When I was just a boy, we moved to a farming community approximately 22 miles up the winding Colorado River road. Our little bit of paradise was called Castle Valley. Unless you follow this column, you have probably never even heard of it.
We hadn’t either at the time until mother found an ad and went on a short trip with the girls to see if it was as magical as the commentary made it sound. It turned out even better than the claims.
Six months later, we moved our family 250 miles south and started the adventure of our lives with a home in the country. At the time, we knew this was an exceptional opportunity, but we did not fully grasp the impact of this decision or what that really meant to all of us. How could we?
Over time, however, I have come to realize that undergoing occasions like this is just the way that life works: we often do not realize the significance of our experiences until sometime later—possibly much later—and hopefully before it’s too late. I intentionally did not use the term never, because we all will one day realize the significance of our experiences. Yet if we fail to recognize their value today, we may miss the opportunity to learn and benefit from them later.
Memories can be our friend and provide solace. Even tough times can be recalled with joy if we have the right perspective. Sound too hard to believe? I was thinking that too, and then I remembered Job.
Job is an example of someone who maintained his faith in the Lord even while enduring severe trials. This good man had everything, we might say: his riches, his friends, and his family. He was healthy and beloved by many and then he lost it all—every bit of it. Do you remember hearing about his experience?
How did he respond? He praised God. I expect he could have expressed remorse for his losses and wallowed in self-pity, and he certainly could have blamed God—but he didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he glorified God.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
“I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).
“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26).
Therein lies the answer to happiness. Though Job was not spared affliction, he learned how to navigate the trials of life with hope. This knowledge sustained him, though many of his trials were particularly austere.
As we recognize God’s hand in our lives and give thanks to Him for all the good about us, we can face our challenges with hope, knowing that we need not deal with obstacles all on our own. Appreciation helps us recognize the hand of the Lord and benefit from our association with Him.
Now back to my story about Castle Valley. We owned ten acres, and my dad and I often worked side by side. Since we lived a good distance from town, we often found ourselves driving the Colorado River road to get between our community and Moab, Utah. Though it sounds funny now to think of making that trip to get supplies from such a small town, back in those days, Moab was a metropolis compared to Castle Valley. This also gave me the opportunity to talk with my dad in privacy. Sometimes I needed to share the problems I was experiencing at school and get his advice, or maybe I needed counsel regarding some other challenge I was facing. Whatever the reason, these drives were private and personal and became legendary in my book. Sometimes it was good to just listen to my dad and learn from his wisdom. It was in the cab of that pickup truck on the river road in the heartland of southern Utah where I could pour out my heart to my father and get the help I needed.
We couldn’t drive fast in that pickup truck. It was old and the winding road tempered any attempt at driving too quickly, so we had approximately 30 minutes together each time we made the trip. I relish those experiences with my dad, especially now that he has passed.
But his legacy lives on and I benefit many ways every day from following his footsteps. It’s an interesting phenomenon. When I spend 30 minutes reading his journal and savoring his words and memory I feel like I just spent 30 minutes in the cab of that old pickup truck talking with my dad. I come away a better man—lifted, exuberant, and grateful.
Though I miss him terribly, our temporary separation is not at all terrible. Because of Jesus Christ, I know I will be with my dad once again.
Interestingly, the Lord has not left me alone or forsaken. The discussions I enjoyed as a boy in the pickup truck with my dad have been augmented now by a myriad of talks, videos, performances, conferences, songs, and scriptures available to us all online. Some of these are from my dad, but most are from other noteworthy individuals and folks just like you and me. This plethora of resources enables me to inspire, teach, learn, and grow just like I did in that old pickup truck talking with my dad so many years ago, and are relevant to the concerns I have today for myself, my family, and my growing posterity.
You have this blessing as well if you take advantage of it, and they still generally take only about 30 minutes—give or take.
Websites, biographies, programs, speeches, and blogs from people and conferences are readily available and easily accessed by anyone. Every day new things are available to help us learn and grow. I once heard that 72 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded every minute and that YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. I believe it—and there is no end in sight.
That too is just the beginning.
Imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like for the apostles when they learned that the Savior would soon be leaving their physical presence for the rest of their earthly lives. They had already experienced the stress, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness of His sentencing, crucifixion, and death. His Resurrection and appearance must have given them renewed hope, but I imagine they always knew in the back of their minds that He would eventually leave them. Like the people in the Americas who wept when they learned of Jesus’s eminent departure, the apostles in the old world were shaken when Jesus told them He would soon be leaving them—but He promised them the Comforter.
As members of the Church, we not only enjoy comfort from the Holy Ghost, but we have actually received the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gives us the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead as we keep the commandments. Like the Iron Rod, the companionship of the Holy Ghost provides many blessings and helps keep us on the strait and narrow path.
Exaltation is possible because of the Savior. This is the greatest of all the gifts of God and the result for all those that follow Christ. Because of the Comforter, that is a promise we enjoy every day.
When faith is sufficient to sacrifice all earthly things, even life itself if necessary, it is possible for a person to know that he is accepted of the Lord for what he has done, and with this strong faith he may eventually receive eternal life.
The Savior’s plan is not frustrated. The “great plan of happiness” is executed perfectly and delivers the will of the Father every wit. Our charge is to share with all men His gospel, baptizing them and teaching them all to celebrate His victory and take part in the blessings He has won for all of us.
With the guidance of the Holy Ghost, some 30-minute segments, and consistent effort, we can become like Him. That’s the plan.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.