Monday, September 17, 2018

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Thanks for dropping in!

Here are a few sacred stories from my time as a volunteer English teacher in the Marshall Islands in 2009-10. 

Start here to read about where the Marshalls are located and what I was  doing there.
Click here to read why I have two blogs: one secular and one sacred. 

Here are a few of my favorites from this blog of my spiritual experiences:


PS - Interested in seeing where my writing is taking me now? Visit

Thursday, April 29, 2010

“Temple Pilgrims”

One of the luxuries of being in the Marshall Islands is a quiet Sabbath. I’ve occasionally had unprecedented blocks of time for reading the scriptures as long as I like. Today I uncover a marvelous thing. Watch this.

I’m reading in Psalms and notice the header to Psalm 120: “A song of degrees.” I know the book of Psalms is the hymnbook for ancient Israel, but I wonder what “degrees” means. The Bible Dictionary entry for “degrees” has this short explanation: “Fifteen Psalms (120-134), probably so called because they were sung by Jewish pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem.” Jerusalem – the temple. I read the fifteen short psalms and discover that many are looking toward the hills and/or the temple.

I wonder whether modern-day temple pilgrims might pick a date to go to the temple that was at least 15 days off, and read one of these psalms a day. Most are 8 verses or fewer. Families could read them together and talk about what these ancient hymn lyrics must have meant to the temple pilgrims in David’s day as they journeyed to the temple, perhaps wondering if Jesus’s family read them when they went to the temple when Jesus was twelve.

After that scriptural preparation, the family could go to the temple together to do baptisms, or have a picnic on the temple grounds. (You mean it’s not 85 degrees there year-round? I keep forgetting that.)

The closest temple here is Hawaii, about 2100 miles away. Going to the temple personally is something I miss a lot, but I delight in finding gems about the temple in the scriptures.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Back Story: “I Have a Dream”

Sophia giving Martin Luther King a kiss

A friend wrote me, “Do you still feel called of God to be there?”

Yes. Oh yes.

Check out the photo of the speaker I’ve posted at my blog entry below entitled “General Conference: The Sequel.” I took the photo while I was watching Conference in Marshallese with the other members of my branch. Even though I couldn’t understand much, I just enjoyed feeling the Spirit. At one point I thought “I should get a picture of this – at least it will show the chapel in Ebeye with the TV in front and a General Authority speaking.” I snapped a photo of someone I didn’t know with a name I couldn’t pronounce – Russell T. Osguthorpe. After I got home, I looked at the photo and thought, “That was dumb. I should have gotten one of President Monson speaking – you know, prophet to the whole world.” But when I was sitting in the chapel, the idea just came into my mind and I took the picture. Whatever.

This week, the magazine came with the conference proceedings. I discovered that Pres. Osguthorpe’s talk was entitled “Teaching Helps Save Lives.” My prompting to take a picture during his talk was as if God wanted to make sure I particularly noted that talk, reminding me why I’m here.

In Osguthorpe’s talk, he quotes President Monson: “The goal of gospel teaching is not to ‘pour information’ into the minds of class members. . . . The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles.” (Ensign, 11/09, 15, italics in the original).

Today I happened upon this scripture: “Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls. Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men, for it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.” (Doctrine & Covenants 100:4-8)

Maybe my students will remember the difference between a noun and a pronoun; maybe they’ll remember which personal pronouns go with which gender. Or maybe they’ll remember the feeling they felt when they heard for the first time Dr. Martin Luther King declare:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together. We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. [Amos 5:24] And when that happens, all God’s children will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ebeye Hospital - Right at Home

Check out my “large plates” for the full story of my (largely unnecessary) hospitalization – Here’s the LDS angle:

In the emergency room, after getting my forehead stitched up, imagine how “at home” I felt when they gave me a ride upstairs to my hospital room in a wheelchair donated by . . . The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew the church had made wheelchair donations in various locations in the world; now I know the RMI is among them.

Then, when they wheeled me into my room, the first person to greet me was one of the sister missionaries in my branch! For just one day I roomed with the sister missionaries, one of whom was hospitalized for a boil on her foot. This is quite serious. According to Helen Claire Sievers, now of the Weston 1 Ward, many years ago her RMI branch president’s wife died from a boil, the infection from which spread into her bloodstream. This sister missionary had already spent 5 days in the hospital and was discharged the day I arrived. Interestingly, one of the sister missionaries is from Palau and the other is from Papua New Guinea.

Between the ride in the LDS-donated wheelchair and the sister missionary roommates, I felt right at home in the hospital from the first. In a situation that might have been quite unnerving, it was a sweet blessing to feel so comfortable and watched over by the Lord.

Monday, December 7, 2009

General Conference – The Sequel

At the end of November, almost two months after General Conference, we met on Sunday to hear the Marshallese translation of the Saturday sessions of conference. Both Ebeye 1st Branch and Ebeye 2nd Branch met together, with the children in the Primary room, partly to make space so that everyone could fit in the packed chapel. (By the way, the branches here are as large as any ward I’ve been in. I’m not sure why they’re branches and the larger unit is not a stake but a district. Something to do with priesthood leadership, I think.)

The DVD offered several Pacific language choices: Marshallese, Ponpeian, Chukese, Kosraean, Palauan, Yapese, and Tagalog. (Interestingly, the countries in which these languages are spoken are the stops along the way for the Continental “Island Hopper” flight path.)

As each speaker came to the podium, the English language track faded to the background while a Marshallese translator delivered the talk. Each speaker had a different translator, with men translating for the male speakers and women translating for the female speakers. Even with my limited Marshallese, I could discern the native speakers from the ribelle returned missionaries, who had excellent Marshallese pronunciation but an unmistakable American twang. In the few seconds while the translator took a breath, I could catch an English word or two from the background track, but it was seldom enough to follow the talks.

No attempt was made to translate the music, so the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang out their gorgeous soaring hymns in English. We joined them during the intermediate hymn, with all of us also singing in English. I suppose the Marshallese saints found it easier to follow the English words on the screen than to find the corresponding hymn in the limited Marshallese hymnbook (if there was one). It was the first hymn I’d sung in English in four months.

Although I could understand little of the Marshallese translation, I could read President Monson’s lips as he opened the session with his hearty, warm greeting, “My beloved brothers and sisters,” meant for everyone around the world.

Just like every Sunday, although I understood little of what’s going on, I enjoyed simply being with the Saints, gathering together to worship our common Father in Heaven.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

General Conference, Kwajalein Style

The school office

Time zone: “International Date Line West,” which means I’m sitting in the first time zone in the world. That means that General Conference, for which I hunger and thirst, will be broadcast on the internet at 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday and Monday here (10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Salt Lake City time).

I’m the only Mormon on Guegeegue (population 100). The other members of my branch are two islands away on Ebeye, an hour walk or ½ hour ride by rough, bumpy causeway (when I can get a ride). So I’ll be watching conference by myself.

Let’s see – the second session at 8 a.m. on Sunday is comfortably do-able. The Monday times won’t work, since I have to be in top shape to teach, starting at 8:30 a.m. that day. I’ll try to wake up for the 4 a.m. session on Sunday; it would sure be delicious if I could hear that session too. I spend the week before conference going to bed just a little earlier and waking a little earlier.

I also begin to include the conference speakers in my prayers. Perhaps General Authorities’ talks are revealed intact, but I suspect at least some of them come together like my sacrament meeting talks do, with a lot of prayerful hard work and study and several drafts and revisions. I pray for the choirs, who are rehearsing and preparing as well. I also pray for those behind-the-scenes men and women whose jobs are so essential to making this conference available to so many people in so many languages. I’m sure it takes a lot of hard work to make the impressive technology invisible, so as not to detract from the power of the messages.

Sunday, 3:15 a.m. – the eyes open. Let’s go!

I say a quick prayer of thanksgiving, get dressed in my Sunday best, and step outside into the salty night air to walk over to the school office where I can access the internet. The local stray dog joins me with a puzzled look; it’s a little dark for our morning walk along the ocean shore. I hope this is one of the days the internet is working (so far it’s been about 50/50).

3:45 a.m. I insert my office key into the lock and try to turn it. I’ve never before been successful with my office key, but one of the other teachers made it work after she spent a solid five minutes jiggling it. I’m sure I just need enough time to get the key to connect. I’ve got 15 minutes before conference begins.

4:10 a.m. – If time were all it took, I’d be hearing the soaring sounds of the choir by now instead of the gentle, constant roll of the ocean surf. Must not have been meant to be. Back to sleep for a couple of hours.

7:45 a.m. – Luckily, two teacher friends here are awake anyway. I ask them to let me into the office. The internet is working!!!!

8:00 a.m. – I relax into the comforting voices of the church leaders whose wise counsel I’ve listened to over the years, the familiar hymns sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the feeling of connection with latter-day saints around the world listening to the counsel of a living prophet. I have the honor of joining saints around the world, solemnly raising our right hands to sustain the prophet and other general authorities of the church, with me sitting alone (except for the stray dog at my feet) in a silent school office on a remote island in the Pacific.

I’m positive that all the general authorities have not suddenly developed speech impediments that require 15 second pauses every minute and a half. It’s the internet cutting in and out. But I’m able to piece together most of the talks. Dallin H. Oaks’s soothing, even-toned voice delivers exactly the message I need to hear as I consider how to work with that young man who won’t do a thing I ask in my 11th grade English class Section C. Elder Oaks reminds me: “Every parent [and teacher] knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.” Elder Boyd K. Packer teaches me in his matter-of-fact, gentle voice that “The Lord has many ways of pouring knowledge into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to warn us. Keep that channel—your mind—clean and free from the clutter of the world.” He said uncluttered – not untainted. I work at keeping the taint out most of the time, but life clutter – that’s another matter. I’ll try, President Packer.

Thomas S. Monson, a prophet to the world.
Jisos Kraist (his Marshallese name), a Savior for the nations, from eternity to eternity.
Heavenly Father (will He ever be Jememuij Ilan to me?), lovingly holding it all together, mindful of each and every one of His children – including me, and you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Worldwide Bond

My Spanish LIAHONA magazine is still coming here – the Spanish version of the church magazine for adults. I subscribed years ago, trying to keep my high school Spanish alive. I usually can only decipher the headlines of the articles, but I enjoy it.

I pick up the September issue in the post office in Ebeye and bring it home to read. I open to the article “Para que los cielos se abran” – “So that the heavens will open.” A photograph shows a woman kneeling in prayer holding a copy of Das Buch Mormon – a Book of Mormon in German. The article is written by Elder Kikuchi, a General Authority from Japan. I’m reading it sitting on my couch in the Marshall Islands.

I think of Nephi’s words: “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness . . . black and white, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile; and all are alike unto God.” (2 Nephi 26:33) I think of people throughout the earth, all seeking God’s peace, being welcomed by Him as they call on Him, and marvel again at the individual love God has for his billions of children all over the world.