Sunday, June 29, 2014

Changing of the Guard

By Debi:

Everyday there is a changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace in London.  There is much fanfare and people come just to watch the ceremony.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the changing of the guard happens much more quietly and with great humility.  We met President and Sister Keyes at the Kansas City Temple yesterday to pick up their car and send them on their way to the airport.  No crowds, no regrets, and no one trying to hold onto their power and position.

President and Sister Keyes' whole focus these last few months has been to make sure that everything was ready for President and Sister Vest and that the transition would happen smoothly for the Vests, for the missionaries, and for the members of the Church in the Missouri Independence Mission.

Mission accomplished.  President and Sister Vest met with the Keyes yesterday morning for two hours and then they met with the Assistants to the President for an hour.  They came to the office and met the office staff for a couple of hours just getting to know each other and get an idea of our responsibilities and callings.

President and Sister Vest, Missouri Independence Mission
Greg has had the privilege of being in the Mission Presidency with these fine men.  For the time being the counselors and executive secretary will continue serving with President Vest until he gets his feet on the ground and know the area and members.

Elder Haws, President Hepworth, President Keyes, President Medina

President and Sister Vest are wonderful people.  They are so excited to be here and start serving their full time mission.  They have been training since last November and they are ready to get going.
They are from Texas and he was an executive for Kimberly Clark.  They have 5 children and 9 grandchildren with more on the way.

They shared with us some of their experiences of being with the First Presidency and Apostles during their week of training at the MTC.  They both bore fervent testimonies of the reality that we have true Prophets, Seers, and Revelators leading our Church today.

It was a wonderful meeting and we are excited to help them adjust to mission life.  They will be fantastic.

I am so thankful for the great faith and diligence these two wonderful couples display. They are truly the Lord's servants and I am honored to know them both and have the wonderful opportunity to serve with both of them.

By Greg:

I have been a party to several transitions in my life, often called "changing of the guard" as Debi said.  In a few cases I have been the "new guy".

When I was a young missionary I was in the office when we said goodbye to our beloved President Hartman Rector and welcomed our equally beloved President Spencer H. Osborn.  I quickly learned that even though they were very different personalities, they were both called of God to lead us and to move the mission forward.

I have been very involved with assisting President Keyes in putting the affairs of the mission in order and preparing every needful thing so that the transition for the Vest's would be as smooth as possible.

I have previously talked about installing the new computers in the office.  In addition, I had to upgrade the computer in the mission home.  I needed to go to the home and have some "alone" time there to work.  This was difficult to arrange, but I saw a window of opportunity on Friday afternoon.

The Keyes spent their last night in the home, Thursday.  Friday morning it was cleaned.  The Vests arrived Saturday morning.  So I went there at 2:00 pm.  I had a key and the code to the alarm.

I had previously noticed that there was a wall safe.  President Keyes had never used it and did not know how to open it.  So I called a safe cracker from Gregg's Locks and Keys (not me) and he came.  It is an old Sears model.

 I guess I had the idea that he would use a doctors stethoscope and listen to the tumblers and open it.  Not so.  He said, "I can drill it or I can bust it, which would you like?" I did not want either.  Well, as I was moving the old printer, a paper feel on the floor.  It was instructions on opening an old Sears safe, and a combination.  I tried it, first going right 4 times.  Then I tried going left 4 times.  The combination did not open it.  But I decided to call off the "cracker" (not a derogatory white male term)  and send him on his way.  We would have to think about it some more.

I had worked the new laptop in the office, and had it ready to go.  I ordered a "docking station" and a larger monitor, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard.  He was to have a better setup than President Keyes had.  President Keyes had a little board, like a kitchen chopping block, that he pulled out and put his laptop on.  I even found a table that we could use temporarily.

I ordered a new printer.  His was a standard black and white.  The handbook called for a multi-function color printer.  I got a HP Wireless printer.  But I did not know how to set up a wireless printer.  I called the Salt Lake Global Help Line and after an hour and a half, we gave up.  I then called HP's global help desk and got my new best friend, Jayco, in India.  I thought of the Rudyard Kipling poem:

Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.

He was the "finest man I ever knew"

Well, maybe Jayco was a relative, but after only another half hour I had a fully operational wireless printer connected to the laptop that was sitting in a docking port that was hooked to the internet and was supporting a large color monitor, a wireless mouse and a keyboard.  It can scan, copy, fax, cook breakfast and all of this without any wires connected.  And my mother wanted me to explain to her how a cell phone worked!

We also put this big 3-ring binder together with everything we could think of that President Vest might want to know.  It was a huge effort by the office staff, and President Keyes wanted it just right.  He really wanted to leave the mission with no loose ties.

Well, we got them to the airplane, and we met the Vest.  We love them already.  I only got one call from them last night.  They were sort of lost, and they wanted to know if we had a GPS navigation devise, or do their smartphones have a data plan?  I hope they got home safe.

Today I called the Sprint help line and yes, they really should be smart (the phones that is) and even though they have not been fully used in the past, they will soon be sending and receiving texts, email, internet, pictures and other data.

When I was a public official, I attended several public relations training sessions.  One man said that we should all memorize three things, and when faced with any disaster or emergency repeat the following:

1.  We are here
2.  We are assessing the situation
3.  We are prepared to take the appropriate actions needed

We are servants of the Most High God.  It is an honor and a privilege to SERVE!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Turning the corner

In every race, the racers "turn the corner" and enter the "home stretch".  As we approach our final month we feel like that is what we are doing.  In the Book of Mormon, Jacob said these words:  

"And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; (we, Greg and Debi also feel old!) and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, (our personal journals) wherefore, I conclude this record (our blog), declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people (only Greg is loathsome) , wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem (Hooper), born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days."

Well, we don't know about the mourning out our days, but we have wandered a bit these past 23 months. Soon we will "settle down" but not yet!

And this is not our last post.

By Debi:

Greg and I have a lot of different assignments in the office and one of them is the supplies for the office and whole mission.  This is a picture of our supply closet.  It is full of Books of Mormon in English and about 20 other languages.  We have shelves full of all of the pamphlets the Church produces, DVD's the missionaries show to their investigators and the daily planners that the missionaries us everyday.

These three Elders are assigned to the Independence area.  They live close to the office and we see them often.  Starting in the back they are: Elder Brasseaux, Elder Elwood, and Elder Huston.  They are great missionaries and very excited about preaching the gospel to the world.  They found out that President Keyes holds the mission record of handing out 323 Books of Mormon in a month when he was here as a young Elder.  These three decided to accept the challenge and are on their way to breaking his record. (Notice the picture above.  Those are cases of Books of Mormon. The picture below we are almost running out!)

There are some rules they have to follow.  It has to be a good contact and a promise that they will read the book.  They can't go to a home and hand out five books to one family.  They have to stay in their area.  So far when I saw them on Friday they had handed out 275 books. If they continue they will reach their goal.  We are all cheering for them.  They are getting exhausted but still have the fire!

Last week President and Sister Keyes sent their last group of missionaries home.  Each transfer the President and Sister Keyes takes the Sisters and Elders to the temple on their way to the airport.  It is a very special day for all of them. This is a picture of them just coming out of the Kansas City Temple. This is a very special group.  One that will be remembered by all.  Some of the best of the best are in this group.  It was a very emotional day for the Keyes.  They are very involved with each missionary and love them with a pure love. We have all been blessed by their leadership and love.

In the middle of May we had a very special two days.  President and Sister Keyes had all of the missionaries of the mission come to the temple.  The missionaries were divided up into 4 groups.  The President and Sister Keyes went with each group through the temple.  This is a picture of one of the groups entering the temple.  What a picture of a magnificent group of young men (the Sisters had already entered the temple before I could get my camera ready).  As I watched them enter the temple I was over come with gratitude to be able to have the experience of seeing the strength of the youth in this Church in action.  We love these missionaries.

Even though I am so excited to see my children and grandchildren and to have them in my arms I will always cherish the memories of this mission and the blessing it has been in my live.

By Greg:

I still am amazed at this area.  Independence has so much history.  There are old neighborhoods that seem to speak out to me.  Also, the greater Kansas City area is so cool.

Debi had an assignment a couple of  Saturdays ago and I had some time alone.  I went to the annual Independence Strawberry Festival, which wasn't that great, and they did not really have any strawberries, but it was at this old mansion, and that was pretty great.

There is a lot of what some people call "Old Money" around here.  Some of that money was used to build nice houses.  This mansion is on the road that used to come from the docks on the Missouri River to the center of Independence, which is about 2 miles long, up hill from the river.

Independence claims to be the trail head for three trails: the Santa Fe, the Oregon, and the California. The Mormon Trail west did not start here, but rather from here  went to northern Missouri, then to Nauvoo, then to Winter Quarters Iowa, and then west.  But the three trails got their supplies and goods from the river, and then loaded them on wagons and off they went.  Thousands and thousands of men, mules and wagons, and wealth.  Hence, Josiah Steed. Later, the main port moved west a few miles to Westport, or really, Kansas City.

Last Saturday we went on a bike ride back to the river park by the plaza.  They were having a Dragon Boat Festival, like a Chinese New Year.  It was cool.  We cheered on the local Rotary team as they went on to victory.  None of them were Chinese, but hey, I used to be a Rotarian!

One more thing about Independence.  This is a "Latter-day Saint" town.  I have come to love and admire the sons of Joseph Smith, the Seer.  I am not happy about the "restoration movement" and I wish Emma had gone west with Brigham, but her sons were good, kind and gentle men who sought to establish Zion through preaching peace.  I hope this story has a happy ending.

The RLDS established a college here, lots of churches, a hospital, and a cemetery.  We drove through it and realized it is the final resting place of more people than just deceased RLDS, but it contains the bodies of a lot of RLDS people. Here we found the "Sons of the Prophet".

This is the grave of Joseph Smith III, 1st President of the RLDS Church (that is me on the right)
Frederick Madison Smith, son of Joseph III, was the 2nd President He died in 1946
Israel A. Smith was the younger brother of F. M. Smith and was president until 1958

In 1958, (I was 6 years old) William Wallace Smith, half brother to Israel became president. He served until his son made him emeritus and assumed the role of president.  He was Wallace B. Smith.  In 1996, he ordained W. Grant McMurray as prophet and president, and all the hoop-ta-la about lineal succession seemed not as important as it once was.

We attended a baptism yesterday.  A young adult, who will be part of the branch was baptized.  A lot of the branch was there.  Six sister missionaries, one set of Elders, us, a bishop and the branch president.  It is so important that people come into this Church with support.  We saw it yesterday.

Oh, that many more, hundreds, even thousands, perhaps millions, will hear this call to "Come unto Christ".

"In the Missouri Independence Mission we find, teach, baptize, confirm, retain and activate."  That is our motto.

Our purpose as missionaries is to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."

As we approach the end of our mission, we feel to join with Moroni and declare:

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Brigham Young, Joseph Smith III and fry sauce

By Greg:

In 1994 we ventured off the reservation and built a business in Layton, Utah.  We called it The Burger Bar of Layton, to distinguish it from THE Burger Bar (located in Roy, and featured on the Food Channel in Diners, Drive-ins, Dives ETC).  For 15 years this was our life, and a big part of the life of all our family.  We sold it and retired, ha ha! Oh, the buyer turned it into a Starbucks.

This was a happy day for me

We did not give our children a vote when we decided to sell

We fed the missionaries for free-even on our last day they came (The family is our Daughter's family-the Eardleys)

One of the claims the Fowler family (Debi's family and the founders of THE Burger Bar) makes with the Burger Bar is that they invented fry sauce. Now I fully understand that Arctic Circle makes the same claim, but this is my story and I am sticking to it. This is like some other claims that are in dispute.

After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, many in the Church wandered in the wilderness, like sheep without a shepherd.  The largest group followed Brigham Young to the Rocky Mountains.  Others were lost until the Prophet's oldest surviving son came of age and the "reorganization" occurred, gathering up many of the lost sheep in western Iowa (Winter Quarters), Illinois, and various locations throughout the United States.  The question became, "Who really invented fry sauce?" Oh, I mean, "Which group is the rightful heir to the Prophet Joseph.

Brigham Young

Joseph Smith III

In the the 1890s, the RLDS Church went to court with the Church of Christ Temple Lot folks to try to reclaim the temple lot in Independence,  After appeal, they lost the claim to the land, but the Judge declared that they were the Church that was the true successor to the Church Joseph Smith established.  They were very proud of this and even went so far as to carve the following words on the Kirtland Temple:"HOUSE OF THE LORD, REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS IN SUCCESSION BY ORDER OF COURT FEBRUARY, 1880.

Well, the "proof is in the pudding" as they say. I have not seen Arctic Circle on the Food Channel!  Also, In the year 1900, the RLDS reported 43,824 members while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported 283,765 members. They say today they have about 250,000 members while we are over 15 million. They have one temple and we have more than that.

They did not get the "Temple Lot"but today they have it surrounded

There is a vast difference in the use and purpose of our temples, however
OK, lets get back to fry sauce, and onion rings.

By Debi:

If you just understood Greg's entry, you are amazing or weird.

The Young Single Adult Branch had a great swimming social last week at President Thorne's home. He is the Branch President of the Liberty Young Single Adults branch and has a very lovely home and yard.

This is the pool and pool house-in the back yard behind their house
We have told the branch leaders about the Burger Bar and the homemade onion rings and fry sauce.  They begged us to make some for them so we decided that the first cook-out of the summer would be the perfect time. They do not have fry sauce out here, but many are either from Utah or have lived there (going to school etc).

We decided to slice the onions outside so we did not mess up the apartments with the smell-we should have done this at the BBL

To you BBL veterans, you will know that the only way to make the sauce is with a drill

My wonderful brother Dave sent us the secret ingredients for the fry sauce and onion rings all the way from Utah.  He even donated the supplies to the event. A senior missionary couple from Hooper, our dear friends the Flints, were driving out to their mission so they brought all of the supplies for us. We bought the onions at Costco, however.

Greg and I worked hard cutting 30 pounds of onions by hand (at the restaurant we would have used our lovely slicer). We then divided the rings and put them in cold water in the fridge to wait for the next process.

Onion rings take three days to make if you do them right.  We had our fridge packed with onions and we even used the fridge at the office to hold all of the sauce we made.

We used all the ketchup bottles for the extra sauce that we gave to some of the most loyal fans

On Monday morning we coated all of the onions with buttermilk and cracker meal and we made 5 gallons of fry sauce.

This is the kitchen in the Thorne's pool house-we made 4 big tubs and 6 small tubs of rings

I was a little nervous because I had never made onions to cook in someone's home fryers in their backyard but we decided that we would give it our best shot.

This our dear friend Brother Jury, 1st Counselor and the fryers

President and Sister Thorne have a beautiful home, yard and pool area.

The kitchen we used is not the kitchen in their house.  It is the kitchen for their outdoor pool area.  They have a full kitchen, beautiful dressing rooms, and a lovely entertainment area with a huge screen TV and seating area.

The onion rings turned out beautiful and everyone went crazy over them.

A lot of the YSAs had never had fry sauce before.  At first they just tasted it and then they started dipping their onion rings deep and long into the "pink stuff". They are now converts to Utah fry sauce.

We had a great time and it was a big success. The first week we attended the Branch last September there were about 20 YSAs in Sacrament Meeting.  Last week we had well over 80 YSAs at Church and again at our Summer Swim Party.  We are so thrilled to have had the blessing of being part of the YSA Branch.  It truly has been the highlight of our time here in Missouri.  

We enjoyed the evening with the YSAs and with the Branch Presidency and their wives.

We love them all and we have grown very close to them.  They feel like family.

Isn't that what it is all about?  President Monson said  "Love is the Essence of the Gospel".