Sunday, December 25, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 25 - Devoted followers of Christ



It's Christmas Day, I'm up a little earlier than the family, in my recliner next to the fireplace and the Tree lights displaying the beauty of the season.  Perfect setting for my final blog on the #LIGHTtheWORLD series.  While it's taken some extra effort to pen 25 different entries, a few of you have been gracious to read it. As I've mentioned in a few blogs, I serve as Stake President in the Salt Lake Rose Park Stake.  It's a wonderful place to live, and while we have our challenges, we have some very faithful members who follow with great faith.  As I drove around last night to view some of the homes participating in the #LightRosePark effort with luminaries and the challenges with more than .3 inches of rain on Christmas Eve in Utah!  It reminded me of a story from my father, Robert Magleby Christensen's autobiography that I would like to share:

At the time of the beginning of the welfare program in the Church, the general authorities asked each stake to develop an agricultural production project to produce a food commodity. The stakes were asked to use some imagination, so that they wouldn’t all produce the same commodity. One of the leaders in Sevier Stake was an agriculture teacher, and he came up with the idea of planting Jewish Artichokes. The seed was secured, and the farmers were asked to plant an acre each. The faithful people, of course, responded to the request. At the end of the summer, they discovered that no one liked artichokes and there was no market for them. And so the artichokes remained in the ground. They continued to grow like weeds each year along with other crops planted in the same soil.

It was about two years later that I went to work to thin sugar beets for my bishop, Wallace Sorenson, and he started me out in the artichoke patch. All day I chopped out artichokes with my hoe. In the evening, when the bishop came to take me home, I said, “Bishop, why did you ever plant those worthless artichokes?” His reply was, “Robert, that’s the best crop I ever planted. Whenever I look at the artichokes, it reminds me that I did the thing the presiding brethren asked me to do. As you ride up and down the lanes of the valley, wherever you see an artichoke patch, you know there’s a faithful member of the church.” This taught me a lesson I have tried to benefit from throughout my life..

While participation was definitely not a test of faith, many recognized the value, reached out to neighbors to invite their participation and despite the rain, set them out and while some got washed out, the light was apparent. Many posted pictures of their homes in a Facebook Group for our youth, with their stories or comments and I was particularly touched by a comment from Joe Davis, who serves as 2nd Counselor in the Rose Park 2nd Ward and is just one of the finest people I know.  With Joe's permission, he writes:

Even a little rain does not dampen our spirits. Long ago the Lord asked his people to place lamb's blood on their door posts to show their faith in him and have the destroying Angel pass by. Tonight i show a symbol of my faith in him and celebrate the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ into the world. I have a testimony of his divinity, his sacrifice for us, and most importantly his love for us. May the season bless your lives and bring charity to your hearts. God bless all on this holiest of nights.
Merry Christmas - Joe Davis

While I hadn't thought of it in that context, it reminded me of the all the devoted followers of Christ that I live among and how they Light the World right here in Rose Park.  I am grateful to be among them.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 24 - Caring for Others


This evening I called my dear friend Alice Telford.  I called to thank her for my birthday card.  It was a little on the edge, but funny and it definitely reflected our relationship.  I use to have the office next door to Alice at Zions Bank when I worked there.  Alice rode her bicycle long into her 80's and was known for her health and zeal.  While she could have retired, Alice chose to work to stay engaged and served mankind in a number of ways.  She and I would kid each other about politics, and she often brought in copies of the Salt Lake Tribune and said, "I know you don't read it, but I'm watching these articles for you and will bring to your attention things that matter."  She is so genuine and direct, I just loved my conversations with her and she has become a friend of our family.  A few years ago, she was driving when someone hit her car in an intersection at a high speed.  A healthy woman was nearly lost and she has fought back to get her health back.  While I've visited her on occasion, she continues to look out for me. Alice has had a number of articles written about her including one in the Salt Lake Tribune another one about her son John who died in the Vietnam War and one written by Lee Benson in the Deseret News.  Alice and I talked about a number of things and concluded by wishing each other Merry Christmas.

While Alice doesn't lack for friends, I'm always surprised how anxious she is to hear from me.  I think in reality we all have moments in our life, where we want to hear from others.  Showing that concern and interest in others is always a good thing. We are after all, the hands of the Savior in helping mankind.   While we may not always share the same faith, or same level of belief in that faith, we can still care for one another.

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 23 - Peacemaking, a needed elment


I served in public office for 16 years and then the last three years (total of two decades) in an appointed role with government and peacemaking is an ever needed art by those participating in the process.  I've often told people that if my basis for making friends meant we would be in total agreement as a basis for that friendship, I would loose 2/3 of my friends.  While I don't necessarily need to change my moral positions, I do know that when I listen to others, I at least see other viewpoints and understand the differences.  I'm definitely not perfect, there are plenty of news stories or public records to remind me, but some of the most far reaching accomplishments of my service came in circumstances where two sides came together and found a place where we both could be satisfied with the outcome.  It's a never ending process, whether it's within our family, community or even in our places of worship.  However Jesus Christ admonished us to find peace and do things in a loving way.  While generally the optimist, I'm hopeful that some of the harsh dialogue of recent months might find a place of unity where at least respect can reside.

Joseph Smith, picture courtesy of LDS Church
www.lds.org
While yesterday was my birthday and we spent a wonderful evening with my family, it was more importantly the birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  If you study the teaching and actions of Joseph Smith, he has a long history of making peace and being fair with others, even to the premature death of his own life when taken at the hands of a mob who attempted to end the work of God that he had begun.  Through the Prophet Joseph Smith were revealed many revelations, including the Articles of Faith which when you study them give you an a quick overview of our faith, but also gives us some great guidance on how we should treat and conduct our life.    Joseph Smith spent his life testifying as to the divinity of Jesus Christ and like today, reminds us that God has restored a living prophet to convey his message of peace, love and respect.

The Savior did bring peace to this earth, and so can we.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 22 - Gratitude goes a long way, especially today


I would be remiss if I didn't express gratitude to a number of people who have helped me this past week.  I got a cellulitis infection in my left elbow last week and while I started some treatment a week ago, it ended up flaring up in severe way on Sunday and I ended up in the Emergency Room for treatment and then the next day for follow up treatment.  I also had my dosage of antibiotics increased.  It ended up keeping me down for the next few days and while I went back to do some work on Wednesday and Thursday, I've really been dependent on others to step in and help me including my family and my brother Spencer who is visiting us for the Holidays.  I wish I could say it's a 100% better, but it will be a slow and gradual thing.  I've felt my Heavenly Father's blessing to help me get through obligations at work, church and other responsibilities in my life.

However this evening practically had me in tears as I watched members of our Stake respond to an idea that just came up a few weeks ago through a member of our Stake who serves as our cultural arts specialist, Joni Astorga.  She suggested we have Luminaries and share them through the Stake, so we can show a unified experience with neighbors, member and non member alike.  Joni and her husband Paul, did a lot of the work to gather supplies and organize, another designed the handout above, a large number of youth, leaders and other adults assembled 4,000 of them this evening.  Another member took pictures to document the event, and finally members came in large numbers and they had gone down the street asking neighbors if they would like to participate and then came and picked them up.  Frankly I felt so helpless.  My arm was bothering me, but everywhere I looked, someone was doing something to help.  My counselors, Paul Fullmer and Brent Hyde were in their usual and welcoming way giving directions to those  participating and my wife Cathy and daughter Sarah were there helping me out as they so often do.  It will be interesting on Christmas Eve to see these lit, but in my heart, I've already seen the Light that exists among good people here in Rose Park.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 21 - Forgiving can be difficult


Forgiveness can be difficult for anyone.  The Savior never told us it would be simple or not messy but failure to do so, ultimately holds us back.  Nearly 20 years ago, based upon some inaccurate information, I made a choice and signed a document that ultimately cost me money and has a long term impact on me and my family.  I spent money to try and remedy, but ultimately had to give up when the cost and potential challenge grew too much.  Since that time, I've held some strong feelings of regret and even resentment.  However I remind myself constantly that the only person at this stage this is really not benefiting  from that outcome, is myself.  My failure to forgive and move on, just makes me miserable and probably no one else.  There are many other things in my life to accomplish and perhaps others see that original action differently than I did.  Either way, I need to forgive and move forward.

I have always been touched by the story of Bishop Chris Williams and the young man who was driving a car while intoxicated.  The accident resulted in the death of his wife and two of his children.  While the pain was strong and the loneliness real, his willingness to seek the young man out and forgive him and hoping for his success had an incredible impact on my own life.  Watching the atonement of Jesus Christ work in all involved reminds me how much the sacrifice of God's own beloved son, had upon the world, which also included me.


Just over a month ago, we lost a nephew unexpectedly to a car accident, where two young men ultimately made some short sighted decisions that resulted in the lost of his life.  Our nephew's friend was driving but wasn't properly licensed.  His action let to an accident that ultimately took our nephew's life.  I was touched however by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who worried about this young man, had him speak at the funeral and while the pain still continues in many ways, are hoping for the success of this friend.  Forgiveness is seldom simple, it sometimes take the most we can stomach, but when we are done, we are set free from those struggles of life as the Savior's atonement take a place in our own life.  The Savior forgave us, and so can we.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 20 - Making the difference by helping others see the potential in their lives


In January of 2012, I wrote a blog about a former college professor of mine, Ron Coleman who later served in University of Utah administration and really made a difference in my life.  Dr. Coleman was at a crossroads where I doubted my academic ability and it would have been easy for him to dismiss me as someone not capable of succeeding in his class.  Instead, Dr. Coleman invited me to his office, chastised me in a kind way that I could not only do better in his class but be successful as a student at the University.  I use daily the writing skills gained with my history degree and frequently use the context of history in making decisions.  For the two years I served as President of the Advisory Board for the Natural History Museum of Utah, the State's natural history museum, I thought often that would I not have been there or done a number of other things in my life if it were not for Dr. Coleman.

As an LDS Stake President, I have the privilege of receiving back reports from numerous individuals, including couples who serve in a variety of ways from programs helping those with drug addiction, employment, humanitarian work, serving lunch to those who are transitional and have no homes, to education.  Their stories are touching and the lives they effect are real.  Two couples I would mention are Tracy and Sandy Ferguson who serve in the Pathway Program.  This program assists those seeking to get Higher Education, a place to start.  They serve weekly together and mentor a number of students from all ages and with a variety of challenges. The other couple are Clint and Lois Long who serve in the Institute program at the South City Institute, which I oversee, and help those seeking to improve their religious studies and testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They fellowship, and are the steady force for both students/non students of the college.

We never know when we happen to be at a crossroad for someone looking for the right path.  Our patience with those around us and always showing a loving hand will make a difference in the lives of those around us for a lifetime to come.

Monday, December 19, 2016

#LIGHTtheWorld Day 19 - Preparing for the storm


One of the assignments given to me in my work at Salt Lake County is to have responsibility and oversight of our staff in Emergency Services.  Their work is to help plan and coordinate for post disaster recovery by communities as well as helping County Agencies prepare for continuity of operations in the case of an emergency.  I am far from an expert in the subject matter, but always feel compelled to error on the side of preparedness.  I try to have extra equipment in our cars, as well as some resources both in our home, my office at work and a mother-in-law's house in case we needed to ever locate there, or if my mother-in-law needed a resource herself.

Manual Transfer Switch added to our home

Last year when we installed our Solar System and the electrical contractor was on site, we decided to also have them install a manual transfer switch, which allows us to plug our generator in for emergencies and run our home during a power failure.  There are other simple things we can do to help us prepare for unforeseen circumstances. 

I think what is more important, is for us to be prepared spiritually, so we can stand the challenges that will undoubtedly come to us and weather those storms.  That only comes from methodical and consistent efforts to live the gospel. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 18 Honoring the Sabbath Day

When I was doing an internship in the Boston area in 1986, I was working for KPMG Peat Marwick doing audits for their office out on Route 128. The internship only lasted 10 weeks, but every day was pretty lengthy and even required some work on Saturdays. We were a little behind in one audit, when the audit manager suggested we might have to work on Sunday. I wasn't quite sure what to do because I didn't really have any control over the work we were doing and I knew that I pretty much had to do whatever work the audit manager needed done. I was talking to my brother Clayton about it one evening and mentioned my dilemma, to which he replied, "You need to just tell them no." He explained that if you make exceptions, even for just a few times, then you'll be asking yourself 100% of the time whether or not you should be obedient. If you're just obedient all the time, you never have to ask the question. I resolved that I would let my manager know, but the next day our work moved along much faster and I never had to ask. We ended up not needing to work that Sunday.

While my work occasionally requires me to respond, or leave early to go out of town, I do all that I can to not do any work that I don't have to do on Sunday. Clearly there are those who have to work on Sunday, including those who helped me in the ER today with treating my infection. I am grateful for their sacrifice. While many Sunday's start for me at 5:30 am and go to 5:30 pm, my service to the Savior is very different than the work I typically do. I cherish the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants and I also enjoy Sunday evenings with my family.

Recently Church leaders encouraged us to look at how we honor the Sabbath day. We had a discussion as a family and my daughter suggested that even when I'm there, I'm not really there. Her desire was for us to spend some quality time doing an activity together. Sometimes I take a short nap, but the hour or so we spend together is some of the best time of the week.

Everyone honors the Sabbath in a different way. Many of my Jewish friends do so on Saturday. I think without question those who do so are blessed. Below are some ways you might find helpful in honoring the Sabbath day:

OTHER WAYS TO PARTICIPATE

  • Memorize a favorite scripture or religious quote.
  • Discover your ancestors by researching your family history. FamilySearch can help you get started.
  • Invite someone over for Sunday dinner.
  • Spend some time updating, or starting, your own personal history.
  • Write down some ways you can draw closer to God.
  • Tomorrow, support a business that closes on Sunday.
  • Visit JustServe.org for more ways to #LIGHTtheWORLD in your community (U.S. and Canada only).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 17 - Caring for your Mother


I technically, only have one mother, but in my heart I have two.  The first is my mother, Verda Mae Christensen, who I wrote about separately in my blog.  We started out our marriage by living in her basement apartment for $150 a month, and that included utilities.  I was just finishing the last of my education at the University of Utah and Cathy was working full time.  It was Mom's way of helping us get over the finish line.  Less than a year later, we moved next door and rented from her for two years, then purchased the home on contract and lived next door for the remainder of her life.  Nearly 14 years in total we were neighbors, but the story in that effort was my wife Cathy.  There are circumstance where you don't get along with in-laws and living close never would work.  However Cathy and my mom got along well and respected each other's strengths and Cathy often helped her when I wasn't around.  We invited her to dinner about once a week and our kids were often over visiting with Grandma.  The selfless acts of service by Cathy to my own mother were endless and we never look back upon those days with any regret.

Mom Nielsen joined us on our trip to Nauvoo, IL and
even went horseback riding with us there.  

My other mother, is really my mother-in-law, Lois Nielsen.  While we don't live as close as we did to my mother, we've tried to reach out where we can to help her.  I have a long way to go until I match the service Cathy rendered to my mom, but I am working on it.  "Mom" as I call her, is the only grandparent we have left here on this earth and is such an benefit in our lives.  Our visits with her never end without my girls feeling her love and I have a hard time visiting without repairing or doing some maintenance on her home.  We were fortunate a few months ago to install a donated chair lift from my sister and brother-in-law Nancy and Warren Bittner.  This has allowed her to get up and down her stairs and keep her quilting and other activities going.  After more than a decade, she finally let us update her cell phone from an old flip phone to a smart phone.  Our Sarah is her teacher, and it's been fun to have her gain access to things shared by family members.  Recently, we along with some of Cathy's siblings updated her front porch railing and another son helped her replace her wood stove.  Having "Mom" still in our life makes it much more worthwhile and beautiful.

No greater example of how we treat our mothers comes from anyone other than the Savior himself.  In his last moments of his earthly life, he expressed his desire to have his mother watched over.  It is a reminder to us, as we look over one another's mothers in how we can show respect and love them as if they were our own.

Friday, December 16, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 16 - Showing compassion


I love the picture below of my older brother Clayton and his sons when he lost his hair shortly after he started his can cancer treatments a few years ago.  It's actually a miracle he survived that cancer, and he still has to have periodic treatments to keep it in remission.  While his health issues have not ended with that Cancer, the Dr. told him it's not what he would die from.  To his sons and grandson of the time, it meant a lot to support him, even to the point of shaving their own heads.  They aren't the first family to take that step, nor do I anticipate it being the last.  However they are family to me, and it shows a great reverence to their father.


A few years ago, I wrote an entry to the Deseret News for the Christmas I Remember Best.  It understandably didn't meet the expectations of their editors and while your own personal story is just that, personal, it might not be for someone else.  However in the 41 years since my last Christmas with my own father, what I have grown to appreciate so much, is the compassion my father had for me.  He was the individual who was sick and likely to die, but it was his interest in seeing my Christmas was as good as can be, that makes me realize how unselfish he was in his life.  I will be forever grateful to him.

We likewise are faced with numerous opportunities to extend a hand of love and genuine actions toward others.  It's not uncommon for us to see it, even in the simplest of ways.  I hope that I do it on a daily basis, but I need to make sure I do.  I am grateful for the kind acts of compassion I feel every day with just being part of my family and grateful that God has given me an opportunity to be with them on Earth with the expectation that I will show similar compassion to others.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 15 - Music is good for the soul


When I first met Cathy in 1990, she had this list she had written as a young woman of traits she was looking for in a husband.  One of those was someone who was good at music and could sing.  She eventually crossed that one out and figured I had enough traits otherwise, so she kept me and said yes.  I love music, love to listen and follow it.  Truth be told, I follow The Voice on NBC pretty closely and while often I can't watch on broadcast nights, go back to listen to the those episodes on Hulu.  I love to hear Cathy and the girls sing.  In fact one of our first dates, Cathy was playing the piano that belonged to my mom and I think it was one of those things that made me first fall in love with her (besides those really cute looks).  Cathy had grown up singing with her family, performing for church and community events and while some of the in-laws now join them in singing, it's fair to say, I don't compliment that chorus!
Nielsen Family - Cathy is third from the right
Don't get me wrong, I still love to sing, I do so every Sunday.  Cathy says when I try, I actually stay on key but I just don't focus enough to be complete about it.  Music conductors keep wanting to use my deep voice in a productive way, but alas it hasn't happened yet.

A year or two into our marriage, my in-laws, who while of modest means, gave us their family piano.  It's one Dad Nielsen had restored and fixed the best he could.  It is a 1903 upright grand piano, that I can personally testify is as heavy as they come!  I moved it into our first home with the help of friends but have paid to have it moved since, including into our current home.  Well worth the money.  A few years ago, shortly after we moved into my family home, we had they piano insides restored.  I have no idea if it was a sound financial decision, but it was the right one for our family.  It is capable of playing beautiful music and I think I'm on heaven's doorstep when Cathy, Jessica and Sarah play its keys.  I'm ever so grateful for Mom and Dad Nielsen for caring enough about music and my family to give it to us.  It's allowed for piano lessons taught by Cathy, random playing by our girls and accompaniment at family gatherings.  When I hear good music in our home, I feel closer to my Savior.
Family Piano, with a historic picture of Salt Lake City by Al Rounds

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 14 - Clothing the Naked - Sharing your talents


We all have a few extra clothes in our closet.  On of the challenges of our Rose Park house, is that our closet isn't that big.  My wife and I have a rule, that for every new piece we add, we send one to Deseret Industries.  They do so much good in our community but there are similar charities everywhere that deserve our contributions and do much good for others.  We also should be looking for opportunities to share, and identify needs that we might fill.  My mother was always looking for something for others.

Earlier this year, a friend who serves in a clergy role within a correctional facility had an individual who was tall, and while had to spend the night at the facility, could go out and work during the day.  He called and indicated, he couldn't find any clothes for that individual's height to fit him and much of the work he did was within a law firm.  I had recently had a suit made in Thailand (only place I can find them to fit my 6'10" frame) but it didn't quite fit as well as I would have liked.  I also had a number of white shirts, that while still usable, were a little small for me but could fit someone who was tall.  I took all of them, including a pair of shoes and turned them over for my friend to use with this individual.  I have to admit, that I had to pause for a little bit because the suite wasn't cheap, but I also realized that in the Savior's eyes, what I had really belonged to him and that's where there was a need.  I've not missed those items, and I hope they helped him accomplish what he needed to do.

I'm grateful to a local business called And Sew On. They offer sewing lessons for youth and adults of which our Sarah has benefited greatly.  It's enabled Sarah to do a lot of projects, including for others and Carolyn Bradshaw, the store's owners has been kind enough to help us out on many occasions including recently as I needed shirts to fit me for our Youth Trek.  When you have a hard to fit body, someone who is willing to share their talents, goes a long way.

My mother-in-law makes these little bears out of scrap for
Primary Children's Hospital
While not clothing, my mother-in-law, Lois Nielsen makes these little bears for children at Primary Children's Hospital here in Salt Lake City.  Neighbors donate scraps and stuffing, and she sews them on a regular basis.  We have been the lucky recipients ourselves and our children feel the love they bring.  "Mom" is always questioning their value, but you just have to hug one of them to know it's immediate.  She does it so unselfishly, is of modest means herself, but it's a true donation of the heart that makes a child feel our Savior's love.  When the Savior said, "I was naked and ye clothed me" we can do so in many different ways.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

LIGHTtheWORLD Day 13 - Humility something I need to work on!

Facebook, blogs, twitter, have not been much help in assisting me to be humble.  I write a lot, show off more than I should and as a reforming politician, haven't quite passed up on "highlighting the moment".  Even my blog, you may have noticed, has the term "carltonthegreat" in its URL.  I was challenged a little as a youth with self confidence.  My mother, who was a theater major and could quote Shakespeare like it was her second language, would have me participate in little drills that would reinforce self esteem and confidence in the things I would say.  Even in college, I got so nervous that I got a "D" in a public speaking course and had to retake it.   I still get nervous on occasion when I'm doing public speaking, but it's fair to say, that I've given some version of public speaking probably 1,000 or more times in both religious and secular circumstances.  Can't say I'm very interesting, but I try.

I had big ears, that I eventually grew into.  I got them from my grandpa, but in my early years, they made me a little self-conscious.  I still think I was cute however....
Carlton as a young man
Grandpa Christensen with my step-grandma
Elizabeth
I think the challenge has come in later life, of how do you have confidence in yourself without needing to gain the approval of others.  It's a challenge, and one I need to work on.  Carlton the Great came one day when some co-workers and I were joking around, and I used it from time to time for different things.  However I went with it one day when I created my twitter account and later this blog, because I knew my Mom would want me to have self confidence and know who I am.  While I probably wouldn't recommend that particular therapy for everyone, I would suggest, that you should know you're a child of God and in that right alone, should have confidence that you can do all that he needs you to do.  He loves you and wants you to succeed despite life's ups and downs.

Monday, December 12, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 12 - Learning from others


While my dad taught me a lot, he died when I was 10 years old.   Much of what I learned in my life came after that time, and it came from others.  I was grateful for many along the way, who were instrumental in my life that taught me either by example or in helping me learn a skill or technique.  One such individual was my Uncle, Millard Charles Laird Or MC as he was known was one such person.  He was my aunt's second husband and they moved from California just shortly after my dad passed away.  MC had just left a business that he owned where he moved mobile homes for clients.  As part of that, they had to do all the mechanical and electrical hookups to reinstall the units.  MC found similar work here, and on occasion would take me along to help. Sometimes there were family projects where he would show me how to do it, and then insist that I finish or complete it.  I did it on such a repetitive basis that I actually got pretty good at it.  I've done a lot of projects for myself and others when needed and still do a lot of small repair projects for others as service.  The other day, I fixed the heating element in my dryer, confidence that came from what MC taught me.

Frank Dahn was another person that had an effect on me.  He was a firefighter, that did plumbing on the side.  As Irish as they get, and was always concerned about my widow mother.  I would be working on a plumbing project, get frustrated and suggest that Mom call Frank Dahn to come fix it.  She would call, and a few minutes later, Frank would tell Mom, "Put Carlton on the phone" to which I would mumble, "that's why we called you Frank!"  Frank would then proceed to tell me how to fix it, and say, "If you can't fix it now, call me back."  Sadly, most of the time, I would then be able to fix it.  Still don't like doing plumbing much, but I can't tell you how many faucets I've replaced, toilets moved, or leaking taps repaired.  I even use to do water heater replacements but after breaking a toe when a water heater fell on my foot while taking the old one out, I've given that one up!

A few years ago, while shopping at Costco here in Salt Lake City, I ran into my old fifth grade teacher George Tsalaky.  I had Cathy take a picture of us and then wrote a blog about him.  A few years later when he passed away and I went to his viewing, his family had the blog posted along with other things he had done in his life and the thousands of children he had influenced.  That blog consistently stays in my top ten blogs written and so many look at it still.  He was such a kind and patient man and he loved all children and wanted them to succeed.  If there was an example of the Savior here on earth in how he dealt with the little children, it was George Tsalaky.

I know I need to work some on being more patient, sharing knowledge more with others and knowing how my actions are a form of teaching.  The Savior did teach others, and so can we.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 11 - Teaching the Children


Some of my colleagues at Salt Lake County have helped initiate locally a nationwide effort, titled Talking is Teaching intended to encourage parents to not only spend time, but start talking with their children.  It turns out that children who have more conversations with their parents  not only have a better relationship with them, but it also helps them in some crucial development years with their own understanding of words and other thought processes.  This has a profound impact in the years to come.  I love conversations with my kids.  I still think of some of the funnest ones are from their early years.  In fact every time I go by Christmas Lights, I remember my oldest daughter Jessica,, who referred to them as "hights, hights".  Now she teaches sixth grade.

Troy and Clarissa Bartholomew teach our nursery in the children's auxiliary called Primary in our congregation.  While they have served in a number of capacities, they love that interaction with 18 month to three year old children.  As they teach them the gospel, both are enriched from the experience.  We likewise are blessed when we take time to teach our own children, and the Mormon faith sets aside a time each week, called Family Home Evening. We have the opportunities to teach our children in our own homes. While not required to use these materials, you can find some helpful ideas on Family Home Evening Charts and Ideas found on www.lds.org.

While I don't know much, I do know that the Savior loves the little children, and so can we.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 10 Helping people walk is about providing them a way to do it


One of the great "awakenings" for me over the last couple of decades, is that most people with a disability or other physical challenge, don't really want you to do it for them, but they do need help so they can do it for themselves.  The Lord wants us to be self sustaining, but in doing so, we sometimes have to have a hand lift us up to move forward.  One day, on my way to work, I noticed a neighbor who had limited mobility and needed to use her motorized cart to get places, out in traffic on 600 North in Salt Lake City.  She was trying to take her grandchild to the nearby elementary school.  My first reaction was why is she out in the street?  I then realized that none of the corners at road intersections had accessible ramps so she could use the sidewalk.  She understandably felt it important to make sure her grandchild got to school safely but we had only left her one option.

Fortunately, in my case, I was serving on the City Council at the time.  When I brought the issue to the attention of our City staff, they quickly added these corners to the next batch of corners to have ADA ramps constructed.  What I also realized, is that we will all find ourselves in similar circumstances at some point in our life, whether by injury, age or disability and while we may be helping someone else this time, we may ultimately be helping ourselves.

As part of the City Council, we also enacted snow clearing regulations that were quite controversial in their time.  However I have often witnessed others with disabilities out in the road because the walkway wasn't clear and they needed to get somewhere.  While I usually get out quickly to clear my own walks, I often see footprints, even in the early hours of the day.  To make sure neighbors don't get citations, I often try and clear their walks too.  Without question, there are many small acts we can do on behalf of others that will allow for them to do what they need to do to be independent.

Here is a great video that talks about some of the good being done throughout the world.

Friday, December 9, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 9 - Say hello and make someone's day


I love the concept of this video clip, just picking someone in our everyday lives that through a minor gesture, just changes our attitude about ourselves.  I don't lack for friends, and seldom do I sit by myself.  In fact, often I yearn for a few quiet moments without meetings or interruptions to just think and enjoy a little "me" time.  However there is a daily interaction that happens for me which simply makes a huge difference in my life.  I work at Salt Lake County and there is gentleman by the name of David who delivers our interoffice and other mail each day.  David works through the whole building, so it isn't uncommon for me to run into him from once to three times each day.  He is always positive, often calls me out as I walk down the hall and with him you know it's genuine.  Not that there isn't genuine interactions in a political setting, but with him, you know it's true.  David even occasionally sticks his head into my office when he comes to my suite, to simply say hello.  While I often look for opportunities to reach out to others, I just really appreciate the kindness David shows.

No one exemplifies the example of the Savior in this way than our current Prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  In fact, numerous stories and examples are spoken about in efforts he has made to lift someone else's life.  He is famous throughout the world for his efforts.  I read this story about his grandfather and it's no wonder that he received the example he did growing up.  We likewise can impact the lives of our children in a similar way.  I've watched my own children and their interactions with others.  They watch us, way to closely.  I remember as a Bishop, visiting the 70 or so widows or single members of my ward.  I was young with just a small girl who was four or five.  I decided to take her with me on those visits to have her help deliver the Christmas favors we had prepared.  I was touched by the impact she had in homes where we were let in for a visit.  As I've watched both Jessica and Sarah grow up and take on similar traits, I'm grateful for their willingness to do good.

I don't think we really know in what simple circumstance that we will impact the lives of others.  We clearly aren't perfect, and I'm certainly not.  In fact, I've returned to some individuals after the fact, and apologized for my short reactions.  However, every little gesture does impact others, and I'm going to try and work better to keep that in mind.  I know the Savior would want me to do it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 8 - Prayer - A simple answer to some of life's toughest challenges


I think as we face some of the toughest challenges in life, we often forget a simple course of action that will help us navigate it, prayer.  Elder Russel M Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about it in General Conference. Many growing up in the Christian faith, learn the Lord's Prayer. Elder Richard G. Scott, now deceased but a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talked about how we get answers to prayer.  Prayer doesn't need to be lengthy, in fact I never have a really good reason when I don't pray.  I think sometimes we get busy, and forget the avenue of the most simple solution to life's challenges, by not praying.  I know I have a long way to go before my prayer patterns are where they need to be.  However I know Heavenly Father wants to hear from me and I know I want to hear from him.

Sometimes when I know least where to turn, my prayer of just pleading for help, the answer just comes with a feeling of peace that all will be well.  I was called as an LDS Bishop in December of 1993 when I was 27 years old.  I had a two year old girl, working as an accountant and we were buying the house we were renting from my mother on contract.  I didn't have much in the way of resources or experience.  The prior bishop had started tithing settlement, but had not finished it.  A life long member of the ward passed away that week so I had my first of 30 funeral that I would eventually conduct.  I even had someone take exception to my service in a harsh way in front of his family when I thanked them for their faithfulness.  I had an overwhelming feeling that I hadn't signed up for all of this.  Not knowing which way to turn and wanting help, I knelt down with wife Cathy and prayed for Heavenly Father to help me.  I knew I couldn't do this alone and Cathy's support was essential to my success.  As I began the prayer, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace come upon me.  While not all answers came, nor burdens lifted, I felt somehow I could do it.  I wish I could say that week would have been the worse part of my challenges during the next four years, but they were not.  However the answer of peace that came that day, did give me hope that God would help me through it.  While prayer will not solve all problems, it will help guide you through them.  It's free, its simple and it's personal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 7 - Jesus fed the Hungry - Transitional Services Office


As part of my service as Stake President, I have assignments beyond our own Stake.  One of those assignments is the Transitional Services Office at Welfare Square.  This is a location, that someone who is in transition, often passing through Salt Lake City metro area, sometimes, individuals who have found themselves homeless, or coming out of the correctional system without family or homes to reside. Service Missionaries are asked to interview them, determine needs and then give some basic items of assistance to help them with that transition.  If a prior Bishop can be determined, he is consulted with as part of rendering assistance.  With the exception of the correctional facilities, services are primarily geared toward members of the LDS Faith.  To avoid duplication of services, generous contributions are made to other organizations in the community and individuals are referred to those services.  However it should be noted, that many of the food products produced are contributed to food pantries, and often those who come out of the shelter system are referred to Deseret Industries to receive basic items and they re-establish their homes.

As part of my responsibilities, individuals or couples in the Salt Lake Rose Park Stake are asked to go down to the office and for two hours each day, help distribute lunches to those who have been asked to provide work for their assistance.  This food is prepared in kitchens at Church Headquarters and then brought in fresh daily.  The volunteers then assemble the food in sack lunches and distribute them among people being assisted for the day.  I try to keep the assignments at about six month intervals. While some ask to move on after six months, we have had some couples who ask me if they can continue.  It's all I can do from crying and thanking them for their faithfulness and love for mankind.  Some are active in our faith and others are not.  However each of them love Heavenly Father's children.  While it isn't fishes and loaves of bread, it is what the Savior would do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 6 - Reading the scriptures - Book of Mormon Challenge


As many of you know, I serve as an LDS Stake President, called to serve over the Salt Lake Rose Park Stake.  We recently had our Stake Conference on November 5-6 and Elder Mark L. Pace was asked to preside.  As part of that Stake Conference, he challenged the youth to read the Book of Mormon.  The challenge wasn't so much to finish, although that's certainly an option, but to read it daily with the thought of how it answers our questions about Christ, how we should live our lives and how God blesses our lives.  We also began this challenge on December 1.  Many of us will not be perfect, I haven't been, but we just get back up the next day, and read again.  To shy away from the opportunity to bless our lives through reading the scriptures, is like never offering ourselves nourishment again.  The Savior as a young boy, taught those learned scholars about the gospel and today, I also gain great insights from the teaching of our youth.  I want them to understand and know what a foundation the gospel will be in their lives and how much they will be enriched because of it.

While I was on my mission, I was asked to speak at a missionary devotional for a Stake where we were serving. In the days leading up to it, I decided I needed to pray and see what the topic should be and knelt in prayer and asked my Heavenly Father.  Not long into the prayer, I saw a Book of Mormon and the direct answer that I should testify as to that book.  I concluded the prayer, got up to write my remarks, and a voice said to me, "a testimony comes from the heart, not a paper" to which I replied, "Buy you aren't giving it in Japanese!".  However I decided to act in faith and that Sunday as I stood at the pulpit, I testified to the Book of Mormon.  It was some of the most fluent Japanese I could speak and flowed like I had never spoken it before.  A week later, while visiting another ward as a Zone Leader, it was their Fast & Testimony meeting and a member during her testimony, indicated how she had started to read the Book of Mormon after hearing a missionary the preceding Sunday testify to its truthfulness.  An amazing blessing comes when we listen or read its words.

The LDS Church has a number of ways you can access the scriptures in multiple languages at www.lds.org including requesting a free copy.  There are apps for phones, or look online here. I hope you'll take a moment today to read the scriptures and follow the Savior's example.

Monday, December 5, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 5 - Jesus healed the sick - So can you


I would love to say, that in the course of my life, I've never had loved ones or friends that didn't need our help and everyone was healthy with no problems or issues.  However it's almost never been the case.  My grandparents, who were born in the 1890's were in the twilight of their lives as a young child and some of their last years were in our home during my growing up years.  My father died when I was 10 from cancer and we spent those last few months caring for him.  My mother, who was one of my best friends, lived next door to us during the first 14 years of our marriage and we cared for her through a heart attack and some other health issues. In her final months before she died from Pancreatic Cancer, we experienced some of the hardest of times, yet some of the most tender moments of serving her.  The picture below was on the 4th of July, just a few days before she died on the 7th.  We took her to our community breakfast, where she said some of her last good byes to friends.

My siblings have had their own health problems.  My brother Clayton Christensen while famous in his own right, has skirted death a number of times, well documented in publications, including a feature story in Forbes.   However in each time, I have seen the miracle of Priesthood blessings take part in their lives and while the outcomes aren't always what we expect, there is no question that the healing power of the Savior is present.  I have felt it, seen it and witnessed the outcome.

I have a lot to learn.  I have a neighbor who falls often during the night.  A week or so ago, I got called at 2 a.m. in the morning, and needed to go over and lift her off the ground.  Circumstances aren't ideal and sometimes I go with some resentment because of the frequency.  However I also realize that they have no real place to turn.  As God judges my heart, I know I need to repent.

Fortunately God does give us ongoing opportunities to serve mankind.  There are many ways we can act in his behalf and in the end, two lives are blessed.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 4 Worship God


I have a confession, during many of the years I served on the Salt Lake City Council, I use to enter my church house doors at the front of the building, because they were closest to the chapel.  You see, if I entered the doors near the parking lot, I would often get stopped multiple times on the way to the Chapel with City Council related questions.  It wasn't that I wasn't willing to respond, but it was Sunday, and frankly I was there to worship.  Rarely a Sunday went by that I didn't have to respond to an inquiry. While I tried to avoid it best I could and rarely performed council activities on Sunday, having that day of rest made me not resent it more.  I personally needed to feel the spirit that Sunday worship brought me.While my service as Stake President puts me in many meetings, including often multiple Sacrament Meetings, I'm there to worship and find it a wonderful experience in my life.

I also love to attend the Salt Lake Temple and participate in sacred temple ordinances that while initially were for myself, subsequent visits are for those who have died to bless their lives as well.  The temple is really the great equalizer for all mankind, whether in this life or the life to come that provides a venue for those ordinances to take place.  On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours there, and it gave me time to think about things in my calling, my family and sometimes even work, as it pertains to an issue in which I'm struggling to resolve.  I am so grateful for that blessing in my life and the lives of the saints in the Rose Park Stake.

Our meetings are always open to you.  there may well be a building closer to you, but if you're in Rose Park, we have two meetinghouses.  One building is located at 760 N 1200 W or we also have one west of Redwood Road at 868 N Starcrest Drive.  These are not the only LDS Churches near you, so if you're trying to figure it out, check out Meetinghouse Locator on www.lds.org.  We would love to have you come worship with us.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 3 - Helping the blind to see


This one has definitely hit home, and due in large part to the work of our youngest daughter Sarah Christensen.  Sarah has spent most of her High School years, being trained and then training guide dog puppies for the blind.  I was the reluctant dad, who wasn't sure he wanted a puppy in the house. I wrote a year ago about this reluctance in a story you can read called Daughters and Dogs put Dad at a Disadvantage!  Well needless to say, we are on dog #3, Oceana.  We don't choose the names, but they definitely become part of our family.  Below, is a sweet and tender moment, where Sarah was able to hand off her first dog to someone who was blind.  It's a bitter-sweet moment, because you truly become attached to the dogs, and yet we know it's for a greater purpose.  Sarah, who takes the dogs daily to school and other locations, has her heart tugged in so many directions during the experience, but exemplifies the Savior's love for those who can't see.

Sarah's 2nd dog, Orchard, was nearly at the point of graduation,when an accident happened with a blind person training with him, which caused him to be career changed.  Faced with the opportunity to bring him home and have him become a permanent part of our family, or allow him to try and be trained as a service animal for those who are hearing impaired, Sarah, with a full heart, gave permission to see how he would do with this new calling.  While still in training, we were encouraged with a report this week that he is progressing in this new assignment.

While still the grumpy dad, I'm so proud of our daughter and her selfless service to God's children.


Friday, December 2, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD - Day 2 Honoring one's parents


I feel like I have two sets of parents now, my own - Robert and Verda Mae Christensen and also my in-laws, Frank  & Lois Nielsen.  The only one I still have left, is my mother-in-law, but she is the best Grandma in the world to my children and the rock of Cathy's family.  We cherish her days with us still on earth and while she gets after me from time to time when I pay for things or do things on her house, it's only because I know the Savior would not only want me to do it, but he expects me to do it.  Just like he asked James to look after his mother, I know he would want me to do the same.



I've written two blogs about my own parents, Robert Christensen and Verda Mae Christensen.  I love them both, and both blogs are consistently in my top 10 blogs.  They were wonderful examples to me and I'm ever so grateful to have them in my life.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD Day 1 - Rendering service to others


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a challenge for every day prior to Christmas to live our lives as the Savior would and to share that light with others.  In addition to posting the video presentation, I was trying to think of a person way I could do it and take advantage of my blog.  While I could write about how I might be doing it, I thought I would take each day, and write about how I've seen others do it, whether to me or to someone else.

Day 1 talks about rendering service.  I am the recipient of it often, but I was thinking back in August of 2013 when I took my job at Salt Lake County as the Director of the Office of Regional Development.  A co-worker who really looked out for me and got me set up to be successful. Her name is Karen Lowe.  She worked with me in the County Mayor's office.  From the start she would make sure I had what I needed, knew exactly how to request or have something done for me.  Every time I looked lost or wondered how I would do this new job, she helped me with logistical needs that just made me feel like I could do it.  I valued the conversations she shared and she was kind enough to listen to me.  While Karen has since retired, I think often of the blessing her service was in my life.