Monthly Archives: February 2014

That Gulf of Misery –February 1, 2014

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We stared at the wreckage that used to be a bridge. Workmen were spreading gravel and preparing to put in three huge culverts. The bridge was on the road that leads to Casoy.

They will be able to drive across there this afternoon, but I’m not driving across there yet.

As we drove back to Toledo, we stopped to wait for a huge gravel truck to get by. A Philippino man chuckled.

There goes more gravel to be put in for a bridge. Then pretty soon it will all wash back to where it came from.

A week later our friend from Idaho sent us a message:

I hear that another typhoon is headed your way. Be safe.

The rain started early in the evening and pounded on the roof through most of the night.

In the morning we looked at a bucket in the back yard.

Was that bucket empty last night?


It’s full now.

Yes, and running over.

I set my water bottle next to it to show the size. There was probably twelve inches of                                   water in the bucket.

After stopping at the church, we started to Casoy for a baptism. In one place part of the

road had sluffed off into the river far below. We passed the gravel pit and rounded the

curve. We could see jeepneys and motors lined up. The bridge had washed out again.

Wow! This is worse than it was before. The big culverts they put in didn’t help.

Well, they were able to use the bridge to take produce to Toledo for the markets during Sinulog. But now they can’t even walk across.

They are using a narrow plank there below the bridge-and one above. The water is really roaring there.

We watched some people put a plank across the torrent above the ruined bridge. A man leaned far forward and held out his hand to the man crossing.

I am so glad that we are on this side of the bridge. What if we had been on the other side when it washed out and we couldn’t get home?

“And thus we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked and land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our hold fathers, to go no more out.” (Hel 3:29)

There is a way for all of us to return home. And there is someone waiting to help us across the awful gulf.


Sinulog January 26, 2014

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As District Presidency traveled home in the early afternoon from their visit to the Lamac Branch, traffic stalled several Km from Toledo. The Procession of Santo Nino and the Festival of Sinulog had begun. The procession would continue for the next three hours, followed by barangay celebrations late into the night.


For the past two weeks, we had heard drums, trumpets and gongs in the afternoons and evenings all over the city. The intensity increased each night. We went to sleep on Saturday night to the sound of neighborhood practices. We woke up at 3 AM to a group who seemed sounded as if they were marching through our bedroom. The noise was nothing compared to Sunday night.


The barangay across the wall from us held a big party. Large speakers were piled up in tiers higher next to, and higher than, the wall around our yard. Strobe lights colored the people and the sky. The heavy bass and drumming reverberated through the neighborhood. The metal on our roof vibrated like someone shaking a piece of sheet metal. The doors inside the house vibrated. Our bed vibrated.


We tried to out-wait the party, but finally became so exhausted that we went to bed and, amazingly, went to sleep. We have no idea when the party ended.


This was our first experience with the Sinulog, a smaller festival held in Toledo one week after the big celebration in Cebu City.




The Sinulog is a nine-day annual festival culminating on the third Sunday of January. The festival commemorates the Filipino people’s pagan origin, and their acceptance of Roman Catholicism


The main feature is a street parade with participants in bright coloured costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs. Smaller versions of the festival are held in various parts of the province, also to celebrate and honor the Santo Niño.


The Sinulog was already danced by the locals in honor of their wooden statues in the period before the Cebuanos were baptized. After1521, when the image of the famous Santo Niño was brought to Cebu and the Catholic faith was established in the region, the dance was made a part of the yearly fiesta in honor of the Santo Niño.




For pictures, see the following link:


January 21, 2014

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Will I need my mud shoes?

No, I think you will be fine.

We drove down a narrow road, made several turns, then drove down a dirt road until we came to a mud hole which covered the whole road.

 I think we’ll walk now.

We skirted the mud hole and followed the trail through the jungle foliage, past more mud holes, past a bellowing carabao, crowing roosters, bleating goats, and more mud. A bamboo grove clattered in the breeze. We came to the house of one of the counselors in the branch presidency. They were happy to have visitors and made sure that we had the best seats in the house.

Elder Hall gave the man a print-out of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and talked about his responsibilities with the young men of the branch. The man studied the papers carefully.

I am so glad to have this.

We will give you a roll card to mark the attendance of each boy every week.

That will be so good.

Elder Hall turned to the next order of business.

Have you ever had Home Teachers?


Well, you can consider this your first Home Teaching visit.

Elder Hall talked with him about his personal devotions and family prayers. He gave a spiritual message.

We are trying to establish the Home Teaching program in this branch. Can you visit other families as a Home Teacher?


We shared handshakes and hugs, slipped our muddy shoes on outside the door, and started back up the path. The man walked with us on his way to pick up his grandchildren from school.

Climb Every Mountain –January 18, 2014

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We were watching the Philippines Area Broadcast. Area President Brent Nielsen told of an incident with one of his children.

Dad, why do you always talk about the pioneers?


He thought a moment.

I guess it is because they set the bar, they set the standards for service that we are still trying to reach today. They gave their all.

They worked very hard to cross the plains. Then the Lord required them to climb mountains–and they did it, day after day after day. They never quit.

Mountains dominate the western United States. At my childhood home, the majestic panorama of the western side of the Teton Peaks fills the landscape. The eastern view of the Peaks is even more dramatic because there are no foothills on that side, and the mountains rise over 7000 feet from the valley floor. These famous landmarks of the backbone of America called the Rocky Mountains can be seen from a distance of 150 miles. The early hunters called them the “Pilot Knobs.”

Ma, when are we going to get there?

After we get to the mountains.

But we have been traveling so very long, and there is only flat prairie.

I know. But we won’t be there until we get through the mountains.

For emigrants seeking to go to “The West,” the first 1038 miles (1670 km) was over flat prairie. The distance was long, but the travel was relatively easy. But the 50-mile uphill overland crossing from the Platte River to the Sweetwater Valley led to the mountains. They had worked hard to cross the plains, but last 186 miles (300 m) would be exceedingly difficult.

A few years ago, we had a family reunion in the Sweetwater Valley. We dressed in pioneer clothes and walked the trails. On a warm sunny afternoon, we pulled a handcart across a calm, shallow stretch of the river. It was great fun to splash through the water. Ethan went to sleep while riding on his father’s shoulders.

The emigrants found it necessary to cross the Sweetwater nine different times. Between the fifth and sixth crossing, the river pours through a massive rock formation over three hundred feet high called Devil’s Gate.

The only way around is to take the steep, treacherous, boulder-strewn 12-mile trail up Rocky Ridge. In two miles the trail rises over 700 feet, then continues over a narrow ridge, crosses Strawberry Creek, then traverses another ridge to Rock Creek. The Willie Handcart Company struggled over this trail for18 endless hours through snow and biting winds.

Rylee, Anndee, and Sunni, this spring you will graduate from high school. You have worked hard for over twelve years. Your schedules have been difficult, and stress has been your .companion. It is enticing to think of relaxing in the pleasant valley, of maybe getting a job and having your own money to spend . You look at the Rocky Ridge of mission commitment and think to yourself that you really don’t want to do that.

Dear, sweet Sunni, how I wish that I could put my arms around you now and give you a big hug. You are probably thinking that this does not apply to you. For you, your Rocky Ridge involves listening to the missionaries, studying, and spending time on your knees getting to know your Heavenly Father and hearing His answers.

None of you can stay in the pleasant valley. The river could sweep you into the abyss of Devil’s Gate. The season is late and clouds lurk on the horizon. Bitter storms will soon choke the valley. The only way to safety is to put your hand in the hand of God and climb your Rocky Ridge.

The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.

Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!

(Bruce R McConkie, Oct. 1984)

January 17, 2014

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He wore a jacket and a cap. A smile split his face as he made his announcement.

I will be your pathfinder.

 We traveled over mountains, along ridges and across deep valleys through the wind and rain. Dirt and rocks had been washed across the road by water cascading down the steep mountain slopes. As we inched along the edge of the road through the second mud slide, the Pathfinder studied the terrain carefully.

I have a bad feeling about this pass. It will probably be closed tonight.

We came around the curves and down yet another hill to enter the town.

Give me the list of things you need to get. 

The Pathfinder guided us through the maze of narrow winding streets. As we traveled, he pointed out landmarks.

That’s the Cebu Monument. It is very famous.

That is the seminary where they train priests. My cousin is a priest.

I used to work in this store. I loaded furniture and delivered it. Maybe I will see someone I know.

I would eat lunch here when I was working. If no one came to have furniture loaded, I did not eat.

We passed through the gates into the Temple complex. Workmen were putting up bamboo scaffolding to repair the damage caused by the earthquake to the base of the Angel Moroni statue. In the lobby of the office building a sculpture of a fish begged a picture.

We went into the office.

Some elders have lost their phone.

Oh no! Please break the news very gently to Sister Ernstrom. She is very fragile about lost phones.

What will she do?

Well, she will have to turn it off. It will take time to get a new one. Then she will have to charge each elder 600 pesos for the new phone.

We got a reimbursement check for missionary apartment expenses from Elder Ernstrom.

You will need to cash it at the Coconut Planters Bank of the Philippines. Do you know where it is?

We have a Pathfinder.

Again we wove through more streets and pulled in front of the bank.

The sign says the bank closes at 3:00 PM.

What time is it?

It is 3:15.


The Pathfinder looked at the uniformed guard standing in front of the bank holding a twelve gauge shotgun.

I will ask a favor.

He walked over to the guard. The guard smiled, then pumped the Pathfinder’s arm and pulled him a hug. He stuck his head into the bank, then turned again to the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder motioned to Elder Hall to go into the bank.

What happened there?

I know his brother. At first he did not recognize me so I took my cap off.

The manager said okay, but you will have to talk to the assistant manager. The assistant said since the manager had approved, he had to follow along. So they cashed your check.

We started back through the streets.

There will be much traffic through the main part of the city today. This weekend is the Feast of Santo Nino and Sinulog. I will show you other ways to go. We will take the south road back.

We followed some other streets. Even those streets were choked with people walking and standing. Other streets were completely blocked. We came to the entrance of the only freeway in the Philippines. There were three lanes for traffic on each side. We could only drive on the freeway for a few miles as it was not a long freeway,

When we started into the mountains, it began raining again, but the pass on the south was not nearly so high and the not so sharp. We completed our journey safely.

His jacket was not fringed and his cap was not made from coonskin. But the skills of the Pathfinder will be remembered forever in the annals of our history.


Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.