Tuesday, February 26, 2008

About my Grandfather

TRANSCRIPT of reflections of Earl Ashurst (my Grandfather) and his brother, Julian.  Recorded on tape in 1969.

We were on an old ranch in West Texas when any of us can remember, and

then what we heard the folks tell about the Abilene country when they

first come out there.  But I, ... a lot of little things went on over the

years, but in 1910, the folks had begun to have California fever.  Los

Angeles was advertised pretty big in that country then, and everybody had

to go to Los Angeles.  And then drouth in West Texas at that time - most

of the time - and we took cattle out of the pasture on our old ranch

there, took them North about 75 miles, up on the foot of the pan-handle

country and found pasture for 'em up there and kept 'em  there until Fall,

and took the sheep up later on.  Then my Dad sold the cows and we brought

the sheep back to the ranch, and we got on the train ... and the Orient

Railroad had come through San Angelo by that time.  San Angelo had been

for years, the end of the Santa Fe Railroad, but the Orient had come in,

and we boarded the train across the river at the new depot for the Orient

Railroad, and headed for Los Angeles.  We had been growed up out there in

the sticks, and we didn't know houses had numbers or streets had names. 

We always just said you go over yonder, and that the thing's right there. 

But we got into Los Angeles, and it was quite a village then, even in

1910.  We'd go downtown, and start standing looking and gawking, and

stuff, and an old policeman would come along an says, "No loitering on the

streets.  Keep moving."  We, we thought that was pretty bad, for, and we

wanted to get back to Texas.  But, then we went on out to Whittier, and

picked walnuts out there that Fall, and finally went on out to Pomona,

where my Dad finally settled there, and had an orange grove.  But, back on

the ... we just went out here to visit then, and we stayed about - instead

of staying the year, we stayed about 14 or 16 months in Pomona.  And then

went back to the ranch.  And,  stayed about a year, then finally moved

permanently, back to Pomona.  And then later on, the folks, of course,

come to Imperial Valley.  But, they was a lot of little deals went on in

Texas there when we was kids - growing up together, and, my older brother,

Brook, he was married when we went back there, the last year, and lived on

the ranch there, about a mile from our old house, and I lived down there

with them about as much as anywhere else, until we moved back to

California, after about a year. 

I don't know where I got started there, but when the folks come to

Abilene, why they did live there for a while, but it was open range then,

and they moved West with the - and the range was beginning to fence up -

and did finally, everything was fenced, but my Dad had about three years

there of open range, and built up quite a herd of horses, and some sheep. 

And later on, wound up with mostly sheep.  And stayed with the sheep until

we sold the ranch in 1914, and moved to California permanently.  And

that's about all I know to talk about.


                    Julian asked a question - inaudible

I seem to be always, where the action was on there.  Claude was - maybe

the year we moved the cattle up to Mary Neal, Claude stayed, I guess to

help around the home place, but Julian went with us up there, and then as

soon as we got the cattle settled, the windmills greased up, and the water

started, Julian and my Dad went back to the ranch, and I stayed there with

the sheep.  And Brook was - that was the year that Mona Rea was born.  And

Brook was supposed to have met them on the day that they left, up at Mary

Neal, ...  Brook was supposed to have left the ranch and come up there and

stayed with me, but Myrtle was sick.  Mona Rea was just born then, and he

was having quite some troubles, so he stayed another week, and that left

me up there a week by myself with the sheep.  But we had some neighbors,

that had moved up there from Robert Lee,  they lived - they had a place

about a mile from there and they had kids my age, and I went over there

quite a bit.  Otherwise I was by myself there until Brook came up about a

week later. 

And, I don't know whether Julian remembers that or not, but we had what we

called a gramophone, and it had rubber cylinder records.  And we could -

we could make records with that, and the Loughlin kids' folks was gone one

time, and the Loughlin kids was there, and we got that thing out and got

it started going, and made some records.  I guess Julian wouldn't want to

tell what was on them records, but we didn't - to be sure nobody else

heard 'em, why we broke 'em before they ...

He, when he was a kid, he wanted to plow up corn - and drive the one

horse, and plow corn, but he figured his Dad ...  but his Dad went to town

one day, so he hitched up the old horse and got out, and was plowing

corn.  And about that time, his Dad was coming back.  He thought he was in

trouble - his old man showed him just how to tighten and set the line so

it wouldn't be too tight or too loose - showed him just how to plow - and

he's been plowing corn every since.  (laughing)  That was one story they

told about ...  (Arnold C.:  It didn't upset things, at all?)  No, he got

                       Julian Ashurst - Reflections

             (Earl was there and commenting in the background)

My mother's name was Alice C. Sparks,  And my Dad's name was Joseph

William Ashurst.  My Dad and Mother, when they left Kentucky, they came to

Abilene, Texas, and settled on Spring Creek.  And they used to have this

spring with ice-cold water, and it flowed through a little, clay trough,

and my mother would put her milk in there and let the cream raise, and

she'd make butter then out of the milk which we had - where we lived.  And

she had a windmill that did that after we came to West Texas.  But my Dad

went into the sheep business there in Abilene, Texas, and he got his start

in sheep there.  And then, later they moved to West Texas and fenced five

sections of pasture with fold-tooth wire.  And then he run sheep then, in

West Texas, and then finally got into the cattle business there. 

My Dad quit smoking and chewing tobacco when he was about 50 years old. 

And, that was here in Imperial Valley, but before that, there in Texas, he

used to eat all fried foods, and everybody told him he'd die young, and

after he got to California, he lived happy ever after - 82 years old when

he died.

                            inaudible question

Yeah, my Dad used to like biscuits, made with a lot of dough, kind of

high-rising ones, and I didn't like 'em with dough in 'em, and he would

get Irma to cook them - Irma would cook the biscuits like he liked 'em,

and then I'd take the inside out of 'em and roll it up into a dough-ball

and throw it at Irma.  My mother seemed to allow some things like that,

but she didn't allow us to complain about the food.  She'd never allow any

of us children to say it - when we got up to leave the table, if we

complained about the food - she had too many mouths to feed to put up with

youngsters complaining about the food.

This is about Earl.  He used to sit - there was a couch right behind the

table, next to the wall, and he'd always get mad if someone would fall on

that couch, and then he'd pout.  And my mother wouldn't give him no

breakfast, and he had to do without his breakfast.  And I guess then he

got in a good humor about noon.  Now Earl, I'm telling this, but I don't

want you to whoop me now.

Earl, do you remember when we went up and baled hay at Woodville?  And you

didn't have no socks, and we slept in a horse manger.  And we baled hay

and we made exactly $57, and we came home and the pump had - a gopher had

let water run into the pump and burned the pump out and it cost $57.  Do

you remember that, Earl?

My Dad had 4 brothers that were bachelors, and they lived in Kentucky. 

And they all lived in one house, and they wouldn't speak to each other,

and they all lived there for a long time.  He grew up there, and they were

an Uncle of his, and he grew up with them in Kentucky.  I don't what

finally ... they never did marry - they were always bachelors.  And they

tried to run their business together and that didn't work, yet they still

kept living together.  And that's about the story that my Dad told it to

us.  He was always marveling how clean they kept everything.  They'd

pick up every little stick and twig that was around, on the ranch, and

taught him to do that.  And he thought there was a real saving because

they didn't allow any sticks to lay around or anything.  Kind of an

interesting story about them.  My Dad always told me about these four

uncles of his, that was were real prosperous, and yet they couldn't get


When we lived at Pomona in the orange grove, my Dad's three sisters came

out.  Lula, Anabelle, I don't know what the other one's name was, but they

were real good to get along with.  They helped out in the house, and they

wanted to do all the work.  We always liked them, - and my mother didn't

get along with them too good, but, we could see why.  So we all lived

there in the orange grove for - they visited here for about a month.  And

then they went back to Kentucky - they lived in Kentucky.  They were old

maids - lived in Kentucky there, and came out here just to visit.  My Dad

wasn't home at that time.  He was up North raising cotton, up in San

Juaquin Valley, and so that was the only close relatives of my Dad that we

ever knew  - was these three old maids.  (inaudible question from Arnold

C.)  they lived between Lexington and Paris Kentucky.

This one Aunt lived in Paris, Ky., and we were visiting there, three years

ago, and they was always friendly.  They came out to Pomona and visited

with us.  He was an engineer on the railroad there - he owned a little

ranch there, 2, uh, 80 acre ranch.  Kentucky was beautiful country.  But

we never did get acquainted with many of Pappa's kin folks.  They were of

the William Penn tribe - they married into the Penns.  My Dad's Dad

married one of the Penn girls, and they lived in Paris, Kentucky and were

raised there. 


My Dad said, in Texas that he was beginning to have stomach trouble, and

he wanted to come to California where he could eat fruit.  And my Mother

said, Yeah he just had stomach trouble to come to California, and that was

all.  But anyway, he come out to California, and he had a - bought a 20

acre orange grove.  He had all the fruit he wanted.  Then, they came to

Imperial Valley from the orange grove and went to raising cotton and sheep

here in Imperial Valley.

     (inaudible, something about staying a year so nobody could say they

     didn't like it there.)

And that's when he bought the orange grove.  The first time he come out

here, he bought 5 acres down on Grand, and then Claude stayed out here.


                               Earl Ashurst

                    Funeral remarks by family members.

Arnold C. Ashurst:

We are here to remember a remarkable man, my father, Earl Ashurst. 

Throughout his working life, he was honest, hard-working, and fair in all

his dealings.  It seemed as though he would rather that the other fellow

got the advantage, if there was one.  I think there was no one on this

Earth he owed anything to.  So I would like to think of the good times we

had when he was younger and healthier.  He was a farmer and loved to see

crops growing, liked the freedom of the life, and was always interested in

his and his neighbors' success in growing.  He loved fishing, hunting,

camping with his grandsons, and visiting with his granddaughters.  As he

had grown up with horses, he liked to ride and was good at it.  My

grandfather, Joseph William Ashurst, married Alice Cochran Sparks in

Kentucky, and they brought sheep and breeding horses to Texas where there

was open range for a few more years.  They settled near Abilene, near

Spring Creek, later moving west near Brownwood.  Their children, including

Earl, were born there, and they prospered with sheep, cattle, horses, and

cotton.  There was drouth in 1910, causing Grandad to move the cattle, and

later the sheep north to the higher pan-handle country where there was

pasture.  That Fall, after selling the livestock, they boarded the Orient

Railroad for Los Angeles.  Grandad bought a 5 acre orange grove and tried

some cotton in San Juaquin Valley, until 1912, when most of the family,

including Earl, went back to Texas.  In 1914, after selling their

property, they moved to California for good, and Grandad bought a 10 acre

orange grove in Pomona.  Earl worked around Pomona area, with the good

team of horses he owned, and met my mother, Othelia.  They were married in

1916, and moved to Strathmore, where Earl farmed.  Their first son, Earl

William, was born there, and later they moved to Delano where their

second, and last, child was born (Arnold C. who is relating this

account).  My Grandfather was farming, and in the bee business near

Brawley by then, and as Earl thought the well water was being depleted

there in Kern County, he brought the family and a herd of sheep to

Imperial Valley in 1928, and stayed the rest of his life. 

The following is by James Ashurst, his Grandson:

...Grandfather, but he was also... to me he represented the link with the

past.  He was a contact with the time that has disappeared, or is rapidly

disappearing, and with a set of values that went along with that time. 

And this was quite important to me.  I used to try to get him to tell me

about those early days and the things that helped to form him the way he

was.  He grew up on a ranch in West Texas, with his family.  They were

quite self-sufficient out there - they lived a long ways from town,  and

they had to rely largely on their own resources.  They didn't have many of

the conveniences we have now days.  The shopping wasn't close by.  There

wasn't any doctor within 30 miles, and of course, in those days, with

their transportation consisting of either traveling by horseback or by

buckboard, that was a considerable trip.  They had a good, strong

community in that area, even though it was quite thinly strung.  There

were people lived a long ways apart on various ranches.  The ranch they

lived on consisted of 5 sections, or 5 square miles.  But the people there

were supportive of each other.  And they would help each other a lot, and

they were dependable.  They, quite often, if someone was heading into town

and they would pass by the ranch, they would do little chores for each

other, and sometimes they would save money up that needed to be deposited

in the bank, and they didn't figure they'd be heading into town to go to

the bank any time soon, so they would send that money with a neighbor, if

a neighbor happened to be passing by.  And at times they trusted their

neighbors with thousands of dollars, which was a considerable sum of money

in those days.  But they never lost any money doing that.  The money

always made its way to the bank, and the people were supportive and


He attended school in the one room school house there on the ranch.  His

father built the school house and hired the school teacher, and the

school basically consisted of his family.  At times there were other

families that had kids they send to that school if they lived in the area,

with kids.  Basically, it was a school that was set up for their family. 

The school teacher lived with them, and was part of their family.  And I'd

imagine that would make it rather difficult for him to cut up very much

the way kids like to do in school.  It couldn't have been very practical

to cut classes or got very far out of line knowing that very evening their

school teacher would be taking their meals with their parents.  The church

that they attended every Sunday was a community, non-denominational

church, and it was a little over an hour's ride by buckboard, to the

church house.  People took turns preaching there.  As often as not his

father was the preacher.  His father was considered to be kind of a

part-time preacher, but at times they also had circuit preachers, who

would be traveling through the area.  These were people who would travel

into an area and preach for a Sunday, or maybe two Sundays, and then

they'd travel on to another community.  With that sort of variety, with

people who came from all kinds of religious backgrounds, and different

preachers there was bound to be conflicts from time to time, and he told

the story of one time in particular, when a traveling preacher got up and

was preaching a sermon and made some statement about baptism, that maybe

reflected his own opinion.  One of the ladies in the congregation had

pretty strong opinions on the subject herself, and jumped up and pointed

her finger at him, and told him, "That's a d--- lie!".  I think that was

probably pretty entertaining to those young cowboys. 

He learned responsibility at an early age, living on the ranch.  He

learned how to work very early.  The chores were shared by all the members

of the family.  When they had a drought one year and they had to move all

their livestock - they'd leased some pasture up in the Texas Panhandle and

moved all their sheep up there.  Then the rest of the family returned home

to the ranch and left him by himself to look after that herd of sheep for

a couple fo weeks.  He was about 13 years of age at the time, so this was

a considerable responsibility for boy of that age.  He was not only

responsible for his own well-being and sustenance, but for the well-being

of those sheep, which represented a substantial part of the family fortune

at the time.  There was a family that he knew, in the neighborhood -

living in the area, but he took his meals with them at times, but he was

basically on his own. 

When they decided to move to California, he decided that he didn't want to

go.  He decided that everything a young man would want was there in Texas,

and so he determined to run away, and he hatched a plan to do so, that

involved a friend of his, and the friend was going to

come to the railroad depot the day they were scheduled to leave, and he

was going to bring an extra pony with him.  And just as the train was

about to pull out, he was going to jump off and get on that pony, and they

were going to gallop away.  And they felt that the rest of the family

wouldn't have time to try to run him down, because they had a train they

had to catch.  But the plan didn't come to fruition, because his friend

didn't show up.  So he ended up in California, in spite of his efforts,

and that may be how some of us ended up to be here, too.

He worked a wide variety of jobs and did a lot of different things in his

younger days, before he was settled in to owning his own farms.  One time

when he was staying with his brother, Brooks, in East Texas, for a period

of time, he got a job working on construction, on a bridge.  He was

working for salary, but most of the other men working on that job were a

prison labor force - they were a chain gang.  So in the evenings, they

would be put in their manacles and taken back to prison, and he would

simply go home. 

He worked as a goat herder for a period of time, in the Pomona area, in

California.  He herded goats up on the Forest Service land, on the

fire-breaks, to keep the vegetation down in those fire breaks.  And while

he was doing this, he stumbled on a mystery that, as far as we know has

remained unsolved every since.  He had a dog named Taft (named after a

President of the United States) and him and his dog were up herding goats

one day, and they came upon an old abandoned shack, and laid down to rest

beside that shack.  And the dog started to kind of digging under it,

whining.  So he took a look under the shack, and he found a man's leg. 

So, of course, he notified the Sheriff.  But that was all that was ever

found, was the leg, and nobody ever found out who it belonged to, or what

happened to the rest of the body, or anything.  And as far as I know, it's

still a mystery.

He had good times and he had bad times, and I believe, probably, about the

lowest time of his life was during the depression.  At that time he owned

a herd of sheep, and he brought them down to the Imperial Valley, and he

leased some pasture land, to raise them out on.  And he found that he

could not sell those sheep for as much as he owed on the pasture bill. 

And he had shorn them and had the wool stored, and he found that he

couldn't sell that wool for as much as the storage fee at the warehouse. 

So he was hopelessly in debt, and he lost most of what he had.  And he had

been brought up to believe that a man could succeed by hard work and by

being thrifty, and by being honest, and he found that this wasn't working

anymore.  That by working hard, he was only getting himself in deeper. 

And it caused him a considerable amount of mental agony, I suppose.   And

when he was telling me about this a year or two ago, it was - he was

visibly shaken, even just recalling it, even though it's been 50 years or

more.  But he stayed with his values, and he kept on working hard, and was

thrifty and was honest all his life.  And this started paying off from

that point, and every since then, I think he was - steadily improved his

lot, until eventually he prospered pretty well.

He always treated us Grandkids good.  In fact, I think he may have spoiled

us at times, more than he should have.  But I don't think I ever heard him

say anything bad about any of us, or to any of us.  It was a lot of times

we probably deserved to be read out a little, but he never would do it. 

He was always - treated us wonderfully.  Us kids from California (Utah)

used to come down here during the summer to visit Grandma and Grandpa, and

he always treated us to a real good time.  He used to take us to San Diego

at least once a year, and we'd go over there to the zoo and various

things, and see all the sights in San Diego.  And he went to quite a bit

of trouble to do these things for us.  And, of course, then we'd go back

to Utah, and a lot the kids that stayed up there had not done much in the

summer, so some people considered that we were pretty cosmopolitan and had

been aorund a lot. 

We used to love to have him come up to Utah to hunt with us.  He like to

go up there  and spend a little time camping out in the mountains with us,

and with companionship and all.  The hunting seemed to be just kind of a

side-light.  He didn't really seem to care whether he got a deer or not

that much, it was just mostly the idea of coming up and participating in

it with us.  There was one year, we was up there and he hunted a little,

and then he kind of decided not to take it too seriously, and he'd

returned to camp and was doing some of the camp chores.  He had the

coleman stove going, and was washing dishes and what not, by himself.  He

looked and saw a deer on a hill just outside of camp, just looking down on

him, washing.  And his gun was off in one corner of camp, and his bullets

was put away, and he didn't even try to take a shot at it.  He just kind

of watched the deer, and the deer watched him until they both seen all

they wanted to see.

He never in his adult life attended church very much, or if he did, I

don't know what church it would be.  He never talked much about what his

religious beliefs were, or what denomination he was, if any.  Church

didn't seem to play an important role in his life, as an adult.  And yet,

at the same time, he was an extremely moral man.  He had the highest of

moral statures.  He was absolutely honest in everything he did.  He didn't

seem to be capable of lieing to anyone, about anything.  He was easily a

patient man.  He was thrifty, and he believed in hard work.  He believed

strongly, that a man should work hard to make his own way in the World. 

He believed in paying all his debts.  And if he had what HE considered to

be a debt to someone, he would arrange, one way or another, to even

accounts.  It may take him decades to do so, but he would do it in the

end.  He was a charitable man, after his own fashion, but he didn't like

open charities, or charities with a lot of show.  He preferred, if he was

going to give someone something, to do it quietly and under the table, and

with as little fanfare as possible. 

He had a strong sense of humor, and he had a dry, slow way of talking,

presenting stories, but he liked to always put a little, clever twist to

it.  He had a dry sense of humor that was really enjoyable to be around. 

It made his stories something that we always liked to hear. 

So, I think that to me, he was more than my Grandfather, I like to think

he was also my friend.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The dog hater of Fillmore

There are lots of different ways people get out of harmony mentally, and even the quiet little town of Fillmore had some.  Starting in the 1940's and as late as the 60's there was a campaign to eradicate coyotes in the west in an effort to protect sheep and other livestock.  The  Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) led the campaign by placing baits of fresh meat laced with strychnine in areas away from domestic dogs.  I don't know why the sheep herders put up with that because their dogs often fell victim, too.  Strychnine is a horrible poison because it chokes off the airway and the victim slowly dies in horrible convulsions and obvious pain.  It only takes a tiny amount to work, and some of the people placing it were affected by casually touching their mouth or face after handling the stuff.  Although I don't remember anyone I knew actually dying from it, it did happen.  Tthe handlers would get a trace of strychnine dust on their hands in spite of their rubber gloves, and when they stopped to eat a sandwich or something for lunch, it would get them.  It was just horrible.  The Federal government had several episodes with trying to build up enmity between themselves and the public in the rural West at that time and the strychnine campaign was one of those.  Public furor slowly rose until they couldn't resist it any longer and the government had to get out of the poison business.  Private people like ranchers could buy it after that, but eventually all strychnine use was outlawed.

While I was growing up there were three times my parents decided it would be nice to have a dog.  One of these was a stray dog, but the other two were dogs they sought out.  I really loved having a dog, especially taking it on long hikes up the Canyon or out to "Flint Prairie", an area where the Indians used to camp and make arrowheads and an excellent spot for hunting arrowheads and flint knives (They were actually made from obsidian, not flint, but we didn't know the difference.)  On each of those times, we had the dog for only a few months before the dog killer made his rounds.  We never knew who it was, and as far as I know he was never caught.  It seemed to be about once a year or so that he'd show up and cover the whole town in the middle of the night.  One morning people would wake up to find their dogs dead, with half-eaten, strychnine laced meat nearby.  It seemed like the killer planned his route ahead of time and when he was ready he'd drive it, throwing the poison out from his vehicle into every yard where he knew there was a dog.  It seemed likely it might even have been two, with one driving and one throwing the meat from the back.  It was a miracle that no children were killed with that nasty stuff laying around the homes.  Our dogs were nothing special, just "Everything dogs," but Dr. Beckstrand up at the corner from us kept 2 or 3 registered weimereiners and those dogs were valuable.  He kept them in a big, chain-link fence, but it wasn't high enough to keep out the poisoners.

This was a sad time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Warning! Religious content

Mark asked me to post a talk I gave at Sacrament Mtg. while he was here between Christmas and New Years day I am flattered, and while I am a bit reluctant to post in this very public forum, I want to support Mark and all of you.  So, here it is:

The Miracle of Forgiveness

Isnt it a glorious day today?  I love it.

I assume everyone had a good Christmas?  You all ate lots of holiday treats and are now all set to make a resolution to loose those unwanted pounds?  Isnt it fun that we get to do this every year?

Well, I have an assigned topic, but I want to start out by talking about miracles.  It is a sad thing that so many people think of miracles as the BIG ONES only.  For example, Jesus turned wine into water, raised Lazarus from the dead, and fed the five thousand.  These are undoubtedly miracles of the highest order, but there are many more miracles of the smaller variety.  For example, it was certainly a miracle, in my opinion, that Mary of Magdala was able to see and converse with Jesus before he was risen to his father.  This was a singular event that apparently was beyond the understanding of the 12 apostles.  And, Im not sure we have the whole story either.  It seems that it was a very personal thing between just those two.

Also, there are other, seldom mentioned, but miraculous, spiritual events in our own lives.  If I may, Id like to share one with you from my own experience.  Some 15 years ago my mother was stricken with cancer.  She was barely able to participate when my large, noisy, growing, and tumultuous family all gathered at my parents home at Christmas time, but she did get to see us all one last time.  I was able to be with her for a while longer and was there when she died on Jan. 10.  I was the last one to see her open her eyes, though only for a moment, and to speak to her.  As it happened, my sister, my father, and I were the only ones present at the time of her death, and we sorrowfully watched her struggle with her last few breaths.  My father was at her side, and my sister across from him, so I stood at the foot of the bed.  We were all very somber, of course.

At the moment when she died, I suddenly felt a sense of wonderful joy!  I felt it was my mothers spirit passing by me, and I felt like she had smiled at me with approval.  It lasted only as long as it would take for someone to brush past you, but it was so remarkable that I was almost overcome.  I looked at my father and then at my sister, and I asked, Did you feel that?  They looked at me blankly, and it was obvious that they had not felt it at all.  I concealed my true feeling to protect their feelings, which made me a bit sad.  Later, I told them about it, but they had nothing whatsoever to say.  I dont think they understood it at all, and Im not sure I can explain it well enough to convey the immense rush of feelings I had in that single second.  ¡I connected with my mother at the moment she was passing through the veil!

That was an experience that, in my view, was miraculous the most miraculous thing Ive ever witnessed.  I do not feel any restraint about sharing it with you, but I do feel that it is intensely personal.  It was a miracle for me, alone, just as Marys miracle was for only her.

Another example of a miracle in my life has to do with my son.  We struggled with him all through his youth and teen years, and it broke our hearts to see him making bad choices, which led to more bad choices.  Ultimately we saw him come from the very brink of despair, and humble himself, seeking our guidance.  Liz, especially, never gave up on him and always made a point of telling him that we were here to help him if he would let us.  That thought led him back to us.  He straightened up his life, joined the Navy, and became a man.  His commanders have told us that he is a good leader, conscientious in his duties, and is anxious to take on those little extra responsibilities that make life better for his shipmates.  It has been a miracle to us, and that miracle is more in line with the topic to which I was assigned to speak, but it is a little, everyday miracle of the kind that many families experience.  Though some would not think of it as miraculous.  After all, countless young men embarrass themselves in their tender years and recover to become outstanding adults.  But, I maintain that it was a miracle, and one that we SHOULD recognize for what it is when it occurs.

A very closely related miracle is when one of us succumbs to temptation and follows its path until we realize we have committed a serious sin.  Many people give up and fall into despair when they fall, and many ruin their lives as a consequence.  It leads to embarrassment, broken homes, divorce, loss of priesthood blessings, and many other serious consequences.  But then we see someone go through this and then find the miracle as they learn the tremendous blessing it is when they humble themselves and repent.  The miracle occurs as they feel forgiveness of their sins.  The burdens they have carried are lifted, and with a free heart they begin the journey back, along the path to the righteous was of life so many of us here enjoy.

This kind of miracle sounds so common, but it is certainly not grasped by all people, nor even a reasonably high percentage of people.  It is one that requires us to undergo some  heart-wrenching emotional pain, but one that delivers tremendous relief.

We were at some friends house yesterday.  Mike and Leslie used to live next door to us and we have kept in touch.  As I was talking with Mike, his little 4-year old son came by and Mike noticed crumbs on his fingers.  Mike asked him if he had eaten one of the muffins they had prepared for our visit.  His son was reluctant to admit it, but since he couldnt open his mouth without revealing the remnants of his guilt, he was forced to admit it.  Then Mike asked him if he had gotten any crumbs on the floor.  His son shrugged, because what 4-year old boy pays any attention at all to such adult things?  He followed Mike back into the hallway and there were no crumbs there.  Then Mike opened the pantry door and found them.  He looked at his son and gently asked him if he had hidden in the pantry so nobody would see him eat the muffin.  Yes.  Was the quiet reply.  So Mike picked up the crumbs and led him back into the kitchen where he got a plate, put another muffin on it, and invited his son to sit at the table and eat over the plate.

This is a simple little story, but it illustrates how repentance works.  The sin is committed.  It cannot be contained and one way or another, the terrible truth comes out.  The embarrassment is intense as we admit, or are forced to admit, our guilt.  But through confession, help from priesthood and or family leaders, personal commitment to change, and sometimes making up for the crime, we come clean and throw ourselves on their mercy.  And when we feel that we are forgiven, we find that the World is indeed a happy place where our fondest dreams can come true.  Whether it is our Earthly father, or our Lord and Master, the forgiveness restores our self worth and sense of being worthy of the gifts we receive.

The point where my example fails is the point of who grants us forgiveness.  When we sin, we can choose to pay the consequences of our sins.  OR, we can beg Jesus Christ to take our sins as if they were his own.  And if we repent, he will freely take them.  This leads to the Miracle of Forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, this miracle, this miracle of forgiveness, is available to all of us.  So many times we hesitate to unburden ourselves of our sins and let them drag us down, preventing us from experiencing many of lifes joys.  And yet, when we do repent, and allow Jesus Christ to take our sins upon himself, we find such intense relief that we wonder why we hesitated.

I pray that we may take advantage of this miracle in our lives.  That we may humble ourselves to take those all-important first steps, and find the loving forgiveness that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ so freely offer us.  Amen.