Sunday, December 10, 2017

Apples or Doritos?: Searching for a Healthy News Diet

Recently I went to the Newseum in Washington D.C. It isn't often I leave a museum feeling like I am forever changed, but this museum about the press has caused me to rethink how I get the news.

In 2017, I  am 48 years old.  This means that I'm an immigrant to the Digital Revolution, or what some call the Third Industrial Revolution.  As an immigrant, I still remember my homeland (what it was like before the Internet) but I've been in my new country long enough that I can speak fairly fluently without an accent (I know my way around a smart phone).  

Let me tell you a little bit about what my homeland was like.  We had phones that attached to walls.  If we wanted to talk on the phone, that meant no one else could use the phone.  We also had a large television that sat on the floor in our living room.  It look like a huge dresser with a screen on it.  If someone wanted to watch a show on the television, that meant no one else could watch a different show.  If we wanted to change the channel, we had to get up off the couch and walk over to the television and turn a knob to go to a different station.  Yes, they were difficult times.  

As a little girl living in my homeland, I remember getting my news one of two ways.  At night at 5:30 p.m. and when there was breaking news.  Breaking news didn't happen all that often.  It was usually when something really tragic had happened, like the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Otherwise, you waited until 5:30 p.m. for a half hour summary of all that had happened that day.  There were three networks who provided a news program, ABC, CBS, and NBC.  This meant you listened to either Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, or Tom Brokaw.  Before we all listened to the same person, Walter Cronkite.  

Over time, the news began to grow.  I won't get into all the reasons why, I'll just say that it did.  Within 30 years, we went from 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, to 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  And even that's not enough, they show us multiple news at once.  

But even that wasn't enough.  We now have news aggregates that put all of the news sources in one place so we can see it all at once.  

But that still isn't even enough.  We also have our social media platforms so that we can see what others are saying about the news.  

Facebook Newsfeed on December 10, 2017
If news were food, what would our diet look like?  What do we consume?  

Everyone knows that to eat healthy, we want to consume food as close to its original source as possible.  If we see an apple, 

we recognize it as something that came from nature. 

But when we see a Dorito corn chip 

We immediately see that as something that is processed, because we know there isn't a Dorito tree.  


Not everyone is lucky enough to have an apple tree in their backyard, so we have pay people to go to where the apples are, pick one from the tree, and bring it to us so we can buy it and eat it.  

But in that same store are bags of Doritos.  

And they come in different flavors, they are salty, and addicting.  They also are pretty cheap.  It costs me about a $1 to buy one apple depending on its size.  For $3 I can get a large bag of Doritos.  

The company that makes Doritos also has a huge marketing department that makes commercials and packaging to entice me to want to eat the Doritos.  

So it can be very tempting to buy a bag of Doritos instead of the apple. 

And just like with apples, we can't be all over the world witnessing the news as it happens.  Someone has to bring it to us.  And we have to pay for them to do so.  

And like Doritos, it's easy to get processed news. Processed news doesn't really inform you of events, but rather just gives you what is "tasty" and "addicting."  They market it as news we NEED to know.  But do we really?  

Some news is easy to spot as not part of a healthy diet.  If the headline contains the word Kardashian, it's pretty safe to say it isn't something I need to know.   

But what about what is happening in our government, or the environment, or our culture?  All of that feels pretty important.  This is where I think we need to look for the apples and not apple-flavored Dorito chips (ooo, that actually sounds good).  But we also need to be willing to pay for those apples, and recognize that it isn't cheap for these journalists to risk their lives and go to where the action is.  

So I am beginning a quest to find a whole foods news diet.  I want to walk past all the junk food and processed food, and go to the produce section where I can find foods that I see out in nature.  I realize this will not be as easy as it sounds.  

One of the first things I plan to do is take an inventory of all my news sources and categorize them.  Am I letting my Facebook friends tell me what I should think about the news?  Am I letting headlines tell me what is happening in the world?  Do I have limits as to how much news I let into my life on a daily basis?  

I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to this next step.  I know I've been eating lots of Doritos.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Visiting Washington D.C. - Tips and Advice

Johnny meeting our Utah House Representative John Curtis
As part of my son Johnny's Senior Trip, we spent five days in Washington D.C.  I definitely am not an expert on how to get the most out of visiting our nation's capital, but I hope I can help make your trip more enjoyable by sharing what I learned.

Before You Go 

Hopefully, you know more than 4 weeks in advance that you'll be visiting Washington, D.C.  If so, there are some things you'll want to do first.

Contact your House Representative.  You'll want to try to get three different tours from their office.

1. Capitol Tour - click here to make a request.

2. White House Tour - click here to make a request.  Don't get your hopes up on this one.  If you don't get tickets, be sure to stop by the White House Visitor Center.  You'll spend just an hour there at the most.

3. FBI Building Tour - click here to make a request.

Reserve timed passes for the African American Smithsonian Museum - click here to get your pass.

Purchase a SmarTrip card to use the Circulator and Metro.  Click here to purchase a card online.  Each person in your group will need their own card.

Where to Stay 

You probably know better than me what will fit your needs best. But I'll just say that we stayed at a wonderful Airbnb that was close to Union Station.  There is a free street car that runs East from Union Station on H Street and we saved quite a bit not staying within walking distance of the Mall.  The Circulator will pick you up at the Union Station and take you to most of the sights for just one dollar.

When to Go 

Again, you know your schedule best and what works for you.  We went the first week in December and felt like we had the city to ourselves.  Many times we were the only ones in a theater watching the film or at the exhibit.  We never had to wait in line to  purchase a ticket and frequently walked past empty roped off lines to get somewhere.  The week started pretty warm, low 60's and ended in the low 40's.  I'll take carrying a coat with me over long lines any day.

How to Travel 

Maybe living in New York City has affected me, but everyone is so nice in D.C.  Like REALLY nice.  Their cab fares are much lower too.  We used Lyft the first couple of days to get around and got lots of great advice from our drivers.  Once we felt more comfortable, we used public transportation.

Your SmarTrip card will work on the buses, Metro, and Circulators.  We probably used the Red Circulator the most.  We used the Metro to get over to the Arlington Cemetery.
For maps click here.  

What to Eat

The Mall doesn't have any restaurants and I didn't see any food carts like I do in NYC.  But most museums have cafeterias.  We were able to get a delicious lunch each day in the basement of the building we were visiting.  The only exception on our trip was the Holocaust Museum did not serve food. For $12 you can get a pretty hearty meal most places. 

How to Plan 

This is tricky.  It seems like you could live in D.C. for a year and still not see all that you want to see.  I would break up your day into two parts to get the most in.

Day Shift - 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Night Shift - 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

The Day Shift is when you'll want to be inside the buildings.  Most are open between 10 and 4, but some open earlier, and most stay open later.

The Night Shift is when you'll want to see the monuments.  Since we were there in December, it was dark by 5:30 so we saw all the monuments in the dark, which frankly is the coolest time to see them.  If you don't want to see them in the dark, I'd plan going early in the morning before museums and government buildings are open.

When choosing what to see, I recommend you make a list beforehand.  My son had a list of 15 things he wanted to see.  We got all 15 done in 4 days.  His list kept us focused and helped us plan each day.  I think most of what D.C. has to offer falls under one of four categories.  I've given a few examples of each one.  Obviously lots of places will have overlap.

Current American Culture 
American Indian Museum
African American Museum
Business & Technology Museum
Holocaust Museum

Historical American Culture 
Museum of American History
Spy Museum
Holocaust Museum
Library of Congress

Current American Government
White House
Capitol Building
FBI Building
Supreme Court

Historical American Government 
Ford's Theater
Museum of American History
Presidential Monuments
National Archives
Portrait Gallery

These are some of the best museums I have ever been to, and we've been living in New York City and have visited Philadelphia and Boston.  Many times I would look at my watch and was shocked that three hours had gone by!  At first this made me nervous, but somehow we managed to visit over 16 sites in 5 days, and we probably spent 3 to 4 hours at each place, and even 6 hours at the Capitol.  We decided not to stick to a tight schedule, but spent as much time at each exhibit as we wanted. Somehow we still got to see everything on Johnny's list. 

Need to Know

Here is some general advice that I wish I had known: 

-If you can, try to travel light throughout the day.  You'll be going through lots of security lines.  Each building does it a little differently.  The easier it is for you to remove items from your person, the faster you'll go through the line.  Sometimes a certain Englishman had to completely empty his jacket and that took forever. 

-If you visit the Capitol, see if you can keep most of your stuff in your Congressman's or Congresswoman's office (again the advantage of coming in the winter) since just about everything is banned if you want to sit in on either the House or Senate in session.  If you can't, you can just check it in with security and pick it up when you are done. 

-Food and drink is prohibited just about everywhere.  Don't bother with carrying around snacks, just plan on getting what you need at the cafeterias in each museum.  Even water bottles aren't allowed in most places. 

-Check the hours of each museum before you plan your day.  Don't assume the hours.  Some are open as early as 9:00 and others as late as 5:30, but each one seems to vary just a little from the others. 

-Not all museums are free and some require timed passes.  Again, don't assume.  The Spy Museum and the Newseum are worth their admission prices.  Don't let the cost keep you away. 

-The red and silver cabs are everywhere, but it's hard to know which ones are available and which aren't.  Sometimes they have the available sign on even though they have passengers; sometimes they turn it off even when they are empty.  We found it simpler to just order a car. 

-We had every intention of buying the night tour for around $40 to see the monuments at night.  After walking around the Mall the first night, we changed our minds.  We decided it wasn't worth $120 to see them from a bus when we could see them up close.  We also had planned to buy a Big Bus tour ticket, but changed our mind when we saw how few there were and that the Circulator was only $1 and made almost all the same stops. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Keep the Commandments: It's Not as Hard as You Might Think

When I was a little girl, we sang a song at church called Keep the Commandments.  

Keep the commandments; keep the commandments!
In this there is safety; in this there is peace.
He will send blessings;
He will send blessings.
Words of a prophet:
Keep the commandments.
In this there is safety and peace.
~LDS Children’s Songbook

Except this is what I heard in my mind as I sang those words:

Always be perfect; always be perfect!
If you don't you'll be in danger; if you don't bad things will happen.
Perfection brings blessings;
Mistakes brings punishment.
Listen to the prophet:
Always be perfect.
In this there is safety and peace.

I guess it comes as no surprise I didn't like that song very much.  And by "didn't like" I mean I hated it.  So much so that I usually wouldn’t sing it but just mouthed the words. 

Fortunately, as I got older I came to realize that God didn’t expect me to be perfect while here on earth.  This is our time to learn and grow. To do that, we need to make mistakes.  Failure is a part of our mortality. 

But despite all my years of scripture study, I have never been able to fully grasp what keeping the commandments really means.  For the past year I have had one question on my mind that has consumed my thoughts as I study the word of God. 

What is the difference between obeying and keeping the commandments? 

In the New Testament we read the phrase “keep the commandments” three times like in Matthew.

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” ~ Matthew 19:17 KJV

And also in Revelations.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and faith of Jesus.”  ~Revelations 14:12 KJV

When you look for the phrase in the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, you’ll think you hit the lottery.  By my count the phrase shows up more than 60 times. 

Before Abinadi was burned at the stake he taught the 10 Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai and said,

“I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai…” ~Mosiah 12:33

Note: The phrase “obey the commandments” only shows up twice in the Book of Mormon and you won’t find it in the New Testament at all. 

So the question I’ve been mulling around in my brain space for over a year is why.  Why are we told way more often to keep the commandments instead of obey the commandments?  Is there any difference between the two? 

I have observed that in my church, many of the members use the words “obey” and “keep” interchangeably when talking about the commandments.  But the more I study, the more I think those two words don’t mean the same thing.  I’ll save my thoughts on what it means to obey for another time, but for now I’d like to focus on what it means to KEEP the commandments. 

Whenever I want to learn more about a word found in the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, I turn to the 1828 Webster Dictionary.  The reason is because that tells us what words meant when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon from reformed Egyptian into English.  The English words he choose back then might have a different meaning than our dictionaries today.  When we apply modern-day meanings to these words it can alter the meaning of the verse.  So let’s just say the 1828 Dictionary and I have become great friends. 

When I look up the word “keep” in the 1828 Webster Dictionary, I get 21 different definitions. Whew!  That’s a lot of definitions.  But there are two definitions I’d like to focus on. 

The first is definition #12-
To practice; to do or perform; to obey; to observe in practice; not to neglect or violate; as, to keep the laws, statutes or commandments of God.

The second is definition #16-
To observe or solemnize.

There is a lot of information in those definitions, so let me try to break it down. 

The word practice in 1828 meant to perform something frequently or habitually.  When I think of the word practice, I think of the years I spent learning to play the piano or the flute.  I rarely had a perfect practice or rehearsal, but over time I got better and better at it and made fewer mistakes. 


If we will just try to do what it is God has asked us to do, eventually we will get better at it. 

One way we keep the commandments is by making them a frequent habit in our lives.

After years of practicing the piano and the flute, I stopped once I got to high school.  I had other demands on my time.  After neglecting to practice, I eventually forgot how to play.  

I realize this represents neglecting to eat not practice, but it makes me laugh.

We need to practice so we don’t forget how.  When we neglect something long enough, we are telling our brains that information isn’t important anymore and it gets dumped from our long-term memory.  My brain dumped my flute fingering long ago. 

One way we keep the commandments is by not neglecting them or else we might forget them altogether. 

Right now I live really close to the One World Trade Center also known as the Freedom Tower.  It has an observation deck.  When you are up high, you notice things that you otherwise might not see from the ground level.  Observation decks give you a new perspective.


Observing the commandments can also give you a different perspective.  It’s really easy to get caught up in the “rules” of the commandments and forget why we are asked to keep them in the first place. 

For instance, consider Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, one of the 10 commandments.  We are asked to observe the seventh day of the week and dedicate it to the Lord.  But how are we to do that?  What does that look like? 

The children of Israel during the time of Moses had some pretty strict rules about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath.  When Christ apparently “broke” one of those rules, the Pharisees were not happy.  Christ taught a higher law where individuals must choose for themselves how they will keep the commandments.

One way to keep the commandments is by observing them or noticing why it is we are asked to obey them.

To solemnize something means to perform it with respect or with reverence.  Our religion has an open communion every Sunday that we call the Sacrament.  This is why we call our Sunday service where we worship, listen to sermons, sing, and participate in the open communion, Sacrament Meeting.   

During the Sacrament portion of our Sacrament Meeting, we are given an opportunity to recommit ourselves to keeping the commandments and the covenants we made at baptism.  As members of the congregation we participate in this silently.  There is no talking and no music played during this time.  Each member can choose how they want to observe the Sacrament.  We can do it in silent prayer, reading the scriptures, or playing Candy Crush on our smart phone. 


Even if we don’t perfectly obey the commandments that God has given us, we can still keep them with solemnity.  We can show respect and reverence for the commandments by how we talk about them to others.  We can say, “My Church won’t let me drink.”  Or we can say, “In our religion we have been asked to refrain from alcohol, and I have chosen to obey.”  (Or something less weird and pious than that.) My point is, our attitude can make all the difference in whether we are keeping the commandments or just grudgingly obeying them. 

One way we can keep the commandments is by treating them with respect and reverence.

As I think about all the ways that we can keep the commandments, and there are many more, I find that I am filled with hope and optimism.  We aren’t being asked to be perfect in order to gain the Lord’s blessings or favors.  We are simply just asked to try.  I can be mindful of what I have been asked to do, and then do my best.

Now when I hear the words to the song, this is what I think:

Practice the commandments; don’t neglect the commandments!
They keep you from danger; they keep you from turmoil.
Observing them brings blessings;
Respecting them brings blessings.
Words of a prophet:
Keep the commandments.
In this there is safety and peace.

If you would like to watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this children’s song, watch this video. 

If you liked this article you might also like:

The opinions shared in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Place of Love and Healing: My 30th High School Reunion

As the plane was descending over New Mexico to land in the El Paso, Texas airport, I looked out at the desert landscape spotted with creosote bushes nestled under the Organ mountains against the ice blue sky.

Photo Credit: A certain Englishman

The next song on my Spotify playlist began to play

Made friends and lost them through the years
And I've not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I've grown
But I can't wait to go home
Castle on a Hill by Ed Sheeran

 I too was coming home.  It had been years since I had seen the colorful sunsets that look like something only Bob Ross could create

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores

or tasted the spicy sweet green chile that only Hatch, New Mexico can grow next to the Rio Grande.

Chachi's tostada compuestas Photo credit: Heather Ruth Pack

It was all because of a single comment made over a year ago.

Posted on the Las Cruces High School Class of 1987 Facebook page

I don't know if Karen regrets that post or not, but she ended up organizing our 30th high school reunion which was last weekend.  Fortunately many people stepped forward to help, but nothing is as time consuming as being chief worrier.

The reunion date was set on the weekend of the Las Cruces High vs. Mayfield High rival football game.

This is the #2 rival game in the nation  Photo Credit: Joy Clickener

Registration began thanks to Carol Brouwer and her husband who donated their web development talents to create a custom website just for our class.

It was going to be a 3-day weekend including a tailgate party, the football game, an after party at a sports bar, a tour of the newly remodeled Las Cruces High School, golfing or happy hour at a winery, dinner at The Dog House in historic Mesilla, and a Sunday brunch at the famous La Posta.

Whew!  A fun-filled reunion for sure.  

Karen and Carol worked extremely hard to keep the costs low.

Photo credit: Karen Langley

Others came forward and made donations so that as many who wanted to attend could.  It looked like we were on our way to great 30th high school reunion.  

And then something magical happened that transformed the reunion from a bunch of middle-aged adults getting together to see how much we have all changed into something completely different.  

A brave, humble member of the class of '87 came forward and said she didn't want to go.  

"Well I have no fond memories of high school.  I wish I could say I was happy but instead I was bullied." 
Her bravery opened the door for others to come forward and reveal their pains and stories of being bullied in high school as well.  People began to ask for forgiveness, others expressed love and sympathy for those who had struggled.

Because you know what?  High school is hard.  It's hard for everyone.  Transitioning into adulthood isn't easy.  We make mistakes, we hurt others, we get hurt, it's just messy.  Why would anyone want to relive that 30 years later?

It was in this moment our class changed.  We no longer were those hormonally imbalanced, pimple-faced, awkward teenagers.  We are now older and wiser, and we had the wrinkles to prove it.  This reunion was no longer about just getting together for some drinking, laughing, and a good time, we were now coming home to heal.
Photo credit: Celia Tahuahua
Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores
Photo credit: Joseph Ortiz

Our reunion became an opportunity to make new friendships moving forward.  

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores
Photo credit: Karin M Rice 

Yes, we are bound together because of our past, but our past does not have to define who we are today.
Photo credit: a certain Englishman

If you have a high school reunion coming up and are trying to decide whether to go, I hope you choose to attend.  May I offer some advice after attending mine?  

#1 - Bring your spouse or partner.  That person will be a great support to you.  It gives him or her a chance to see your roots and meet the people who helped you become who you are.  It also creates a great excuse in case you have forgotten someone's name.  Just have your partner introduce himself or herself to someone and listen for when they introduce themselves back.  A certain Englishman had a fantastic time at my reunion.  He made some great friends and was sad when we left.  He can't wait for our next reunion.

#2 - Don't try to dramatically change your body before the reunion.  Everyone looks older.  It's called time.  I honestly can't remember who I saw at the 30 year who was bigger than they were in high school (probably all of us).  All I could see was the light in their eyes and the smile on their face.  Don't let something like the shape of your body keep you from reconnecting.  

#3 - Take the time to drive down familiar streets and places.  I was shocked how memories came flooding back just because I was an a familiar road.  A certain Englishman and I were on a street headed to our hotel and out of nowhere I blurted, "The next street is Fairway."  I hadn't thought of that street in years.  Each corner brought new memories and stories to my mind.  

#4 - Don't try to make people guess who you are.  My friends and I thought it would be fun to have a classmate try to guess our names.  Turns out he had suffered memory loss and didn't know who we were.  I felt horrible.  I later apologized and we are still friends, but I never should have put anyone in that kind of awkward position.  

#5 - Don't talk politics.  Thankfully I didn't notice any of that at the reunion. 
Image result for jefferson quote friends politics

#6 - Let yourself be vulnerable.  If our brave classmate hadn't come forward with her true feelings, we would not have had the reunion that we did.  It's okay to be nervous or anxious, others most likely are feeling that way too.

#7 - Don't apologize or be embarrassed that you still live where you went to high school.  You are the keeper of the memories and the stories.  You are our connection to our past.  You can answer the question "What ever happened to...."  and you are also able to bring homemade salsa to the tailgate party.  Reunions can't happen without you.

and my last tip is for those still in high school:

#8 - Make sure you LOVE your senior year picture in the yearbook.  You will be wearing that picture on your chest for years to come.

Photo credit: A certain Englishman

Saturday, October 28, 2017

One Name

It took a three-year-old neighbor boy to fall asleep in a closet for me to find my great grandfather.

When my bishop challenged every ward member to find just one name of an ancestor to take to the temple, I was disappointed.  “Just one name?” I thought.  “Our family took over 90 names to the temple last year.  I need a challenge harder than that!”  Fortunately, I got my wish.

About a month after receiving the bishop’s challenge, our ward faced a different one.  A family in our ward lost their three-year-old son, Mason.   Almost two hours later, he was discovered sleeping in his parents’ closet.  The following Sunday, Mason’s mother bore her testimony expressing her gratitude to Heavenly Father. 

As I listened to her testimony, I thought about searching for a child who didn’t even know he was lost.  I began to think about my search for my deceased great-grandfather John Buchanan. Maybe, like Mason, he didn’t know he was lost either.  The Spirit whispered to me, “This is the one name you need to bring to the temple.” 

“But the temple work has already been done for John.” I rationalized to myself.  “Why would I need to bring his name to the temple?”  Then I remembered—he wasn’t sealed to his parents.  He couldn’t be.  I didn’t know who they were.

Right before John died in 1941, he shared four pieces of key information about his childhood that his family had never known before.[i]  Using that information, my grandmother tried in vain to find his parents.  After my father joined the church in 1975, my parents also searched with no success. Twenty five years ago, I took over the search.  I discovered his name wasn’t John Buchanan, but couldn’t find his real name.   He took that secret to the grave.

I was tired of looking.  I had already spent hours in the back of libraries spinning microfilms in the dark reading countless census records.  I had searched on the Internet using every possible search term with no success.  I had read stories of how members had been able to find their ancestors’ names in miraculous ways. I wondered why Heavenly Father wouldn’t bless me in that same way.  I decided it was because John Buchanan didn’t want to be found, so I gave up.  Now the Spirit was telling me it was time to try again.

As I debated whether to embark yet again on such a fruitless and frustrating search, I thought about Mason’s family. I realized that they had done four things that I had not been willing to do.  The Spirit was letting me know that I needed to repent and follow their example.

Value Each Individual

The first thing I noticed was that Mason’s family didn’t say, “We have lots of other children, it’s okay if we lose one of them.”  No parent would ever say that, yet I was essentially saying that about John.  “I have many names that are easier to find, so I’ll just focus on them instead.” 
Even though I have lots of ancestors needing their temple work done, John is just as important as they are.  John needed someone who was willing to follow the example of the shepherd in Christ’s lost sheep parable and leave the ninety and nine to go look for him.[ii] 

Focus on the Task

Second, I realized that Mason’s family didn’t say, “Mason will turn up.  Let’s just go about our activities and we’ll find him eventually.”  As soon as they realized they couldn’t find Mason, the family began to call out his name.  They never stopped looking until he was found.
Because of years of failing to find John’s true identity, I had decided that if I was supposed to find his family, the information would appear on its own.  I knew I needed to repent and not wait for the name to come to me.  I needed to purposefully look for John’s birth information and parents, no matter how frustrating or tiresome.

Use Available Resources

Third, I learned that ten minutes after looking for Mason, his father asked for help. He notified the police.  He called a bishopric counselor who was also a Search and Rescue volunteer.  He used Facebook, Twitter, and text messages to alert the neighbors that Mason was missing.  Within ten minutes, 150 concerned ward members and neighbors arrived to knock on doors, search neighbors’ backyards, and look through every nook and cranny inside the home. 
Was I using all of my available resources to find John?  Honestly, I wasn’t.  I didn’t want to spend money on family history work.  Why was I willing to shop for frivolous and unnecessary items but not spend those extra dollars to find my ancestors?  If I wanted the miracle of finding John’s true identity, I needed to be willing to make sacrifices use all the resources I could afford.

Be Worthy of a Miracle

Fourth, I discovered that Mason’s family was kneeling for family prayer when they realized he was missing. They are a family who consistently prays and reads the scriptures together.  Their faith, testimony, and obedience qualified them to be worthy of their heartfelt prayer for Mason’s safe return. 
Was I doing all I could to be worthy of a miracle to find my great grandfather?  Could I improve my daily prayer and scripture study?  Was I consistently attending the temple?  Sadly, I had to admit that I had ample room for improvement.  I knew that obedience brings success, but that exact obedience brings miracles. [iii] I needed a miracle, and I needed to work to improve my obedience to be worthy of that miracle.

Just six weeks later, I received my miracle. Like Mason, who was found in a place that had been searched at least 10 times, I found my answer looking at a census record I had seen several times through the years.  This time, however, I was more in tune with the Spirit.  When I opened the document, the Spirit let me know I had the right family. I was finally looking at the parents and siblings of my great grandfather, born Joshua DeMoulin.

A few weeks after finding John’s true identity, my father and I flew to Illinois to meet cousins we didn’t know we had.  My father’s second cousin presented us with photos, documents, and a book containing 13,000 names of DeMoulin family relatives.  He graciously agreed to put those names on  Additionally, I have met someone who has transcribed over 29,000 names from French birth, marriage and death records—all related to Joshua DeMoulin.  This means I now have access to over 40,000 names to take to the temple.  All because of an inspired bishop’s challenge and a little boy who decided to fall asleep in a closet!

Since discovering I am a DeMoulin, I have learned stories of sacrifice, tragedy, and triumph over evil.   I have wept as I watched my children enter the waters of baptism on behalf of these amazing people.  I have felt their excitement as I participate in their sealings uniting the family for eternity.  I know the joy the Lord spoke of when he said to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”[iv]  This verse motivates me to continue to search for more ancestors who are lost and might not even know it.

[i] He told my grandmother that he was born in Highland, Illinois; his father’s name was Nathaniel; his mother’s name was Susan; and his mother was born in France.
[ii] Luke 15: 4-6.
[iii] I thought Elder Bednar said this, but I can’t find the source for it.
[iv] D&C 18:16