What Have You Learned

We lost our first child coming up on 33 years ago.

From that experience and others, I have learned that often the most important things that happen to us in life cannot be changed or avoided.

We can only learn from these experiences. I learned a greater appreciation for blessings that I may have otherwise taken for granted.

I learned greater compassion for people, knowing that everyone I meet is suffering or has suffered in ways that I cannot comprehend.

What have you learned?

Where to Put Our Trust

I love Nephi. Especially his powerful words of reflection and prayer in 2 Nephi chapter 4. Here's just one gem for a thought today.

"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (verse 34)

I am reminded that we, as a people, altogether too often put our trust in men. They have names like Trump, Biden, Romney, Monsen, Nelson, and many others. This is not to say there is nothing good in these men. Indeed there may be much to be admired, but our trust, our faith, these we should reserve for the Lord, and Him alone. 

How are we cursed if we put our trust in man? Other words for cursed may be damned or doomed. I have wondered at these words. I have observed the pains we suffer when men we trusted have failed us. If we believe that a mere mortal is beyond the reach of weakness, failure, and sin, we will nearly always be disappointed. More dangerously, if we allow such trust to replace or stand in for our faith in God, then surely we walk on the razor's edge of doom.

It is upon that edge of doom that our own faith may be shattered when the men we trusted turn out to be just that, mere mortal men, subject to the buffetings of Satan, able to make mistakes, and equally in need of mercy as we are every day.

Let us harken to the words of Nephi and escape the fate of such a curse.

Keith D. Jensen - A Son's Tribute

(Thoughts I shared at my dad's given funeral today.)

The greatest compliment I ever received was, “You look just like your dad.” And the greatest compliment of my dad that I’ve ever heard, I heard last night at the viewing from Jim Young when he said, “Keith was my best friend.” I think there are a number of people who would say the same.

I want to begin with the most important thing about Dad. It’s what makes him my hero. It’s what makes me want to be more like him in my life.

Dad was born the youngest boy of 8 children. He has one younger sister. His father suffered from allergies, so dad did all the farm work as a teenager. His father also struggled with alcoholism and was not often a kind or tender man. Dad’s parents were divorced because of this after all the kids had left home. 

We all know that the cycle of abuse often goes from generation to generation. But Dad broke that cycle. Neighbors would take him to church where he learned to love the Lord and formed a desire to serve Him all his life. 

Dad’s testimony of Jesus Christ and the Atonement is deep and profound. He worked all his life to emulate the Savior, loving everyone and taking every opportunity to serve them. He was kind, gentle and patient with his family and neighbors. They saw in him a spiritual power that exceeded his tremendous physical strength.

I never saw him raise his voice or a hand to anyone. He was never vengeful, nor did he demand payment for hay that others had taken on credit. As a child, I could not understand that. Eventually I came to understand it. Truly he lived the phrase, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Dad taught me many things that have served me well in my life. 

He taught me to be inventive. Our first bale wagon had two rod levers to control hydraulic operations. The furrows in the fields often tipped bales flat, so they needed to be turned up on their edge before the bale wagon could pick them up.

I would ride on the tractor wheel fender and jump off to run ahead and turn the flat bales. That was not particularly safe or efficient, so Dad got inventive. He selected an old steel seat, probably from a horse drawn hay rake—you never knew when something like that was going to come in handy, he’d say.

With the seat welded to the side of the bale loader, we went back to work. I would sit there and jump off and run ahead to turn the flat bales and wait for the seat to catch up to me. The only trouble was that the bale loader needed to be raised just an inch or two at the end of the field to turn around without gouging the hay with the skid. 

Dad would pull on the lever that operated the chain on the bale loader a little further and raise it up just a little with me riding on that seat. On one of those turns, the lever got stuck. The bale loader launched me up and over to the other side of the wagon. Dad stopped hauling and we went straight to the shop where he promptly cut off the seat.

And that is how we got our first motorcycle. Todd and I would take turns riding that Kawasaki up and down the furrow rutted hay fields turning the fallen bales up on their side. It was great fun.

Dad taught me to embrace change. He installed pressurized irrigation and bought wheel lines and hand lines. He improved and upgraded his equipment lineup from time to time. He reclaimed ground that had been overwhelmed with salt grass and alkali. We chained two tractors together to plow that sod. He loved John Deere but wasn’t afraid to use something else when it made sense—which was not that often. Just get the job done. That was the important thing.

Dad taught me to read scripture. He would often gather the family at 6 a.m. to read the Book of Mormon. Each member of the family took turns reading. Dad would correct our pronunciation and prompt us if we got stuck. Whenever I hear someone struggle with reading scripture, I remember Dad’s love for scripture. They were sacred and we ought to read them properly.

Dad taught me to work. Once or twice, up and down the field, and he’d put me in the driver’s seat. Another round while he watched and corrected me when I messed up. Then he would go work on something else until I was done, broke down, or hungry. Later in my teen years, sometimes a friend would ride along with me as I worked. They were always amazed that I was able to operate machinery. I took great pride in that as a kid. Thanks, Dad.

Dad taught us to love the Lord. He would bear his testimony to us. He would have us all kneel in family prayer. He never shirked his duties in the Church. He read his scriptures nearly every day. He sat us down to watch General Conference every six months. He gave wise counsel and never had an unkind word for anyone.

Dad taught me to serve others. When it would snow heavily, he would send me with the old John Deere 3020 and blade to LaMar Sherman’s place to plow the snow all the way up the hill to his house. Doing that small act of kindness always made me feel warmer inside.

Dad taught me to solve problems with what I had. There was not always time to go to town to get a new part, so he would weld a fix and we would get back to work. I became an expert welders helper and I learned the fine art of holding a flashlight to help him work in the dark to get a machine fixed and running again. And that is a rare skill. 

Dad taught me that you go to the house and eat dinner ONLY when the work is done. And perhaps that was the most important lesson.

I testify that God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered and died for our sins that we might be made pure and worthy to live with Him and the Father forever. All we need to do is have faith in Him, keep His commandments, make and keep covenants, and most importantly endure to the end. 

That’s what he taught me. And Dad did all of that. He loved his sons for the work they did on the farm, but he might have appreciated the hard work that my sisters did even more. He told Mom that the boys worked hard in the fields until they got hungry and then they’d come looking for something to eat. But the girls would stay out on the tractor all day until the job was done.

Even when Alzheimer’s was robbing him of his memories, he would put on his coat, hat and gloves and go feed the cows and horses twice a day, every day. After years of doing that, he had worn a deep trail from the house to the corrals under the red rock bench in Ioka.

Last summer when Mom wasn’t able to care for Dad, he spent the very last of his energies in mortality lifting the spirits of his new neighbors at the care center. He would go from room to room, shake everyone’s hand and tell them how glad he was to see them. He did not need to remember them. He knew they were his brothers and sisters.

Yes, Dad taught us all to stay until the job is done. He taught us to endure to the end. This lesson defines his life. He learned it at an early age and continued doing it until the very end. 

Perhaps his headstone could read, “He stayed until the job was done.”

Keith D. Jensen - A Life Sketch

(I wrote this life sketch of of my dad to be read by my sisters at the funeral today:)

Keith Devon Jensen was born June 4th, 1940, in Huntington, Utah. He was the youngest boy of 8 children. His parents were John Alferd Jensen and Ila Woolman. Until he was 9 years old, he spent summers at his father’s sawmill in Huntington Canyon. He played in the big piles of sawdust and loved the old steam engine whistle.

His parents sent him to Primary and Sunday School. Valiant leaders and neighbors helped Keith learn to love the Lord and to serve Him. His patriarchal blessing promised he would serve a mission, so he was disappointed that he could not afford to go. Much later in life he served joyfully as a ward and stake missionary, going with the full time missionaries to teach and serve many members of his community. 

Keith learned to work hard as young man. Fun and games were for other kids. There was always a cow to milk or farm work to do. His father had terrible allergies, so Keith did all of the farm work as a teenager. That work ethic showed in everything he did in his life.

In high school, Keith joined the pep club to be closer to LaRue McElprang, a cute sophomore in the band. Soon they began dating and became sweethearts. While LaRue finished high school, Keith sold his horse in order to attend college in Price. He studied auto mechanics.

Keith would catch a ride from Huntington to Price with his sister-in-law on her way to work in the morning and hitchhike back home in the afternoon to see LaRue. Date money came from a tool pusher job at the college.  

LaRue graduated from high school in 1960 and by December of that year Keith gathered enough courage to ask LaRue’s dad for permission to marry her. To his delight, Milton McElprang agreed and on Christmas eve that year, Keith proposed to LaRue. They were married on July 28, 1961, in the Manti Temple.

They moved to Salt Lake City and lived in the old Liberty Park ward. Todd was born a year and a day later and Tyler arrived about three years after that.

Keith worked as a mechanic for about a year then went to work for Linford Brothers Glass. It wasn’t long before he became a journeyman glazer. He installed windows in the old Deseret Gym where he fell from a scaffold and broke his pelvis. Healing was slow but he was back at work some weeks later. As the new guy, it fell to Keith to install windows in the research facility at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge south of south of Dugway Proving Grounds. On the long dirt road home in the dark, he fell asleep and drove of the road into the desert. When he woke up there was no road and no way to see where it was, so he turned the wheel in the direction he thought he should go until he found the road again, guessing which way was home. He guessed right.

In addition to working as a glazer, Keith and LaRue worked to manage several rental homes owned by LaRue’s father. They loved their friends but longed for a simpler life away from the city. LaRue’s father bought ground in Cedar View and Hancock Cove. Keith and LaRue moved to the Cove in 1966 into a little red brick house. A few years later, Keith and LaRue bought the farm from her father and continued to help manage the herds on the pastures in Cedar View.

Keith farmed and started a dairy which ended in devastation when the herd got out into a fresh alfalfa field and most of the cows died from bloat. It was a monumental struggle, but Keith and LaRue carried on and kept the farm. 

Keith gained a reputation among his neighbors as a friend to all with a kind smile, warm handshake, and generosity with his time. He often traded labor with fellow farmers, each helping to harvest silage. He was known to sell hay to many on credit when he knew they would never be able to pay him, and he never worried about getting paid.

Four daughters followed and then a son from 1967 to 1980, Ruth Ann, Melissa, Rebecca, Maria, and David. A few years later Leonardo was adopted from Colombia. A perfect crew for farming and moving handlines. All the children learned to work hard on the farm, acquiring skills and learning a work ethic that have served them all well throughout their lives.

Keith often leased additional farm ground. He was particular about producing good alfalfa hay. He would often rise at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to go bale hay with the perfect dew on. On one morning, he drove through town to one of those farms just a little too fast. Two young Roosevelt City police officers pulled him over. He didn’t have his seat belt on, so he jumped out of the old Bronco and walked back to the police car.

“Does your mama know where you boys are at this time of night?” he asked.

They told him how fast he was going.

“Oh, that old thing. It can’t even go that fast,” he said.

They asked where he was going in such a hurry.

“I’m going to bale hay. Why? Do you want to come help?” he asked.

No. They did not want to help and waived him on his way.

The farm in Hancock Cove eventually became Sterling Meadows. Other farm ground was acquired and leased. Keith continued to work the farm while LaRue worked at the hospital in Roosevelt. In the mid ‘90s, they moved the family to Ioka where LaRue still lives.

Keith was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving over the years as Sunday School president, Elders Quorum president, High Councilor, Bishop, Young Men’s president, and dedicated ward and stake missionary and home teacher. He loved the people he served and did so because of his firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His dedicated service to others led many in our community to renewed faith and activity in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Keith and LaRue’s children have blessed them with 35 amazing grandchildren with 8 spirited great-grandchildren. Two more are on their way. They have all learned to love Grandma and Grandpa spanning many years, each with precious memories of days on the farm. Jaelise, one of the oldest grandchildren (my oldest), put it this way:

“Cowboy shirts. Mint gum. Baling twine. Puttin' around. Rodeo broadcasts. Always teasin'. Four-wheeler rides. Sandwich cookies. Silly faces. Farmers hands. Warm hugs. Sly grins. Morning chores. Biggest heart. Best gramps of a lifetime.

“I wish grandpas never died...”

Keith and LaRue also invited into their home four Navajo foster children, John Thomas, Dorothy Smith-Bain, Ruby Thomas Dickson, and Gilbert James. John has passed on. Mom and the older kids who knew them still stay in touch with the girls. Ruby and Dorothy still call them Mom and Dad. In all they spent a total of 6 years in Keith and LaRue’s home. John spent many additional summers working for Dad on the farm.

Some years ago Mom knew that Dad was losing his ability to remember. Eventually he agreed and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the hardest days in his life was watching his farm equipment being auctioned off after accepting that he would no longer be able to work the farm. He kept a bright smile and appreciated all who came to help.

He continued to do the chores every morning and every night, putting on his coat, hat and gloves, and walking the well worn path to the corrals until finally he could not even remember how to do that. He retained his personality and love of others until the very last.

Mom cared for Dad until she was physically unable to adequately care for his needs. Her hardest day was leaving him at the care center in Vernal last summer. She visited him several times each week. 

The caregivers at the nursing home called Mom not many days after he was admitted. They asked if Keith had been a bishop. Yes, Mom said, and asked why. They told her that he spent his day going from room to room, shaking hands and telling residents he was glad to see them and cheering them up. The nursing staff said he changed the whole unit because of this.

His memory may have failed him but his heart never did.

Why Are We So Weak

I love the record of Moroni as found in the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Moroni laments his weakness in writing and worries that we will not accept what he writes.

The Lord tells him this:

"26 ...my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Finally Moroni concludes with this:

"41 And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen."

Let us seek Jesus every day. Let us listen to and study the words of His apostles and prophets. Let us be partakers of His grace, that our struggle with our weaknesses will allow the Lord to make us strong.

How You See the World

Take a look at the glasses through which you see the world. Examine your own bias, your personal astigmatism. Adjust your correction from time to time by questioning what it is you see and how you see it. The world can be a surprising place if we're willing to see it in a new way.

People Are Like Cows

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing one of the best sermons I've ever heard from a pulpit. I was visiting the services held for the residents of the care center where my dad is now being cared for because of advanced Alzheimer's disease. Mom and I and two of my children were there with Dad. 

The speaker was an old rancher who apologized for his lack of experience in religious speaking and knowledge of scripture and doctrine. Instead he said he would talk about cows because that's what he knows. He said cows are a lot like people.

He told a story of when he was nearly 12 years old and assigned the responsibility of moving the herd from winter range in the valley to summer range on the mountain. He was excited to be named trail boss as his only hand was another boy a few months younger than himself. The two boys were to get the herd to a midway point where they would meet the older boy's dad who would help them finish the drive.

Eager to show his dad how good of a cowboy he could be, the young trail boss worked very hard to keep all the cows on the road and moving along perfectly. His horse was doing a lot of work and once the two boys arrived at the midpoint, the horse had worked up a lather of sweat.

As the boys ate their breakfast, brought by the dad, the cows and horses rested. Before getting started up the mountain again, the father took his son aside and told him, "Son, a good cowboy doesn't work his horse on cows that are headed in the right direction."

Our speaker said he has thought about that wisdom his entire life. He continued with the story, indicating that when they got the cows moving again, he noticed that most of them were heading in the right direction. Some would wander a little off the road. Some would take a little shortcut when the road turned. 

When they arrived at the gate to the winter range, he had to ride up ahead of the herd to open the gate so the cows could go through. He opened the gate and looked back. There were about a dozen trails leading to the gate from all directions made from so many previous years. He realized that most of the cows were always going in the right direction generally and would eventually get to the gate from one direction or another.

He told us that people are like those cows and the gate is like baptism and other ordinances of the gospel. Many of us wander by the wayside, but as long as we're headed in the right direction, the Lord through His grace will help us get through the gate. 

So if you're riding herd on your kids or others in your life who need to get through the gates, you ought to take it easier when they are heading in the right direction. Just follow along and keep 'em going toward the gate. The Lord will do the rest.

Hearken Unto the Words of Christ

Nephi left Jerusalem with his family 600 years before Christ was born, his father Lehi leading them. Years later after recording the "things of the ministry" including many prophecies and the words of Isaiah as well as Nephi's brother Jacob, he leaves us with this firm testimony and promise.

2 Nephi 33 (The Book of Mormon)

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

12 And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.

13 And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.

14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.

15 For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.

Let us believe in Christ. Let us hearken to his words. Let us pray to the Father in his name. Let us partake of his goodness, of the atoning sacrifice he made for us. He knows our sorrows. Let us set aside our sins and take upon ourselves his yoke. He pulls harder than any man. And if we do, life and its many burdens will be made lighter, easier. And we will meet him again and fall down at his feet to worship him, our tears bathing the prints of the nails in his feet. And he will gently pull us up to with strong arms to receive his loving embrace and hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest."