A witness from God can be relied upon. As you read our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, we invite you to obtain a witness for yourself. If something we say or imply does not ring true, then you should feel no obligation to accept it. Life is an individual and unique journey with God. Although we can help and encourage each other, we need to be careful not to come between God and another person.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swimming in the Canal

After a hot day of hard work, the children often find energy and new life by swimming in the irrigation canal. The water is cool and refreshing, and everyone looks forward to an afternoon swim.

One of our favorite swimming spots is located at a mini dam in the lower canal where the water backs up and creates a perfect swimming hole. The area is partly surrounded by concrete walls, which provide us opportunities to jump and dive into deep water.

Children have a knack at coming up with all kinds of fun games and creative ways to amuse themselves. It’s amazing how they can be entertained for hours using natural resources provided by God. 

Sometimes we take goggles and snorkels. It’s great until a mischievous sibling pours a little water down the snorkel of another. All is well after a little coughing and sputtering. Some like to go under the water, hold their breath, and see how long they can stay under. Water fights, splashing each other, and swimming contests often happen. Some like to smoothly dive into the cool water. Others prefer belly flops, splashes, and games.

Everyone enjoys swimming, laughing out loud, and coming back for more excitement. I think it’s healthy for us to work, play, and spend fun time together.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Prophet’s Last Dream – A View of My Old Farm

We’ve been talking about parables, symbols, and what the Lord has to unveil to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Joseph Smith had this dream the night before he was martyred. What do we learn from the Prophet’s dream? What do the symbols reveal?

“Joseph related the following dream which he had last night: I was back in Kirtland, Ohio, and thought I would take a walk out by myself, and view my old farm, which I found grown up with weeds and brambles, and altogether bearing evidence of neglect and want of culture. I went into the barn, which I found without floor or doors, with the weather-boarding off, and was altogether in keeping with the farm.”

What does Joseph’s old farm represent? What does the barn symbolize? Who is supposed to be taking care of the farm?  What do the weeds and brambles that are permitted to grow signify? What do the floor, doors, and weather-boarding suggest? Who removed these items? Why is the removal of these things significant?

"While I viewed the desolation around me, and was contemplating how it might be recovered from the curse upon it, there came rushing into the barn a company of furious men, who commenced to pick a quarrel with me.”

When Joseph sees the condition of his farm, what are his first thoughts? Is Joseph blaming anyone? Or is he simply observing the situation and considering possibilities to improve its condition? Why is the farm cursed?  Why does a company of furious men meet Joseph in the barn? Why not outside, in the house, or elsewhere? Who are these furious men? Why do they pick a quarrel with Joseph? Why do they initiate the quarrel?

"The leader of the party ordered me to leave the barn and farm, stating it was none of mine, and that I must give up all hope of ever possessing it.”

Why does the leader order Joseph to leave the farm? Who cleared the ground, built the barn, cultivated the fields, and cared for the farm? Does the party recognize Joseph as the rightful owner? Why are these imposters so possessive of the disorderly barn and farm?

"I told him the farm was given me by the Church, and although I had not had any use of it for some time back, still I had not sold it, and according to righteous principles it belonged to me or the Church.”

What makes Joseph the rightful title-holder of the farm?  Why has Joseph been away for some time? Where has Joseph been? Who has usurped Joseph’s position?

"He then grew furious and began to rail upon me, and threaten me, and said it never did belong to me nor to the Church.”

Why is this leader so furious?  Why does the leader rail, threaten, and lie? Why does this bunch of hooligans claim that Joseph was never in the picture and definitely want him out of the picture now?

"I then told him that I did not think it worth contending about, that I had no desire to live upon it in its present state, and if he thought he had a better right I would not quarrel with him about it but leave; but my assurance that I would not trouble him at present did not seem to satisfy him, as he seemed determined to quarrel with me, and threatened me with the destruction of my body.”

Why doesn’t Joseph want to live on the farm in its present state? Why doesn’t Joseph quarrel about the leader’s right? The leader told Joseph to leave; Joseph is willing to leave. Why doesn’t this satisfy the leader? Why is Joseph’s presence threatening? Why is the leader still determined to pick a fight with Joseph? Why is Joseph’s life threatened?

"While he was thus engaged, pouring out his bitter words upon me, a rabble rushed in and nearly filled the barn, drew out their knives, and began to quarrel among themselves for the premises, and for a moment forgot me, at which time I took the opportunity to walk out of the barn about up to my ankles in mud.”

Who is this rabble?  Do we use the tool of contention? Do we fight with one another? Where will this approach place us? Who will be forgotten? Who may walk out and leave unnoticed? How is Joseph’s life preserved? What does the mud represent? Why is the mud up to his ankles and thus covering his feet?

"When I was a little distance from the barn, I heard them screeching and screaming in a very distressed manner, as it appeared they had engaged in a general fight with their knives. While they were thus engaged, the dream or vision ended." TPJS 393-394

Who is participating in the fight? Who is going to be screeching and screaming in a very distressed manner in the Day of Judgment? Do we want to join the brawl? What other options do we have? Why was this Joseph’s last dream before he died?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Old Paradise Church – Corner Stones, Rocks, Bells, and Towers

On Friday, April 13, 2012 as we were transplanting bushes and trees, a man came to look at the cornerstones of the original building.  He told us that they plan to use one of the original cornerstones in the new building.  They plan to make a monument out of the other cornerstone. 

To get to the cornerstones, a large juniper bush was uprooted and overturned, and holes were dug.  

Original rock will become part of a stone façade and plans call for a modified steeple that doubles as a bell tower, housing the original bell from the 19th century church.

Corner stones, rocks, bells, and towers have symbolic meaning.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. Helaman 5:12

Dark storms are coming. If they haven’t reached us yet, they are on their way. Upon what rock must we build our foundation?  This seems like a redundant question, but what doctrine do we believe and teach?  Do we build our foundation upon men? Institutions? Or do we build upon the rock of our Redeemer? Can we build our foundation upon men and upon Christ at the same time?

Do we trust in Jesus to deliver and redeem us?  Why do men seek to displace Christ?  What will happen to those who fall for this clever deception? Can a man save us? Protect us?

Who is our compass when the devil sends forth his mighty winds of confusion? Who stands guard as shafts in the whirlwind come from all directions seeking to destroy? Who is our covering when hail and mighty storms beat upon us? In whom do we place our trust? Who is the only one with power to save?

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matt 7:24-29 

What was the doctrine of the scribes? Why are the people astonished at Jesus’ doctrine? What is the difference between those that hear and doeth and those that hear and doeth not? What is Christ asking us to do? Are we doing it? Are we ready for the approaching storm?

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.

And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.

And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.

And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:

This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way. Mark 12:1-12

Who are the husbandmen? What is the vineyard? What was the purpose of the tower? Why does the Lord let the husbandmen be in charge of His vineyard? What is he expecting from the husbandmen? What is the expected fruit? What do the husbandmen do to the Lord’s servants? What do the husbandmen do to God’s son? What will the Lord of the vineyard do to the husbandmen?  Who will the vineyard be given to? Who is the stone that is rejected?  What will the stone become? Are we building upon the stone? Have we become precious fruit  worth preserving?

Jesus can teach us so much using parables. He puts the mysteries of God on display for everyone with eyes to see. Are we ready for what Christ has to teach us? Heaven speaks in symbols. God has created parables for us. There are parables that happen right before our very eyes every day. You might even call them living parables. 

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. Isaiah 28:16-17 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Old Paradise Church – Demolition

We were down at the church cutting trees when the demolition began.  The street was lined with curious onlookers. Even though it’s heartbreaking to see the Old Paradise Church ruined, I found the demolition process to be very interesting.

They are planning to use some of the original rock in the façade of the new church.  At the beginning stages of demolition, they left the walls standing while they pushed the roof down into interior of the original building.  Then they pulled the rock walls outward, and a big cloud of dust went up.  A loader was used to scoop up the rock and put it in a pile.  They will use some of the rock on the new church and let the members of the community take the rest of it in remembrance of the Old Paradise Church.

The track hoe operators seemed to know the routine of razing a building and chose bearing walls and supporting beams as the first objects to damage and weaken. This corrupted the structural integrity of the church. 

Using this tactic and polluting the strength of key structural components, the building crumbled and collapsed. The veneer and façade disappeared, and the overall appearance changed rapidly. The outer shell, shingles, roofs, trusses, adjoining inner walls, and many other non-structural features of the church came tumbling down. Without the sustaining, bearing, and structural parts that supported the adjoining sections, the entire façade went to ruin, and the exterior form fell to pieces.


As things fell to the ground in a cloud of dust, the track hoe operator used the big heavy bucket and systematically crushed the unbroken material, packed it down tight, and drove upon it. The fallen pieces of the destroyed church were squashed, run over, and used as a higher platform to support the merciless, destroying track hoe. 

Being in a position of power, the track hoe continued unrelentingly tearing down, tromping under its tracks, and destroying the church building.

On the eighth day of demolition, the entire church was leveled flat; except for one stonewall that remained upright. Rubble, disorder, and chaos reigned with objects protruding here and there and everywhere. It was a complete mess. The sight of the destroyed church turned out to be a little harder on me than I expected. The feelings that were created caused some emotion. It was more distressing than any other demolition experience I have witnessed before.

It looked like a war zone of desolation that needed a major cleanup job. A track hoe was positioned on top of the remains of the dismantled church. Scattered debris was pushed into a pile. The track hoe advanced upon, mashed, broke, and chopped up the waste. It systematically scooped up the remaining pieces of the church and dumped the garbage into large semi dump trailers. Several semi dump trailers were running to and from a dump location. The mess began disappearing rather quickly. In a short time, the heart of Paradise transformed from a place of worship that held many memories to a vacant lot. 

A new modern church building is anticipated to take its place. It’s quick and easy to destroy and requires little effort; but time, patience, knowledge, and work are required for creation.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Old Paradise Church – Removing Large Trees

We’ve been praying and looking for a source where we can get some pinewood.  Last year we were able to heat our home all winter using our wood-burning fireplace. The children also have some projects in mind.  Jared has an interest in building natural country furniture. We can even use the wood to build little, log cabin clubhouses.  There are all sorts of things we can do with a pile of wood.

While we were removing the bushes at the Old Paradise Church, we looked up and noticed the huge pine trees that surrounded the church.  They’ve been there for a long time and have strong, deep roots.  The thought came, there’s no way they can build the new church with those gigantic trees in the way. 

We contacted the stake president, and he gave us permission to cut down the trees closest to the building. There were ten pine trees and two deciduous trees, twelve in all.  During this last month, we’ve spent many days felling, sawing, and hauling away the massive trees that needed to be removed. In turn, our prayers were fulfilled.  We obtained wood and had opportunities for our family to work together. God really does hear our prayers and generously provides for his children.

The children stood back in awe as the trees came falling down. There were so many branches and pine needles that it turned into a larger than life playground of climbing and hide-n-seek. 

The children also helped drag, lift, load, and unload the branches. In the process, everyone seemed to get a few scratches, sore hands, and bruises here and there. The children learned that logging can be tiring and demanding but full of satisfaction and fun too


Marianne, our three-year-old, was a little tired and wanted to take a break. She found a stump that was freshly cut the day before. It appeared to be a good chair and just the right height for her to sit and rest awhile, but it turned out to be very sticky. During the night, the pine gum must have seeped out of the live stump. There was enough to cover the stump and soak through her pants all the way down to the skin.

Initially no one knew what had happened, and she said nothing about it. She was not stuck to the stump, so she continued playing. It wasn’t until potty time that we realized her predicament. Her underwear was stuck to her little behind, and her pants were more than glued to her underwear. It was a major feat, in and of itself, to get her underpants disconnected from her bum without tearing off a little skin. Oh, the experiences and joys of a lumberjack!

While we were working, a crane lifted a man up in a man box to disassemble and remove the ball and top of the steeple. We watched in fascination. The children thought it would be quite scary to be in the man box as it swung around in the air.  The crane lifted it up and down several times to get additional tools and accessories.  It was exciting to watch and gave us a break from hard work.

There were three trees that we didn’t remove because it wasn’t safe to do so.  A power line ran through the trees; we decided to wait until the contractor disconnected the power before we attempted to take down the trees.

We were told that most of the old trees situated around the outer perimeter are going to be part of the new project and will fit into the new landscape. When we drove through town, we would go by the church and check if the power line was disconnected.  

On May 15, 2012 as we were coming home from the post office, we noticed a chain link fence surrounding the church.  We stopped and talked to the foreman about removing the pine trees that had the power line running through them. He didn’t want anyone inside of the fenced area and said the demolition crew would finish up the job. The track hoe was in process of knocking down trees that were in the way.  The foreman said we could have all the firewood we wanted. The trees were located outside the fence on the north end of the church. 

When we went to see what he was talking about, we were shocked to see so many trees uprooted.  We watched as the track hoe pushed down the trees; they easily fell over.  A track hoe can take down a tree a lot faster than our little Bobcat and chain saw. 

We were under the impression the trees in the front yard and north field were staying, but the contractors have a plan, and many of those big trees are in the way. So many big beautiful trees came down in just one afternoon.  Even some of our little curly trees were knocked over.  We would like to have saved those curly trees.  

When the foreman saw us show up the next day with a Bobcat and trailer, he came over and talked to us. He said, “It looks like you know what you’re doing.  You can go on the other side of the fence to get the rest of the wood, just shut the gate behind you.”  Even with permission, we felt uncomfortable going on the other side of the fence.  We didn’t want to explain our situation to onlookers.  It might also set precedence for others who did not receive permission.  After talking to the foreman about our concerns, he pulled the wood to the outside of the fence so we could saw, load, and haul it away.

We worked for several days sawing, loading, and hauling wood.  We asked God for wood, and he gave us more than we have energy to gather.  Other members of the community came to gather firewood. A few of them wanted wood for different projects they have in mind.  There is enough and to spare. Everyone gathered all the wood they wanted. Piles of available wood still sit waiting for someone to come and claim.