Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Today Trillium and I drove to Star Valley, Wyoming, about five hundred miles round trip. My grandfather, William Adelman, died in 1951 when I was nine. I can only recall meeting him once, during a family vacation from California to Idaho about a year or so before then. William Adelman’s eldest child, Ernest, died within a year of his birth. My father said that he had a cleft palate and other congenital defects that facilitated that early departure from mortal life. My Aunt Veda I remember vividly, she and her family having sheltered us for a time while my father was trying to get his feet back on the ground after the war. She was less than five feet tall. My dad passed away in Magalia, California in 2001 and it was almost four months before I was apprised of his passing. He had been cremated, and my step mother had kept the ashes down in my father’s work shed until I was able to fly over and bring them back to Utah. A month or so after that, my sons Christopher and David drove up with me to the Auburn Cemetery to intern him with his parents.

The first time that I had been to the Auburn Cemetery was in 1982. I was on a trip from Indiana to California as part of a series of speaking engagements. I met with one of my uncles, Eldon I think, and he drove me out to the site where I received a tour of all of the family members’ final resting places. The marker for my grandmother’s grave was well placed and readable, but there was nothing indicating where my grandfather, my uncle Ernest, and my aunt Vera were buried. My uncle suggested that maybe we ought, as a family, gather up the money to put the markers there. Twenty years passed and nothing happened, so that when I buried my father’s remains, the plots were just as barren of information as they had ever been. By that time my uncle Eldon was in the ground, just to the left of my grandmother’s marker. Some of my cousins were in attendance at the grave-side service for my father and we again committed to do something about the unmarked graves.

Another eight years or so passed, and still nothing transpired to bring about the purchase of a marker. I determined to do the deed myself. I contacted one of the mortuaries in Star Valley and had him arrange for a stone to be placed for my four relatives. It proved to be a slow moving train, and it was late in the fall of 2009 before the fellow made all of the final arrangements with a stone cutter in Idaho. By then the ground was frozen in Auburn, and the installation of the marker stone was put off until the spring. I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from the stone cutter saying that the marker would be installed today about noon. I persuaded Trillium to accompany me and we made the trip up and back, arriving home about 7:00.

The marker is in exactly the right place because I had spoken directly with the sexton in 2001 about the arrangement of the three unmarked graves. I also knew precisely where I had placed my father. Thus, I knew exactly how to direct the men as they cut the turf and set the stone.

I knew last night that I was going to post this entry on my scriptures blog, and so I spent a great deal of time trying to think of any scriptures that I could remember having been spoken by my father during his lifetime. From my first recollections as a child until I was fifteen, when my parents separated, I cannot ever remember having heard my father cite a verse of scripture. For almost twenty years after that, my father and I did not see each other face to face, although we did talk on the telephone from time to time. And there was the occasional letter. When I did see him again in person, almost thirty years had passed. So in my entire relationship with my father up to that time, little had been said of scriptural or theological matters. As I pondered further along in my memory, I could only recall one instance, and that singular moment of scriptural discourse transpired during a visit with him when I was passed forty years of age and my dad was passed sixty. I do not recall what motivated that scripture. Maybe it came out of the blue, something that he felt that he had to say to me as my father.

“Prove all things,” he said, “and hold fast to that which is good”. I doubt that he could have turned to the passage in the New Testament, but it was an aphorism from one of Paul’s letters that had stuck in his mind such that he had felt it worthwhile to share it with me.

While I accept the truth of the Apostle’s counsel, I think that I would moderate it just a little. The “testing” or “proving” of all things does not have to come by way of experimentation with every possible manner of conduct. In other words, you do not have to kill someone to know that murder is unacceptable and contrary to the will of God. We can see the effects of sin in the lives of others, many examples of which can be found in the sacred writings of the prophets, seers and revelators of the God of Heaven. We do not need to repeat their mistakes just so that we can say, “Yup, that was a mistake!”

As time has passed, the world should have been getting better and better, the inhabitants of the earth learning from the previous generations those things which work and those things which do not, and then extending the cultural and spiritual knowledge further by making their own contributions regarding those things which they have discovered are good and evil. Alas, this has not been the case in general. George Santayana said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is true in any venue, and those unlearned historical issues which have eternal consequences are at the same time both poignant and tragic.