Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

The following Sunday Thoughts are generated through my preparations to teach Gospel Doctine class. The focus of study this year is the Book of Mormon, A Second Witness of Christ. I have made every attempt to support the doctrinal statements made through the scriptures and through a search of the reference library found on The primary purpose of these mini-sermons is for the benefit of my immediate family that I might fulfil my responsibility to teach correct principles and the doctrines of salvation to my children.


Avoiding Pride that Comes Through Riches

Jacob, the brother of Nephi was commanded by Nephi to write on the small plates a few things that he considered to be most precious. To Jacob, precious meant any of his sacred preaching, great revelation or prophesying should be included on these plates for Christ's sake and the sake of his people (Jacob 1:1-4).

In his second chapter, Jacob denounces the love of riches, pride and unchastity. He speaks to the people of Nephi with great grief of soul over their growing wickedness of heart or yearnings to sin in specific ways. He does so reluctantly because of the tender feelings of wives and children present but he is contrained to admonish them because of their spiritual "crimes".

Jacob reminds the people of Nephi that the hand of providence hath smiled on them most pleasantly. They have sought for and accumulated wealth. In the process, some have accumulated more wealth than others and have been lifted up in pride. In other words, they have esteemed themselves superior than those who have accumulated less (Jacob 2:12-13). Jacob indicates that this thought process and behavior is an abomination, an act that so vile that it destroys souls (v.16)!

The prideful people of Nephi are reminded that their brethren, who have accumulated less, are like unto themselves. The Lord does not esteem the man with greater wealth over the man with lessor wealth. Those with more are asked to be free with their excess so that all are rich (v.17).

This is difficult to do unless the church member has a hope in Christ. This hope in Christ is a belief that through the atonement of Christ that sins can be forgiven and that the Holy Ghost will guide their lives to do good. When under the influence of the Holy Ghost, the member will seek to do good - to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry, to liberate the captive and administer relief to the sick and afflicted (v. 18-19). It is not aquiring the wealth that injures the soul but rather the dependence on the wealth for status, happiness and meaning. The love of the money is the root of the problem (1 Timothy, chapter 6).

It is possible for the wealthy and educated to afflict and persecute their neighbor (Jac 20-21). How is this possible? Here is an excerpt from an April 1975 article by Gary L. Bunker called Mocking our Brother.

"And the people began to be distinguished by ranks according to their riches and their chances for learning, yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.” (3 Ne. 6:12.)

These scriptures illustrate several principles. First, wealth and learning are sometimes used in the service of pride to demean. The scriptures are, of course, just as clear that riches and learning may be used in the service of goodness to bless. However, it is perhaps generally true, at least in our day, that the former use is more common than the latter. It is also the case that mockery is a two-edged sword. The poor and unlearned need to guard against succumbing to the temptation of mocking their brother because of his riches or learning.

Second, Church members are not immune from falling into the trap of interpersonal scorn based upon inequality of material possessions. Indeed, it was this lamentable condition in the church that led Alma to resign his office of chief judge to devote his time to the redemptive mission of bearing down in pure testimony against them.” (
Alma 4:19.)

Orson Pratt wrote:
“When do you see a rich man among the Latter-day Saints who, when he makes a great feast, invites the poor and the lame, the halt and the blind, and those who are in destitute circumstances? Such events are few and far between. The Savior has strictly commanded us that when we make our feasts, instead of inviting those who have abundance and roll in the good things and luxuries of life, we should invite the poorest among us, the lame, blind and infirm, and those who perhaps have not enough to eat.” (Journal of Discourses 15:355.)

Third, wealth and learning may interact to increase and perpetuate class distinction. George Q. Cannon elaborated on the dynamics of the interaction: “When wealth multiplies the people get lifted up in the pride of their hearts, and they look down on their poor brethren and despise them, because they are better educated, have better manners, and speak better language—in a word, because they have advantages which their poor brethren and sisters have not. There is sin in this, and God is angry with a people who take this course. He wants us to be equal in earthly things, as we are in heavenly. He wants no poor among his people; he does not want the cry of the oppressed to ascend from the midst of the Latter-day Saints, and God forbid that it ever should!” (Journal of Discourses 15:156.)

We are not yet “equal in earthly things” and, therefore, we are more prone to live below the standard of the gospel. Nevertheless, each Latter-day Saint is enjoined to abide by an interpersonal standard capable of eliminating mocking behavior due to economic or educational disparities; namely, “Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God?” (D&C 82:19.)

I interpret this excerpt to mean that we need to be careful to not elevate ourselves above others through our purchases or access to other worldly advantages; to give up more of our wealth and use our intellect to raise up the poor and those that have less advantage. This is hard to do in our modern society that worships at the alter of consumerism and which falls prey to market forces that manipulate demand for products and services. In a market that rewards individual achievement and profitable growth it is unthinkable to discourage purchasing in favor of raising up the poor.

I came across an interesting blog, promoted by marketing professors, which was devoted to the theory of marketing. One of the comments in response to a question about creating demand raised my eyebrows:

"As an avid consumer, and to answer your direct question I find that 'demand' is related to DESIRE. I may know about it (attention) and want it (interest), but if I don't need it I won't buy it -- UNLESS I CRAVE it (deeper down the psych chain), then I will buy it regardless of need and rationalize or invent a reason/use. But to CREATE demand for your product or service, consider how to appeal to the buyer's EGO. Either teach them that they'll gain from it (status, popularity, respect, promotion, secret knowledge, investment, etc.) -- -- or make them feel incomplete without it (peer pressure, business envy, curiousity, self-doubt, standard upgrade, etc.) Help the buyer see that they would be nuts to buy/use any other product/service besides you, no matter the price. Create demand by showing that it's more expensive NOT to buy from you... "

Jacob seems harsh in his chastisement of the people of Nephi but his words are as applicable today as they were in his day. The quote above is a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same - human nature has not changed in the ensuing centuries since Jacob's writing. The pride cycle today is remarkably similar in origin and it ability to gain hold upon a people.

Might we take note of Jacob's warnings and check ourselves against pride. "But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good..." (Jac 2:18-19).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Field Trip to Southeastern Arizona - Day Two

Another beautiful day in southeastern Arizona with my beautiful wife and daughters!

This picture was taken at 7,000 ft. in the Chiricahua National Monument, the wonderland of rocks. This national monument was created millions of years ago when the Turkey Creek Volcano erupted and deposited hot ash over an 12,000 acre site. Over the years, the elements eroded the softer ash away leaving a forest of rock spires and balancing boulders. A land that the Apaches called the land of the standing-up rocks.

This area of Arizona is the convergence of 4 mountain ranges, a biological crossroads so to speak. Ponderosa Pines stand next to Soap Tree Yucca, Cane Cholla and White Oak. Over 300 species of birds live in Park. Arizona is a land of many interesting lanscapes and the Chiricahua Monuments and wilderness area are no exceptions.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Field Trip to Southeast Arizona - Day One

Sandy, Becky, Lindsay and I set out for adventure today in southeastern Arizona. We drove through Florence and then south to Tucson. The desert wildflowers along the roadside and on many of the hills were spectacular.

Our first stop was just north of Tucson at the Biosphere 2. What a fascinating place!

Biosphere 2 is in the top three engineering marvels of all time. The 1.5 hour tour provided ample reasons for the top billing. It is the only place on the planet where men have successfully recreated a self-contained environment and atmosphere. Scientists use this sealed environment to study the interaction of ecosystems and plant life without contamination from pollutants. There are enormous implications for planet earth, as scientists can isolate the impact changes in weather on ecosystems.
During the early 90's, 8 scientists were sealed into the Biosphere 2 structure for two years. With the exception of 2 emergency medical treatments, no one left the structure for the duration of the project. All the food eaten was grown in the sphere. The scientist residents represented many different specializations from medicine to agronomy to chemistry and others. The intention was to seal inside a self sufficient population to conduct experiments and work together. They had unlimited communication with project managers and family. Interestingly, most of the residents learned to dislike each other by the end of the experience to one degree or another. Two, however, were married after the conclusion of the experiment and live in Tucson to this day.
Several funny experiences happened during the project. The project called for monkeys in the rainforest. When the scientist would go into the rainforest to work, the little monkeys would challenge them. When the scientists ignored the monkeys, the monkeys would pick the green bananas, which were hard as a rock, and throw them at the scientists. The scientists started wearing hard hats. Eventually the monkeys proved to be too caustic and were captured and sent back to the San Diego Zoo.
The project also called for pigs. It was hoped that the pigs would produce piglets to provide a sustainable meat supply. The pigs became domesticated and never fulfilled the measure of their creation. Instead, they repeatedly escaped from their pen and foraged in the vegetable garden. Eventually, the residents decided that they would solve the problem by eating them!
The experiment unfortunately failed at one level. El Nino and a volcanic eruption in the Phillipines reduced the number of days of sunlight below normal for Tucson. As a result, the level of photosynthesis was less than needed to sustain life in the sealed environment for two years. This meant that levels of CO2 rose and levels of O2 fell to a dangerous level. Working and moving around was very difficult. The project leaders were faced with abandoning the project and evacuating residents or pumping oxygen into the system. The latter course was selected and the residents finished the two-year commitment. The hope for a self-sustaining atmospere was not achieved.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this closed ecosystem is the physical structure and the mechanical systems that maintain the various climates and habitats. The skeleten of the Biosphere 2 is made of steel tubing connected in a specific geometric configuration to support all the glass panels. Stainless steel also lines the entire basement area to eliminate any external contaminents from seeping into the environment. See the pictures below:

This is the farm and livestock area. Several thousand square feet were designated for growing edible crops. There was even a configuration for growing rice.
Additional space was set aside for raising pigs, chickens and goats to provide meat, eggs and milk.

The glass canopy covering the desert, savannah
and the rain forest areas. Three ecosystems coexisting and thriving under the same roof. This meant that temperature, wind and moisture were regulated to achieve the perfect climate to support the vegetation.

Looking up at the structure from the inside out. Obviously, being inside the structure was all the more impressive.

Looking at the structure from the vantage point
of the oceanic area. This is a self-sustaining body of salt water with wave-making capability. During the two year experiment, sea life was present. Talapia was raised for food.
This is a picture of the mechanical plant in the two-acre basesment under the biosphere structure.
The picture does not do justice to the complex
equipment and redundant systems in place
to create and maintain a life-sustaining atmosphere.
Nothing like it had been created before this project and there is nothing like it anywhere in the world today. It is truly a marvel.

The structure has to breathe since it is a sealed
system. This shaft leads downward to a huge,
huge "breathing" mechanism that regulates air
pressure from dawn to dusk.

This one of two breathing rooms. The multi-ton ceiling, the black rubbery looking material, is held up entirely by air pressure. The ceiling moves up and down to regulate air pressure as air heats up under the glass structure during the day and cools down at night. If this system were not in place, the windows would violently blow out! So critical is this system that a second, redundant system was built for back up. Notice the opening in the center of the floor. This opening is a water reservoir which contains recycled water, drainage evaporation and collected condensation from the heating and cooling of the structure. This water is reintroduced as rain to complete the cycle.

This is a picture of the rainforest area. The rainfall system simulates about 100 inches of rain a year. Misters supply the ongoing mist which can be seen in the picture. The growth of the plant life is very fast. The tops of the tallest plants need to be pruned regulary so they don't break the windows.
The light you see is not the first vision but light
coming through the canopy.
This is a banana tree, one of many that supplied
the residents during their two-year stay.
Bananas proved to be plentiful while other food was scarce. Demand for the bananas was so great that the room to these trees was eventually locked to keep the residents from hoarding bananas to supplement their food supply.
The average weight loss of the residents at the end of the two years was 40 lbs. per person. One can imagine why the bananas were so popular.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Was Snookered

My children badgered me incessantly to get a new cat about a year ago. The former cat was taken to a shelter after a urinary infections caused her to abandon her litter box. I was reluctant to replace one bad situation for another. On a day of uncharacteristic weakness, I gave permission to my wife and two daughters to pick up a new cat from the pet store. Becky and Lindsay had already made a few trips to the pet store and had fallen in love with many of the cats on display.

I was on a business trip when I gave permission. When I returned home, I was surprised with two cats instead of the one. The rational, of course, was that the two cats were brother and sister and it would be unfair to seperate them. In fact, the logic continued, two cats are better than one because they will keep each other company and keep them from being under foot. I was out numbered 3 to 1 so what could I do. We now own two cats.

The grey Tabby is Dante and the Calico is Roxie.

It has taken awhile to warm up to the idea of two cats. This was made easier when one of the cats, the girl, took up fetching toy mice. One day, she dropped a toy mouse at my feet and sat down waiting for a response. I realized that she wanted to play. I tossed the mouse several feet away and she immediately chased down the mouse, carried it back and dropped it at my feet. Since that experience, we have played fetch every day that I am home.

The game has evolved to a new level. I now try to throw the mouse passed her. She crouches and readies herself. With third baseman-like reflexes, she bats the mouse to the floor. Occaisionaly she will catch the mouse in her paws or mouth. This is dog behavior! On a good day she is truly amazing. We can play for 20 minutes at a time. Her interest in the game remains high throughout.

Her brother on the other hand is wired differently. He shows little interest in the game. When he is interested, he cannot sustain it.

Sync or Swim

Lindsay performed in a judged syncronized swimming competition today. Teams were mostly from local but there were a few teams from Los Angeles and one team from Las Vegas. Lindsay's team was awarded second place in her age group and category.

Syncronized swimming is quite difficult. All the routines are completed in deep water. There is no standing on the bottom of the pool. The girls stay afloat using paddling motions with feet and hands. There are techniques for turning and moving in unison with teammates.

One of the most interesting aspects of this sport is how the girls' hair is prepared. The hair must be pulled up into a bun or gathered up off the face, neck and ears. The hair is then painted with clear gellatin! The gellatin sets up and keeps the hair from shifting or coming lose during the routine. Often, the girls add glitter to the hair or facial makeup.

All the costumes are custom made and are unique for a particular routine. Often the costume includes a head piece clipped to the hair. The lipstick application almost looks clownish so as to be visible during the performance.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

The following Sunday Thoughts are generated through my preparations to teach Gospel Doctine class. The focus of study this year is the Book of Mormon, A Second Witness of Christ. I have made every attempt to support the doctrinal statements made through the scriptures and through a search of the reference library found on The primary purpose of these mini-sermons is for the benefit of my immediate family that I might fulfil my responsibility to teach correct principles and the doctrines of salvation to my children.

Salvation Through Grace

Latter-day Saints take a distinct doctrinal position on salvation through grace. The teachings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon make this position more clear..."know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do", (2 Ne 25:23). All latter-days Saints should clearly understand this doctrine for this knowledge is essential for salvation.

There are two aspects of salvation through grace. Both are things we cannot do for oursleves. The first is salvation over death and the grave (resurrection) and the second is salvation over spiritual death, which is seperation from God's presence (Eternal life).

Salvation over physical death and the grave is an unconditional gift to all mankind through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ because of his infinite atonement (1 Cor. 15: 20-22; 2 Ne 9:4, 13). Christ was the first fruits of them that slept. He had power over his own death and had the ability to ressurect himself. He extends this opportunity to all who have lived on the earth.

Salvation over spiritual death, the second death or seperation from God's presence is a conditional gift. The law of justice demands that no unclean thing may enter in the Kingdom of Heaven. Since all have sinned and come short of that expectation, the demands of justice must. Under the plan of salvation, these demands are met by the Savior, Jesus Christ, through an infinite atonement. All the Savior requires for man to obtain salvation over spiritual death is to engage in a sanctification process; accepting the invitation to come unto him so he can mend us.

This process starts with exercising faith in the savior and his atonement accompanied by a broken heart and a contrite spirit (2 Ne 2:6-10). A broken heart means humble, repentent and receptive to the will of God. A contrite spirit means the ability to feel regret and sorrow for one's sins and offenses. Getting one's spirit into this frame of heart and mind enables the penetent man to repent of sins and offenses and to seek forgiveness.

The repentent man then becomes a member of the Lord's Kingdom through the outward ordinance of baptism of water, establishing a covenent between the man and the Lord that requires the man to obey the Lord's commandments going forward. Following baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed by the laying on of hands. This is the baptism of fire which cleanses the inner man and enables the remission of sins. The Holy Ghost plays a most significant role in the sanctification process both as a constant guiding companion and as a purger of the natural man or refiner of the soul.

After the baptism of water and fire, the new member of the kingdom will inevitably sin again. This was understood in the counsels of heaven and was addressed in the plan of salvation. The repetence process which started before baptism must be continued by showing forth a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The Lord extends forgiveness and the member renews his baptismal covenants through partaking of the sacramental bread and water. The Lord's spirit, the Holy Ghost, can now be with him again.

This cycle must be followed regularly to be considered on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. This is the practical definition of righteousness; to be pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ (2 Ne 31:20). If the man was called upon to leave this mortal existence, and was steadfast in this improvement process (enduring to the end), he would be considered in good stead with the Lord and a candidate for eternal life (2 Ne 31:15).

To ensure that the will of the man remains continuously focused on the santification process, the man must put on the whole armor of God to protect himself from the fiery darts, or temptations of the advisary (Eph 6; D&C 27:15-18). The whole armor of includes obeying the commandments (breastplate of righteousness), having his loins gird about with truth (an understanding of the proper use of the procreation within the bounds the Lord has set), helmet of salvation (safeguarding the knowledge of the plan of salvation and our place within it), feet shod with the gospel of preparation (righteous habits), shield of faith (to reject sorely enticing temptations), and the sword of the spirit; the offensive gift to confound the enemies of truth (See also Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, Lesson 48: "Maintaining Righteous Standards", pg 187).

When the man is engaging in this process of santification, he is then doing all he can do. The Holy Ghost will then remit or release his sins through the power of the atonement as he repents and will replace his carnal nature with the divine nature of Christ. Through this power, the Holy Ghost becomes a purger of sinful desires, unrighteous appetities and natural tendencies and a purifier of the soul of the man. Through the grace of Christ, the man's nature is changed to reflect the divine nature of Christ and he begins to take on righteous desires, a yearning to be like Christ and an aborance of sin. His countenance becomes Christ-like - the result of the refining fire of the spirit. This change is accomplished through the grace of Christ through the Gift of the Holy Ghost (2 Ne 31:17; Mosiah 5:1-6; 3 Ne 27:20; Moses 6:64-68; "Clean Hands and a Pure Heart", Ensign November 2007).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who is Jon?

Jon is the oldest child. He was born in Logan, Utah, on August 11. His mom and dad were attending Utah State University. He was a pleasant baby and well liked by his Aunts who called him Baby Jon.

As the first born, he was subject to our first attempts at parenting. He seemed to have survived without emotional scars. Typical of first borns, Jon is a hard charger. His work ethic is off the chart and he is quite intense about what he does in life. That intensity has translated into some visible outcomes. Most of his college tuition has been covered by scholarship. He also secured a summer internship with RSM McGladrey in Dallas, Texas, for the summer of 2008.

Jon is fearless and adventurous. I saw this develop as a youngster when playing soccer. He would not give ground to boys twice his size. He springs onto a wild rollercoaster with just a hint of foam appearing at the side of his mouth. I have also watched Jon rappel over a cliff aussie-style, that is , face first, rather than seat first.
Jon had the unique experience of serving his church and his God by volunteering for a two year mission to southern Chile at age 19. During these two years, Jon taught the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would listen and offered community service when time would allow. He learned the spanish language and emersed himself in the culture. Jon served with honor and distinction.

Jon is engaged to be married to a fine young lady, Stephanie Quinton, from Cardston, Alberta. They met while attending BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. They plan to marry on May 16th in the new Rexburg Idaho temple. Stephanie will graduate with a degree in english and secondary education from BYU-I within the next year and Jon will graduate with a degree in accounting at the same time.

Jon has plans to attend graduate school to complete the 150 credit hour requirement to qualify for a CPA license. It is uncertain where he might apply but he is considering schools in Utah, Arizona and Texas.

Who is Sandy?

Who is Lauren?

Lauren is the second oldest child and oldest of the girls in the family. She was born in Logan, Utah, on the 23rd of November. This means that every seven years her birthday falls on Thanksgiving.

Lauren is a talented and capable lady - what I call a hands-on-hips kind of lady. From an early age she set her mind to excelling in school and music. Competitive by nature, Lauren also played youth soccer for a few years and participated in track at one point. She did quite well at both, however, her true love and devotion was given to music.

Lauren excels at playing the piano. She has become a skilled sight reader and accompanist. These skills enabled her to accompany her school choirs and perform at public concerts, occasionally with little notice. During her last year of high school she joined the marching band and played percussion in the pit. Recently, while at college, she learned to play the organ and regularly plays for church and choir performances. She really pulls out all the stops when she plays. Lauren has also developed a very pleasant singing voice. It was nice to have Lauren in our home with this level of talent. We enjoyed concerts from the living room nearly every day.

Lauren is now married to a terrific guy, Erik Merkley, from Layton, Utah. They met and married while attending school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Lauren is finishing her degree in history and education. She would like to teach history in the public schools with the goal of teaching AP history at the high school level.

Her husband Erik is working on a masters degree in public health administration at the University of Utah while awaiting an opportunity to attend medical school.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Christmas in Branson, Missouri

The Boizelle family spent the 2006 Christmas Holiday in Branson, Missouri. This was our first Christmas away from home as a family. Some of the kids were not too happy about going to what seemed like an out of the way kind of place. At the end of the trip, however, all were pleased with the experience.

We flew into Kansas City, MO., a day or so before Christmas, rented a Grand Caravan and drove to Branson. It was like old times but with bigger kids. We did not have as many "are we there yet" discussions but we still had some issues around the seating rotation so each kid would have a chance at a captains chair. The pecking was in operation and parental influence was in order.

We stayed at a property that was part of our timeshare. Two bedrooms, seperate bathrooms, a large family living and dining area. The kitchen also had a breakfast bar that came in handy for christmas crafts and lazy breakfasts. Lauren slept on the pull out bed in the family room. We had a full kitchen with cooking utensils and dinnerware. It was a very nice set up with plenty of space. There was enough quiet space so Lauren could disappear and talk with Erik by phone. The unit also had a small balcony but it was a too cold to make much use of it. We also had use of the clubhouse which enabled us to use an electric piano for the traditional singing of Christmas carols.

We shipped a little Christmas to the property ahead of time. We also shipped a box with some of our christmas decorations but mostly craft supplies to make ornaments for the tree. I bought some wooden ornament blanks, craft paint and glue, etc. We had an excellent time making the ornaments. Each of the kids made a few.
The tree was then decorated with our homemade ornaments supplimented a string of lights. Our little tree made it feel like Christmas and the kids were more in the spirit of Christmas having contributed to the appearance of the tree.
Some of the ornaments were quite creative like the pine cone skier in mid-jump.
We attended church outside Branson. There are a number of families who perform on the strip in Branson. The Christmas program was excellent as a result.
We learned that the Osmand brothers attended this ward as did the Bretr family. Both families were away for the holidays. I would imagine it would be a tough job to be the ward music chairman! It would either be intimidating or like pulling teeth to ask individuals who perform night after night to be in the choir!

Branson was full of fun things to do. We had dinner at the Dolly Pardon Stampede which included a 4 course chicken dinner along with a show with horses, wagons and a real buffalo stampede. We also went to one of the variety shows in town called the Haygoods. Both shows were quite entertaining. The girls especially liked the cute Haygood brothers.

Branson is also the home to one of the better known amusement parks in America, Silver Dollar City. The park is open nearly year round so it is one of few parks open during the Christmas season. Most everyone enjoyed the roller coasters. Several were quite intense. One having a start speed of about 70 miles per hour quickly shooting vertical for about 200 feet. Another coaster had an incredible drop and several tight loops. Lindsay was not too keen on these rides but she did find one coaster that she liked and road several times. We were proud of her.

Silver Dollar City also boasts an evening light parade. It is quite dazzling
The last few days of our trip were spent in Kansas City, Mo. We visited the LDS Church visitors center in Independence, Mo. We visited the Liberty Jail, visitors center and stood on the Independence temple site. Of course, the family listened to Apostle Sheldon of the Hedrikite church as part of the temple site experience.

A must do in Kansas City, Mo., is to skate at outdoor ice rink across from the Hallmark Crown Center Mall.

An added perk of the trip was volunteering to be bumped as a family on our flight home to Phoenix. Poor weather conditions created air delays around the country. By volunteering, Southwest Airlines awarded us with about $2,300 worth of flight vouchers and rebooked us on a flight that left about 2 hours later. That was a sweet way to end our family Christmas vacation

Desert Wildflowers

Today, my wife and I went out to see the wildflowers in the east vally. The best time to view the wildflowers is mid-February through mid-March. We have received the necessary rain to germinate the seeds and it looks like it will be a great wildflower season all over the state.

We drove up to Bulldog Canyon in the Tonto National Forest. This is located east of Apache Juntion just off the Apache Trail and past the ghost town. I have included some spectacular photos from this hike. The yellow flower is the Mexican Golden Poppy. The purple spikey flower is Arizona Lupine. The other purple flower is Sand Verbena.

These pictures also show an assortment of Sonoran Desert cactus. The tall, thick cactus with the arms is, of course, the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). The squat bushy looking cactus with the silvery glow is Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii). It looks soft and cuddly from a distance. Not!

Mexican Poppies having a peak experience.

A Mexican Poppy family in all their splendor.

Poppies in forefront and a lichen crusted out
cropping in the background.

Fishhook Barrel Cactus.

A patch of poppies with Saguaro and Mesquite.

A river of Mexican Poppies.

Teddy Bear Cholla with Mexican Poppies.

Mexican Poppies and Sand Verbena.

Sand Verbena

Unbloomed Sand Verbena on the left.
Arizona Lupine to the right.

Attack of the Teddy Bear Cholla! The spines
of these critters were embedded in my left

Dave won but was inflicted with grevious
wounds. The perils of getting just the
right camera angle.

The flagship of the Superstition Mountains.