Monday, October 13, 2014

One last trip...

My heart is full as we prepare to board the plane Saturday to come home from our mission.  We arrive in Orange County on Monday the 20th and will then drive to our new home in Goodyear, AZ on Wednesday to start the next phase in life.  I am anxious to see what retirement life is all about.  

We have loved our assignment in the Scotland/Ireland Mission and have met so many wonderful people.  Our assignment has been to operate the Edinburgh Employment Resource Centre and assist people prepare for the job market and also train Church leaders.  We have felt the Lord’s blessings as we have taught the principle of self-reliance and helped a number of people find work.  The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to reach out to serve one another.  We are grateful for the opportunity we have had to share our testimonies of the restored gospel and for the knowledge that there is a living prophet leading and guiding us today.

We have been fortunate to travel throughout both Scotland and Ireland and have seen some incredibly beautiful areas.  I love the words from the chorus of a favourite song – Hail Caledonia!
But give me the land of the heather and the kilt,
The mountain and the river,
For the blood leaps in my veins
When I hear the bagpipe's strains
Scotland, dear old Scotland forever!

We will always have special memories of our time in Scotland and Ireland and the people we have met.  I have enjoyed learning more of the Scottish history…and believe me, there is plenty of it.  

Last weekend we took our last trip to see the Scotland countryside.  We went to the village of Falkland and toured the Falkland Palace. 

 The Palace sits right on the main road into town unlike other palaces that are surrounded by gardens.  The gardens for this palace are in the back.

 The main street of Falkland

Falkland is a place where kings and queens paused and reflected on life.  It has been referred to as the “Balmoral Castle” of its time…the 15th and 16th century.  (Balmoral Castle today is the Scottish retreat for the Queen.  It is located in the highlands and the queen spends most of August at Balmoral and then attends the Balmoral gathering the first Saturday in September)  Falkland was a hunting retreat for many of the Kings of Scotland. 

Golf is not the only sport that was played in Scotland hundreds of years ago.  Mary Queen of Scots played tennis on the royal tennis court in the 16th century.

 This is the Royal tennis court, inside this structure.  See the court below

  This is the court.

After our visit to Falkland we went to St Andrews and then to Anstruther for fish & chips...the best fish & chips in all of Scotland.

The fishing village of Anstruther.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The time is far spent...

Where has the time gone?  Last week as I was waiting to give a talk in Stake Priesthood meeting I flipped opened the Hymn Book and the page that opened was this hymn..."The time is far spent; there is little remaining..."  We are coming to the end of a wonderful experience and have very mixed feelings about going home.  Of course we are anxious to reunite with family…especially our grandchildren, but leaving so many good friends here will be hard.  I have been spending time to review what we have done and have been preparing our files for our replacements.  Elder and Sister Leavitt from Mesa, AZ will be arriving in about 2 ½ weeks.  We will spend a couple of days with them and then leave for home.  We will miss so many things here.

One of my favorite castles is the Edinburgh Castle.  I love the city of Edinburgh.

We have enjoyed our assignment as Area Employment Specialists.  We have been fortunate to be able to travel to all the Stakes within the Scotland/Ireland Mission.  Whilst we have studied each day we have learnt (that is “while” and “learned” as used in the UK) more of how much the Lord loves each of us and wants us to be successful.  The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to love God with all our heart, and to love others.

Pitlochry is one of the first small Scottish villages we visited.  We love this town and surrounding area

We all have a responsibility to reach out to those around us and assist those in need.  While here, we have learned that we can really get along without a lot of the material things in life and we must share of our excess with those in need.  Alma taught the people of the Church by the waters of Mormon toimpart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.   And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God…and they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs…”.  (Mosiah 18:27-29)

One of the themes I have used in my talks when we have spoken in different Wards is about our responsibility to reach out to those in need.  One of the best examples of this from the scriptures is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We have all heard this story as taught by Jesus and learned we have a responsibility to help others in need.  I have however, learned that there is more to this parable than just us reaching out to help others.  I am convinced that the Samaritan in the parable was a man who had learned the principle of self-reliance.   I am sure he was a working man…one who was able to provide for himself and his family and he also had additional resources to provide assistance to the stranger in need.  He probably had traveled the road to Jericho often and knew the inn keeper.  He had additional money available to provide food and lodging for the stranger in need.  He was undoubtedly known by the inn keeper as a man of character and a man who could be trusted, for he said, “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I return, I will repay thee.”  

St Andrews Clubhouse 

As we leave our assignment the work is in the middle of a transition.  We have been focusing on employment as assisting those throughout the mission to be prepared for the job interview.  The new initiative that is coming from the First Presidency is to focus on self-reliance.  Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.” As we become self-reliant, they are then better able to serve and care for others.  The Leavitts will be teaching this broader principle of self-reliance rather than just employment related topics.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The "Ayes" have it...

It’s all over but the shouting…and there is still plenty of that going on.

We have had a bird’s eye view of the Scottish Referendum.  On September 18th the Scots had the opportunity to vote a simple “YES” or “NO” for independence from the United Kingdom.   A "YES" vote would have made Scotland a Commonwealth country similar to Canada.  A "NO" vote would have them remain as one of the four countries in the UK.  As you have probably heard the vote turned out to be “NO” and Scotland will stay as part of the UK.  I was very surprised to see that 85% of registered voters came out to cast their ballots.


Scotland has always wanted to be independent from England…for the last 700 years.  Independence has been a constant point of discussion since the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 which was a major battle for Scottish independence.  The Battle of Culloden was the last big battle between the Scots and England in 1746…a sound victory for England.  At least this time the “battle for independence” was at the voter’s box instead of on the battle field.

There was a referendum in 1997 where the Scots voted for partial independence and the Scottish Parliament was established in 1998 and the first meeting was held in 1999.  The Scottish Parliament has authority over certain things – the two main items are welfare and education – but they receive their funding from Westminster.  It's kind of like a parent (Westminster) giving a child (Scottish Parliament) an allowance and telling them to spend it wisely, but that is all you get.  The Scots wanted more taxation power (sound similar to taxation without representation) so they could have more money for social programs.  Already the Scots provide free University tuition to everyone which is not done in England.

The Labour Party pushed to lower the voter age to 16 which was seen as an effort to get more young people to vote who would hopefully be “YES” votes.  Up to Election Day, the polls showed an even race…back and forth between YES and NO.  To the surprise of many the vote was not that close…it ended 55% NO and 45% YES.  Scotland will stay part of the UK.

Now some of the discussion (or shouting) is about the other “children” – Wales and Northern Ireland, and also about the “parent” (England) feeling that they have given too much to the spoiled children to the North (the Scots).  Westminster made substainal promises to Scotland on the eve of the election.  

One of the big issues during the campaign was about which currency Scotland would use if they went independent.  Many in the “YES” camp said they would continue to use the Pound Stirling, others said they would have a Scottish Pound, and others said they would go to the Euro (as they would have probably applied to be a member of the European Union.Lots of confusion over the currency issue and the effect on the monetary system.  The royal monarchy entered into the debate as the “YES” camp didn’t want to “give up the Queen”…she would still be welcome royalty, but as a guest when she visited other commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia.

 This is the Holyrood Palace where the Queen lives when she comes to Edinburgh.

With the “YES” vote, the Queen still has her royal residence in the Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and her summer castle in Balmoral and Scotland is still on the Pound Stirling.      One thing that I think will come out of this vote is that the United Kingdom will be seen in the future more as four countries rather than England and three “other” countries.  It is all about politics and who is paying for all the social programs implemented by parliament.

As a side note about flags…The Union Jack is a combination flag.  It is a combination of the Scottish Flag (the St. Andrew's Cross), the English flag (St. George's Cross) and the Irish (St. Patrick's Cross).  Not sure what happened to Wales in this process, other than the English crushed them back in the 13th century and they are just now awakening...I guess the Welch contribution would have been a red dragon in the center of the flag.

The Welch Flag...

There is also one other Scottish flag…the Royal Banner, or commonly known as the Lion Rampart of Scotland.  Historically this royal banner was the flag of the King of Scots and differs from the national flag – St. Andrews Cross.  The earliest recorded use of the Lion Rampart as the royal emblem in Scotland was by Alexander II in 1222.

The most important results of all the voting for independence is that you can rest assured...the world is still safe as there is still enough haggis for everyone!!!