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In remembrance

Steven Michael Law, age 56, passed away July 28, 2016, with his family by his side. He struggled against complications of a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis for over 5 months. Steve was born to Scott Milan Law and Margarethe Elizabeth Myklebost, on January 22, 1960 in Neubrücke, Germany.

Graduating from Mesa Verde High School of Citrus Heights, California in 1978, he was called to the Munich, Germany mission and served from 1979 to 1981. He was married to Connie Merryweather on September 17, 1982 and attended BYU, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in German Literature. They moved to California, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from UCLA, finishing there in 1988. After working for the New York Public Library and returning to the west coast to work in the Law Library for the State of California in Los Angeles, he moved to Provo, Utah with his family.

He worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Library in Salt Lake City for 25 years and the Provo City Library for 21 years. For over 2 decades he managed 55-60 hour work weeks, as well as a long commute, where he made many friends, on the bus and the train and at his work.

In high school he ran track and played tennis; later he ran the St. George Marathon at 24, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with an impressive time of 3:24:00. He taught himself to play piano, and guitar, and was trained in violin. He enjoyed ping pong, hiking and camping, old movies, science fiction, singing, music, and trivia. Throughout his life, he studied Mormon History, Family History, Philosophy and Theology.

He will be remembered for his enormous variety of interests, and as he used to say, “There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” He loved puns and wordplay just like his dad, and will be remembered for his wry sense of humor.

He is survived by his wife, Connie, and his 4 children, Mykle (Sarah), Keaton, Jennessa (Josh Fulton), and Connor, his sister, Glenda, and his two grandchildren, Lukas and Charlotte. He was loved by a great many people, and had friends all over the world from the Phillippines, Australia and Germany in his work for Family Search, the LDS Church’s website for family history research.

He was a practicing Latter-day Saint, and managed a calm, quiet, and stable approach to his curiosity that belied the sometimes difficult nature of the questions he researched. He was always available to help others with family history questions, and, when asked, provided mature perspective to his children on gospel matters. In his later years he spoke with some admiration for not only Hugh Nibley, the malcontent, but also Eugene England, who not only had admirable ideas and writing, but who lived a life that Steve described as being worth emulating.

He was a great resource to those around him, always knowing where to look for answers, when he didn’t know them himself. He was wise enough to suspend judgement, and he was well-read enough to reflect to others the important ideas they needed.

His viewing was August 4th, from 6-8 PM at the Provo Parkway Stake Center at 2801 West 620 North. The funeral will was held August 5th, at 11 AM at the same location with a graveside service directly afterward at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery.

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I stayed until they lowered his casket into the earth, and placed the concrete cap onto his burial vault. I dropped a handful of dirt onto the vault, and read his name, emblazoned on the brass placard. I said goodbye, not for the first time, nor the last.

I miss him daily. I think of him when I hear witty jokes, or wordplay. I remember his strong hands and his warm embrace when I feel alone. I ponder on many of the things that he never got to do, and feel obligated, duty-bound to fulfill his wishes. I remember being young and hearing his voice, often when my own children talk to me.

And in quiet moments, I wonder, with Job of the scriptures, “If a man die, shall he live again?”

Will my father live again? Will I hear his voice? How long must I wait?

The thought of waiting 50 years to see him again is unbearable. The realization that I cannot ask him a question and hear his answer is painful, and frequent. I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of exploring his files, photos, and other documents; his repository of family history information is enormous. Yet, this is his legacy, and someone must continue his work. If not me, then who?

I feel inadequate, alone, responsible, and tired. I find myself crying often. I feel guilty about not feeling or thinking about the pain, but later am so overwhelmed by depression that I can’t bring myself to do household tasks. I pray for the chance to talk to him, to dream of his visitation, to sense his presence. I crave assurance as I have never craved it before.

Over time, I have become used to uncertainty. I infrequently obtain answers that alleviate uncertainty, and such answers generally seem to come slowly anyway. So I’ve become used to living with uncertainty. On this matter, I cannot bear it. I must know. I must be assured that he is there, somewhere, busy as he ever was, and in case of enough need, available to me. Without that assurance… lies despair and ruin.

In a strange agitation, I find myself motivated. My life has turned upside down in the last 6 months. My wife and I moved out, into our own home (with our two children), I lost my job, and am starting a business, and now, my father has gone. I find myself motivated to make this business endeavor successful, to take control of my circumstances and envision a future for my family, including my wife and children, but also my siblings, mother, and my dad’s only sister.

There are many others who offered help and prayers, and I appreciate them, including my  mother-in-law, who showered my children with affection and cared for them and us while she stayed with us. I thank my wife, who has been a listening ear and endured my absent mind and lack of attention or focus.

A few people have offered me such understanding or help and showed me that they understand the loss I feel, and I feel they are worthy of mention. Tom, Dave, Gonzo, Sam, Eric, and Wes, you know who you are. Thank you for knowing how to grieve with me, and how to offer comfort. Gonzo, you identified traits of my father that I had not recognized I emulated, let alone that he had them. Dave, Tom, you truly know how to “mourn with those who mourn.” Sam, you have been ever-respectful and patient; thank you. Eric, your honesty about lacking empathy, and your solidarity with me in my anger at “trite certitudes” gave me energy and a place to put my anger down where it wouldn’t harm anyone. Wes, your bravery and courage, and unabashed, unflinching act(s) of open kindness have left a lasting impression.

The loss I feel is not only emotionally crippling at times, but I have always looked to my father to know best how to weather the storm of uncertainty. I find now that my ability to face that uncertainty is woefully inadequate. In times of doubt, my greatest asset in coming to terms with uncertainty and beginning my approach to some measure of understanding, or a clear answer, has always begun with surveying the landscape. In that attempt, in getting my bearings, as it were, my father was an invaluable resource, frequently knowing precisely where I ought to begin. It was a gift, a rare one, and one highly developed– honed from years of use. And now, in my greatest need of his guidance to begin surveying the landscape, I am ineffably bereft. I will likely say it many, many times, but I say here again: My father was the wisest man I have ever known.

 

 
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Posted by on 17 August 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Father

Uncertain

The house is cold, and quiet. My father lies still, across town, in a sterile room, attended, but not attendant.

His awkward gait does not make the stairs creak, for he is not walking those stairs. And I cannot hear his spinning wheels on his stationary bike, as they whisper of his efforts.

His uncertainty has always been mine. But then, faith is not certainty, but to act in the face of uncertainty. Skepticism too, he passed to me. We share that curious nature, to look under all rocks, to want to, at least, examine all consequences.

He moves little now, the pain besets him so. And his words slur, as we talk of people, dead and gone. I fear. He has always been steady. What will I do when he is gone?

Who will I ask for direction?

The books I seek, the time I have to spend in words not mine, words frozen— these books, these words, they often come from his library.

We have always talked of them, sitting by the fire, on early morning commutes, in quiet moments before bed, in the dark. If he goes, who will fill those empty moments? No one?

Caught

I fear saying goodbye. I fear that goodbye would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I fear holding on until the end– until it’s too late to say goodbye. And the moment of suspense my mind is caught up in, it wavers like a gong. Struck, and it shimmers in the air, the deep, thick notes pushing inward until all I can do is hold my breath.

I’m ready to pass out. My lungs are burning and behind my eyes is a growing migraine– a migraine of tangled, growing roots that press against the inside of my skull.

Breath

It is easy to say I’m drowning in sorrow, or pain… inadequacy, anger.
It is harder to tell someone of the murderous rage you have, the desire to destroy the 20 year old tree in the back yard with a small aluminum baseball bat. Each blow jars your arm, but you don’t care, because what you want is gone, and never returning. Because your father is gone.

It is easy to say, “my fears are irrational.”
It is hard to sit still and breathe. It is hard to smile and talk to a man who looks like your father, but talks of people trying to kill him, and Jewish surgical conventions.

It is impossible to be satisfied, it is almost impossible to breathe, when that man could die at any minute, and never give you a chance to say goodbye.

It is impossible to hate that man, and love your father. And caught in the contradiction like a vice, like a paper press, your breath seizes in your throat.

And holding that breath, you swing, and break the bat.

Jonas

The gift of faith is not mine. Not certainty. My father, or what is present of him yet, whispers of work and forms, German I don’t recognize, and asks for water.

I cannot envision an end to this. For me, he remains gone. Taken.

As I breathe, I cower. I fear. It drives out feelings of assurance. My will is not iron. Not water. But glass perhaps. Brittle, it cracks in unexpected moments when the quiet presses so forcefully. When the dark weighs on my shoulders.

I have had echoes and reflections available to me. Suddenly now, it is so quiet. I feel like Hamlet. A king of infinite space, though bound tightly, and yet, it is nightmares that I find impossible turn away. I entertain them as guests.

In the dark, I wonder if they have swallowed me whole. Is Jonas here? Perhaps he has a light I can borrow. I seem to have forgotten where mine went.

—–

This is a collection of poems I wrote when my father was in the hospital, and I was genuinely afraid that he wouldn’t come home. At the time of posting, he had yet to come home, but was in stable condition, and improving.

 
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Posted by on 3 April 2016 in Uncategorized

 

My Highest Point of Contribution

When I was at the Deseret News, I learned that the professionals don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Let me rephrase. I learned that to be a professional does not mean leaving mediocrity behind mediocrity of thought, mediocrity of ability, consistency, values, or attitude. I learned that I had as much validity in my opinions as anyone else I had spent so much of my life learning from the experts, from teachers, from authority figures that I had never quite had that sink in.

Yet, while empowering, it was also terrifying. I edited syndicated pieces by George Will, Michael Gerson, Charles Krauthammer, Robert J. Samuelson, and Kathleen Parker, and local writers, like Richard Davis, John Florez, Dan Liljenquist, and former congressman Bob Bennett. Many times, I found myself thinking, These people are professionals? THEY’RE the ones in charge? (I’m actually very fond of Michael Gerson’s work, and they are all good writers, and I just as often did not have strong reactions against them, for what it’s worth.)

I began to realize that true excellence is rare and how! I began thinking about what excellence requires. And for the first time in my life, I went through a long period in which I was interested in excellence as an idea, as a way of life. I will not claim to have made great strides toward it, nor will I suggest that I remained focused on it, but it moved out of the category of ‘not worth the bother’. I’m not exactly sure what category it moved into– but it’s probably something like: ‘How fascinating— could this be possible for me, and if so, how, and what use could it be put to?’

Reflecting upon some of this during my morning commute, I came to a new place. For some time, I had been uncertain as to where to go next for more learning and development— academia looks unappealing and too expensive, and I wasn’t seeing very many other authorities or experts elsewhere that I could easily connect with, let alone learn from. I talked to some friends who are business consultants and they gave me some coaching. But this morning, I decided something. However rare true excellence is, it is still worth pursuing. I am unsatisfied with mediocrity. And I must find ways, even if they do not involve experts, to find how to make the greatest contribution I can.

[It’s] about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

—Greg McKeown

 

 
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Posted by on 27 January 2016 in Uncategorized

 

On doubts, uncertainty, and emotional safety in my religious community

Some time ago, a friend of mine and I talked about LDS doctrine, policy, and, culture, in the U.S. We both have frustrations with LDS culture. I hope you understand that we don’t have gripes just to gripe, and that our frustration stems from a belief that things could be so much better. We have observed differences in the way members of the church interact in many places. We hope for a better future, and we worry that the ideas of the world, and the philosophies of men, have infiltrated church ranks and beliefs in ways that are insidious, and destructive. My point is applicable to so many opinions and ideas in the church, that I don’t want to get into all of them right here, but I’ll try to give you a bit of a gamut.

We worry that blaming the poor for their circumstance, and the oft-associated ‘prosperity doctrine’ has become a church staple, but is not compatible with righteous living and a goal of becoming celestial beings through Christ’s atonement.

We worry that modesty rhetoric is as objectifying a trend of women as pornography is, or at best, is scripture mixed with the philosophies of men and are not gospel compatible, and that we ought to know better as a people, and as professed disciples of Christ.

We worry that women are treated differently in church circles in ways incompatible with the notion of righteous priesthood leadership.

We worry that in church circles, doubts cannot be expressed safely, nor doubters supported in their trials. The members of the church may not be always able to provide easy answers to doubters, but we worry that church spaces have become unfriendly to doubters, simply because doubts aired publicly create a sort of public discomfort.

This last concern is one that I can own, in all honesty. I have many doubts, and the things that I am convinced of by the spirit seem quite limited in comparison to some church members’ expressed testimonies. I try not to begrudge them their declarations of certainty. I find myself uncertain about most things, and frequently find that only about the core precepts of the gospel can I testify consistently. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and continual humility to Endure to the End– these I am most assuredly certain of– I’ve have experienced and witnessed the capacity of these precepts too frequently, and needed their sanctifying power, via the atonement of Christ, too often to not know of their truth.

But I do not know that global warming and climate change are farces and a falsehoods. I do not know that evolution is a doctrine of the devil. I do not know that bare shoulders are immodest and destructive. Perhaps you know these things. I’m inclined to believe that such declarations of certainty are made from multiple motivations, including honest beliefs driven by experience, spiritual witnesses, adhering to group beliefs for the sake of comfort and group identity, unthinking and unfeeling reactions to things that make us uncomfortable, and sometimes, a desire to shame others to make ourselves feel better.

Yet, my declarations of uncertainty, and my feelings that certainty claimed over issues less important can be terribly destructive, and distracting from the gospel message– I feel that these notions and expressions are unwelcome in most church circles. I hope I’m wrong. Sometimes I see powerful evidence that I am wrong. I hope to see more evidence of that.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I’m concerned that too often we’re too ‘conclusive’ about the wrong things. And what’s more, we judge others, and even inadvertently make them unwelcome or shamed, with our misplaced/poorly articulated certainty. I know that when I hear the brethren speak of testifying of Christ, of placing our focus on the basics– this is consoling. I sorely need consoling. I wish I knew what else I needed.
 
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Posted by on 15 June 2015 in Uncategorized

 

On grief, and engaging

I was reading in the New Testament the other morning. Personal scripture study is, for me, an experience likely to be inconsistent, both in its frequency and its likelihood to produce feelings of closeness with God. But this time I had a powerful moment, and I want to share it here.

Jesus, after giving the parable of the seeds, explains in verse 15:

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear withtheir ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

This brought to mind thoughts I have had about the destructive tendency we all have of disengaging from the world around us. We disengage from people, from situations, and from evidence. Disengaging means refusing to consider these people or their ideas– it means hearing, but not listening– it means thinking of other things while others are talking, and probably many other behaviors, too. I’m guilty of it quite often, but I don’t like it.

In the next chapter, John the Baptist is beheaded– seemingly for petty politics, although I’ll admit I don’t know any more than what the basic narrative in Matthew says. Then in verses 12-14:

And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

I had never noticed the context of Jesus’s departing into the desert. Jesus is grieving for a cousin who he surely knew– they were the same age, and their mothers were close. He was grieving for a righteous prophet, and his own herald.

And, in his grief, he does not turn the multitude away. He does not disengage. I would give most people a pass for grief– let them grieve– I won’t bother them. But Jesus does something truly impressive. He heals their sick, and then some time later, feeds five thousand people.

*whistles in awe and amazement

Yeah. That’s pretty amazing.

 
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Posted by on 23 April 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A Long Year

I have been absent from my blogs for far too long. This last year, 2014, was long and hard. It began with nearly 60 hour weeks, between working full-time at a paid internship for the Deseret News and the commute up to Salt Lake. I worked on the opinion section, and loved it. It was exhausting though. After that, I had a frantic job search while my wife’s pregnancy progressed. I worked at a VW dealership, and eventually I went back to O’Reilly auto parts. My wife delivered a beautiful baby girl in June. Eventually, she went back to work, and I’ve been mostly a stay-at-home dad since. I’ve explored numerous job opportunities and career paths, but nothing has panned out just yet. ( I considered firefighting, editing, woodworking, wrenching, and going back to school for more torture.) My current plan is to register at the local trade school for a machinist’s certification course. In the meantime, my wife got a raise and a promotion.

I’ve been trying so hard to be the good, job-seeking dad, that it took me a long while to realize that I’ve been avoiding being the dad my kids need. In deciding to change that, I found my relationship with my son strained and renewed, although the results for me have been more positive than negative. I also have newfound interests in gardening, cooking, and various home repair/improvment projects.

I also have redoubled my efforts on my Mormons& podcast with Ted Lee.

And that, my friends, is an update.

 
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Posted by on 14 January 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Paradise Locale

The shattering of paradise local,
The utter ‘realness’ of the world,
The hurt, the pain, and everything else that doesn’t fit into our picture of stuff.
Disenchantment persists,
The others demand of us,
Things that we don’t want to give, don’t know how to give. Fear.
Not sure how to reconcile worlds,
We fight for the knowing of things.
We question, we doubt, we believe, and we know. Feeling that they are real, we ask ‘Where are the absolutes?’
The world of our own making is often at the heart
of everything that we believe and are, and that’s a start–
A start, and startling it is when we are disillusioned,
And something good and pure is here, to be shared with all the world.

(Old poem, originally hosted on a different blog. Reposted for material consistency at each blog.)

 
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Posted by on 28 January 2014 in Uncategorized