Monday, July 26, 2010

My Grandfather Was A Farmer In Idaho

Really. Nampa, Idaho to be exact. He was a dairy farmer and had a big 'ol farm house with several large barns and sheds situated on many rolling acres. And cows. These were not the pretty cows that said “moo” on command and sat organized and neat on my toy shelf next to my hot wheels. Nor were these cows nearly as conscientious as I had pitched them to be while I played with plastic animals in my bedroom. And, where there are large unruly cows, I discovered as a small boy, there was stuff left by cows.

Lots of stuff.

There was also stuff that had to be fed to cows, and stuff taken from the cow even when they did’t want their stuff taken, and once taken, the milk had to be chilled and separated and then there was more dirty stuff to be cleaned. The dairy farm was not anywhere near as spotless and fresh as on the TV advertisements and the happy bovines of Nampa, Idaho were not nearly as cheery or clever as those currently promoting chicken sandwiches or chocolate milk.

Grandpa had the right idea (or maybe it was grandmas idea) in leaving his work boots and coveralls in the mud room just inside the screen door. The world stayed outside where it could keep just as it was and was always meant to be once the Garden of Eden had been cleared of humans. Inside the house was a different world where stocking feet, slippers or clean shoes were welcome and appropriate.

Sometimes after the boots came off, Grandpa would clean up, and lace up a shiny pair of Florsheim dress shoes. Then, Grandpa as President Hurren made for his office at the stake building to attend to a different kind of business, and a different kind of cleanup. Something a little more spiritual.

Having a clean heart and clean hands always meant something else for me once I had spent a week on Grandpas farm feeding cows and leaving my shoes on the porch. There was work to do, and it meant getting dirty. Having a pure heart and clean hands sometimes didn't have anything to do with the muck on your boots or the dried mud glued to your pants, where a little grime left on the bar of soap may have simply meant that the job was well done. The dirt that stuck to you at Grandpas dairy farm cleaned up relatively easy, and Grandpa often said that if you didn't have to clean up you probably hadn’t done much of importance that day.

There is much emphasis put into cleanliness as a metaphor of morality and chastity. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?” (Ps. 24:3). He who hath clean hands and a pure heart. Who has access to the power of the lord? The virtuous and spotless. Keep in mind that through the atonement, we all may repent and become clean, pure, virtuous and spotless.

Sometimes getting our hands dirty has a connotation of being less desirable, or a little more working class than we would care to admit. We would like to, and are required to be “virtuous and spotless” as we stand before the Lord when on his hill. The getting there, the forgiving and repenting and helping of the others we better be bringing along with us - that may be a place and time for muck boots and coveralls.

The physical acts of caring for, serving, working with, and cleaning up after our brothers and sisters gets a little messy. “Jumping in and getting the job done” and/or “getting into the mix” transitions artfully into “purity and a virtuous heart”. The power we can access in the priesthood is not only limited by our degree of individual righteousness or purity, but by our general willingness to “get-er-done”. The priesthood of God brilliantly combines both “Clean and pure” and “get your hands dirty”.

The metaphors are officially, forever mixed.

It’s the “do something for someone” attribute in conjunction with having a clean and pure Christ centered heart, the "spiritual farmer tan" – that I admire with holders of the priesthood, and that my Grandpa in Nampa Idaho would be proud of.

The Priesthood of God is one of the reasons I have set aside anything that would get in the way of having a willing heart and being worthy of healing hands.


  1. I totally live in Nampa, ID! Neat!

  2. jeff in coloradoJuly 28, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    I enjoyed the read until I got to the last line. I'm not sure I get that connection you made there. Can one not be gay and still serve others? Still have a clean & pure heart?

  3. I think the difference would be gay/behaviors (Having gay sex or sex in general outside of marriage0, and gay/feelings (not having sex outside of marriage). Morally clean enough to use the priesthood means to be following the law of chastity - as far as I know. Can one live both?

  4. Thanks for the essay. This should be in the ensign