The Fish Were Thirsty — May 20, 2015

Fish on bamboo sticks grilled until dry and crisp

Fish on bamboo sticks grilled until dry and crisp

Look for the light
Look to the light


"Fire tree" at the temple

“Fire tree” at the temple

As we left the teaching appointment and were walking along a berm through the fallow rice fields, we turned back to wave at the man standing in front of his nipa hut. One of the sister missionaries could not help making a comment.

I love that man so much! I don’t know why it is, but I have been so touched by the old “tatays” (a Cebuano term of respect for older men) that I have met on my mission. I am remembering a tatay that I worked with on another island.

She paused in her story as we detoured around a carabao (water buffalo) staked near the path.

Then she told about an old fisherman named Edgardo. Actually, he was the town drunk. He was known for drinking a gallon of tuba (coconut wine) every day. That was a lot, even for him!

He hung around while they were teaching his mother, but never participated in the discussions. His mother became less interested, and the missionaries said they would need to stop their visits. Then the fisherman spoke for the first time.

I’ll listen to you.

Really? Are you sure.

Yes. I want to listen.

The man came to church the next Sunday. The church was a long way from his home, and he walked the whole way.

Tatay, you are here! And you have a new haircut!

Yes, I cut my hair so I could come to church.

The sisters gave him a Book of Mormon.

Sisters, what do you want me to read?

Well, Brother, why don’t you just start at the beginning?

At the next visit, he showed them where he had been reading.

Okay, Brother, you have been reading in 1 Nephi. What did it say?

Sisters, I don’t know.

Well, keep reading.

He reported again at the next visit.

Where are you reading now?

2 Nephi.

What did it say?

The fish died.

The fish died?

Yes. They were stinking.

Tatay, are you sure?

Yes. The fish died because they were thirsty.

Oh, Brother! The fish were thirsty? You think that is what you read?

Yes, Sister.

Show us where you read that!

The man pointed to 2 Nephi 7:2. The sister read where he pointed and her jaw dropped.

Behold, at my rebuke, I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness, and their fish to stink because the waters are dried up, and they die because of thirst.”.

Brother, you got that exactly right! That is a quote from Isaiah (see Isaiah 50:2), and you understood it perfectly! Of all the verses in the Book of Mormon, you understood Isaiah!

I have quit drinking, too.

You have quit drinking “tuba”?

Yes, except for a small glass at night so I can sleep.

Only one glass?

Yes, just one small glass.

That is great! Keep up the good work, Brother.

At the next visit, the brother had more news.

Sisters, I have something to tell you.

What do you have to tell us?

I have quit drinking.

Except for one small glass?

No, none at all. I have no desire all to drink!


He continued to go to church and the missionaries continued to visit.

Sisters, I have something more to tell you.

What do you have to tell us now?

The man showed them a plate covered with fish.

Look what I caught. I have never caught that many in one day before!

That is so great, Tatay!

Yes, it is a blessing from the Lord.

His baptism date approached. The day before, he was not feeling well. His mother was concerned.

If you are not feeling well, maybe you should rest. You can be baptized next week.

No! I need to be baptized! I will be okay.

On Saturday he was baptized. On Sunday he was confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Sisters, I am clean! My sins are gone! I am okay before the Lord! i

The next day, the man did not feel well enough to get out of bed. The day after, he died. The doctor said it was liver failure. His mother was distraught.

You made him quit drinking and it killed him!

No, Sister. His liver was failing for a long time. When he quit drinking, it helped him to live long enough so that he could be baptized. How did he look after he was baptized?

He looked happy.

And he died happy. He was okay before the Lord.

iMark 1:4

Tears — May 15, 2015

beautiful day to fly a kite

A beautiful day to fly a kite


I am so tired of seeing sisters cry!

Elder Hall was extremely frustrated. First the youngest sister talked to us with tears in her eyes. Her mother quickly found some work to do outside to hide her tears. Then the oldest sister put her head down on the table and sobbed and sobbed.

I just want my father to be baptized.

It will happen, sister. He will be baptized.

But it has been fifteen years.

I know.

When my mother and my sisters and I got baptized, my father listened to the missionaries with us. But he did not get baptized.

I know.

He has been taught by so many missionaries since then. But he was offended and did not get baptized.

I know.

He is so nervous about the baptismal interview.

I know. But remember how many people are praying for him and for your family.

Now it was her turn.

I know.

The missionaries have taught him and helped him “develop faith in Jesus Christ and to repent of his sins.” Your father has developed faith and repented, hasn’t he?

Yes, but….

As Mormon taught, “the first fruits of repentance is baptism” (Moroni 8:25). The baptismal interview is the way established by the Church to ensure that each candidate meets the Lord’s standards for baptism and is prepared to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. He is prepared for membership and activity in the church, isn’t he?

Yes, but…

Through this interview, baptismal candidates fulfill the scriptural requirement that they witness before an authorized representative of the Church that they have “truly repented of all their sins” (D&C 20:37).” Do you understand that everything done in the church is done by proper authority?


And your father will be interviewed by one who has been ordained and set apart to be an authorized representative of Jesus Christ. As he prayerfully and worthily exercises that authority, he will receive spiritual powers and revelation. He will know your father’s heart. You know that, don’t you?


So trust the Lord. It will be alright.

On the morning of the interview, the sky was a beautiful bright blue. White fluffy clouds perched over the mountains. Children’s kites soared in the perfect light breeze. We sat on a homemade bench and waited in the shade of a mango tree.

The door opened and the father stepped out. His face was split by a huge grin. He looked at the missionaries and gave his “thumbs up” sign. They gasped and jumped up to shake his hand. He had passed the interview!

The missionaries all congratulated him. A sister missionary blinked back her tears of joy as she spoke to the man.

We haven’t seen that smile for a while. Now you can truly give us your usual greeting:

“Nag antus sa ka gwapo.” (I suffer because I am so handsome.)

 Elder Hall gave his friend a big hug. The sister missionary looked at us and spoke ruefully..

For the first time in my mission, I wish I could break a mission rule. I wish I could give that man a big “grandpa” hug! I am so happy for him.

The man had a question.

Will all my daughters come to my baptism?

Yes. Yes, they will

He started to walk away. He didn’t get far before he had to sit down at the table. He put his head down and covered his face with his arms. Now it was his turn to cry. But his tears were tears of joy

 He would be baptized the next day.


Storms Happen — May 8, 2015

Youth Conference at Hidden Valley Resort

Youth conference a Hidden Valley Resort

We had been invited to go to Cebu city for a Senior Couples Get-together. On Friday we met for a temple session followed by dinner at the Mission Home. On Saturday there was time to sit and visit. The mission president’s wife told a story.

I was talking to a missionary from Northern Luzon.

The northwestern portion of the island of Luzon, which encompasses most of the Ilocos Region, is characterized by a flat terrain on the east and the Cordillera Mountains on the west…

Trade winds tend to move tropical cyclones in a west-northwest direction as they approach the islands of the Philippines. Tropical Cyclone Frequency in the Philippines based on PAGASA’s data archives from 1948 to present show Northern Luzon being affected at 32% (very frequent) The Visayas, including the island of Cebu, are affected at 7% (less frequent)…

The energy of a Tropical Cyclone is remarkable! Consider for example, that an ordinary afternoon thunderstorm (which lasts for 1 to 2 hours) has the energy equivalent of about thirteen 20-kiloton atomic bombs. Now, a small typhoon carrying winds of 120 kph has an energy equivalent of almost 500,000 atomic bombs, or about 6 atomic bombs per second! A typhoon also releases about 20 billion tons of water…

Cyclones bring storm surges and coastal flooding; strong winds; extreme rainfall and inland flooding; eyewall mesovortices or miniwhirles; and landslides, mudslides or mudflows.” i

The President’s wife had talked with the young missionary about cyclones.

Do the cyclones hit your area often?

Oh yes, sister. The south winds push the storms north and it usually comes to our place.

What happens when the storm comes?

We are flooded. We have to leave our house and go to a high place.

Do you have food to eat where you go?


Then what do you do?

We wait until the storm passes. Then we go back to our house. We take everything out of the house. After it is dry, we put back anything that is still usable. We repair the house when we can get enough money.

Do storms come often?

Oh yes, sister. They come every year.

But you are always laughing and smiling. You are so happy.

Yes, sister, we are happy. If we were not happy, we would be so sad…….

because storms happen.





Embark! — April 23, 2015



Brother Marven was donating his sound system for the Youth conference. Elder Hall walked down the steps into the large conference room filled with rows of chairs.

What is that song you are playing?

It is the theme song for the youth for this year.

What is is called?

“Embark”   (

It is so loud.

It is one of the songs from the the 2015 Strength of Youth album, which was written entirely by youth. So my very strong system plays it loud.

A youth leader heard the conversation.

Here, Elder Hall. I will give you a copy of the words of the song.

We read the words. The title was, “Embark.” The dictionary says that embark means “to begin a course of action, especially one that is important or demanding.” As we watched the youth come into the room, we thought how everything that youth at this time are asked to do is important and demanding.

We are starting on a journey

We’re following the light

It’s giving us direction

Leading us through life

We could see the light reflected in their eyes and in their smiles. The Philippines has been described as “the land of beautiful smiles.”

So we will stand up all together

Raise our eyes to the sky

With faith and love in our hearts

We will embark

We often see the Philippine people, especially the youth, walking down the street with a hand on the shoulder of their friend, or around their shoulders, or holding their arm.

Not too long after we came here, I was waiting in the church for Elder Hall to finish a meeting. I stepped into an empty classroom and sat on a chair. Soon a sister came into the room.

Sister, I saw you here alone. So I came in to talk to you so you would not be lonely.

The Philippine people stand together. If someone is working, others will come by to talk or provide companionship. If someone is sitting, others will come and sit also.

We will give what we have been given

Live our lives with faith

Lift up those around us

And help them on their way

We will live a life of meaning

And cherish every step

So when we meet our maker

There is nothing to regret

The youth leaders explained:

The 2015 Youth Theme is a continuation of the 2014 theme, “Come Unto Christ.” First youth need to come unto Christ and the they need to embark in His service. When we decide to embark in the service of God, great things begin to happen in our life and the lives of people around us. We learn of Him. We come unto Him.”

The song was worth singing loudly and enthusiastically.

Yeah, we will stand up all together

Raise our eyes up to the sky

With faith and love in our hearts

We will embark!

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)


Kanlaon — April 7, 2015

Kanlaon as seen from Toledo

Kanlaon, one of the tallest peaks in the Philippines, as seen from Toledo

The craters of Kanlaon from the air.

The craters of Kanlaon from the air.

City of Toledo from the ferry

City of Toledo from the ferry

Aboard the ferry

Aboard the ferry

1,328 year old "Century  Tree"

1,328 year old “Century Tree” dwarfs a house.

Those are adults climbing the tree

Those are adults climbing the tree


Rice terraces in the higher valleys.

Rice terraces in the higher valleys.

As Cebuano is only recently a written language, spellings vary

Mount Canlaon towers above a field of sugar cane. As Cebuano is only recently a written language, spellings vary.

We have often looked across the tropical blue waters of the Strait of Tañon to the volcanic mountains of the island of Negros. At nearly 8000 feet, the tallest mountain is impressive, but often capped by clouds.

Kanlaon, part of the Negros Volcanic Belt, is a large stratovolcano dotted with numerous flank cones and craters, many of which contain lakes. The volcano has three hot springs on its slopes. Its adjacent volcanic edifices are Mt. Silay and Mt. Mandalagan, north of Canlaon.
The nearly 2,500 m (8,000 ft.) summit of Kanlaon contains a 2-km-wide (1.3 miles), elongated caldera with two craters. One is inactive and contains a crater lake. The second crater to the south is smaller, higher and contains the historically active vent, Lugud crater. Lugud crater is 250 m (820 ft.) wide and 150-200 m (500-700 ft.) deep. The base of Kanlaon measures an area of 30 km (19 mi) x 14 km (9 mi). 

The volcanic activity in Negros is harvested into electricity through two geothermal power plants in the island

Negros was originally called Buglas, an old Hiligaynon word thought to mean “cut off”, as it is believed that the island was separated from a larger landmass by rising waters during the last ice age.  Among its earliest inhabitants were the dark-skinned Ati people, one of several aboriginal Negrito ethnic groups dispersed throughout Asia that possess a unique culture. Upon arriving on the island in April 1565, the Spanish colonizers called the land Negros, meaning “black”.

Old folks of Canlaon tell of a pair of ill-starred lovers, Princess Laon and Kang who were forced to elope to keep their warring chieftain fathers from breaking them apart. Unfortunately, the lovers were captured and doomed to die amidst the harsh conditions of the wilderness.

From their deathbed rose Malaspina, a fabled volcano intermittently spewing lava. The lovers’ names were later combined to form the name Kanlaon.

We have never been so close to a volcano before, so we thought it would be great to climb Kanlaon.


Elder Hall, I need to go to a meeting in San Carlos on Tuesday. Do you want to go?

Sure! What time should we leave?

Let’s take the 7:30 am ferry. We will need to be in the office by 5:30 am.

We were fifth in line, but we did not get on the 7:30 ferry. They gave us the last vehicle ticket for the 10 am ferry.

We were back in line at 9 am. When our pickup was finally safely stowed in the belly of the ferry, we went to the deck to watch the city of Toledo fade into the distance. After an hour and a half ride, we debarked at San Carlos on the shores of Negros.

Let’s go check out the volcano first.

We drove past rich volcanic soil where field after field of sugar cane flourished at all stages of development. We met huge trucks piled high with harvested cane. We turned off the coastal highway and began the winding climb into the mountains. Cane was planted on the steep mountain sides. In the higher areas emerald green rice terraces glowed  in the sunshine..

We stopped to take pictures and met a friendly family who guided us to see the huge “Century Tree,” one of the Philippines’ huge balete (banyan) trees.

Balete trees (also known as balite or baliti) are several species of the trees in the Philippines from the genus Ficus that are broadly referred to as balete in the local language. A number of these are known as strangler figs wherein they start upon other trees, later entrapping them entirely and finally killing the host tree. Also called hemiepiphytes, initially, they start as epiphytes or air plants and grow several hanging roots that eventually touch the ground and from then on, encircling and suffocating the host tree. Some of the baletes produce an inferior quality of rubber.

In some areas of the country, some people believe that balete trees are dwelling places for supernatural beings like kapre or tikbalang. In some places, sorcery rituals are known to be performed inside the chambers formed by the tree

The balete tree inside the OISCA Farm in Lumapao, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, Philippines is estimated by botanists from Silliman University to be around 1,328 years old. It would take at least 42 men to encircle its trunk. At the heart of this wide tree trunk is a cavity where lizards, bats and many insects have made it their home. With fireflies lighting it at night like a year-round Christmas tree, it is one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

We stopped at an organic farm or hacienda (pronounced hah shen’ jah) and visited the ostriches, then continued to Canlaon City at the base of the volcano. The closer we got, the higher the volcano looked. Along our way, we inquired about the volcano.

How long does it take to climb to the summit of the crater?

Maybe three hours.

For an old man?

Umm…. Maybe not.  But there is a guide who will take you in three days.

Three days? In 90+ degree heat with humidity making the real-feel solidly in the triple digits? For a 70 year old man?

Umm… Maybe not. It is too cold at the top.

As we climbed into the pickup, Elder Hall shook his head.

I think this is out of our league. Experienced climbers consider this a “major climb”, with a difficulty level of 7/9, and trail class 2-4. I don’t know if that is with or without the fog.

Mount Borah sounds easier, if we consider the heat.

But I still want to take a boat all the way around the island of Cebu.

The Material World — April 5, 2015

Hermit's cove

Hermit’s cove



Holy Week in the Philippines includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

It is also a time of get-togethers with great numbers of people flocking to the beaches. In keeping with tradition, the Single Adults went to Hermit’s Cove and some of the Toledo District officers went to  Maolbaol. The activities there included a boat trip to nearby islands.

Elder Hall, are you going to go swimming?

I think I will try.

The District President showed him how to put on the goggles and demonstrated how to lie face down on the water.

I never could float.

It is okay. The salt water is buoyant. You can do it.

My legs keep floating up!

I told you it was buoyant! Now take a breath and put your face in the water.

Elder Hall came back to the deck of the boat.

Sister Hall, you need to try this!

The first surprise was the pleasant warmth of the brilliant variegated blue Philippine ocean with its sea currents and waves. The next surprise was the peace and quiet of lying face down in the water watching tropical fish and coral formations. It was a bit like watching “The Little Mermaid,” but no movie can let viewers really feel what it is like being in the tropical ocean.

John A. Widstoe explained:

In the universe are recognized spirit, intelligence, and matter. Matter may act upon spirit and spirit may act upon matter, but spirit acts most effectively upon spirit, and matter upon matter. The original man, in whom intelligence and other forces acted purely through a spiritual body, could impress matter and be impressed by it only in part. The man was imperfect because he did not touch directly the world of matter, and could know only in part the phenomena of the material world, which forms an integral part of the universe.

For man’s perfection, it then became necessary that his spiritual body should be clothed with a material one, and that he should become as familiar with the world of matter, as he had become with the world of spirit.[i]

We are so thankful for the Great Plan of the Almighty God, for the opportunity to be clothed with a material body, and for the experiences of the wonderful “phenomena of the material world.”

Seeing a picture of the beautiful Philippine ocean is nothing compared to the sensory joy of being drenched in its sights and sensations.

Salamat kaayo sa Dios!

[i] John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as a Scientist, Chapter XV



Guard dog — March 30, 2015









The dog started barking in the back yard. Elder Hall got up to tell the dog to be quiet. Missionaries are not supposed to have pets. The dog is not a pet. It is a guard dog. A member brought him to live in our yard to discourage unauthorized entry.

The dog started barking again. Elder Hall got up again to tell it to be quiet.

When it started barking the third time, Elder Hall went outside.

Sister Hall, bring the flashlight! Shine it under that rock by the wash shed.

I see claws

Elder Hall started poking a stick into the hole under the rock. He tried to get the thing to grab the stick with its claws. No luck.

Finally he dragged it out with his stick.

Have you got something we can put this in?

I brought out an empty Kirkland mixed-nuts jar. Elder Hall carefully put the crab into the jar. It filled the jar. Since we live so close to the ocean, we often see crabs crossing the highway. Apparently they like our yard, too.

Take a picture. Be sure to get its eyes in the picture.

Then Elder Hall shook it out of the jar onto the floor.

Do we have some string?

Elder Hall led the crab around the room, then draped it over the back of a chair.

What are you going to do with it?

I guess I’ll put him outside the gate.

Elder Hall carried the crab down to the gate, released the string, and carefully slid it under the gate. The dog supervised.

Elder Hall came back into the house and left the dog to guard the gate.

He did his job well. The crab has not returned.

The Greatest Memorial — March 25, 2015


We received a text.

Elder and Sister Hall, did you hear about Sister Keller?

Sister Keller was a senior missionary assigned to the Self Reliance Center in Cebu. President Schmutz fondly called Sister Keller and her companion “the tennis-shoe sisters.” They were notable for their shoes and smiles, and for their adventurous spirits as they explored the city on foot during their off times.

We were privileged to have the sisters come to Toledo to give Self-Reliance Training. Sister Keller had retired from a long and successful career teaching children and adults with disabilities, and then had chosen to serve a mission.  She and her companion cheerfully and patiently helped many, many people. They finished their missions in January.

When we were in the mission office a while back, the office missionary handed us a paper from the copy machine.

Sister Keller sent an e mail. I thought you would like a copy.

We read the title of the e mail.

Sister Keller’s Latest Adventure

Upon my return from the Philippines, I had some health issues that indicated that I would need to have my gall bladder removed. Unfortunately, following rather lengthy additional testing, on Monday, February 16, 2015, it was confirmed that I have stage 4 gall bladder cancer, incurable. I know that nothing is incurable to the Lord, but I feel that at this time He has called me to at least prepare for this challenge. Please feel free to share this with others, especially our beloved “ward family” in the Philippines.

In the Philippines I learned an increase of love, faith, and service. I am so grateful that the Lord gave me the gift of the Philippines to prepare me for the challenge of cancer.

I have learned some important things from cancer already. First and most importantly, is that the Lord through the grace of His Atonement, eagerly waits for us to ask so that He may help us carry our burdens. Second, there is pain in this world that is beyond our comprehension- and He has willingly taken it upon Himself for each of us individually. But pain, no matter how severe, is finite- it has a beginning and an end and can be measured. Love, on the other hand, is infinite- beyond measure and lasts forever. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can help us get through any kind of pain to a place of love and peace.

I have been promised some space and time in which “to accomplish all the Lord’s purposes” for me, so please remember that while I have limited time and energy at present, I have much love for each or you. Remember also that while the Lord wants us to be prepared and the world wants us to be afraid, death is really only a door to a new and better life.

Know also, that I consider the love and service that I have shared with each of you the greatest memorial I shall have to place upon the altar of His love when I pass through.

(Sister) Cheryl Keller

The text indicated that Sister Keller had “passed through” on March 18, 2015.

Thank you, Sister Keller, for sharing your “greatest memorial” with us. We are so glad that you took “the gift of the Philippines” that the Lord offered to you before it was too late. What an inspiring finale to a life well-lived!

You have gone through the “door to a new and better life” crowned with the love of multitudes of people who have been touched by your service.

We love you. We are looking forward to meeting you again.


Pay every Day — March 20, 2015



We had gone with the District President and a Branch President to visit a family in very difficult circumstances.  As we drove home through the night, the District President began talking.

Our people don’t really lack resources. What they really lack is knowledge about resources.

We thought of a young lady that we met shortly after we arrived here in the Philippines. She told us about her early life.

My family was poor—but not really poor. We could still eat every day.

We thought of a young mother with a baby in her arms and another child holding to her skirt.

We have a big problem, Elder. We have no food.

The District President continued to talk.

Our people need to look ahead. They need to set goals and plan.

It is difficult to believe what we cannot see. Prophets have told “great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.”[i]

People just need two 5-kilo rice containers and two money containers. They can eat the rice from one, then rotate to the other while they refill the first.

How will that help?

Well, that will keep their rice fresh.

That is a good thing…

But the money jars are important. One is taped shut. It holds 170 pesos. That is enough to buy 5-kilos of rice. The other is empty.

How is empty important?

The first money jar is disaster insurance. It is only to be opened when there are absolutely no other resources for an extended period. The “empty” jar is where the family puts money enough to replace the rice they use each day. If they use 2 kilo of rice, they put 80 pesos in the jar.

Two kilo only cosst 78 pesos.

See, they are learning to save a little extra, too. The time to prepare is every day. If the money has not been replaced at the end of the day, that is the time to counsel with the family, find to something to sell, to find some work to earn a little money, to cut expenses, or even to cut rations. It is an emergency until the 80 pesos has been placed in the jar.

So the emergency is only a little, temporary emergency?

If problems are solved every day, they never become big problems.

Is that why it is important to pray and read the scriptures every day?

We need to refill our spiritual “money jar.”

“…treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”[ii]

We can receive exactly the knowledge and understanding we need to solve our problems each day.

Pay every day. I am beginning to see!

[i] Ether 12:5

[ii] D & C 84:85


The Parable of Poisons — March 16, 2015


How can I pray? I don’t have a loud voice.

What could we say to this man?

A few days ago we talked to our son. He was 14,000 miles away. Do you believe that?

We might imagine the man nodding.

This little plastic thing made a noise, so we pushed a button here and said, Hello, and he started talking to us. We heard every word he said even though he was 14,000 miles away. How can that happen?

Through cell towers, satellites?

Cell phone towers and satellites were made by men, mortal men here on the earth. If mortal men can make something like cell phone towers and satellites, do you think that our Heavenly Father, who is immortal and the greatest of all, could have a way to talk to His children while they are away from home here on this earth?

Another nod.

I testify to you that not only does He have a way, he does talk to His children here on the earth. Instead of cell towers and satellites, He talks spirit to spirit, His spirit to your spirit, through something called the Holy Ghost. We call that revelation.

The man might look down and speak so softly that it is almost a whisper.

I don’t think He talks to me.

Brother, are there times that your cell phone does not work?

A nod.

If you do not believe that a cell phone will do anything, then it is just a piece of plastic. You probably won’t pick it up or push the buttons, right?

A nod.

You have to believe, or have faith, and you have to do something. To have spiritual communication, you have to have faith and do something, too. You have to pray. It is best if you find a quiet place where you can be alone, kneel down, and use your voice. Do you think we had to talk really, really loud for our son to hear us, even from 14,000 miles away?

He might move his head slightly from side to side.

Neither do you need to talk really loud for the Lord to hear you. Your cell phone won’t work if you don’t charge the battery, will it?

Another move from side to side.

We keep our “spiritual battery” charged by pray, reading the scriptures, and going to church. Now, Brother, if we open this cell phone up and pour “tuba” or coconut wine, inside, will the phone still work?

Hopefully, a little smile will break through.

Cigarettes, chew, alcoholic drinks in all their varieties, coffee, tea—they all put poison in your body. The poison makes your body “unclean.” God cannot dwell in unclean places. The Holy Ghost, who is a member of the Godhead, is a God. The Holy Ghost cannot come into an unclean body, and so cannot communicate with your spirit.

Maybe he will look down.

The commandments that we have been given are blessings. Selfishness, anger, depression, addiction—they make our body “unclean” too. The commandments help us to love and serve others, to feel joy, and to develop self-control. Then we can know the wonder of communicating “spirit to spirit.”

After a pause, the man might lift his head.

Brother, there is a wonderful way that your body can be perfectly clean. When you stop putting poisons and negative emotions into your body, then through the miracle of repentance, the power of the Atonement can clean everything away. You will know who you really are: a son of God. And through the power of the Holy Ghost, you will be able to talk to your Father.

He will hear you. And you will be able to hear Him.


Hold the Wild Horse — March 8, 2015

Bathing essentials the classic timba (pail) and tabo (dipper) way

Bathing essentials: the classic timba (pail) and tabo (dipper) way

"Double-decker bus" --  .three cows and five pigs on lower level, four people on upper level.

“Double-decker bus” — .three cows and five pigs on lower level, four people on upper level.

House on the water for sale--any offers?

House on the water for sale–any offers?

Elder Hall had been asked to talk in sacrament meeting.

Why did you come to sacrament meeting today? Did you come to find out who the new Branch President would be? Did you come to hear the missionary give his last talk before going home?

Those are good reasons to come to a meeting, but not the reason to come to sacrament meeting.

We come to sacrament meeting to confess our sins and to put ourselves under covenant as we partake of the sacrament.

Elder Hall paused and looked ruefully at the audience.

I probably have more need to repent of my sins than most. I remember something Brigham Young said:

“I will say, there is not a man in this house who has a more indomitable and unyielding temper than myself.”[i]

I can relate to that. I was a carpenter, a “panday”. Sometimes my tools would not be where I thought they should be, and I would get very angry. I would raise my voice to demand of my boys what they had done with the tools. But sometimes it was me who had misplaced them.

A while back, a man, an Australian I met on the street, started yelling at me. Soon we were nose to nose yelling at each other. I was not very dignified.  I still feel the anger when I think about it. It took me a long time to follow Brigham Young’s advice and say “Knees, get down there”; it took a long time to make them bend; and it took a long time for me to make them remain there until I obtained the Spirit of the Lord.[ii]

I needed to do that before I could come to church and partake of the sacrament.

Each week, before Sunday comes, I have to think about my week, and to confess, and to recommit myself through the sacrament.

As Brigham Young said,

“I am trying to civilize myself.”[iii]

He also said,

“When my feelings are aroused to anger by the ill-doings of others, I hold them as I would hold a wild horse, and I gain the victory.[iv]

Then Elder Hall told a story:

My father worked with horses all his life. When he was past seventy years of age, he bought an untrained horse, a two-year Arabian. He worked with it until he could put a halter on it and lead it. He worked with it until he could put a bridle on it, and finally a saddle. Then it was time to ride the horse. My father and I saddled two horses, got a rope, and rode with the Arabian between us to the place my father had picked out.  My father told me to hold the rope and keep the Arabian close my horse while he stepped from his horse to the saddle of the Arabian.

The rope was very strong. But there was one problem. It was made from nylon—and nylon will stretch. As my father stepped into the saddle, the Arabian began to fight, and the rope stretched enough that I could not keep my horse close enough to control the Arabian.

The Arabian began bucking, and threw my father off onto the hard, rocky ground. My father was past seventy years of age. It hurt when he landed. He lay there a few moments, then forced himself to get up. He tied another  rope, and we started again.

When he stepped from his horse to the saddle of the Arabian, I was able to hold the rope tight, and my father rode that horse.

Elder Hall thought a moment as he finished his story. Then he spoke again.

When we are not able to hold tight to our feelings of anger, they break loose like a wild horse. People get hurt.

If we lose control of our anger, there is nothing to do but get back up on that horse, and ride it until we are in control.

If the spirit yields to the body, it becomes corrupt; but if the body yields to the spirit it becomes pure and holy[v].

My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.[vi]

[i] DBY, 267

[ii] See Ibid

[iv] DBY, 266

[v] DBY, 267

[vi] D&C 64:8


For All Eternity — February 26, 2015




Elder and Sister Hall, did you go to the wedding?

We were in the temple complex, and we heard the story that one of the office missionaries told.

What did she say?

The senior sister was laughing as she told her story.

“I was on the second floor of the Patron House with a sister who had finished her mission and was preparing to go home. We watched the handsome bridegroom carefully help his bride navigate the stairs in her regal floor-length bridal gown. Then my young companion sighed.

She is such a lucky bride!

How so?

Everyone in the Cebu Mission knows what a wonderful missionary he has been. Everyone loves him. And he loves everyone so much.

We paused as we thought of the transcendent joy of that day.

Did you get to see the wedding?

No, we waited with some others in front of the temple. The sealing room was filled with family and close friends.

What could you see?

We saw the tall, elegant, etched-glass, marble-framed doors, capped by an engraved inscription.

 Holiness to the Lord

The House of the Lord

 Why does the Lord need a house her on earth?

It is because He truly is our Father, and He needs a place to gather His children to Him. Do you want us to tell you what happened inside the temple?


We thought of a talk given a number of years ago.

God is the Heavenly Father of the human family. He is obviously concerned with families. If you doubt it, look around you. We are all his children—we belong to him. For this reason, he has commanded that a house be built for his family.[i]

What happens in the house of the Lord? It is where families are created.

“I have, many times, seen the Spirit lift choice young people who had come to the temple to become a family; and it seemed to me in these instances that the temple became a “heavenly family house,” the sealing room became a “heavenly family room,” and the altar of the temple became a “heavenly family altar.”[ii]

In a gloriously beautiful room, surrounded by excellently-attired family and friends, an officiator, who had been given authority both through the laws of the land and through the laws of God, performed the solemn sacred marriage ceremony.

“…as they knelt there, they were joined by the Lord through his priesthood for all eternity and thus were made “one,” a family, in the Lord.” [iii]

Theirs was not a temporary marriage “until death do you part.” It was a permanent marriage “for all eternity.”

She was, indeed, such a lucky bride. And he was, indeed, such a lucky bridegroom. They were sealed as a family, and will be together throughout all eternity.

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.[iv]

[i] Hartman Rector Jr, “Success-A Journey or a Destination,” July 1973

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Matt 19:6


Fascinating Fascia — February 20, 2015

The piece of metal that flattened the tire that required the change that caused the hernia.

The piece of metal that flattened the tire that required the tire change that caused the hernia.

That was a great video of a laparoscopic hernia repair! Shall I write about it on our blog?

Sister Hall, a hernia repair is not something people are craving to know about.

But wasn’t it great that when we asked what happened  during the operation, the doctor didn’t just answer our questions, but made us a model of the mesh and showed us a video to explain the whole thing?

Yes, but…

And wasn’t it great to see how perfectly and delicately the doctor moved the fascia around to expose the hernia and the vas deferens?

Sister Hall, that’s not something usually talked about in polite society…

But that is the important part, because the doctor used anatomical mesh with a hole in the middle and a slit so that he could slip the mesh over the coiled duct and fold a flap over the top to hold it in place. And now you don’t have any stitches, staples, or adhesive that might impinge a nerve and cause chronic pain. 

Pain-free is always good…

No “post herniorraphy pain syndrome” for you! And he checked all four places where a hernia might develop so you don’t have to worry about another hernia developing.

Five places…

And the doctor checked your left side to be sure there isn’t a chance of a hernia developing there.

“Developing” is what you do to film.

He said you are healing well.

Yes, I am.

And there was no charge for the post-surgery check-up.

He is a world-class surgeon who worries more about the quality of his surgery than the quantity of his money.


Never Give Up — February 8, 2015




The mission president from Idaho stood at the podium. He was speaking at the Toledo District Conference in Toledo City, Cebu, Philippines. He opened his scriptures and read.

“And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.” (1Ne 3:5)

He looked earnestly at the audience.

“Sometimes the Lord asks us to do hard things. We might think we are not strong enough to do what is asked of us. The Lord has an answer for us:”

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. (Ether 12:27)

“Sometimes we are afraid or apprehensive about approaching someone about the gospel. Sometimes we might think there is no use talking to a certain person.

Let me tell you about my friend, Ernie. As a young man he served in the military. He played for a professional ball club. He had a number of interesting jobs around the country. He married his sweetheart and bought a farm. He thought it would be a good place to raise a family.

His wife was a wonderful woman. For 60 years she faithfully attended church. She invited Ernie, but he preferred to attend the local bar. For 60 years she faithfully served and lived the gospel. She invited Ernie to serve with her, but he preferred to serve his homemade wine. But for 60 years, she never gave up on her husband.

One day, Ernie became ill. He had been sick before, but he was past ninety now, and this illness seemed different. He felt so weak and tired. Ernie was scared. In his weakness and fear, he did something he had never done before. He asked for a Priesthood blessing. As he waited for the blessing, he made a promise. He promised the Lord that if he could be healed, he would serve the Lord as best he could.

My friend received the blessing, and he was healed. I interviewed him for baptism. Ernie looked at me thoughtfully. Then he said something interesting:”

You know, I really don’t want to go to the church and get baptized. Someone I know might see me. I don’t know that I feel comfortable about that. How about if I just get baptized in my hot tub here?”

The president smiled at the audience and then continued his story.

“I looked at Ernie. I don’t know why I did it, but I said, “OK. We can do that.”

Ernie stared at me, and then he grinned.

I was just testing you. I will go to the church to get baptized.

After his baptism, Ernie changed. He even looked different. I saw him at church a few months later, and I didn’t even recognize him. He had become a man of God.

For 60 years, Ernie’s wife didn’t give up on him. For 60 years the Lord did not give up on him. Do we dare give up on our family, on our friends, or on less active members?”

“Behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.”







What Could Be Worse Than Spiders? — January 30, 2015

Spider in the mission office (PS This one is made from pipe cleaners)

Spider in the mission office (PS It is made from pipe cleaners)

Dead spider, frozen, and arranged for photo op

Dead spider, frozen, and arranged for photo op

The senior missionary laughed at the disbelief on our faces.

It’s true! I really was a hippie, a 70’s hippie. My hair hung over my collar and my big mustache hung down to my chin. I really looked the part.

Did you act the part?

Oh yes! I was addicted to everything that it was possible to be addicted to.

What did your wife think about it?

Ummm…she left me. She said she wanted a divorce, that she was never coming back again. That was the worst day of my life!  I fell into the deepest, darkest, most excruciating pit imaginable.  I didn’t want to breathe, I didn’t want to live.

He swallowed his emotions, then laughed again.

I thought spiders were the worst thing in life. But this was much, much worse.

We all laughed as we thought of the spiders we had seen. Then the man continued his story.

The Lord saved my life and my marriage—even though I was an atheist.

Wow! What did He do?

He transferred me to night shift.

Night shift?

Yup. I was working at a facility for troubled adolescents.

He laughed again.

It was good training for working with young missionaries!

His grinned.

And He transferred the weirdest woman on the staff to work the night shift with me.

The weirdest woman?

I had noticed her before. She would bring a loaf of bread to work, and say, “Well, Brother M is feeling kind of down. I just thought I would take him this bread after work today.” Or she would bring a casserole and say, “Sister J isn’t well, so I thought I’d bring her this for their dinner tonight.” I thought to myself, why would she want to that? She talked funny, too, always saying “sister” and “brother. I couldn’t figure out why she would want to do that either.

There were just the two of us, and 24 mostly-sleeping adolescents there all night long. Some nights were really long, so we talked a lot. When we ran short of things to talk about, I asked her to tell me about her church—but I put my hand up real quick and told her I didn’t want to  know about any of that religious stuff, just about casseroles and bread and things like that.

So she told me about ward activities. There she was talking funny again, because I didn’t know what a ward was, but the stories she told about the games were funny and the food sounded great.

She told me about service projects and teens who wanted to go to something called seminary at 6 am before school every day. She told me about people who preached for free. She told me about cooking food for funerals and about families who gathered together to talk and to laugh through their tears and hug as they remembered a mother or uncle.

I remembered sitting up until 2 am, talking with my atheist hippie friends about how silly religion was. But the things this weird woman told me didn’t sound silly. I thought it was the most practical church I had ever heard of.

One night I was sitting alone in my house. It wasn’t a home anymore since my wife left. I missed her so much! For some reason I picked up a Bible. I held it and looked at it and then opened it and began to read.

I can’t explain what happened to me that night. It was a deeply intense and spiritual experience. But that night, I knew—I knew—there was a God.

When I went back to work, I told my co-worker I wanted to hear about that religious stuff. So she sent two young men in white shirts and ties to talk to me. They weren’t much past being adolescents themselves, but what they said made sense. It was what I felt when they talked to me, though, that made me keep listening.

 I had to tell everyone that now I knew there was a God, and that the things I was learning were true. I talked to my hippie friends. They didn’t like what I was saying, and one by one, they left. I guess God knew I needed a whole new start, because pretty soon, I didn’t have a friend left in the whole world.

We looked at his beautiful wife sitting next to him, and asked him about his marriage. He laughed again as he started the story.

It was unbelievable. I had been an avowed atheist for so many years, and now I knelt in prayer! I missed my wife. I ached for her. I asked God what I should do. The answer was “Court her!”

I asked my wife to go to a basketball game with me. She knew I did not like basketball, so she told me I was crazy and refused to go.

I called her again and asked her to go to a concert with me. She was even more surprised. But she still said no.

I asked her to go to a play. She thought, what’s up with this guy? But she finally agreed to go with me.

I kept courting her. She began to believe that I really had changed. Eventually she agreed to come back home, but only if I wouldn’t talk about “that religion stuff.”

I didn’t talk about “that religion stuff” but I did keep going to church and I read the scriptures and I introduced her to my new friends. I asked her one day if she would feed the missionaries. Well, my wife has never refused to feed anyone.

So the missionaries came. And they asked if they could share a message. And she listened.

One night when the missionaries were coming to dinner, my wife told me that she was really tired and that she just did not feel that she could listen to a message that night. I told her that the missionaries would receive inspiration not to give her a message that night.

She followed me around all evening to make sure I didn’t say anything to the missionaries.

After the meal, one of the missionaries looked at my wife and said,

“Sister, I just don’t feel like tonight would be a good time to give a message. Could we do that another time?”

Well, that did it. She was convinced.

That was a lot of years ago. But I am here to tell you that the Lord did not just save my life, he gave me a new, wonderful life. He did not just save my marriage, he gave me a new, wonderful marriage.

We never dreamed that the Lord would send us to the Philippines, but here we are so we can be instruments in the Lord’s hands to help save other lives and other marriages.

But I  kill  spiders.