Monday, December 26, 2011

Becky's mother passed away on December 26

Lola Lenore Allen, September 17, 1928 - December 26, 2011

Graveside Service/Funeral for Lola Lenore Allen, Friday 3:30 p.m.

Hello all,

We will conclude the funeral for Becky’s mother, Lola Lenore Allen, with a Graveside Service today, Friday, December 30, 2011. The service begins at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon at Rose Hills. See address below.

Rose Hills Memorial Park (Cemetery)
3888 Workman Mill Road
Whittier, Calif. 90601

Thank you for all your messages of love,


P.S. We held her funeral on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 in Union City, CA.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas Friends and Family

Over the last two years we have fallen in love with one of the sweetest Christmas carols, The Little Drummer Boy. Last year in California we sang it with our grandsons who, in turn, sweetly sang it for my mom keeping the beat on bongos from the recreation room. This year in Kansas we all sang it again just after Thanksgiving for Scott’s mom, and her sister convalescing at home.

We were asked to make a presentation at this year’s ward Christmas party. We chose to focus on this song. Last week we enjoyed a sweet spirit as two little children sang about the little drummer’s gift to the Savior. Scott added three beautiful overhead slides helping everyone visualize the scene. Interpreting the song (see below), Scott suggested we can think of ourselves as the little drummer boy. So, what is our drum? What gift of ourselves might we give this babe who grew to become the Redeemer of all mankind? It is in and through our continual gifts to Him that we, through His grace, become more like Him. Scott wrote:

So to honor him, pa rum, pum, pum, pum -- “Picture yourself a poor, young (orphan) boy, living in Bethlehem, over two thousand years ago. Magi arrive in your little village. They notice you alongside the road, playing a crisp beat on your sole possession, a simple small drum. Appreciating your smile, and your obvious talent, they ask you to come along with them to see a new King. You have heard of the prophecies of a newborn King. So, you go with them to honor Him. As you walk, you notice their golden gifts and all their other finery. Other than your smile and your heart, what gift could you possibly offer the newborn King?

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum, pum, pum, On my drum? -- “After walking a short while to the edge of town, you finally see this King. But you do not see a palace; you do not see colorful, kingly rich robes. You do see him dressed in clothing as simple as your own. You also seem to notice around him a soft, glowing, warm light. Perhaps you are not so much seeing it, as feeling it. You do see that, like you, this King is (for now) very small, and poor. In a moment, you know what you can offer this special king!

Mary nodded, pa rum, pum, pum, pum -- “You ask his mother, his beautiful mother, if you can play for Him. Your drum. You felt loved and accepted as she nods and as you begin to play. It is a new tune you play, a new beat you create that very moment. It seems to flow from deep within. You never heard or felt this particular beat before; but now it seems as natural and as sweet a beat as you ever imagined.

The ox and lamb kept time pa rum, pum, pum, pum -- “Even the animals seem to breathe in and resonate with the rhythm of what you are sharing. You never felt so in tune with your music, and with this good/new feeling you now enjoy. You never want it to stop.

Then he smiled at me, pa rum, pum, pum, pum -- “As you focus on the babe -- this newborn King -- you see him look at you, and smile. Right at you. Somehow you now know, for yourself, that the rumored prophecies have come to pass. More than that, you now know the King himself; his eyes, his heart, and his love.

Me and my drum -- “And even further, that He has accepted you and your talent -- and your heart. And as you smile inside and out, he is smiling right back at you. Decades later, as you look back and recall those precious moments all ‘alone’ with him, you still smile -- deep inside. And you still feel his love -- and his smile – just for you.”

Our prayer is that we all feel the love of the Savior deep in our hearts as we look for ways to give Him the kinds of gifts that only our heart and soul can give.

We know He lives! Joy to the World!


I’m holding Cade, Becky is holding Kyle. Cade is putting his right hand on Sean’s head, and his left one on Ryan’s. At Ryan’s baptism.
We visited Carrie and her family in the Summer for Ryan’s baptism, 4th of July at Lake Tahoe, and a we hiked Yosemite. El Cap behind us.
Sydney and Mike on right, Carrie and Scott on the left, with Cade (1), Sean (6), Kyle (3) and Ryan (8) in the middle.
We held a Vanatter family reunion at great-grandma Dot’s house in Kansas. The family history, American and Mormon history were phenomenal.

After teaching Gospel Doctrine for over three years, Becky was released and now serves as ward education and employment specialist. She still serves as shift coordinator on Thursday evenings at the DC Temple, and continues to work for BYU coordinating the McKay School of Education’s student teaching program here in the DC Public Schools.

After serving in the bishopric for over seven years, Scott was released and now serves as ward membership clerk. He is executive vice president and chief operating officer for a conservative think tank based in the Washington DC area. Scott is co-author of a book published in December 2011, Discoveries in Chiasmus: A Pattern in All Things, available at (and soon also at Deseret Book).

What a joyous year this has been reconnecting with old friends from Utah and across the world.

In most ways it has been the best year ever and in some ways it was the most challenging year ever. But we are grateful the challenges melt away and are far overshadowed by our love for the Lord and the grace He offers us continuously.

With all our love, Scott and Becky

Monday, November 14, 2011

Power Words

See three new power words for the boys below -- for discusssion during our week together in Kansas visiting Grandma Dot for Thanksgiving. (New words in blue.)


Think, Tough

W . . .
E . . .
R . . .

I . . .
S . . .

L . . .
O . . .
V . . .
E . . .
. . .  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Just wanna ride on my motorcycle..."

Found it! I was looking for a photo of Terry Tenove -- he was number 11, and was our quarterback and defensive back. Today being 11-11-11, I thought of him. Especially a photo of him jumping high into the air to intercept a pass (as a defensive back). I can see the number 11 on his back. Well, I never found his photo, however, I did (finally) locate this drawing of a motorcycle I did in the late 60s.

It is the third in a series of three motorcyles I drew when I was a mid-teenager.

On this one I actually wrote the Arlo Guthrie verse, "I don't want a pickle, just wanna ride on my motorcycle." (Page is partially riped.)

  I don't want a pickle
  Just want to ride on my motorsickle
  And I don't want a tickle
  'Cause I'd rather ride on my motorsickle
  And I don't want to die
  Just want to ride on my motorcy...

(See the first two motorcyles here:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"America the Beautiful" (Carrie on the 4th of July)

More items found in a box in the garage today.

We lived in Irvine in the 80s. Every Fourth of July there was a parade. This photo of Carrie (in a local weekly newspaper) was taken on a very hot 4th of July. You can sorta see her red face. Sydney would probably have been in a stroller this year.

"Red Fish, Blue Fish . . . Purple Fish"

Sydney's Early Art

I found a box in the garage today, found some old art, papers, etc. The bottom picture Sydney drew when she was almost 4 years old in Primary in Irvine; it is a fish. A while later, before we moved to Virginia, she wrote her name in multiple colors.  


By Scott Vanatter, 1964 poem (Grade 5)

Red, yellow, green leaves,
  Tiny bee flying over trees,
    Fall singing for me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Boy (Like His Brothers)

This Boy (Like His Brothers)
By Scott L. Vanatter, September 21, 2011, poem in honor of Cade’s birthday

This boy,
Like his brothers, can cover a lot of

We can feel that in this boy,
As in his brothers, real faith and true joy

This boy that follows his leaders -
His mother, his father, and others - thus also Becomes

We plainly see the shine of this boy’s deep inner smile -
And all his brothers’ - which lights our way back into the bright presence of
The Son.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Lest We Forget 9-11

Lest We Forget 9-11
By Scott L. Vanatter, poem written 9 September 2011

Everyday evils are often, even purposely,
Ultimate evil, barely even conceivable by us, rarely
     Pierces the mind.
     Though it is all around the world. Every day. It's tuned out.
     Some other thought takes its place, any other thought.

     The day,
     That act.

Never forgetting
     The surreal sight,
     The first image, that second image,
     Unremitting, unreal images,
     Unknown questions, unformed thoughts,
     Disconnected shock.
          Terror, numbed fear.
     The horror. The horror.
     The vulnerability.
           And our resolve, our purpose.
               Our shared identity.

               Lest we forget, (while their)
               Hate is strong,
               It shall be overcome.
                    And we shall overcome
                    Though not through hate, but design and resolve.

Recall the
      Surreal planes, the
      Pilots and plotters.
          This evil, overt act of War.
The towers and buildings shaken
And the world.
     Disturbed and awakened
          Once more.

In air and on ground
Heroes both perished and alive.
Survivors stumbling out. 
Rescuers rushing
In, and up,
     Though not returning.
Passengers rushing
Headlong, confronting terror and

     The Fall,
     That sinking feeling.
     Across a blue sky, the spreading, billowed gray cloud of ash, the dark dust and debris of noise, of pain.
          Of death.
          Of emptiness.

Giant, twisted metal shards,
Sharp, jangled angles mark where angels once stood.
A hole burrowed into the ground of a deathless field,
     Through crumbled burned walls,
          And in the world.

Flags flown,
Heads bowed.
     Taking a deep breath,
     We stand.

Loved ones
In homes partially empty, but hearts mostly filled,
     Are dedicated to their memory.
      And the rest of us?
          Our culture? Our families?
          Our leaders? Their policies?

          Dedicated to, and aware of,

Memories touch our feelings.
Of lives lost -- and some saved.
Of heroes, of evil,
     Of that day.

Either two hundred fifty miles, or twenty,
Far away, or much too close, 
In another ten years, or in fifty,
Remember the sorrow, the sight, the significance,
Remember that act.
     Lest we forget our resolve -- our purpose.
     Lest we forget our core identity.
     Lest we forget our faith, our freedom.

No faded fear
Can overcome
Real freedom here.
     Or around the world.
Sooner or later, some day,
The strength of love melts away
     Any futile fear.

          In the face of the unthinkable.
          Honorably protect the innocent.
               Re-discovering innocence.
          A positive

     Responsible and Invincible.
Only then
We can get to the place where
We can purposely, productively forget. When
We remember.

# # # 

Thomas S. Monson on 9-11 "Rebuilding"

President Monson in the Washington Post. [Emphasis added.] 
9/11 destruction allowed us to spiritually rebuild
By Thomas S. Monson, Posted at 11:38 AM ET, 09/08/2011, Washington Post “On Faith”

The calamity of September 11th, 2001 has cast a long shadow. Ten years later, many of us are still haunted by its terrible tragedy of lost lives and broken hearts. It is an episode of anguish that has become a defining moment in the history of the American nation and the world. This week, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with Tom Brokaw, will pay its own homage to the unforgettable events of September 11, 2001.

There was, as many have noted, a remarkable surge of faith following the tragedy. People across the United States rediscovered the need for God and turned to Him for solace and understanding. Comfortable times were shattered. We felt the great unsteadiness of life and reached for the great steadiness of our Father in Heaven. And, as ever, we found it. Americans of all faiths came together in a remarkable way.

Sadly, it seems that much of that renewal of faith has waned in the years that have followed. Healing has come with time, but so has indifference. We forget how vulnerable and sorrowful we felt. Our sorrow moved us to remember the deep purposes of our lives. The darkness of our despair brought us a moment of enlightenment. But we are forgetful. When the depth of grief has passed, its lessons often pass from our minds and hearts as well.

Our Father’s commitment to us, His children, is unwavering. Indeed He softens the winters of our lives, but He also brightens our summers. Whether it is the best of times or the worst, He is with us. He has promised us that this will never change.

But we are less faithful than He is. By nature we are vain, frail, and foolish. We sometimes neglect God. Sometimes we fail to keep the commandments that He gives us to make us happy. Sometimes we fail to commune with Him in prayer. Sometimes we forget to succor the poor and the downtrodden who are also His children. And our forgetfulness is very much to our detriment.

If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from our experience of that fateful day, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us. We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. It should not require tragedy for us to remember Him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving Him our faith and trust. We too should be with Him in every season.
The way to be with God in every season is to strive to be near Him every week and each day. We truly “need Him every hour,” not just in hours of devastation. We must speak to Him, listen to Him, and serve Him. If we wish to serve Him, we should serve our fellow men. We will mourn the lives we lose, but we should also fix the lives that can be mended and heal the hearts that may yet be healed.

It is constancy that God would have from us. Tragedies are not merely opportunities to give Him a fleeting thought, or for momentary insight to His plan for our happiness. Destruction allows us to rebuild our lives in the way He teaches us, and to become something different than we were. We can make Him the center of our thoughts and His Son, Jesus Christ, the pattern for our behavior. We may not only find faith in God in our sorrow. We may also become faithful to Him in times of calm.

Thomas S. Monson is president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Power Words

Power Words

Passion, Focus, Honor


Think, Tough

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Footstompin' Music"

Cade is 11 months old. Look at him go! Love his face, love his excitement in walking (he was giggling half way through), and love him -- and his wonderful family. SO much.

[When I rotated the video 90 degrees to turn it right-side up, I somehow lost the audio. I couldn't figure out how I lost it, or how to put it back in the video, but I could figure out how to put some music on top of the video. I wanted to overlay a version of "[Do] The Locomotion" but could only quickly figure out how to insert a song from the beginning. Hence, Footstompin' Music.]

Monday, August 08, 2011

Still, Terry

By Scott L Vanatter

Poem written August 8, 2011 about my friend Terry Tenove (1954-1978)

Still, I think of him -- and often.
  (Happily and with affinity.)

Sometimes, still, my heart aches then is softened
  (Subtly, I see.)

His time with us, though shortened, still is not forgotten.
  (Not by me.)

What he could have created here, is foregone.
  (But one day still may be.)

Who he was here, doesn’t alone determine who he shall one day become.

Smiling inside, I know he’s happy even now.
  (And free.)

In our future reunion all will be compensated, corrected, and perfected.

No longer in our time, he is forever in God’s.
  (Nobly. Still, Terry.)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Her Heart's Desire

Her Heart’s Desire

Poem by Scott L. Vanatter for Becky on her 57th birthday

The power and clarity of her word,
The strength and surety of her promise,
  Shows us that she knows.

The breadth and depth of her experience,
The focus and extent of her knowledge,
  Helps us grow as she grows.

Because of . . .
The light and truth that fill her mind,
The yearning and warmth and conscience of her heart,
  Our soul’s comfort overflows.

    Basking in the shower of her love, we are whole.


Her Heart’s Desire (2.0)
Poem by Scott L. Vanatter for Becky on her 57th birthday, alternate version.

Ver. 2.0 is another take on the same ideas, only more declarative. Becky prefers the original above, as do I.

Her words are clear and powerful.
Her promises are sure and strong.
  We know she knows.

Her experience is broad and deep.
Her knowledge is focused and extensive.
  We grow as she grows.

Because . . .
Her mind is filled with light and truth,
And because of her heart’s conscience, yearning and warmth,
  We are comforted and our soul overflows.

    We bask in the shower of her love, and are whole.


For Becky, with Love 
Happy Birthday!

While the poem was written for and about Becky, it also has reference to all those in our lives who exhibit such divine feminine characteristics. Those qualities which draw us to them -- whether they are those angelic/divinely feminine women who reside in the heavens, or here on earth. All exert such a powerful, sometimes unrealized (perhaps consciously unknown) influence on our lives and heart. Thank heaven for Love, thank heaven for them. And to me, thank heaven for Becky -- My Eternal Sweetheart.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Religion and Freedom

From the Newsroom at

Religion and Freedom


Freedom of religion has been, and still is, an essential moving force in the grand experiment of American democracy. Planting that principle of religious freedom in early America brought about two profound results—the rejection of a “divine right of kings” doctrine, and breaking the 1,500-year European tradition of upholding a state-established church.[1] And with that, a heritage of self government, not to mention distinctly different congregations, sprang up.

Yet no one could take freedom of religion for granted. Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Mormons and others have all faced, at one time or another, overt prejudice and serious attempts to curtail their liberties (sometimes coming from fellow religionists). Yet looking back over the long narrative of American religious history and the experience gained, the principle of religious freedom is prevailing.

Respecting freedom of religion has brought about the remarkable plurality and autonomy of religious thought in America. Among the various religious traditions in the United States today, the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey identified over 100 different denominations. Intense religious experience is found alongside religious apathy and nonaffiliation. Long established faith traditions exist with the new and emerging. Moreover, a sizeable portion of parishioners is migratory. The Pew study found that more than one quarter of American adults have “left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion — or no religion at all.”

Yet we get along relatively well and manage to live with our differences. In fact, living peacefully with our deepest differences is necessary in our pluralistic society, and religious freedom is an example of how to do it. It’s a lesson we really can’t live without and still be true to our national ideals.

That’s because religious freedom provides what is essentially a “network” of freedom. It’s a network because every single church and congregation throughout this country is interconnected by the same laws and constitutional rights to believe, express and act according to its doctrines. An abridgement of those rights in Alabama will necessarily affect those rights for a believer or church in Washington. Cut a distant root and the whole tree is affected.

But this network, this connectedness, does more than protect religious belief. The established practice of freedom of religion, and the lessons and habits we’ve learned from it, upholds and sustains the same freedom of conscience for any individual, group or association to believe, to express and to act.

That’s because the maintenance of this broad freedom in a pluralistic society like ours, even for those with whom we disagree, naturally becomes a powerful influence and protection against any singular, exclusive force or requirement that would limit freedom. Freedom of conscience for Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and everyone else guards against ill-gotten authoritarianism and abusive inequality — secular or religious, liberal or conservative.

Thomas Jefferson put it this way: “It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others, or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.”

This is one of the great advantages of our national experience with religious freedom that goes beyond religion and churches. We’re trained and practiced in our history and culture against autocracy. Maintaining this “network” of religious freedom is, in a fashion, our 21st century way of rejecting the “divine right of kings.” And these freedoms, religious and secular, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reminds us, must necessarily “be qualified by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all.”

It’s not without purpose or intent that freedom of religion is the first right secured in the First Amendment.

This is the lesson and the experience of religious freedom. It’s certainly not an exaggeration when it’s called our “first freedom.”

[1] See Robert Booth Fowler, Allen D. Hertzke, Laura R. Olsen, Kevin R. Den Dulk,Religion and Politics in America, Faith, Culture and Strategic Choices (pp. 2-4)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Permanent Things: Toward an Understanding of Mormons

Permanent Things: Toward an Understanding of Mormons

Editorial from the Newsroom at

Religion in America is in a state of flux. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey shows that the number of those who claim no religious affiliation nearly doubled from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008.
In addition, Pew’s 2009 Faith in Flux survey found that “about half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lives.” A study published in 2010 entitled American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us maintains that in America “it seems perfectly natural to refer to one’s religion as a ‘preference’ instead of as a fixed characteristic.”
In this shifting religious environment it is easy to talk of the fleeting and superficial rather than the deeper foundations of spiritual life. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand their message to be the full gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Bible and other scriptures. What transcendent ideals do they aspire to? How do their beliefs answer the needs of contemporary religious seekers concerned about the great, permanent questions of human life? Among the many ways to approach their religious experiences and beliefs, here are a few basic principles that Latter-day Saints hold to as enduring truths.
Identity: We know ourselves by knowing God
From the very beginning, human beings have sought to understand the meaning and source of their existence. “Know Thyself” has been a call to personal reflection since ancient times. But in this inward quest for self-knowledge, it is easy to get lost. Individuals cannot know themselves without knowing God, their Creator. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church, taught, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” The dignity and worth of mankind is grounded in its divine origin.
  • God is a personal Father of perfect love. He is a distinct and knowable being engaged in the details of mankind’s hopes and struggles. Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are personages separate in substance but one in purpose. The full expression of God’s love and character is embodied in Jesus Christ, whom He sent to save a fallen world and offer a tangible ideal of perfection.
  • God has instilled divine attributes in His children, whom He created literally in His own image and likeness, both physical and spiritual. Human virtues, therefore, descend from divine virtues. As each individual possesses a seed of divine potential, this likeness ennobles the human quest for self-improvement and gives meaning to our natural desire for understanding. Much expectation and promise come with being children of God, “and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). According to one author, Joseph Smith brought about “the greatest intellectual fusion of his age,” namely that “the majesty of God does not exist at the expense of the dignity of man.”
  • In ancient Athens people made offerings to an unknown god. Across the ages people of faith have also sought reconciliation with a god they did not fully know. Love, however, is not borne of obscurity. Neither God nor mankind wishes to be a mystery to the other. This mutual yearning fulfills the end of existence — friendship between divinity and humanity. To know God is our highest aspiration.
Community: No man is an island unto himself
Throughout history, civilizations have aspired to build an ideal society. This collective effort has taken many forms, from tribe and township to kingdom and commonwealth. From the earliest days of the Church, Latter-day Saints have worked toward creating a community of fellowship and belonging where unique persons come together under a common obligation to God and each other. As human beings are social creatures by nature, so happiness best thrives in a social context. The nature of religious life is communal rather than solitary. Likewise, the Latter-day Saint social ethos is not cloistered, but interwoven in society. Mormons engage with and reach out to people around the world. “Friendship,” said Joseph Smith, “is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’”
  • The Latter-day Saint worldview is rooted in two different perspectives — mastering the practicalities of this life while striving for our home in the next. The two are tied together. The aim of Mormon community life, therefore, is to achieve not only happiness here but also spiritual flourishing there. An oft-cited passage of latter-day scripture reads: “That same sociality which exists among us here [in mortality] will exist among us there [in eternity], only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (D&C 130:2).
  • The desire to belong to something larger than oneself is part of human nature. The Church unites people of all types and classes in mutual responsibility, teaching that “every man should esteem his neighbor as himself” (Mosiah 27:4). The heart of community is the family, where character is first nurtured and cooperation first learned. Local congregations of the Church are geographically designated so as to bring neighbors closer together and provide opportunities to serve each other.
  • The love of Christ, also called charity, is the highest of all virtues. It is best cultivated and practiced in a community setting.The warmth of Mormon community life extends beyond Sunday worship services and blesses everyday social interactions. These connections provide rootedness where the individual and the collective are attached to each other through mutual experiences, shared burdens, collective memory and a common language of meaning. Yet Mormons are not content to help their own. Individual members, as well as the Church, look outward to assist the poor and needy in local communities and countries around the world. Church President Thomas S. Monson urged: “I think we should not be sequestered in a little cage. I think we have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live.”
Eternity: How we fit in the big picture
Measuring life beyond that small space between birth and death is a commonality among virtually all religions. Mormons view themselves as players in a grand historical drama that spans the stages of eternity. God’s great plan of happiness can be likened to a three-act play. In the premortal life of act one, God nurtures His spirit children, who freely learn the principles of truth and happiness, form individual identity and prepare for this mortal experience that they chose to undertake. Act two is the test of mortality on earth. Here God’s children, as embodied individuals, deepen their understanding, knowledge and experience by making choices, exercising faith and relying on the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Act three is the great expanse of life after death when, as one Church leader put it, “the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.” Hereafter, the never-ending course of experience moves onward.
  • Freedom of choice is the engine that propels human progression forward. In Mormon thought there is no beginning and no end to purposeful activity. Human intelligence, accomplishment and character continue into eternity: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life” will follow us in the hereafter (D&C 130:18).
  • God gives all His children talents and understanding to fulfill their individual destiny here on earth. They then take the knowledge and experience they gained in this world and continue to grow and develop in the afterlife.
  • The affinity of human associations is a source of great happiness in this life and serves as a model for relationships in the next. Through the highest sacraments of Mormon temples, the bonds of family relationships can be forged across generations and sealed for eternity. For Mormons, these many relationships and friendships, expanded into eternity, are what constitute heaven and happiness.
From time to time Mormons are thrust into the public spotlight. Yet the permanent things that ground their inner lives in this changing religious landscape are often left out of the picture. The Mormon understanding of what it means to be human and to belong to the larger human family rarely finds a place in the public narrative. That bigger picture is essential to understanding who Mormons are. One religion scholar said: “Mormonism is a really complex theological system. All its parts fit together beautifully. But if you just know a little bit about one of them, or part of them, it seems weird.” Yet it is these same beliefs that animate Mormons’ public engagement, inspire good works and bless their interaction with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Indeed, theirs is an enduring pursuit.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Priesthood Leaders

How Priesthood Leaders Have Blessed Me and My Family And Helped Us Come Closer to Christ

Talk by Scott Vanatter at Oakton Stake Priesthood Leadership Meeting, June 11, 2011


Melchizedek priesthood leaders are taught that “…this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth . . . the key of the knowledge of God.” That “…in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”(DC 84: 19-20)

Good morning brethren.

My topic is, “How Priesthood Leaders have Blessed Me and My Family -- and Helped Us Come Closer to Christ.”

My family and I have been blessed by inspired words of ward and stake priesthood leaders. We’ve also been blessed by their dedicated lives– by what they do, by who they are.

Their eternal perspective, and their connection with us, has created within us a lively, real world hope. This ‘hope in Christ’ provides us calm assurance that we can do it -- we can live the gospel, repent and progress and come unto Christ…. [1]


As important as inspired wordsand dedicated lives are, the priesthood provides something even more concrete. When priesthood leaders teach core principles with the added focus on the blessings of priesthood ordinances, this combination provides a firm and tangible “anchor to [our] souls.” Ordinances not only hold the promise of future, eternal blessings, they also bless us -- in their very nature -- today. The Atonement itself promises both an ultimate blessing, and also important blessings in the here and now -- or, as the Prophet Joseph termed it, the One Eternal Now. (See HC 4:597)


Through the “greater priesthood [we, as priesthood leaders] administer…the gospel.” It also facilitates our ministering to those we serve. In both formal and informal ways, the priesthood also holds not only “the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, [but especially] the key ofthe knowledge of God.” // (See D&C 84:19)


What is the real definition of a mystery? Anciently, and biblically, it is assuredly not something that was unknowable. Something unknowable can best be described as an enigma. A mystery, on the other hand, is something that was or is not known, but can now be made known. Especially by revelation, most particularly based in and around ordinances. Temple ordinances. Previously unknown mysteries – once revealed to the world – are intended to be known by any and all those who are prepared to receive them.

Note: The word ‘mystery’ comes from related Latin and Greek words, whose root meaning is to be ‘initiated.’ Again, think temple ordinances. [2]


Why do ordinances exist? Many entities in the world, churches, fraternal organizations, governments, etc., have their ritual. In the Gospel sense, ordinances create a real-world tangible thing on which the person receiving the ordinance can focus. This tangible thing, or touch by laying on of hands, or contact with water, or oil, or bread, or a veil, etc., has deep inner meaning, and power to focus our mind on the eternal principle at hand. These ordinances stand for “vast realities” in the heavens, in our inner selves, and between our God and our selves -- too vast for solely casual contemplation.

In his first letter, John remarks that this symbolic focal point, quote,

“which ye have received of him abideth in you, and…teacheth you of all things, and [is real] is truth, and is no lie.” He continues, “as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” End quote. // (See 1 John 1:27.)

Lesson 5 of the Temple Preparation Course (which can be downloaded from by anyone in the world), says that ordinances, quote,

“help us remember important things . . . [they] can teach us abstract truths that might be hard to learn in other ways. . . . When [ordinances] are repeated, we learn to understand them better. [3]

“In a symbolic way, [temple ordinances] take us on an upward journey toward eternal life, ending with a symbolic entrance into the presence of God. The characters depicted, the physical setting, the clothing worn, the signs given, and all the events covered in the temple are symbolic. When they are understood, they will help each person recognize truth and grow spiritually.

“[Ordinances provide] a visual and tactile reminder of [our covenants…].” End quote. [4]

Joseph Smith spoke of the power of symbolism in the King Follett Discourse, “All things whatsoever God has seen proper to reveal to us are revealed to us in the abstract…” He also reminded us that, “The Holy Ghost is God's messenger to administer in all [these] priesthoods.” (Teachings, p. 323) [5]


So, priesthood leaders ought to clearly teach, “Therefore, [that] in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” (DC 84:20). Something is manifest when it is ‘easily understood or recognized by our mind.’ This happens both in our teaching about the ordinance, and when the person actually receives it, or ponders on it afterwards. [7]


I have been blessed – and my family has been blessed -- by priesthood leaders in and out of the temple pointing us to the ordinances, to the “vast realities” and eternal relationships for which the ordinances stand. We are, indeed, the offspring of God. We are indeed, that close to Him, in our relationship and in our nature. Closer than we usually think: from the seminal King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith revealed, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”

So, then, we priesthood leaders are, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” The mysteries of godliness are found both temples in Primary songs, such as “I am a Child of God.” [8]


Priesthood leaders have blessed me and my family by making it easy to see who Christ really is, and into his heart; that He is real; that He loves us, and cares for us; [9]

A few specific examples:

· Before I joined the church, young men leaders at a ward youth conference, taught me and the rest of the young men in attendance, about the law of chastity. I was blessed with a deep appreciation for their frank and wise counsel.

· At the same ward youth conference the bishop challenged everyone in attendance to bear their testimony. Not yet a member, but recognizing something different in Mormons, I arose, stated that, whatever it was, perhaps someday I could be a part of it. I was blessed by responding to the bishop’s challenge to vocalize what was happening inside me. [10]

· A few weeks later, after the missionaries taught and interviewed me for baptism, the bishop also sat me down and asked pointed and searching questions, ensuring I had a real testimony, and intended to be faithful and active no matter what. I was blessed to recognize his spiritual position and respect it. [11] [12]

· I changed wards, and after receiving the Melchizedek priesthood, the quorum president assigned me, as a 19 year old convert, to be a home teacher to some less active families. I was blessed that he facilitated my learning to stretch and give and serve.

· At the same time a priesthood leader made the decision to assign a stake high councilman to be my home teacher. As a recent convert, and new in this ward, they didn’t know me from Adam. Yet, they took me under their wing, and helped focus me on the priesthood and my responsibilities as a priesthood holder. I was blessed to see that the elders quorum presidency took their quorum responsibilities to heart. They were diligent and thorough and, in a word, real “men.”

· Shortly after this, as I was preparing to serve a mission, my second bishop taught me about the temple ordinances and personally escorted me to the temple to receive my endowment the Friday before I reported to the Mission Home (there was no MTC back then). I was blessed by his emphasis on the spirit and connection of temple worship. [13]

· My family has been blessed to have felt the Lord’s love for us when being set apart by the power of the priesthood. [14]

· Clerks and secretaries have shown that we matter by carefully and promptly communicating with us, personally brining us into the fold, and with those who hold the keys, and via the records. [15]

Priesthood leaders have blessed me and my family in coming unto Christ, because they have made real the hope described by Hugh B. Brown, 

“A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood; and that will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism. Life is really a battle between fear and faith, pessimism and optimism. [16]


Priesthood leaders who help us see, feel and Come unto Christ, make it easy for us to say in our hearts and to our neighbors, with Joseph Smith,

“We don't ask [you] to throw away any good [you’ve] got; we only [invite you] to come and get more. … [17]


I conclude with two observations about us as priesthood leaders, one from Joseph and another from Jesus.

Eliza R. Snow recorded Joseph Smith recommending to leaders,

“Nothing is so much calculated to lead people…as to take them by the hand and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind – [18]

In his Great Intercessory Prayer, Jesus prayed to the Father for us, his priesthood leaders:

“9 I pray for them. . . 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. . . . 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . 23 . . . that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou . . . and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

“24 Father, I will that they . . . be with me where I am; . . . 26 . . . that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” // (John 17)


I bear witness that priesthood leaders fit together as one body in drawing down the blessing of heaven, such that if we will receive it, the blessing will come to overflowing.

I thank heaven for these priesthood leaders, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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[1] that, with the Lord, we can overcome any obstacle. Their decisions made in council after careful deliberation, or on the fly, as inspired “in the very moment” provide tailored individual direction. They mark the wayand lead us in the paths of righteousness.

Their “power [and] influence... by virtue of the priesthood, [comes to us] by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge….” By their actions and manner, we can tell “that [their] faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (See DC 121:37-44)

[2] We might think of the phrase, the “key of the mysteries of the kingdom” as applying in large measure to how we run the church, the kingdom. We know how to more perfectly organize and run wards, stakes, quorums, etc., around the world. This “key” is held by presidents.

We might also think of the phrase the “key of the knowledge of God” as ultimately referring to temple ordinances. Additionally, we can see how this “key” applies generally to ward and stake priesthood holders, when they point to, speak about, and prepare those they are called to serve to “make and keep sacred covenants.” And not just temple ordinances; all priesthood ordinances point to the temple – and to the Lord – in their core symbolic meaning.

[3] ‘All things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual (Moses 6:63).’

[4] … Each person should prepare to be as spiritually sensitive as possible to the symbolic nature of the temple [ordinances].

[5] What applies to the “fulness of the Priesthood” (see D&C 124:28), also applies to all priesthood ordinances, if we let it. If we foster it. If we, as priesthood leaders, teach it.

[6] When babies are given a name and a blessing, the idea of their being held in loving arms can be seen as representations of God carrying and supporting the babe.

In baptism we can be seen to be washed over completely with the waters of life and fully enveloped in His love. Being gently laid into a soft, watery grave, by a strong arm we are then lifted up by power into a new life.

Hands laid on our heads, for the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and other anointing, blessings, or settings apart, serve as a tactile, tangible reminder of God reaching down to touch our very souls. If Jesus himself were in our presence, he would lay hand on our heads and bless us as he did the little children in the Book of Mormon.

[7] The next verse in D&C 84 reads, taking out the double negatives:

In “…the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is…manifest unto men in the flesh; …with…[these ordinances]…man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” // (DC 84:22-23) 

So, power here can simply be thought of as drawing down the blessings of heaven; and authority as providing a means for access to the ordinances.

We can understand the word “live” here, not so much as our being in jeopardy of literally dying in his immediate presence, but to really, and fully live -- to live a godly, aware, connected, full useful life. I might suggest another way to understand this sentence could be, “the power of godliness is manifest unto men in the flesh; [and] with… [the ordinances of the priesthood], man can [live to] see the face of God, even the Father, [‘in the flesh’].”

[8] Often, when a mystery is finally made known to us, we might say within our heart, “Even though I am just now recognizing and seeing this great, yet simple truth, it seems like I have always known it.”

We need to be essentially ‘born again’ -- time and time again, seeing afresh the great eternal truths – and appreciate them in a new way in every phase of our lives. If we see these truths anew, we can help those we are called to serve, also see anew.

[9] that our faith results in a lively, personal hope in Christ.


Before I joined the church, my future priesthood leaders – the bishop, his counselors, and young men leaders -- blessed my life as an investigator.

During wrestling season my senior year, a few weeks before I began taking the missionary discussions, I attended a two-day youth conference, with my future wife, held in the mountains of Southern California. I had pinned my first thirteen opponents, but (stupidly) lost a close match to my opponent at our arch rival, San Marino High School. As I had expected to go undefeated the entire year, I was in somewhat of a humbled attitude at we arrived a bit late at the cabins. The conference included various fun activities, horseback rides, free time in the snow, and also combined conference sessions where various young women and young men leaders spoke. After the opening session, the young men were taken into one room, and the young women in another where we were given presentations on chastity, tailored to the male or female point of view. As a non-member, I appreciated and agreed with the forthright and wise counsel I received in these frank lessons. At the end the conference, the bishop said we would now hold a testimony meeting then announced, “And I expect to hear from everyone.” Becky leaned over to me and said, “That doesn’t mean you.” Nevertheless, towards the end of the meeting, after most all of the youth bore their testimonies, I stood up, and said, in effect, “I don’t know what it is, but, you have something. Whatever it is, maybe someday I can part of it.”The youth of the ward included most every clique you can imagine, jocks, intellectuals, surfers, hippies, loud ones, quiet ones, etc. I had friends like these at my own high school. Still, there was something different about this motley crew. Through my future wife’s testimony and also seeing these leaders and peers live the gospel, and after taking the missionary discussions, I had to be part of it. The bishop’s decision to hold the testimony meeting and, essentially, challenge me to bear a testimony


The week after my wrestling season ended in the CIF southern sectionals, I formally began the missionary discussions. By the second or third lesson I knowingly recognized that I had a testimony. A real testimony. I knew it. I finally knew there was a God. I knew I had to be baptized; I had to join the church. I had to and wanted to honor God, follow Jesus, and keep the commandments. I knew Joseph was a prophet. No matter what.

Now, this same wise bishop made the decision to hold the testimony meeting, and who encouraged, or rather, challenged us all to bear testimony, also decided to carefully interview me after, and in addition to, the district leader interviewing me.

He sat me down in his office and said, after a few niceties,“You should know that most young men who join the church because of a young woman fall away within a year. Are you going to fall away within a year?” For a split second I thought this was a rude question to me, of course I was not joining for this reason. After the split second, I immediately had the thought, No, the Bishop has every right and even the responsibility to ensure that guys don’t join the church, the true church, JUST to get close to a young woman. I calmly replied, “No, I am not going to fall away within a year.” The bishop probes further, “Well, what if you and Becky break up in a few months? What would you do then?” I was being baptized in her ward, twenty-five miles away from where I lived. I replied, “Well, if we break up, I will continue attending but in my own ward.” I almost wanted Becky to break up with me so I could prove to him, to anyone, that I was NOT joining for the wrong reasons. The bishop went on to ask me if I had any questions for him. I asked him only one question, about blacks and the priesthood and whether we proactively sent missionaries into Watts. He replied, in effect, that blacks could not yet hold the priesthood, that one day they would, and that ultimately no blessings would be withheld. As I recall, he did not think that we did have missionaries in Watts. For me, being baptized was not dependent on his answer, however, as he offered, I appreciated his being open to my asking what could have been a tough question. And especially, I appreciated his eternal, generous, point of view –and the spirit with which he offered it.

Now, this bishop’s wise decisions at the youth conference, his pointed questions, and of course, his exemplary personal life, family life, and Christ-like manner -- all of which were carefully and appreciatively noticed by me -- played an important part in confirming my decision to act on the testimony I was sure I had received.

[12] This same bishop advised us all to read the church magazines, and to go to Institute. Though he did not overtly talk to me about a mission, I was blessed by following his counsel to engage in these activities, and then to see for myself that I needed to serve a mission.

He continually emphasized DC 121, “let virtue garnish thy thoughts…” and the all the rest. Including, how the doctrine of the priesthood would descend upon us as gently, as im-perceptively, but a thoroughly as “dews of heaven.”

[13] After my mission, as a young married father, we were blessed in another ward to have the entire elders quorum presidency visit our humble apartment.

In subsequent wards and stakes Becky and I were extended calls to -- and trusted with -- positions where we were needed and where we could make a difference. We were blessed to have the confidence and – in a couple instances with my wife – written thanks from the stake president on a successful Girls Camp. Once, I was called over the pulpit in stake conference to be a 70s president, without being told ahead of time.

[14] I have been blessed at times to have had loving, building, effective PPIs.

We have been blessed by bishops, counselors, and members of the stake presidency who have gone out of their way to get to know us, and greet us with a smile, and interact with us. To personally connect with us, to reach us, to teach us.

[15] I have been blessed by witnessing bishopric members, elders and high priest leaders, high councilmen and members of a stake presidency exerting constant care for years, for, e.g., the stake YSAs.

[16] Fear and pessimism paralyze men with skepticism and futility.” // (Hugh B. Brown (1883 - 1975), The Abundant Life, p. 50)

Faith and Hope make us alive in Christ; they perfect our love of the Father and the Son; and make us one with them.

[17] They would then see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon [them], which is my whole soul.” // (Joseph Smith --Sunday 22 Jan. 1843 at the Nauvoo Temple. Teachings, p. 274)

[18] while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.” // (Relief Society minutes, June 9, 1842)

The Lord revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.” // (DC 93:19)

The Lord encourages priesthood leaders in the concluding verses of D&C 84,

“And verily I say unto you, the rest of my servants, go ye forth as your circumstances shall permit, in your several callings, [in] the great and notable cities and villages…setting forth clearly and understandingly…[the gospel]. . . . For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now [but] ye shall see it, and know that I am….” (DC 84:117, 119)

Of his leaders, Jesus said,

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, andthat your fruit should remain: ….” // (John 15:16)

And also,

“I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” // (Luke 22:32)

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