Biting the Bullet
I was fearful of what had to come next. In the Mormon Church you can not just waltz in and start being active again. You attend church in the geographic area where you live. Every square inch of the planet is presided over by some priesthood authority, usually the Bishop of the ward you live in. There is a record associated with you that shows whether you hold the priesthood and whether you are married in the temple, among other things. If you have ever been to the temple, the Bishop would know you have been interviewed for worthiness to hold a temple recommend.
I was in need of serious repentance. I had been married to Jane in the temple and upon our divorce commenced to break every temple vow of chastity I had entered into. Such infractions are considered second only to the shedding of innocent blood. I knew I had to go before a Bishop’s Court, at least that’s what it was called back in 1971 when I left the Church. The new name was Disciplinary Council. The emphasis was on redemption or reconstructing lives. A person unwilling to participate in this action could be disfellowshipped or worse, excommunicated. What had to be decided is whether the participant is a menace to the community; such as a pedophile; or someone who sincerely wanted to return to full fellowship with the Church, like me. Still the aspect of confessing your sins and awaiting the response of the group is a scary proposition.
For what it is worth for you to know, no one in the Church asked for his job and there is no monetary compensation for being a Bishop or counselor or clerk. These people are called to do this job by appointment from higher up for a period of time like a term of office. They don’t go to divinity school or social counseling schools. Their qualifications are that they are worthy and have a testimony of the work. They all have jobs to support their families. As a rule, when you are called, you accept the calling, and do the job as well as you can. You are set apart in your calling with a priesthood blessing that provides the gifts required to do the job; and you are sustained by the members you serve unanimously, no exceptions.
I asked my friend Bob Patterson, who is a long time friend and faithful member of the Church, to be with me for the process. It is not required, but it is a great comfort to have someone in your corner.
To my surprise, they were not interested so much in the strangers I had consorted with as much as my close family, my daughter and adopted children, my ex-wives. Did I have good relationships with them? Is there any outstanding issue that needs to be dealt with?
Bishop King set out a program for me to follow. It included keeping the Word of Wisdom, the dietary advice given to the Prophet Joseph Smith by God about alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine drinks. I was to resume renewing my covenants by partaking of the sacrament (communion of the Lord’s supper) and not speaking publicly or praying in public for a period to be reviewed in six months. I was not to perform any ordinance of my priesthood.
And one other thing, I was to study the book, Miracle of Forgiveness by the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball. You may have heard the complaint by some people that organized religion is based on guilt and you never get free from it. That might be the way it works for some people, but if you truly understand redemption, that need never be the case.
Salvation comes in layers. The first layer is for all men. The first layer is the resurrection. All will be resurrected.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Cor. 15: 20-22
Resurrection is free or by grace for every man. The next part is conditional based on willingness of the recipient to accept forgiveness upon repentance. It is free also, but you have to be willing to believe and accept that you can be forgiven. One of the ways you earn that forgiveness is by learning to forgive others. I had to forgive Toni for abandoning my daughter, Dee. I had to forgive Jane for having an affair and mistreating my daughter. In order not to be held captive by my guilt, I had to be able to free others from their guilt.
As I read the book, I was amazed. Many of the people in the book had problems such as I, and were held captive by their unwillingness to give others their love. And I knew some of the people he wrote about. I knew Ruby Brown. She was in my ward in El Paso. I knew some of her sons, except for the one that did not come back from the war, the one who died on the Bataan death march. In order to be free or be saved she had to forgive the Japanese people who were responsible for the loss of her son.
And then there was April Aaron who had compassion for the man who gouged her eye out with a knife. I knew her! These were real people like me in various stages of guilt or sainthood. It was a good exercise for me. Considering what I had done, it gave me confidence that Jesus had died for my sins as well as a lot of others.
Eva knew how important it was for me to raise a child in the faith and asked for the missionaries to visit with us. I stayed out of it. I wanted her not to be unduly influenced by me. We had promised each other complete freedom from pressure to conform and make our own decisions. The missionaries are young men just a few years out of high school who are available to teach ‘with the spirit’ the simplicity of the Gospel. The lessons went fast and Eva wanted to be baptized.
There was a good reason for us being in this particular house and in this particular ward. Eva was instantly fellowshipped and made many lifelong friends on first contact. The Relief Society president requested her for a position a month before she was a member of the Church. About 60 people attended her baptism and we had only been visible to the ward for two months.
I had no problems whatsoever with alcohol temptation. It was like flipping a switch. It was something I didn’t do. I knew the answer before the question was asked. I wish it could be so easy for others who cannot do it for themselves. I had a good idea who my higher power was and I trusted it.
After six months, I was told to get a temple recommend and begin renewing and familiarizing myself with the covenants made in the temple. I was called to be the Sunday School President, a mostly administrative job, but it put me behind the pulpit and put the stamp of approval on me.
Then, one night I got a strange call. “Are you the Leon Goodman who used to live in the Oakwood Garden Apartments?”
“Yes…. who is this?”
“This is Linda…I was worried about you. I didn’t know if you would be dead or alive. I thought you might have contracted AIDS like that basketball player.”
Big Linda told me she had a husband and two children and she had squared away her life and even taught Sunday School in her church.
What a coincidence. I had just been made the Sunday School President and I had cleaned up my act as well. It had been twenty years and we had known each other at the pit of our spiritual existence and now we were both turned around. What a miracle!
We kept working on a baby. We had graduated to in-vitro fertilization and were harvesting eggs, fertilizing, and re-planting the eggs. This risky procedure can cause multiple births if successful, but we got nothing and Eva was subjected to a hormone roller coaster with daily injections that I administered.
Our new lifestyle had different approaches for problems. We included prayer for anything we needed. Sometimes it was in the form of a priesthood blessing. I had a special love for a man, Norman Heap, who was the Patriarch of our Stake. He was a very accessible man and very much in tune with special needs of people. I asked him to give Eva a special blessing the night before an egg implantation. At the end of the blessing and he was departing, he paused and said, “I feel impressed to tell you that we have had adoptions in my own family and that there is little difference between the concerns of a parent for their children based on whether they were adopted or born by the mother. There may be someone waiting to be in your family.”
We underwent the procedure for the last time the next day and started looking for an adoption solution. The implantation did not succeed but we found a very interesting ‘open’ adoption organization and when we found out the pregnancy did not succeed we submitted our birth mother introduction letter. One of our letters found its way to Salinas, California by way of Planned Parenthood and we got a call about Jennifer near the end of July. We met the prospective mother and she was determined that we should adopt and raise her child; which would be born mid-September.
You always sweat an open adoption, even for six months after you have the baby until the grace period expires for the birth mother to change her mind. About the middle of August we got a call from Los Angeles about a mother who had just given birth to a little girl. We had always hoped for a little girl and Jennifer was going to have a boy. We thought, “A bird in the hand…”. We prayed about it and passed. Later, we heard that the birth mother had changed her mind.
A new member of the Church cannot go to the temple until after a year has passed and it was almost a year for Eva. We made our arrangements and were sealed in the Oakland Temple for time and all eternity on September 4, 1993. Norman Heap was also a sealer in the temple and we had a full room of 40 members of the ward.
Four days later, on September 8, 1993 at 4 AM the phone rang. “He’s coming, it won’t be long now.” Our bag was packed and we had diapers, clothes, and a car seat. We were out the door in a flash, but we had 160 miles to drive. Jennifer was right, we were three hours late for the birth. We stayed overnight locally and had cuddle time with the baby in the hospital. We had picked two names, Benjamin and Samuel. We decided we would wait until the baby was born to see who he was. He was Samuel. That surprised Jennifer. She had a daughter previously and her name was Samantha.
We had wondered how Jennifer picked us out of all the prospective parents she received information and photos of from the adoption center, and speculated after we had met her doctor. He had the same beard that I had.
The head nurse checked us out of the hospital as if Eva had given birth. There was something familiar about her demeanor. She was a Mormon. She was the Relief Society president for the local ward. She understood a lot about what was happening with us and that was a comfort. We never saw Jennifer again, but we had occasional calls that stopped after about six years. When she got a picture from us of his little boy face she realized that his birth father was not who she said he was, but another man who was quite athletic and tall and slim.
Sam was a perfect baby. He slept all the way home. Also, it had been the easiest pregnancy either one of us had ever experienced. (Ed. Note: NOT! Granted, it was not the typical physical nine month gestation period. Instead, it was a physical and emotional roller coaster for years.)
Seven months later, on April 4, 1994, when the adoption was irrevocable we took Sam to the temple and had him sealed to us.
Good things were happening to us. Sam was thriving, we were enjoying life and our health was good. My unexplained physical warnings had stopped.
We had a large number of strange visitors, mostly female. Somehow we got hooked up with a student exchange program and had young people from everywhere: Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France. We even had some Russian speaking opera singers who were singing Handel’s Messiah for the first time in Russian.
One day a phone call came out of the blue. “Can you provide a foster home for a 16-year-old girl who needs to finish high school in your area?” Rachel’s parents had divorced and both had remarried and lived outside the school bounds. Rachel’s friends were all Mormons and she had just recently been baptized a member of the Church; which did not make her dad very happy, although he consented. She needed more than just room and board, she needed a Mormon family who would support her new lifestyle and be her parents while in high school. She was pretty and bright, but not without problems. We did not have to think very hard about this. This was a daughter, Sam’s sister, and she was going to have a great year, prom and all.
Rachel had a great time and the year we spent with her was a delight. She returned to live with her mother for her senior year of high school but continued to attend Church in our ward. She was accepted at Brigham Young University; which she attended for two years, and met a young man who has been on his mission for almost two years as of this writing. Her last year has been at Butte College in Chico, California and she reports that she is involved and heads many service projects and is working in Alzheimer care. Her mother is a nurse. Rachel is headed back to Provo to finish her schooling at BYU.
The vision of many young women living with us in that house in Concord is in total conformity with what actually happened.
The last piece of the vision puzzle fell into place in the summer of 2002 when Sylvie Foucras, who was our first exchange student, called from Toulouse, France and said she needed to see us. She had visited several times over the years. We were no longer in California, but were in Boise, Idaho. She was turning thirty in a few months and was in a life quandary. “I don’t smoke or drink and am looking for a man who will not cheat on me and I live in France. What is wrong with this picture?” Two days later, we picked her up at the Boise airport. “Tell me about your religion,” she asked. We called the missionaries and within a few weeks she was ready for baptism and I performed the ordinance. She had been taught entirely in French in Boise by female returned missionaries. She has dozens of friends in the area and has dated a number on nice men. She is very pleased with her life and feels redeemed.
She went back to France and discovered a new world of French Mormons with connections in Boise and Salt Lake. Sylvie wants to immigrate to our area and is trying to figure out how to do it with the French/USA political friction going on. We expect we will be seeing more of Sylvie.
How we got to Boise is a miraculous series of events.
Several years before I was to reach retirement, Bank of America merged with Nations Bank and became the largest consumer bank in the USA. We had merged with smaller banks before and thought we knew how to do it; but things did not go the same way this time. Somebody at Bank of America blinked and control started going the other way. I was one of the people who was kept on but corporate headquarters moved from San Francisco to Charlotte, North Carolina and there became a language barrier that began to impact on the way I did business.
I was a part of a very professional group of experts who knew the computer business inside and out. We knew the vendors, their plans for the future, and which ones could deliver the products we needed. We made the decisions of what to buy from whom. We knew how to get the lowest prices without compromising the quality we needed. We were trusted enough by the user departments that we did not need large committees to buy into the process.
Our new management was suspicious of our methods. They flailed about a great deal letting vendors entertain the buyers and engaging in marginally ethical, ‘good old boy’ southern hospitality. We were appalled and considered their methods naïve and ignorant and were amused at their attempts to impress us with their know how. We clashed, but were at a geographic disadvantage with the new headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. In short, I knew too much and was a pain in the butt to the new managers.
My own personal take on retirement was that I would have been able to double my retirement package by working to age 67 instead of retiring at 65. It was the summer of 2000 and I had not been asked to leave my position. The merger had been going on for two years now and many had been ‘given the package’. The package was three weeks of pay for every year of service. I had 19 years with the bank. There were rumors that the package was to be reduced to two weeks within a few months and that layoffs were almost over.
Sometimes getting laid off was like Catch 22. In the movie, you could get out of the service if you were crazy, but if you wanted to get out of the service it was proof that you were not crazy. I took a risk anyway. My boss’s boss made a surprise visit to Concord and I happened to catch him between a meeting and the elevator, about a 10 second window for us to be alone. “I really need to work until age 67 to have a decent retirement, but if I got the package right now my finances for retirement would be the same and I wouldn’t complain of ageism. It might be a good solution for the problems the Charlotte people are having now.”
He looked me in the eye and nodded. “Wipe the smile off your face or everyone will know.”
Two weeks later my boss called me into his office, “Congratulations, …”
Here is how well that worked. I had my choice of taking a lump sum or having it paid out at a rate equal to my salary until the package was fulfilled. I took the pay out monthly. It started the month I turned 65. My Social Security started the next month and I got Social Security for myself, and since I had a minor child a check for the child, and another one for the mother caring for the child until he is 18. They also informed me I had to take unemployment compensation for six months unless I worked another job. They allowed me to take my retirement funds as a lump sum if I converted to an IRA. I also had a 401K that represented 10% of my gross earnings for 15 years plus 5% matching funds by my employer. That went into the IRA. Because I worked so closely with my vendors that I could see the technology bubble about to burst, I converted all my stock funds to cash in the 401K, thereby avoiding the crash of the market that wiped so many people out. That got me even for all the time I was prohibited from buying and selling technology stocks of the companies I had inside trader information on. I had to remind myself at tax time that higher taxes only meant that I had higher income for a while.
Before I knew it, there was no reason to get out of bed on Monday through Friday. I was unemployed.
We had already been making trips up and down the California Sierras looking to reduce our cost of living and improve our lifestyle away from the city. We had a list of requirements. It had to be old people friendly and kid friendly. We traveled from Weed, north of Lake Shasta, down to the gold country of Columbia, Jamestown, and Sutter’s Mill. Nothing satisfied the list.
My favorite printer vendor was Hewlett Packard and I had made many trips to Boise and one to Sun Valley. On my last visit, Hewlett Packard took us to Lake Cascade and I stayed over for the River Festival. I was not sure I wanted to be that far North but I liked many things about Boise and I liked all the people at HP that I met.
After drawing a zero in California, I convinced Eva to take a trip with me to Boise so we could check out the area. Boise has lots of public parks, a ski area close by, white water rafting, fishing, and beautiful areas to camp. They had the best Alzheimer’s care than any place we had seen and they had lots of Mormons, about 30% saturation in the new areas being built. There is a robust economy built on growth, technology, and agriculture. Real estate is very reasonable and the schools looked very good to us. The pace of life and the traffic was pleasant. We felt we could talk to anybody we met and ask them questions.
We made a second trip in the dead of winter just to make sure and we decided to build a custom home just two blocks from an Alzheimer’s care home. We discovered that we had selected a neighborhood that gave us a choice of traditional or year round school for Sam. We found the builder, lot, and neighborhood in the last hour before our plane was to leave for Concord.
We prayed about it and decided on Boise.
We changed a standard home plan and selected a lot to build on by email. We did extensive redesign on the house to accommodate our wildest dream kitchen.
The rest of our efforts were to get our house in Concord ready for sale. After spending four months freshening up our Concord house we put the house up for sale and had buyers immediately. We signed the papers to start the new house and began to pack. The housing market in California was going crazy and the second Silicon Valley bubble had not burst yet. The closing on our Concord house began to slip and the buyer’s realtor was looking flaky to us. Our moving van had been booked in a window that gave us a great discount and the time to move was close at hand. Tic tock … closing was rescheduled again. We packed and sent our truck on the road sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags, still no money. Finally, we got the word and I rushed the check to our bank who cleared it the same day and we jumped into the mini-van and left for Boise.
Ours was the last house sold in the Concord area before the crash. We got top dollar and had enough equity to buy our new home for cash. It couldn’t have worked better.
Our furniture had gone into storage in Boise and we checked into a residence motel for a week to check on the progress of the house. The foundation had been poured and we marked the fresh concrete on the back stoop with our names and date. It was July the second when we pulled out of Boise for our dream vacation. We had no home but our car for the next three weeks. We started in a lava bed called Craters of the Moon and then on to Yellowstone where we saw buffalo, elk, eagles, deer, bears, marmots, and mountain sheep. And of course, we saw geysers galore. We saw the Corn Palace and Wall Drugstore and then, bigger than life, Mount Rushmore. But, wait, that’s not all. Chief Crazy Horse monument is right close by as is Bear Country and Reptile Gardens and the Mammoth Site. Then a run down to beautiful Nauvoo, Illinois to see the progress on the reconstruction of the temple destroyed 150 years ago after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom at Carthage Jail and then a side trip to see Eva’s nephew in Chicago and Eva’s college roommate in Fort Wayne. The last item on the agenda was to attend the wedding of Sam’s first grade teacher in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The morning after the wedding we made a beeline for Boise in order to get Sam into his new year round school. Whew! Hectic, but really fulfilling!
We had reserved an apartment 2-½ miles away from our house and when we returned the house was almost completely framed. We were able to make a few last minute changes to the interior framing and then we bird-dogged the construction all the way to completion for a November 2, 2001 move in.
We bought a small pop-up camp trailer and began to explore the mountains, streams, and woods of Idaho. It is magnificent! Using the Nikon digital camera I made wall size panoramas and large prints of Sawtooth and Heaven’s Gate mountain areas.
On the second summer, Sylvie made her visit. We went to our Heaven’s Gate campsite, a fair, and a rodeo. Then I baptized her. My vision is fulfilled. The man in white is now safe in his own home. Life is good. The bills are paid and the guilt is gone.Amen.