Rocks in Our Backpack

At a certain age, we all put on a pack. It is small and has nothing in it at first. We're told subconsciously that we can never take out anything that we put into it without help from a very specific person. We're also told that only one kind of thing can go into it. Each of these things has a different weight, but all of them are heavy. These things are not rocks, but for our purposes here, we'll call them rocks.

The first few times we put those rocks into the pack, they feel pretty heavy, but with help readily available, and guidance from parents, the rocks are easily removed. As time goes by, sometimes we drift away from our parents and that one who can take the rocks out of our pack.

Sometimes we go a long time without putting any real big rocks in, but when we do, we often realize we've put many small rocks in without thinking much about it, and suddenly the pack feels very heavy, dragging us almost as much as we drag it along the road we travel.

Sometimes we forget altogether about the only one who can remove the rocks from our pack. Sometimes after we try very hard, we become good at pretending the weight of the rocks doesn't bother us. We even make friends with others who have equally heavy packs who will tell us there is no pack of rocks but that it's just an ordinary part of life. Sometimes they will even pick up two big rocks, put one in their own bag, and give you the other one for your bag which you readily add to the pile.

Sooner or later, some of us find ourselves tugging and hauling that pack on a lonely road, all by ourselves. We collapse in exhaustion and with cry of despair, we look behind us and see how enormous that pack has become. The sight can be overwhelming. How did it grow so heavy, we ask ourselves.

Then a stranger comes down the road and offers to help. At first we don't recognize him because we've been on a very rocky path and our attention was focused more on collecting rocks. We didn't notice that the stranger, whom we once knew very well, was so often stopped on the side of the road helping others. Our focus was on collecting more rocks.

Now finally we can go no further, and we recognize that stranger. He is the one. The only one who can remove the rocks from our pack. We beg him to help us. We tell him how sorry we are to have forgotten about him. He smiles and takes us by the hand, pulling us up to our feet. One by one he removes our rocks from our pack and puts them into the pack he carries on his back. As he does so, we notice that the rocks have grown sharp and treacherous. His hands are bruised and bleed as he willingly takes each rock from our pack.

Now we feel lighter than air. We notice that the rocks he has put into his own pack seem to get smaller and lighter until they entirely disappear. We wonder how it is done. We want to stay by his side and promise him that we will not pick up any more rocks. He hugs us, smiles, and walks with us for a while until we drift away, forgetting the burden of the rocks. We think, just one or two rocks won't be that heavy. And so it goes until we're right back in the middle of that rocky road. And there is our friend once again.

This time as he pulls the rocks from our pack, we determine to avoid rocks for good. We repeat this process until we only occasionally stoop to put in a pebble, still walking with our friend, but now that little pebble feels awfully heavy as we're used to having very few rocks in our pack, and luckily he's right there to remove them just as soon as we ask.

There will always be rocks on the road, but if we stay close to Christ, he will willingly remove the rocks from our pack when we ask. And as we grow wiser and older, we will lose interest in most rocks, and bending over to pick them up will seem like more work than it's worth.

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.

We Are Mortal - Weak and Imperfect

I believe it's healthy to realize that all people make mistakes and have weaknesses and fall far short of perfection. This includes all who serve in Church leadership.

It's equally unhealthy to assume that Church leaders are infallible or beyond reproach. There has been far too much of that and it has damaged many lives. We must stop doing that.

As long as it's run by mortal men, the Church will make mistakes and eventual corrections. For decades many tried to convince us otherwise. It often resulted in testimonies, based on false assumptions, too easily assailed.

Only the Lord is perfect. Thankfully He has an amazing capacity for patience as He works with weak men to bring about His purposes on earth.

I fully sustain Church leaders but have never believed they are more than men and women who struggle every day, just like the rest of us, to serve God in the best way they know how.

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.”

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 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.

Step Into the Light and Be Free

When we step into the light of Christ, we break free of the shadows of sorrow, depression, failure and sin. There in that light our soul absorbs the power of the Son through the gift of His Atonement. He suffered all that mortality has ever caused all of us to suffer, individually and infinitely. 

Because He knows exactly what we are going though, He can make our burdens light when we take His yoke upon ourselves, when we step into His light and bask in the glow of knowing that we are not alone, that we are loved and worthy of love!

Come unto Christ, all you who labor under the burdens of mortality, and He will give you rest. He will give you living water to drink and soothe your tired soul. In His hands you will find the loving embrace of one who truly does know exactly how you feel. And He made it through. You are not alone. He will never abandon you.

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."

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.