepare food at their whim. We hover over their homework, their scout advancement, their young women progress. We may even be doing some of their homework! The list could go on.

I know of one woman (and there are countless more just like her) who, in her willing and exuberant desire to be a wonderful, nurturing LDS mother, waited on her family for their every need. She even went so far as to wrap up hot meals to drive to her son’s athletic practice so as not to force him to have to reheat his dinner when he would arrive home. She washed, folded, and put away her son’s clothing. She hovered over his homework. He, along with his other siblings, was the very center of her world. She was admired by her peers for her mothering efforts.  Yet, when it came time for him to go away to college, he began to struggle. Unsure of himself, he had to return home. When it came time for his mission, he balked once again. Seeking professional help the mother learned from a counselor that she had been too “good” a mother! Instead of helping her children grow toward healthy independence, she had succeeded in making them dependent, in sapping them of important confidence to go forth into the world.

In the most recent Mormon Times, is an article entitled, “Stop Babying Your Missionary”. In it Don Aslett, a “Mormon cleaning guru” states that the best way to help prepare a young man—or woman—for a mission or for, we might add, life in general, is “…to stop doing his laundry, cooking for him, and cleaning up after him….it does missionaries no good to be babied….the worst thing you can do for them is protect them and insulate them”

He speaks from vast experience. He has spent over 50 years teaching people to clean more efficiently. He and wife served a mission together where they saw first hand the consequences of smothering as opposed to mothering. He has observed that “…those who are sloppy in their habits [having not learned or practiced important skills in the first place] tend to be sloppy in their keeping of the commandments.”

Complaining about the quality of their school lunch, our children became responsible for their own lunches from an early age. Each night they would have to make their lunches for the following day. They were always responsible for their own rooms and had other household duties as well. When they were 12, they became responsible for their own laundry—washing, folding, ironing. Of course, we showed them how to do this. You should have heard the complaints of child abuse! They took responsibility for the choice and purchase of their own clothing from age 12 as well. Babysitting, yard work, janitoring, house painting all became skills and a means to their end. For the most part college expenses became theirs as well, along with the expenses of a mission. We supplemented from time to time, but we valued their independence above our notions, or the notions of those around us, of what a good parent looked like. I even had one friend tell me, “…the way that I see it is that you are just not as nurturing a parent as I am!” Never mind that it was her daughter who called home in a panic when she got to college and realized that she didn’t have the faintest notion of how to iron her clothing. Her mother, ever nurturing, had neglected to teach her that skill.

The old dictum, “Never do for others what they can do for themselves” keeps repeating in my head.

For more tips from Don Aslett visit

Photo source: LDS Media Library


A Return to Walden Pond

the pond animated gif

by Laraine L. Thompson

Feeling overwhelmed by the busyness of his life, Henry David Thoreau, in 1845 took advantage of an offer from his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson and moved himself to Emerson’s property near Boston, Massachusetts. There, for two years, on Walden Pond, Thoreau carved a life of great simplicity for himself. He chronicled those efforts in the now classic, Walden in which he wrote,

 I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

We, who live far more complicated, demanding lives cannot afford the luxury— such an ironic term—of making such a decision to leave life behind. Here we are smack dab in the 21st century. Thoreau would be completely overwhelmed by what he would see if he were here! While we cannot do as Thoreau did, perhaps we can glean a bit of wisdom from his experiences. He determined that there are only four things that a man needs to survive: food, clothing, shelter and fuel.

Food—Sustaining life through eating as defined by the Word of Wisdom will do exactly what the scripture promises. We shall receive health, marrow to our bones, wisdom and great treasures, even hidden treasures. Indeed, we will run and not be weary, walk and not faint. Just how closely are we living by the counsel in D&C 89? How well are we doing at simplifying our meals to provide us the basic nutrients of life, to provide us an increase of strength and health? Or are we so acculturated to eating in such a way as to increase only our blood pressure, our cholesterol or our blood sugar?

Clothing—Modesty always has been and always will be a hallmark of LDS lives. We have been cautioned by our general authorities for years and years now that we are to avoid the extremes of fashion, not to mention the expense of those fashions. In the end, like it or not, we send powerful messages to others by the way we dress. We find that not only do we affect how others behave, but our dress affects how we ourselves behave. Simplifying our clothing needs/avoiding the “costly apparel” trap described in the Book of Mormon will enable us to be far more effective families and members of the church.

Shelter—The current housing crisis is all that we need to remind us of the counsel given to us for decades by our general authorities, Brigham Young included, to live within our means. Many of us, sadly, are right where we were promised we would be if we didn’t simplify our housing needs. And while we are at it, let us further simplify our lives by cleaning and organizing what we do have. Just as our clothing choices send powerful messages, so do the condition of our homes. Are we the bright spot on the block in our neighborhood? Or do we contribute further to some sort of blight? Even the humblest home and yard can be neat and comely and in good repair.

Fuel—Government urgings aside, many of us are adjusting our household thermometers, and turning off unused lighting and discovering some savings in the process. I can still hear the constant voice of my father—and it was strong—telling us to turn out the lights when leaving a room, to limit the amount of water used for our showers and baths, to close the door, to turn down the thermostat! His voice still informs me today. Those habits we were forced to develop were good. Teaching energy frugality to our families is still good. Additionally, could we live without the above mentioned fuel sources? What provisions have we made in the event that these sources become unavailable?

As we begin 2010, let us return, at least symbolically, to Walden Pond. Let us concentrate on simplifying our lives. Let us prayerfully and with wisdom assess our needs as opposed to our wants, let us determine to “live deliberately”. Let us disconnect ourselves from the world in ways that will benefit our families, and while we are at it, our pocketbooks.

Animated gif by LDS Intelligent Living

Abdul’s Christmas

by Seth Doty

Abdul and his son, Atheer, were two of my interpreters I had my first tour in Iraq. I spent a lot of time with them on different missions. One time, on a base called Al Qime, while we were waiting for the convoy to offload, I saw Abdul quietly sitting, reading a small book. I assumed it was the Koran. I walked over to him and asked, “Put that Koran down and play some cards Abdul?” He looked up at me, smiled and said, “This is not the Koran Sgt. Doty. This is the Holy Bible. I am a Christian man, not a Muslim.” I was shocked! We had a long conversation about how he went to school in the States back in 1977. There he was introduced to the Christian faith and brought it back to his family where they had to practice their faith in secret.

All he had was that little Bible. It was too dangerous to keep anything else around the house. He went on to tell me how he wished he had more, now that he was able to safely show his family, and not just tell them what Christmas was and how we celebrated here in America. They had never seen a Christmas tree or Christmas lights, or hung their stockings, had a candy cane, or even saw a picture of the nativity scene.

On the convoy back to base I got to thinking. We had so many things for Christmas back at the barracks. It was all just sitting there. When I got back I asked the other squad leaders to ask the Marines to give me anything having to do with Christmas they didn’t want. They gave me a lot of things like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and all their extra candy. I got some pictures of the nativity scene and some others of Jesus from the chaplain and I even got my hands on a string of lights.

My parents had sent me a stocking with some candy in it, a little Christmas tree and a bag of my mom’s caramel. I put everything in a box to give to Abdul to take to his family. I called Abdul and told him to stop by the barracks before he left for his home in Baghdad for Christmas. He was so happy to look through the box and see all the things that we put together. He placed the box in the trunk of his car, looked up at me with tears in his eyes, smiled and said, “Thank you. Now I can give my family a real Christmas.”

After a few days Abdul was assigned to my squad and I asked him how his Christmas went. He said his family was so happy and, “…it was worth everything to be able to give that day to them.” His youngest son (6 years old) loved the stocking and his wife enjoyed the caramel.

My platoon left the country a few months later. Before we left, Abdul thanked me again and told me he would never forget what we gave him and his family. It was a great feeling to be able to help this man give his family their first real Christmas together.

It didn’t hit me when Abdul told me that “it was worth everything” to give his family that day. To me Christmas was just something that happened every year. I knew what it was, that it was special, that it’s a time for family and friends. But we also get caught up in the presents and the shopping. We all dread the lines and the price of it all. And let’s not forget how hard it is to make it to everyone’s house to visit and exchange cards or presents.

When I get stressed about it all, I stop and think about Abdul and his family. I think about how Abdul gave everything for that first and last Christmas with his family. Two weeks after I left Iraq, he was captured and killed by insurgents. He died helping us free his country so that he and his family could practice their faith openly and celebrate one of his favorite holidays just as we are doing tonight. It’s my wish that we stay calm and not stress about it all. Just enjoy the family and the people you love. I think to myself, what would I give for this?

Photo source: LDS Media Library