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For The Strength of Youth

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Most Recent Stories
Little Miss Liberty
    Steven O'Dell
The Christmas Dog
    Steven O'Dell
Barnaby and the Zilligong
    Steven O'Dell
    Steven O'Dell
The Greatest Christmas Gift Ever
    Steven O'Dell

Most Recent Chapters
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 58 -- On Wings of Angels
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 61 The Music Within
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 60 -- Lamb and Lyon
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 59 I Hate Christmas
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 16 June 2012 - 5:56pm. | | | | | |

Barnaby and the Zilligong
(C) 2012 Steven G. O'Dell

Barnaby Brundage set out one Fall,
sailing his Yim in a raging squall.
He had no fear, for he needed to know
the answer to questions that bothered him so.
He'd tried all he could and didn't succeed,
but wouldn't give up; he'd find it indeed.

When all in his town had thought and were wrong,
they said, "No one knows but the Zilligong."
For the Zilligong had brains that made him real smart,
but far more than that, the Zilligong had heart.
And if answers were needed, then everyone knew
the Zilligong had them, they knew that was true.

As no one in town could answer his query,
young Barnaby left in somewhat a hurry.
He packed only things that would get him to where
the answers must lie, to hear if he dare,
for sometimes the truth will hurt, as he knew,
but nothing but truth for Barnaby would do.

The question he had that weighed on him heavy
was why there's no peace, when all seemed so ready.
They all said they wanted to be happy with neighbors,
but it seemed now and then they resorted to sabers.
And no one had peace while such ruckus ensued,
but no one had answers on just what to do.

The Zilligong had, the story was told,
once lived among them, through heat and through cold.
And everyone sought him for answers to questions
that they could not answer, to learn all the lessons
that made life more happy when folks live together,
that made them smile in all kinds of weather.

At some point in the past, and no one knew why,
the Zilligong packed bags, then waved them goodbye.
He said not a word as he went on his way,
and no one knew how long or where he would stay.
But one thing was sure, they all worried now,
when questions were quested, who would answer and how?

So Barnaby Brundage, alone and determined,
set out on his mission, through whales or through vermin.
His Yim sometimes rose and his Yim sometimes fell
on waves of the sea that had fishy smell.
The fishes jumped and the fishes splashed
alongside the Yim they dithered and dashed.

And sometime about the third day, he guessed,
Barnaby's Yim with a bump came to rest
and Barnaby woke to the sound of waves,
both crashing and bashing, but knew he was safe.
And looking up high to the mountain ahead,
he thought on the climb with some sense of dread.

But Barnaby knew, at the top of that peak
lay the answers that he had come so far to seek.
The Zilligong lived there, sure as could be
and the Zilligong, after all, was whom he must see.
With a huff and a puff, the boy pushed forth
and climbed where he could, for all he was worth.

His climbing was long and his climbing was hard,
but Barnaby knew he must push on, though tired.
More puffing and huffing and wheezing and more.
He had no idea what ahead lay in store.
But he knew if he stopped then he never would know
the answer he'd traveled so far to take home.

When Barnaby thought he could just go no further,
he gathered his wits, renewed all his fervor,
and taking a breath, gathered courage to climb
the last several feet to get there in time.
The sun was just rising, he'd climbed all the night,
and Barnaby Brundage was near out of fight.

And as the boy fell in a heap at the top,
stopping 'cause this was where he must stop,
gasping and groaning from the strain of the climb
he'd made getting here, with no thought in mind
but asking for truth he knew must be near;
he'd conquered his worries, his shyness and fear.

And as he lay there, too weak yet to move,
he felt a soft touch on his shoulder, in truth.
He lifted his gaze to behold such a face
as never he'd seen in all his young days.
A word hit his ear that calmed his concern--
"Welcome, my boy! Some answers you've earned."

Barnaby knew that this must be
the Zilligong that he'd come to see.
The Zilligong gave him some water, some bread,
then patted the young boy on top of his head.
"Just rest here a moment, you'll need it indeed,
and later we'll talk of the answers you seek."

"Yes, I do need to rest here awhile."
"Then please do," the Zilligong said with a smile.
So Barnaby sat and he drank and he ate
just as much as he could from his overstuffed plate
and when he had eaten and drunk to his fill,
he lay back and slept as exhausted boys will.

When Barnaby woke he heard music so sweet
that his ears wiggled happily as he tapped his feet.
The Zilligong played on a Tweedler and Frump,
squeezing on one while the other he pumped.
It made the boy sing at the top of his lungs
and dancing and twirling, he jumped and he spun.

When at last all the music had faded away,
Barnaby found himself having to say,
"I've never heard music that sounded so nice.
It made my heart leap twice as high as the sky.
Did you play such music when living in town
or learn it up here, not when you were down?"

"I did it down there, but the folks wouldn't dance.
I did it each day and I gave them the chance,
but they didn't hear me on Tweedler and Frump.
They went on their way, looking down in the dump.
Watching their sadness just made me sad, too,
so moving up here was the wise thing to do."

Barnaby looked at the ground as a tear
escaped from his eye and it fell very near.
Hitting the ground and soaking in fast,
he knew in an instant that sadness can't last,
for where it had fallen, so teary and wet,
up sprang a Borple plant, radiant and red.

Surprise covered Barnaby, from head to toe,
"A tear hits the gound and Borple plants grow?"
"Oh, yes," said the Zilligong, dancing for glee,
"It means that you're heart's like the one that's in me.
It means you have wisdom, your answers are sure,
for deep in your heart lies just what will cure."

"But I'm just a boy, so how could I know
the answers they need and which way to go?"
The Zilligong gently touched Barnaby's cheek.
"The fact that you ask shows wisdom, you see.
The others don't ask, they just carry on,
ignoring the questions 'til wisdom is gone."

Barnaby now scratched his head for a few,
he wrinkled his brow, thinking, 'What shall I do?'
Then something inside him clicked nearly out loud
and Barnaby smile, then laughed and was proud.
"Because I just ask, it leads me to learn,
'cause I never let opportunity burn!"

"That's right!" said the Zilligong, proud as can be.
"Now you have wisdom, now you can see.
The fact that you ask will cause you to find
the answers you seek, expanding your mind.
The others don't ask, so how can they know
when they won't go looking--they won't; oh, no-no!"

And with that the Zilligong stood up so tall
on his toes so high the boy thought he might fall.
He reached for the sky and he smiled at the sun
in a way that told the boy it was just fun.
And dancing in circles, then jumping in glee,
the Zilligong said, "Now you can be me."

"What?!" cried the boy, "How can that be?
I can't be you and you can't be me."
The Zilligong lifted the boy in a hug,
he turned 'round in circles, then reached for a jug.
"Let's drink now some Gurka juice. You'll love it, I'm sure.
It's great with the Borple fruit and this juice is pure."

And Barnaby said, as he turned up his snout,
"Won't you please tell me what this is about?"
The Zilligong looked down with love in his eyes,
a look that was deep and he couldn't disguise.
"Zilligong isn't a name, don't you see?
It is a title; that's how you'll be me."

"I'll be the Zilligong? That's what you mean?"
A nod and pat, "My boy, now you've seen.
I've been here so long and no one has come
to ask me for answers. They want to stay dumb.
And even a Zilligong needs now and then
a little vacation to make some new friends."

Now Barnaby grinned as he thought of the honor.
It wasn't so much as he'd thought--it's not power.
It's loving and learning throughout your whole life,
and sharing with others, with husbands and wives,
with children who ask all the questions they can,
so they can grow up into women and men.

"I'm proud to accept your humble request.
I promise you this, that I'll do my best.
I'll even learn to play Tweedler and Frump,
to keep other folks from feeling down in the dump."
The Zilligong stood and unzipped his disguise
and revealed to the boy a surprise to his eyes.

"I'm not what I seem, young Barnaby boy.
I've been here so long that I almost lost joy.
As you see I'm a man, which is what you will be.
I was once you and now you'll be me.
I'll tell you my name, write it down and don't lose.
The Zilligong really is ol' Doctor Seuss."

And Barnaby said, "Well, I've heard of you!
You're kind and you're funny, you're wonderful, too.
Your stories were read to me while I was small
and now that I'm older, I love them all."
The Zilligong smiled for at last he was sure
that his legacy was safe and his tales would endure.

And there is the story, although it's quite long,
how Barnaby Brundage learned a new song,
and got a new name and made a new friend
and started a mission he knew wouldn't end,
for if there were even one girl or one boy
who wanted to learn, then there'd always be joy.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 16 June 2012 - 5:52pm. | | |

(C)2012 Steven G. O'Dell

The truth should have been obvious to anyone, but it never works out that way. Give people everything they want and they will be happy, right? Sounds wonderful...in theory. In practice, it's a different story, however, as we found out.

Our society had progressed technologically to the point where miracles were now possible. We had, in essence, become the gods we so often scoffed at. With the proper machinery, we could harness the power of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. We were now able to funnel, focus and combine those forces into any image we chose. We could replicate anything our hearts desired now--food, drink, luxury items and so on. Scale made no difference. We made items as large as we wanted. Gigantic ships that sailed the oceans were produced as easily as a plate of fine porcelain. The entire world was now prosperous. We were a 'post-scarcity' population. There was no such thing as want or need. For some time the world thought it had achieved the answer to all its problems. The hungry were now fed. The naked were now clothed. The sick had no paucity of medicine now. There was abundance everywhere.

It didn't take long, however, for a general discontent to set in. It was hard to understand it at first; hard to pin down the feeling and define it in thought, let alone word. When finally it came into focus, the word was 'de-valued.' The items were no longer scarce or rare, so they had become de-valued. The people themselves felt de-valued, unable to serve the needs of others as they had before. A simple gesture like cooking a meal for a sick friend was no longer necessary or common. People had become so wrapped up in their 'things' that they had forgotten to associate with one another as before. Why should they need to? They all had just what they wanted. What they had wanted was material goods--the emptiness of things. Now that everyone was rich, no one was rich. They had all things. A new industry suddenly was needed. An industry that took all of the 'things' they had thought they wanted so desperately and turned them again into Dark Matter of Dark Energy--returning it to its source. Disintegration Technology had been born. What the gods had created, they now destroyed. It was inevitable. And it was replaced by more 'things' they thought they wanted.

The change...no, The Change...came slowly. A change of thinking, a change of behavior and of need, came almost unnoticed and without fanfare, being noted and remembered only because it was so profound in its simplicity. As it had happened many other times in our history, though usually unnoticed previously, we were led by a child. An unknown, unheralded, unimportant child. A child who went from obscurity to becoming important through no desire of his own, but only by his actions. This time it was even more so. It affected an entire world that was hungry for change and didn't yet know where to turn.

This child had not been taken up in the ways of adulthood yet. He knew nothing but the imagination and fun of being a child and hadn't yet been convinced to divest himself of that which was truly most valuable to all humans. When he was discovered playing in his yard, he was building a structure from sticks, rocks, dirt and grass. He had done a remarkable job of recreating the most intimate details of his own family home, with just the rudimentary materials at his disposal. He had built each piece of furniture and placed it within the little home he had fashioned with his own two hands. The first to behold the wonder was a neighbor, who stood stock still and puzzled at first, then wide-eyed and finally wept like a baby as the implication of it all struck him. Mankind had almost forgotten how to create with the simple tools of mind and hand. The word spread soon enough and despite all that was done to protect the child from fame, he became somewhat of a universal hero for rediscovering what every child is born with and only loses in the rush to become an adult.

Slowly, but surely, the return to sanity appeared and people began to again do for themselves. The joy they felt resulted in neighbor sharing with neighbor again. Eventually a peaceful balance between human and machine was achieved. A law was passed that never again would they let such a thing happen. You know, however, how such things as laws can be. They are only as firm as human commitment decides to be.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 25 January 2011 - 5:03am. | | | | | |

Lamb and Lyon
(C) Steven G. O'Dell 2011
"...and the lion shall lie down with the lamb...."

The year was 1893. The place was England. The debate is endless.

"Brother Lamb...."

Elder Charles Lamb looked up from his desk. The voice was that of Brother James Lyon, also an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"Oh, hello. I didn't hear you come in."

"So I noticed. Deep in thought."

"Yes, I suppose so. What brings you here?"

James Lyon smiled as if at a private joke. "A challenge. A personal challenge."

Charles grinned in return. "Okay, you've got my attention."

"Good, because this challenge concerns you, as well."

Eyebrows raised, Charles' mouth dropped open a bit. He knew his friend could be a scamp at times and couldn't help but wonder what he'd gotten into, while dragging him along for the ride. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes.
The challenge had come from the Pastor of St. John's Church. It seems he had a personal vendetta against the 'Mormons' and he couldn't let it go, having accosted James on the street and claiming he could defeat him in a debate. He made it clear the offer stood open at any time and that his pulpit would be open to any response James cared to offer. It was also implied, in a condescending manner, that a real man would take up such a challenge.

"So, I would like to accept that challenge and I want you to accompany me."

"And by 'accompany', you mean that I should take part in the debate?"

"What would a 'real man' do?" He grinned widely and patted Charles on the shoulder.

"Alright. Not that I appreciate you drafting me into your service...."

"Not my service, Charles. The Lord's service." His expression grew serious, but was kind.

"You're right. My apologies. I did take a vow to defend the faith."

"Good man."

The day came for the meet at St. John's. Elders Lamb and Lyon had fasted and prayed in preparation for the day and covenanted with the Lord to speak His will and word, as led by the Spirit to do. They had prayed for the men and women who would attend, desiring that their hearts would be softened and their thoughts made clear. They had prayed that their own spirits would be in tune with the Holy Ghost. They had prayed to be led to the verses they would need to confound the Lord's enemies and to convince the deluded of the truth of their words. In short, they had prepared in every way they possibly could. All that was left was to be reliant upon the Lord to bring all things to their minds in the hour of need.

The Pastor of St. John's stood and faced his congregation, raising his hands to get their attention and calm the chatter. When all had quieted sufficiently, he proceeded.

"Good people of St. John's Church, I welcome you on this special day. It is always good to meet to worship the Lord, but on this day we have the opportunity to expound upon his word. We have with us today a gentleman whom I have invited to defend his beliefs in the Mormon church. May I introduce you to 'Elder' James Lyon, who has seen fit to bring with him either reinforcements or a bodyguard. I know not which it might be."

The Pastor snickered and was joined in laughter by many in his congregation.

"You may know that these men claim that an angel came from Heaven and appeared to a young farm boy in America, whereupon the ancient church was 'restored', as it were. They claim that Christ's church was lost from the earth long ago and that none of the modern churches have claim to being legitimate."

Again came the laughter, which the Pastor made no effort to calm.

"They also claim that this young farm boy received a golden Bible and translated it, being that it is supposedly new revelation from God. After that came many more visitations from apparent angels, lending credence to this boy's station as a prophet of God."

There were not so many chuckles this time, but had been replaced with glares of disgust, aimed at Elders Lamb and Lyon, who offered silent prayers to the Lord for guidance.

"Further, we are to believe that their church is the only path to salvation, that our baptisms are illegitimate, that our authority is null and void, that none of our ordinances are recognized by God."

The stares from the congregation now bore a resemblance to either incredulous disbelief or true hatred. James Lyon simply took notes. The Pastor was doing his utmost to ensure that nothing the Elders would say would be heard by the congregation. When he finally turned time over for response, Elder Lamb wondered if he should simply excuse himself and leave. He turned to look to his friend for reassurance and Elder Lyon smiled confidently, then leaned over and whispered in his ear. Then Elder Lamb stood and walked to the podium, looking quietly out over the congregation for a long moment before speaking.

"My friends...my brothers and sisters in Christ...my companion and I wish to thank you for allowing us to visit your congregation today. I am Elder Charles Lamb and this is Elder James Lyon, who was invited by your good Pastor to explain our beliefs to his congregation. I have been asked to accompany him, because, as you are surely aware, the Lord himself has set the guideline that all things must be established in the mouths of two or more witnesses. And he has also stated that the spirit of contention is not of him. Therefore, with your permission, to alleviate any concerns that we are here to contend and cause dissension, please allow me to pray for the Spirit of the Lord to be amongst us."

He then bowed his head without further delay, not waiting for acknowledgment or for the surprise to pass.

"Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Great are thy works, oh Lord, and endless thy mercy. We ask humbly that thy Spirit be with us in this meeting and that our hearts and minds be opened to thy word and thy will. We ask that thy Spirit enlighten our minds and soften our hearts, that we may be in tune with thee always. Let us set aside our preconceived notions, our biases and opinions, leaning only to thee for truth. And may thy blessings be poured out in rich abundance upon the humble amongst us. In the name of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our redeemer. Amen."

The change in spirit amongst the congregation was markedly different from a few moments before. Some were confused, some were humbled and the Pastor appeared to be disarmed for the moment.

"A number of claims have been made regarding us and our beliefs, as you know. Some are true and some have been distorted, whether through repetition or intentionally. We simply wish to clarify and establish truth, letting you good people decide for yourselves after. It is between you and God what you do with the information.

"I wish to establish from the scriptures...the Bible, which we share a belief in...that Christ knew his church would not remain untouched, unscathed and permanently upon the earth. He warned of such when he said that greivous wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock. He warned through the Apostle John that the written record should not be altered, seemingly predicting that men would do exactly that. He said that false prophets would come and that there would even be false Messiahs. Is this to mean that there would be no prophets after his time, ever again? To determine that, we need to turn to his words through his chosen. We are told that his church was built upon a foundation of Apostles and prophets...seers, revelators...and would be so until we came together in a unity of the faith. I ask you simply, has that day yet come when we are united in faith as regards our scrirptures, our Lord and our faith? Has history shown us, in nearly two thousand years, that man can agree upon even the Prince of Peace and his word? Or did the Lord foresee the need to again send prophets in a day when men would not only disagree regarding his doctrines, but on the very divinity of Christ himself in some instances?"

The Pastor was visibly uncomfortable now, aware that he had already lost control of his rapt congregation and that a pacifying spirit now reigned over them. He tugged at his collar as Elder Lamb continued softly.

"As Christians, we in the odern world often make the mistake of thinking we are too sophisticated to believe any longer in the miracles of ancient times. Is that why we no longer have miracles amongst us? Did not Christ say that even he, the greatest among them, could do no miracles where there was no faith? God will not force miracles upon anyone. He is too much the gentleman. Signs do not make for lasting conversion. Conversion comes only from the witness of the Holy Ghost to our souls. Each and every one of us has been given the promise that we can know the truth for ourselves, leaving no doubt whatsoever. We no longer need to take the word of men, accepting their interpretations and opinions as to the truth. We have the sure witness of the Spirit of God to teach us. May I quote from James.

"'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.' I think that is fairly clear, don't you?"

Heads were nodding in agreement. Eyes were glued to the speaker.

"He further states that we are to ask in faith, nothing wavering, and that he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, tossed about with every wind of doctrine and shall receive no answer. As adults, we like to think we are rational and perceptive, able to think things out on our own. But God has clearly said that we are to ask him. We are to be as children. Why does he say we should be as children? Because children do not doubt and waver. They take God at his word. Samuel, the boy prophet, did so. David, the boy prophet, did so. Jesus, as a boy, did so. He grew in wisdom, knowing what his Father would have him do, because he asked and received. Can you imagine what it feels like to have God tell you personally what his will for you might be? If there are no miracles amongst us, it is we who have failed, not the Lord. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. And he is not the author of confusion."

There were tears in the congregation now and some were wiping their eyes and sniffling. Even the Pastor seemed more serene now.

"David, Samuel and Christ were by no means the only young men who trusted God to keep his word and answer their pleas for wisdom. As you have been told, a young American farm boy also put to the test the very words of James. He did not doubt he would get an answer. He knew that God alone could settle the questions he had in his mind, for he saw that the several cghurches could no longer agree on doctrines or even the nature of God. There was only one solution to his problem, if he was to ever know the truth, and that was to go to the source and ask his Father in Heaven for the truth.

"The young Joseph Smith did just that, kneeling in private in a grove of trees and implored his Father in Heaven to impart knowledge to him. What he received in answer to his prayers exceeded his wildest expectations. For thousands of years, men had debated the nature of God. They argued over it and accused one another of the meanest of things. They abandoned their very Christianity in many instances, all the while proclaiming their acts to be in the service of God. Those in the days of young Joseph Smith did not stop even from attempting to take his life, thinking themselves to be doing God favor in their acts. All the while they labeled him a non-Chrsitian, a cult leader and worse, they themselves were acting in the most unseemly and un-Christian manner.

"What young Joseph proclaimed, along with the Apostle Paul, was. 'He, whom ye ignorantly worship, declare I unto you!' To the various creeds and sects of so-called Christianity, young Joseph proclaimed that not only did God and Jesus Christ exist, but that he had seen them and that they keep their promises to mankind. He witnessed that God is still a God of miracles, to those who believe. He said, along with the prophet Stephen of old, that God sits in the Heavens and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is a separate and distinct being and that Holy Ghost is a third personage, of spirit and not of flesh.

"These were claims that any one of them could have substantiated for himself, by the same methods God laid out to be followed. To ask for wisdom, believing God would answer and give it it man. Sadly, relatively few would put it to the test, but leaned unto theit own understanding. The ministers of the day, those who were to defend the flock, chose instead to persecute the young boy. These scholars, the wise men God had warned would be confounded by the unlearned, chose to ignore the God of miracles and attempt to silence his chosen prophet, just as their predecessors in ancient times had done.

"This boy, too, grew in wisdom and stature. And in persecution. But he also learned more each day to trust his Father, the God who had created him. He received the visitation of angels, just as the ancient Saints had done. He healed the sick, via the restored priesthood, just as the ancient Saints had done. He received revelation and new scriptures, writings which attested to the truth of the earlier Jewish scriptures, which modern man was beginning to doubt, labeling them to be a mixture of fable, legend and allegory. He proclaimed that there had been a remnant of the house of Israel that had been preserved, just as promised by God, and that they had kept and buried records to be found in our day -- that truth would spring from the earth and that the Stick of Judah, the Bible, would be one in his hand with the Stick of Joseph and his remnant.

"As with ancient prophets, he sealed with his blood all that he had attested to, witnessing that he would proclaim it to the end, even under threat of death, which he did. Those who claimed to be good men of faith were among those who persecuted him relentlessly and took his life by violence. His witness stands for all time, sealed with his blood, which cries out to the Lord God.

"I bear you my own witness that I know these things to be true, having tested the words of James, not leaving to chance my own salvation to the whims of men and their opinions. I have received the witness of the Holy Ghost that the things I have told you are true -- that and more. Marvelous things to lift the hearts and spirits of the faithful. I bear you witness that you can receive the same testimony of the truth, as I have, as my friend has, as countless others have. Only you can say what you will do with the opportunity. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."

At this point, Elder James Lyon stood and took the podium. He smiled as he looked out over the faces that waited expectantly and without enmity.

"My friends, my brothers and sisters, we are all children of the same God, are we not? He has said that Adam was his son. We, as descendants of Adam, that first man, are also of divine lineage. Reason alone would tell us so, but God has not left that to the reason of man, but has told us the sure means by which we might know the truth of all things. He has said, regarding his newly revealed word,

"'Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.'

"The very same guidance given to and through James, the Apostle, was given to the escaped ancient remnant of Israel on the American continent. That exhortation has now been passed to us. Will we ask God, the Eternal Father, whether there be a restored church in the latter days, in the times of refreshing the Lord spoke of? Will we ask him if the ancient priesthood has been restored, allowing men to act in the name of God by the laying on of hands, with a direct abd traceable lineage to those of old, and not just through a document given by a school of divinity?"

The Pastor winced visibly at this, but kep this peace as several shot glances toward him.

"Will we lean unto our own understandings or to the God who created us, trusting that his arm is not shorten or his power diminished? Will we put our souls in jeopardy by choosing to disregard, disbelieve and dismiss his chosen prophets? Or will we humble ourselves and hear his word and will for us, proving the truth of these claims by the prescribed method that has always been God's way for mankind? Will you humble yourselves and see that God is still a God of miracles today? That he keeps his promises of old and still takes interest in the fate of his children?

"I bear witness, with Elder Lamb, that what you have been told is true and that you can know for yourselves the truth of it, by the witness of the Holy Ghost. You can have your own witness, not relying on any other for the truth. IS this not what Peter did, gaining the sure knowledge that Jesus was the promised Messiah? Peter did not rely on man to tell him this, but his Father in Heaven told him so. Is this not preferable to speculation, to blindly trusting men or their interpretations? Is this not God's way?

"And now, the next step lies with you; with each of you individually. Your relationship with God is personal. The responsibility lies with you to advance or retreat in that relationship. It can grow and blossom or you can let it stagnate and die. Which will you choose? Look to God and live, my brothers and sisters. Look to God and live. In Christs Jesus' most precious name. Amen."

When Elder Lyon sat down, there was complete silence for a time. No one moved a muscle. Now and then, a sniffle could be sensed, more than heard. Heads were down in prayer and reflection, eyes were closed, hands clasped together or over mouths and faces to isolate their owners from their surroundings and to mask tears. Souls were turned to God for the first time in life, in many instances. And then the sobbing began. Softly, at first, then louder, as others were swept away in the emotion. The Spirit of God began to be poured out in great abundance upon the assembled. Hands were raised to the heavens, shouts of 'praise God' and 'hallelujah' rang out. Some cried out, 'thank you' to the two Elders. The Pastor quietly got up and left the room, accompanied by a few still faithful followers.

As Elders Lamb and Lyon stepped won from the podium, throngs of people surrounded them to shake their hands, to ask where they might learn more, to seek clarity in scriptures they had never before understood. Many were already convinced and sought baptism under the true and restored priesthood of God. All had felt the power of God in the words that had been spoken; even those unwilling as yet to obey.

The next Sunday meeting at the small building attended by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was more full than usual, many new and eager faces welcomed warmly into the fold. Lamb and Lyon had together spoken the word of the Lord, witnessed to the truth, had fulfilled their duties and obligations to God and their fellow man. There would be peace now and long-needed answers in the hearts of more children of Heavenly Father. A new generation of believers was being born...and born again.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 24 January 2011 - 1:48am. | | | | | | |

"I Hate Christmas"
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010
There are some things only Christmas can heal.

"Why won't you come have Christmas with us?"

Widowed Melanie Mortenson was puzzled by Ralph Hansen's response to her simple request to join her family for Christmas. He was alone, as were some of the others in the neighborhood. She was alone, too, except for a daughter and her neighborhood friends. It made sense to her to have a get-together so no one would have to sit alone and mope over the holidays.

"Because I hate Christmas."

Something in his manner belied the words themselves.

"I don't believe you, Ralph."

"What?" He looked stunned.

"You heard me. I don't believe you."

Her hands were on her hips now and she looked genuinely perturbed.

"How can you...."

"Oh, stop it, Ralph! You're just shy, that's all. You don't hate Christmas."
Now it was his turn to appear perturbed.

"How can you know that? If I say I don't like Christmas, then I don't like Christmas; that's all there is to it. Now, if you'll be so kind as to leave me alone...."

He moved as if to suggest he was escorting her to the door, but she made no effort to follow. Her hands were still planted firmly upon her hips.

"Ralph Hansen, I am shocked and disappointed with you. How can you say such things? Didn't anyone ever teach you it's wrong to lie?"

Ralph opened his mouth to speak and abruptly closed it again, not knowing quite how to respond to her last comment.

"Sit down, Ralph. We're going to sort this out once and for all." He didn't sit immediately and she became more insistent, pointing firmly and abruptly to where she expected him to light. "Now!"

That did it. Ralph sat, knowing he would have to listen to whatever tirade Melanie was about to level at him. It was well known she was a strong-minded woman, having necessarily become so upon the death of her husband. There was nothing but to tolerate her lecture and then get on with his life, making some excuse that might be more acceptable to her. He stared at the floor, waiting for the condemnation to come.

"Ralph, you can't expect me to believe you don't like Christmas, let alone hate it. I know better. I've seen you in action."

He shot her a puzzled look.

"Yeah, you've been found out. All year long I see you doing for others. When I brought you brownies, I found you in my front yard a few evenings later, picking some weeds before they got too large for me to deal with. You thought it was too dark to see you."

His face reflected a sheepish embarassment now.

"Then there was the scraping and painting you did for Helen while she was in the hospital. You hoped she wouldn't know who did it."

"You didn't...."

"No, of course not! What kind of person do you take me for?" She shook her head in disbelief. "And I saw you fixing that bicycle for Tommy Nolan. Then you made sure that Dale's paper was off the sidewalk where the boy tossed it and that it was up on the porch so Dale wouldn't have to chance a fall by coming off his porch. You can't tell me I'm wrong about that."

"Well, no, but that has nothing to do with Christmas, now does it?" He did his best to appear stern and resolute.

"Oh, pish-posh! It's the same spirit of kindness all year long and you have it, Ralph Hansen, in great abundance. And don't you deny it. either. I know your heart. There isn't a mean bone in your body. So, what's the real reason you claim to hate Christmas? Tell me." Her voice became suddenly more tender. "And tell me the truth."

Ralph's eyes began to fill with tears and he found it hard to breathe.
"Christmas was the favorite time of year for me and for Jeannie. I haven't been able to stand the reminder since she passed away." And now he broke down and began to cry for real, burying his face in his hands. Melanie stood and placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

"We all loved Jeannie, Ralph. How could we help but love her? Still, what would she think of you sitting here alone on her favorite holiday? Do you really think she would approve? I don't. She was always out seeing neighbors and wishing them happy holidays and singing carols and baking cookies and whatever elese she could think to do to make Christmas the most special time of the year. She would still be doing that if she were alive...and so would you."

He nodded his head in agreement. It was true. Jeannie would be ashamed of him being such a hermit.

"Alright, then, is it settled? You'll join us?" She raised her eyebrows in anticipation.

Ralph started to shake his head gently, but Melanie tilted her head in a disapproving manner and he recanted reluctantly.

"Good. Ralph, you are a good man and it wouldn't be right for you to be miserable on Christmas. Nor would it be right for you to deprive others of your company. Not only do we miss Jeannie, but we miss you, too, ya' know." Her smile told him it was true.

Once Melanie left, Ralph sat for several minutes with his eyes closed in silent prayer. You could hear a pin drop as he thanked his Heavenly Father for such wonderful friends and neighbors. And then he waited patiently for an answer to a question. When it came, he smiled broadly in appreciation and closed his prayer. Then he got up and began to gather the necessary materials from his backyard and garage to make several gift wreaths for his neighbors' doors. He could feel Jeannie's spirit with him and it made him smile all the more. It was time to heal and time to feel again. And what better time to do so than Christmas, Jeannie's favorite holiday?

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:28pm. | | | | | |

Steven G.‭ ‬O'Dell‭ ‬((C)2010

‭ You never truly 'get' life until you give.

‭ I recall the day as if it were just last week. My name is Loren Marks. I have a son, Benjamin. I love him dearly and he's a good young man. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me, but it wasn't always that way.

‭ A few years ago, Benjamin was always in trouble. He was a very willful child, even in grade school. We never knew why. Nothing changed as he got into high school, nor as he went on to college. In fact, it seemed that he became worse with each passing year. He was even expelled from community college in his first year. Naturally, my husband Jeff and I were disappointed and adamant that he must straighten out his life or be doomed to become a career criminal. He thought this was funny and laughed at us. That was when Jeff asked him to leave the house and fend for himself, to build character and become responsible. It didn't help. It only got worse.

‭ The depth of his troubles came when he decided to go to South America on a summer vacation with some of the ruffians he had met at college. I always suspected they were trouble makers, too, and perhaps involved in illegal drug use. I was right. Not only were they using, but they were intending to go to South America to purchase drugs and arrange for them to be shipped into the States by some clandestine means. Benjamin should have known better, but he liked a thrill and he was too trusting.

‭ One night the phone rang and a man with a heavy accent asked for Jeff. I handed the phone over to him and wondered what it might be about. I knew there was trouble when I saw Jeff's face turn ghostly white as the blood drained from it. I just knew, as only a mother can, that something was wrong with Benjamin. My own heart nearly stopped. I know I didn't breathe for some time. Every second that Jeff listened without telling me was an eternity. Every second that went by tore at my very soul. My child, whom I had carried in my own body for nine months and given birth to, was in trouble. Serious trouble like no other time – perhaps dead or near to death.

‭ Jeff grabbed a pen from the lamp desk between us and began to write furiously on his newspaper, something he would never do unless time were of the essence. When at last he quit and hung up the phone, he was ashen gray in complexion and his mouth hung open as if in shock. I grabbed his shoulders and shook him, demanding he tell me what had happened. I collapsed and fainted as I was told that my Benjamin was in a Colombian prison.

‭ Jeff made arrangements for the earliest flight available. Fortunately, he already had a passport, as he was required to occasionally travel in his line of business. He took a small suitcase and traveled light, grabbing all available cash we had and saying he would get more at a cash machine at the airport and would pay for his ticket with his credit card. He calmed me as much as he could and left quickly when the taxi arrived.

‭ I waited as any mother would, pacing the floor and wringing my hands. Day one and Jeff called to tell me he had arrived in Colombia. Day two to tell me he had located where Benjamin was being held, but was not allowed yet to see him. Day three went by with no word from Jeff and no news on Benjamin's condition. Day four went by and still no word. I called Jeff's cell phone again and again, with no result. I could easily imagine how harsh the environment must be in such a prison. I could imagine how frightened Benjamin must be, not able to speak the language and so far from home, held against his will. I could not fathom what he must have done to deserve such a punishment. And I was scared because I heard nothing from Jeff. Were they having ransom talks? I had heard of such things in corrupt countries and backward nations. Was the fine too high? Surely Jeff could produce enough to make even the most greedy of jailers think twice about keeping Benjamin. And yet no word.

‭ Then the day came that Jeff called to announce that he had arranged for the release of our son. He sounded tired and a bit confused, but he assured me Benjamin would be alright. And then he said he loved me in such a way that gave me chills. I asked if he was okay and he promised me he was and was just tired at the moment. He said Benjamin would be on his way home soon. That's when I broke down and cried with relief. Days of stress and worry crumbled in a heap and I collapsed into bed and wept and gave thanks to God until I fell asleep.

Benjamin called to tell me he was at the airport and I rushed to the car and stretched nearly every traffic law on the books getting to him.‭ ‬When I saw him,‭ ‬I ran and nearly bowled him over with our embrace.‭ ‬My baby,‭ ‬my son was back again and in my arms.‭ ‬We both wept deeply for several long minutes and then I looked about for Jeff.‭

“Where is your father‭? ‬Is he getting the bags‭?”

Benjamin stared at me with a genuinely puzzled look upon his face.‭ “‬Isn't he at home‭? ‬I thought maybe he was too angry to meet me this time.‭”

The panicky feeling was coming back now.‭ ‬Gone was the peace I had felt and replacing it was deep dread that something was again entirely and desperately wrong.‭ ‬I explained to Benjamin that his father had gone to Colombia to arrange for his release,‭ ‬whatever it took and that his father was as worried as I had been.‭ ‬There was nothing his father would not do to have him home again and safe in his own bed.

‭ Now Benjamin was the one to worry. He told me how he had been informed in broken English that if his family did not ransom him, he would be executed. There would be no excuses given and no regrets offered. It was quite literally a case of 'your money or your life' and there appeared no alternative, so Benjamin had said he was stunned when he was suddenly told he could leave and he must go quickly. The guard had even appeared almost a decent human being as he had told him this. Benjamin thought that maybe his mother and father had called their bluff and vowed there would be no ransom, so his captors had decided to release him in order to avoid an international incident. Now he was not so sure. If his father had gone into an arena of that sort, there was no telling what would happen now.

‭ After repeated calls over the next several weeks to Jeff's phone and every department of government that we could think of, word finally came. Officially Jeff was pronounced dead by murder, apparently robbed and shot at close range, execution style. The State Department said there was nothing they could do, but they were looking into it and would let me know if anything changed.

I do not believe the official story,‭ ‬nor does Benjamin.‭ ‬We believe his father negotiated himself as a trade for his son when offers of money failed to be enough.‭ ‬Perhaps the jailers felt there was more to be had and Jeff led them to believe they would get more if the trade was made.‭ ‬At any rate,‭ ‬we feel he bought Benjamin's life and freedom with his own.‭

Since that day,‭ ‬Benjamin is a new man.‭ ‬He no longer gets into trouble.‭ ‬He no‭ ‬longer hangs out with those who would lead him into dangers and then abandon him.‭ ‬He has a new sense of his own worth now,‭ ‬a worth that his father saw all too clearly and paid dearly for.‭ ‬Benjamin Marks would never betray his father's memory,‭ ‬nor would he disappoint his mother.‭ ‬He knows the value of a life now‭ –‬his,‭ ‬mine,‭ ‬his father's,‭ ‬anyone's‭ – ‬and they are all too precious to squander.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:26pm. | | | | | |

Oh, Death, Where Is Thy Sting
Steven G. O'Dell © 2010

There is the sleep of the weary...and then there is the sleep of the righteous.

“Gwampa, whewe did you meet Gwamma?”

“We met at the pier in California,” Janice answered.

“I was talking to Gwampa.” The child returned.

Janice was surprised by the answer, as her dear Harold had been gone for several years already – long before this child had been born. Her interest piqued, she decided to watch and listen closely.

The child continued in this mock conversation and Janice was amused until she heard something she never expected.

“What's a bwoach?”

A broach. Harold had given her a beautiful broach on their second date. Again she questioned the child and was told that 'Gwampa' was the source of the information. Her heart began to beat faster and her breathing was shallow and hurried now.

Janice hurriedly called her daughter at work and was told that her grandchild had never been told any of the details of how his grandparents had met. Now two adult women were puzzled. How could this young child possibly know these things...unless....

Janice listened more closely than ever now. Memory after memory came flooding back and her tears flowed profusely down her cheeks, when suddenly the boy turned and asked her, “Gwamma, Gwampa wants to know ah you happy?”

Janice now began to cry openly and great heaving sobs wracked her body as she sunk to a seat on the couch.

“Don't cwy, Gwamma.” Her grandson stood to comfort her and patted her leg. “Gwampa says don't cwy. He woves you.”

Janice got enough control now to ask, “You talk to him?”


“Do you see him, too?”

“He's wight thewe.” And he turned and pointed at what appeared only as an empty space to Janice. Janice wanted so much to see him and could not. And yet this innocent child seemed to not only see, but to carry on discussions with him. It was somehow unfair. It was her husband. Dead or not, he was her husband.

A few days passed and Janice could not stop thinking about the events of that day. Her prayers became more fervent and her emotions deepened and each day as she babysat her grandson, she felt like a spy, watching and waiting for him to again speak with Harold. Several times she wanted to force the event and could not bring herself to say anything when she opened her mouth. She could not ask, 'Do you see him now?' or 'Will you call Grandpa?' She could only wait and hurt. She hurt more than in several years. Where she had once resigned herself to his absence, she now mourned it again.

And then the day came that she had waited for.

“Gwamma, Gwampa says some men wiw come see you. Be nice to dem.”

Again Janice looked desperately around the room to see, too feel, any sign or presence of Harold. She saw nothing. She felt nothing but anxiety. She could only wait. As it turned out, she did not have to wait long.

Janice answered the knock at the door and opened it to see two young men with name tags that read, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She had never heard of it before, but something beckoned to invite them in.

“The message we have to share is that of the restored gospel and Church of Jesus Christ in our day. Prophets again speak with God and share with us the answers we need to return to Him.”

“Maybe,” said Janice, “they could tell me what happens after we die. Where do we go and will we ever be together again?” Her eyes began to moisten with tears.

The Elder smiled and answered with confidence. “Those answers are very clear. God has indeed given us the answers to those questions.” And he proceeded to explain to her the Plan of Salvation.

Janice wept with joy at this news and just knew it was true. The witness of the Spirit was unmistakable to her and every fiber and cell of her being told her Harold had indeed been there and was even now. She felt a peace she had not felt in many years.

Janice awoke that night and as her eyes began to focus, she saw standing at the foot of her bed the form of her beloved Harold. He stood in the air, it seemed. And he smiled at her as he was wont to do when they were together. He looked so young and healthy.

“Harold....,” was all she could say.

He winked, as was his way with her, and he nodded his head and she knew somehow, in some unspoken way, that he was telling her to continue this path she had begun and all would be well. Janice did just that.

Three weeks later, the same Elders who knocked on her door and taught her the gospel also baptized her a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what she now knew to be the “Mormons”. Janice was as certain of the truth of the restored gospel as she was certain she would never have joined the church had it not been for the visitation of her husband to her grandson. And now she could rest assured of having her husband forever if she fulfilled the commandments of the Lord.

It was not long before Janice was sharing the gospel with her daughter and son-in-law. After all, it seems only right that the child who started it all should come into the church. And Janice now sleeps better than she ever did and knows without doubt that Harold watches over her as she does.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:14pm. | | | | | |

Find My Way Home
Steven G. O'Dell -- (C)2010

Sometimes finding your way back is more important than making your way in the world.

Irene wandered the grocery aisles slowly, aimlessly and in detachment from life itself. She was a woman with no spark left. She had seen it all, as they say. She had tried every pleasure in life, experienced every pain and sorrow, had known true love and lost it, been abused by those who claimed to love her and just plain grown tired of living in the process. For a woman still so young, she was very near the end and she knew it. Even now she felt herself an empty, hollow shell of her former self. Irene had been so full of life and excited about every new thing. Her natural enthusiasm drew others to her, both positive and negative. It seemed they all wanted something from her and drained her zest and zeal until she no longer had purpose. And now she trudged this grocery in a more absent than present manner.

Thinking only of ending the drudgery of living, Irene thought of the pharmacy section of the store and began to follow her instincts to locate it -- always in the rear of the store, it seemed. Who knew why. Who cared? As Irene rounded the end of the aisle, she bumped squarely into a small obstacle at her knees; an obstacle that looked alone, lost and bore a remarkable resemblance to her own state, except she could no longer cry, Her tears had long since run out.

The kneeling child looked tearfully up at her and begged helplessly with word and gaze, "I can't find my mommy."

Something switched inside Irene. The milk of human compassion began again to flow and she temporarily forgot her mission to end it all. Here was a helpless child, another being in trouble and doubt, who needed help -- her help. Now Irene felt sympathy,...no, indeed empathy, for this child. She found herself inexplicably reaching out, perhaps one last time.

Taking his hand, Irene pulled him to his feet. He scarcely reached her waistline in height and she was not tall herself. He looked so tiny to her, just the same.

"Don't cry. I will help you," she found herself saying as a semblance of a smile followed for reassurance. The child brightened the slightest amount and even emotion-dulled Irene could read it in his face.

Walking directly to the pharmacy desk, she told the man inside that she had a lost child with her. He assured her he would announce it immediately, which he did. A few moments went by and a frantic woman came running to his side and grabbed him tightly to herself. Again, something inside Irene snapped on and she began to cry herself. The comfort, the salvation from troubles and the love outpouring that she witnessed tore her calloused heart open and she wept with all the energy she had left and sank to the floor and her knees. She no longer cared to maintain the illusion, no longer had strength to pretend everything was alright in her life. She had no control now and didn't care who knew it. She only wanted to find safe haven and fulfillment again.

Irene could not tell you in detail what happened after that. She was escorted to the parking lot, where she was placed in an ambulance and taken to the local hospital to be checked. Having verified she was physically well, the conclusion was clinical depression; Irene no longer could function properly in such a state.

As fortune would have it, Irene's attending psychiatric counsel was no ordinary woman. Sharon Boyer had the best education money could buy, but she had some things far more valuable, She had true compassion and spiritual insight.

"Irene, we've been meeting for a few weeks now and I want to ask again, what do you want from these sessions?" Irene had previously shrugged her shoulders and sat silently, staring absently at the floor. Now, she responded and looked up into the eyes of her counselor.

"I want to find purpose in life again. I want to find happiness. I want to find my way home."

Dr. Boyer smiled and nodded her head. Now she knew Irene wanted answers to life's most important questions and that she might be ready to receive them.

"Alright. I am going to propose something highly irregular, Irene. Under the requirements of my profession there are limitations to what I can speak with you about here in my office. I cannot give you what I feel I need to here...."

Irene was troubled by this turn of events and showed it. She would sink and lose hope again if this were to be the case. And yet the doctor's smile did not fade. Sharon continued.

"I propose we meet in private at my home. I do not do this often, but what I have to share with you will be more valuable than all of the counseling I can do here. If at any time you wish to discontinue, you tell me and we will resume our present course of action. Does that meet with your approval?

Irene was intrigued by the mystery and the apparent pormise Sharon Boyer was offering. What did she have to lose?

"Okay. When and where?"

Three weeks had passed since the meetings at Sharon Boyer's home had begun and had you passed Irene on the street, you would not recognize her as the same woman she had been a mere five weeks earlier when she had broken down in tears in the supermarket. Irene was coming out of her shell. She was alive again. She smiled and spoke to those around her. She no longer stared at the pavement and cement as she walked. She looked ahead and even upward as she walked. Irene was happy once more.

What did the doctor offer her that the medical profession could not? Answers. Eternal answers, revealed to living prophets by God himself. Irene had been filled to the brim with all the pleasures, pains and challenges life had to offer and still did not know a few of the most fundamental and essential things. She did not know who she was, where she had come from and why she was here. Not in the temporal sense, but the spiritual sense. What was her purpose in life...that was the answer she needed and when she received it, it made all the difference in the world to her. Just as she had helped that small boy find his mother and his foundation and anchor again, she had now found hers. She was a daughter of the most high God and now she felt her worth. And thanks to Sharon Boyer and a witness deep within her heart, she had found her way home at last

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 March 2010 - 1:27am. | | | | |

One Thing More
Steven G. O'Dell (C)2010

Sometimes what we most want is not what we most need, or what God would have us receive.

Charles Moreland had everything a man could ever want. At least everything most men could ever imagine they could want. All but one thing, that is -- a way out.

Charles had a great career in movies. He had appeared in many, directed many and written many of them. It seemed as if everything he touched turned to gold, but still he was not happy. A lifetime of chasing 'things' could not purchase the joy he wished. Fulfillment was not in material goods, nor in mortal accomplishments. Perhaps this was the hardest lesson of all. And now, with that realization that there was nowhere else to go, no further upward path in life, Charles wanted it all to end. He wanted the pain, the torture, the sense of failure to end.

Failure. Strange, how the perspective can change so much when the viewpoint is moved. Most other men would consider such feats of accomplishment to be the dream of a lifetime. They had been for Charles, as well, at one time. Now, it seemed there was nothing left for him.

The pawn shop was small and in a neighborhood he didn't frequent. It had seemed so easy. Just walk in, look over the guns they had in the case and order one. He'd forgotten there was a waiting period. And he hadn't counted on the owner recognizing him.

'Oh, Mr. Moreland! What a surprise! I feel so honored to have you in my shop.' That was how it had gone, from the moment he'd entered. He could see the headlines and the article already -- C. Moreland dead with pawnshop pistol. And the owner would be all too willing to gain his moment of fame as a result of telling his story. Still, who cares when you are not long for the world anyway, right?

The next few days were spent in waiting for his clearance to get the the pistol and in writing out his reasons, his tortures and explanations for his decision on paper. He wrote out his regrets and his wishes. He mentioned his will, leaving all to a local charity, since there was no family to leave it to. That was his greatest regret. Charles couldn't help but wonder if his life would have had more meaning if he had allowed one of those interested ladies into his life for even a short time. His ambition had prevented such from taking place. And now his present state of mind and attitude prevented such from taking place again.

Having finished his writing over the last few days, Charles had placed the papers into an envelope and labeled it "To Whom It May Concern" and left it standing prominently against a vase on a table just inside the front door. With that, he pulled the door closed and walked calmly to his car and returned to the dingy little neighborhood where he had ordered the pistol in the pawn shop.

Again, the owner put on his brightest face for Charles and this time Charles put on his best actors' smile and pretended to be interested in all the man had to say. The truth was he wanted nothing more than to leave and make this his final exit -- stage left.

As he turned to leave, gun in hand, the owner called after him, 'It's a pleasure to see you again. Please come back soon, Mr. Moreland.'

Charles waved, but thought to himself as he turned toward the door, 'Who would care if I don't?'

As he thought this, he raised his eyes to look through the door, the handle of which he was about to touch. What he saw made him stop dead in his tracks. The door was one of those quaint, old-fashioned ones with a cut glass, beveled edge window. And beyond the window, across the street, was a sign. Part of it was distorted and deflected by the beveled edge of the window. What he saw was the answer to the question he had just asked -- 'Who would care if I don't?' The answer was in bold letters -- 'Godwill.'

How was this possible, Charles thought. As he leaned slightly to the side, the mystery was solved. The sign across the street read simply, Goodwill, but that did nothing to change the impact of that first message. It was a real as if the words had been there all along.

Charles reflected on how he had missed that sign the first time he had been there. He reflected on how he had only seen it as he was about to open the door to take that last step toward ending his life. And now he was surprised to find his knees weakening and beginning to shake and his chest heaving in great sobs. Tears flowed copiously from his eyes, involuntarily. He suddenly recalled how he had felt this same feeling as a young man while sitting in a church meeting or two as he listened to a particularly gifted preacher. Now he thought that perhaps it wasn't the gifted preacher so much as the gift of God to the preacher -- and the gift of the Spirit prompting Charles Moreland. Except he had forgotten that message for so many years. Or perhaps he had trivialized the message when he had first felt it. Now, when he needed it most, God brought it back to his memory, in a powerful and unmistakable way.

Charles ignored the questions of the owner as to his sudden state of upset and pushed the door open, stepping out into a different day than when he had entered the shop a scant few moments before. Somehow the world seemed brighter, more promising than it had just minutes ago. Charles was not the same man he had been either. He thought the sun shone brighter than ever before. The air seemed fresher than he could recall it being before. And there was a presence with him that he could not explain, but he felt nonetheless. It lifted his spirit and he had real hope for the first time since he could remember.

Charles passed his parked car and walked a few blocks to a canal that cut through the city. He stopped on the bridge and looked upward into the sky and smiled a real, genuine smile for the first time in years. He said a silent prayer of thanksgiving and then gently dropped the package holding the pistol into the water. As it sank out of sight and washed away, he closed his eyes and vowed that he would be a new man from then on. And he kept his promise.

Only a few months had passed and Charles Moreland was engaged to be married. The woman he was to marry was dedicated to God and had lived her entire life that way. She knew the reality of His existence and the power of His influence. Charles, too, now knew that reality and he was ready to let someone else into his life and to share it together.

He had wanted only one thing more in his life; he had wanted to end it, but God loved him too much to see that happen just yet. Instead, the one thing more Charles got in his life was a relationship with God. From there, blessing after blessing would be the order of the day, because everything God touched turned to gold, including Charles Moreland.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 19 February 2010 - 11:00pm. | | | | |

No More Disposition To Do Evil
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010

...and they had no more disposition to do evil, but only to do good.

In the early 1970's in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was still young and green and falsely confident of many things. I was to be tested as to my degree of being in tune with the Spirit and as to my level of faith.

In the ward where I was assigned were several young girls who were quite attractive and dressed much more revealingly than they should have. As a red-blooded young man, it was difficult to ignore. I am afraid I have to admit I spent more time, as did my companion, around these young ladies than we should have. But one day that friendship became quite important.

We were at home for lunch one day when there was a frantic knock at the door and one of these young women urgently asked us to come and help her friend, who was behaving very strangely. The home was only a block or so away and we ran all of the distance, with her filling us in as we went. She said she thought her friend, another member of the ward, was possessed by an evil spirit. Neither my companion nor I had experience with casting one out before. I had, however, personal experiences with ones that seemed intent on keeping me from going on a mission. These had actually picked me up and tossed me across the room at different times in an effort to hurt me.

As we entered the home, we could see immediately that this was not the same girl we knew from church. This was more like a pacing wild animal that was cornered and wanted only to escape. A different spirit was indeed in her at the time. How different, we would know later.

We instructed her to sit down in a chair, which she did begrudgingly. In retrospect, I wonder why, except that perhaps her own spirit was still a bit stronger than the one attempting to take over her body. We laid hands upon her head and I began to give a blessing. I pronounced that the spirit would come out of her and that she would be restored to her whole and healthy self again.

My companion told me that when I had pronounced the words for the evil spirit to depart, he had felt something akin to an electric shock go up his arms. I felt nothing of the sort. All I felt was an intense purpose that the demon was going to leave and I would not stop until it had done so.

This young lady was indeed herself again and she related how she had felt when we first walked into the room. She said that even if we had been dressed in rags and she in the finest of dresses, she would still have felt unclean and uncomfortable in our presence. Once the spirit was gone, she was again whole and comfortable to be with us.

We reflected upon this incident a lot in the next several days. While there is indeed an opposing force of evil, God always provides a way to remove it from our presence, from our lives, from our spirits. We must never flirt with powers in opposition to God. They will not have our best interests at heart. They seek only our misery and destruction. Only God loves us without restraint, without reservation and unselfishly. Only God can complete us as we were meant to be, removing the evil disposition and and giving us a new heart.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 19 February 2010 - 10:09pm. | | | | |

Opposition In All Things
Steven G. O'Dell © 2010

The Lord will not be confounded, neither shall He allow his faithful servants to be confounded.

While in high school, I began to have an interest in doing the right thing, becoming the right kind of person; therefore, it was natural that I should want to associate with those I felt were of that caliber themselves. Over time, I became involved with a group of kids from the local Church of Christ, close to where I lived. I was even baptized by the minister, called simply Mr. Taylor by the kids. I recall we went on a few road trips together and it was fun. But for some reason, I always felt there should be more than just socializing. It all felt empty to me; hollow spiritually, although I didn't recognize it as such at the time. Because there was little but socializing to keep me, I fell away and in with the wrong influences. None of these so-called friends questioned my disappearance...until much later and under questionable circumstances.

I became caught up in the spirit of the times, the Sixties. It was sex, drugs and rock and roll. As I became more and more a part of this debauchery and immorality, there was still one thing I would not take part in and that was taking the Lord's name in vain. I used almost every other swear word you could think of, used almost every available drug and took part in all the pleasures of the flesh that a heterosexual male could partake of. And yet it did not bring me satisfaction. My story of my conversion is not what I want to speak of, however. What puzzled me was the reaction of these acquaintances who had previously abandoned me to the wiles of the Adversary. Once it was discovered that I was studying with the 'Mormons”, ministers came out of the woodwork to save my immortal soul from errors they perceived in the doctrines of Joseph Smith.

Two particular events stand out to me from that time period, although there were many along the way. The approaches of the two parties to the teaching were polar opposites of one another. One group was saying I needed to just trust and believe them that Joseph Smith was wrong and was deceived by the Devil and that only their interpretation of the Bible was accurate. The others, the missionaries of the Latter-day Saints, told me to pray for the answer and God would be faithful and answer with a witness that was unmistakable. The first said that only the Bible was the word of God and it was complete. The second said that God was not limited to speaking or causing to be written only one record. The first claimed the heavens were sealed and God no longer spoke to prophets and Apostles. The second bore witness that modern revelation was indeed fact and that the individual could know for himself the truth.

The first minister to come see me to save my soul from the Mormons was Mr. Taylor. I had not seen him or heard from him since I had fallen off the map, so to speak. Now he wanted to set me straight and reclaim his lost sheep. We had an interesting discussion, I must say.

I was young and still spiritually green in many ways, but I was excited to think that God would still speak to mankind and guide us toward truth. I found it difficult to think that God would have abandoned us to our own devices if He was the same yesterday, today and forever, as I had read.

I recall mentioning to Mr. Taylor that I thought the true church, if on the earth today, would have all the same earmarks of the ancient church – Apostles, Prophets, priesthood authority, gifts of the Spirit, such as raising the dead and healing the sick by the laying on of hands. His response was surprising, to be sure.

He opened his Bible to the New Testament and read off a list of the authorities of the Apostles and, with an air of authority and a smug smile himself, declared that since the Apostles were dead, the powers they had held were no longer in existence. It was evident from his attitude that he thought the matter closed and that there would be no questioning it on my part. How wrong he was. He had just hung himself from his own argument.

Mentioned in that list of authorities of the Apostles that he had so casually pronounced as being dead and gone was the authority to baptize. It may have gone unnoticed to him, but it had stood out like a neon light to me and I wasted no time in questioning him on the issue.

“Then if the authority to baptize is gone, did you have authority to baptize me?”

He looked as if I had hit him between the eyes with a brick. He stammered and stuttered and tried to change the subject, but by now I was adamant and held on like the proverbial bulldog.

“Now, wait a minute. This is my eternal salvation we are talking about. Did you have authority to baptize me or not?” I looked straight into his eyes with an intensity he couldn't ignore. I wanted an answer and I wanted it to be clear, concise and honest. Again he stuttered and danced around the issue. He had no answer and it was more than adequately apparent. He left soon after and that was the last I heard of him or ever saw him again. I am not sure if he ever was able to answer the question to his own satisfaction or not, but he had answered it to mine. He had no authority he could trust in. He had a diploma, a license, a document or whatever you wanted to call it, that said he had satisfactorily attended a theological institute. God has no need of such things and has never handed such trifles to assert His authority. Paper is paper, no matter what is printed on it. Priesthood power and authority is far more and unmeasurable. It cannot be handed out in portions like so many ribbons, buttons or rewards for good grades and attendance. And now Mr. Taylor knew that, too, I assume.

The other episode was when two men came from another branch of the same church, The Church of Christ. One was the pastor and the other worked with my father. Both were concerned about the deception of the Mormon doctrines again. So far, the same story. Here is where it begins to get more interesting.

While claiming that the Book of Mormon was not reliable because it had been changed, I picked up a copy and asked sincerely if they would show me where the changes had taken place. I assumed that it they were ready to make the claims, they must have some evidence of such. Perhaps they had brought with them an earlier version that we could compare. Not only did they not take the copy I had and point out anything from it, they actually leaned backward and away from it as I offered it. I thought this odd, but let it go until the claim was again made regarding changes to the text. Again I offered to have them point out to me, in my own copy, where these changes had taken place. Again, the same leaning backward and away from the book, but this time with the words, “I wouldn't touch that perverted book.”

My father, who had been a silent observer to this point, suddenly came off the couch at the other end of the room. I don't recall ever seeing him move so fast in all my life. He stopped short of them, as if he had caught himself before grabbing their collars, and he stated clearly and with some degree of controlled anger, “I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to leave.”

And leave they did, immediately. I don't think more than a few more words were spoken as they left. I don't even recall what they were, but it wasn't from me or my father that they came. My father told me later that the man he worked with didn't speak to him for some time after that. I would assume it was too awkward to do so after such treatment. But the thing that was most impressive to me was this – after they left, my father paced the floor several times, shaking his head silently and cooling off. When he stopped pacing, he said simply and profoundly, “There must be something to it or they wouldn't fight it so hard.” The words struck a chord in me that night. From then on, my father was more a part of the missionary discussion, too.

Over the years, I have reflected on how a personal testimony must grow to remain strong. A testimony never tried is a testimony that will die on its own. Some die as a result of trials they are not ready to handle, or so it would seem, but I know that God is faithful and provides a way out and upward for His children, if they will not lose faith in Him. I know, because God put into the hands and mouth of a still spiritually green young man the means to counter the supposed wisdom of the wise, the enslavement of erroneous beliefs and the wiles of the Devil. No truer words were ever spoken that these – “There must needs be opposition in all things.” After the test of faith comes the reward.

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