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.

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.

What is Happiness?

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255–56).

I believe him.

Wild Horses on Missouri Creek

A few days ago, we found this bay stallion with his two mares just over the Colorado border on Missouri Creek near Dragon, Utah, an old gilsonite mining ghost town. As we stopped to watch them, he nervously paced back and forth protecting the mares that had trotted away when we pulled up. I was impressed by his defiance of the threat and his willingness to protect his own.

His beautiful bay coat is covered in dry mud which I'm sure was a cool roll in a recent rain slicked earth. The black mane and overall conformation makes me think he's descended from a fine Morgan line.

I wonder if we look out for those we love as well as this amazing stallion does his small harem. Are we willing to stand up to forces we do not recognize or understand? Do we overcome our own fears to watch over those who rely upon us? What can we learn from the Stallion of Missouri Creek?

And They Followed Him

While Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, there were two blind men sitting by the road. Think of them as ourselves. Are we too blind?

These men called out to Jesus and begged for mercy. He stopped and asked them what they wanted him to do for them. Of course they asked to receive their sight. Matthew records the Master's response in this way.

Matthew 20:34 (KJV): "So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."

In such a short sentence Matthew conveys some great lessons. First, is the Lord's great capacity for compassion. Second, that Christ will touch those on whom he has compassion. Third, that we can receive immediate blessings from Him through faith. And finally, that the mark of true disciples who have received their sight is that they follow Him.

Do you call out to Him in faith? Will you see? Will you follow Him?

Recognize the Lord in Our Lives

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, he looked out upon her and wept for its wickedness and imminent destruction. These were his people and they, except for a few, had not recognized him, as had been prophesied, yet he had compassion on them.

Luke 19 (KJV)

41 ¶ And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

I hope that we will each learn to recognize the works of the Lord in our own lives, that we will embrace him and love to serve him as we serve others.

Take a moment today to recognize someone in your path as one you can lift a little with a kind word or a hug. Listen for a moment and see them as the Lord might. Then you will bring a little of the Lord's peace into their life and your life.

We Are Made Alive in Christ

"...we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." ~2 Nephi 25:25-26 (Book of Mormon)

We are God's children living in a fallen mortal state where we are tested that we might prove worthy to return and live with him. But we all fall short. We are not perfect as we must be to live with God. In His infinite wisdom God provided a plan whereby we might overcome our imperfections. This great plan of happiness requires a saviour to step forward and pay the price for our sins. God's firstborn in the spirit stepped forward and said, "Here am I. Send me."

It is through the grace of his atoning sacrifice that we may be made clean and worthy to enter into God's kingdom. I am so grateful for this blessing in our lives. Let us embrace our Saviour Jesus Christ and follow him in every way we can.