Sunday, June 26, 2016

How do we gain eternal life?

In the historical and inspirational book which bears his name, the ancient prophet Mormon wrote, "I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day" (Mormon 2:19).
Wouldn't it be great to know with a surety that our thoughts and our actions have been pleasing unto God to the point that we can have the "more sure word of prophecy ... knowing [we are] sealed up unto eternal life"? (D&C 131:5-6)
Joseph Fielding Smith admonished us to live this principle in this way:
"Let us live so that we will be assured of our place, and so we will know, through the lives we life, that we shall enter into [God's] presence and dwell with Him, receiving the fulness of the blessings that have been promised." (Teachings of the Presidents, p. 69.)
I'm humbled and overwhelmed at the mercy and grace of my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I'm thankful that I can live another day. I can repent. I can change. I can choose better. 
I'm challenging myself and each of us to do as Gordon B. Hinckley, the late president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraged us to do when he said, "try a little harder to be a little better."
In a General Conference address in April 1995, President Hinckley said, "Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past, and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities."
May the spirit of pure love resonate in our homes and in our hearts, and may we feel of Christ's love for us as we love one another.

I love the Lord

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New blog and website

Check out for lots of cool stuff (e.g. blog, information on Warrior SOS, etc.).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Answers to the question 'why me?' by Jeffrey Denning

Article I wrote for the Deseret News.

I remember pleading with heaven during one particularly difficult day while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. I was in tears and truly struggling. I silently prayed and asked, “Why me?” After closing my prayer, I remember having two distinct thoughts.
First, I realized I had volunteered to join the military many years before. It was my choice. And while being sent to Iraq during that point of my life was less than ideal, going to war and leaving my wife and children was part of what I had signed up to do.
Not that I wanted to go to war, per se, but I knew the risks. The oath I took to serve in the military would obligate me to serve, at times, in places and in specific assignments that would not always be pleasant experiences. In fact, quite the opposite.
Second, I heard in my mind the words of the Apostle Paul from the book of Hebrews: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (see Hebrews 5:8). Suffering seemed to be the key word and, at the time, my universal dilemma.
Learning why
As a result of my life experiences — particularly the most trying and difficult ones — I’ve learned a few things about why we suffer. Some difficult trials we face come because of the choices that other people make; choices we have no control over.
Many challenges we face come from our individual choices. The things we choose to think about and act upon have a considerable impact upon us. Small, everyday decisions shape our lives and mold our circumstances. We cannot blame others for who we’ve become or where we are in life. The decisions we made are ours alone.
Personal struggles also come because of natural laws, such as sickness, injury and death. Moreover, accidents and disruptions of nature occur because of the unchangeable laws that are part of this life.
Sometimes, however, miracles occur — things that are difficult, if not impossible, to explain. Our expectations are disrupted. Heaven intervenes.
One day we may realize why things happen the way they do; why some die and why others survive. In the meantime, however, hope in life after death and faith in God can help us heal and endure.
In moments of darkness and despair I’ve learned it’s better not to ask why. We may never understand why, but we can develop and mature when we frame questions using what, who or how instead of asking why me? For instance, what am I supposed to learn from this trial? Who can I help, or how can I grow spiritually from this particular difficulty?
Although it can be difficult and unpleasant at times, we need to find purpose in our suffering and asking such questions help us to do that.
Developing compassion
Prior to my experiences in the Middle East, I used to think I had compassion. In retrospect, I didn’t have as much compassion as I thought I did. Difficulties refine us and our trials can become a blessing if for nothing else than they allow a springboard for us to develop greater Christ-like love and compassion.
Virgil, the ancient Roman poet, said it best when he wrote, “Schooled in suffering, now I learned to comfort those who suffer too.”
Now, serving in a law enforcement capacity, I see people suffering greatly. I see on a daily basis the negative effects of the choices people make from serious addictions to violent outbursts of anger. Often, I meet people in their most agonizing moments — the vulnerability of victimization and the sorrow of death.
I also meet many people who are suicidal and without hope. While I’ve never felt suicidal, I’ve had friends who’ve taken their lives. I'm dismayed by the suicide rate among veterans.
Because I’ve felt great pain and suffering, I can truly empathize with others on a greater level. While there are others who have suffered much more than I have, I can understand all sorrows on some levels because of my experiences.
Comforting others
While there can be a tendency to downplay the hurt of others or think that their pains are nothing compared to our hurtful experiences, I choose instead to look to the example of the Savior Jesus Christ.
King Benjamin prophesied in the Book of Mormon that “he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death” (see Mosiah 3:7). Isaiah described him as a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (see Isaiah 53:3).
While Jesus Christ could choose to bitterly laugh at us for complaining of our hurts or dismiss our pains as nil by comparison to what he suffered, he would never do such a thing. Instead, he chose to be refined through his indescribable and incomprehensible suffering. As a result, he developed perfect understanding and compassion for each of us.
Although archaic in language and expression, I believe the Lord saying his bowels are full of mercy is the sweetest phrase of all scripture.
The Savior does not dismiss our sufferings or ignore our pleading and prayerful petitions. On the contrary, he invites us all to come unto him and to receive “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (seePhilippians 4:7). His message is still clear today: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (see Matthew 11:28).
I’m proud of my military experiences. Of course, my service hasn’t always been pleasant. Like each of us, I’ve had to endure painful hardships. Like my tour in Iraq, sometimes in life we don’t always get what we want. Life can be painful and challenging at times, but I believe one day after this life is over, we’ll look back with greater understanding of and gratitude for our sufferings.
A veteran police officer with many years of experience recently told me, “I’m grateful for the hurt I experienced because now I can help others who are hurting.”
After all, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why police don't aim for the legs

This is an article I wrote and published with Deseret News. Here's the link:

In spite of recent events in Utah and nationwide that may make it appear to be otherwise, fatal encounters by police officers are infrequent. These traumatic and highly contested incidents raise at least two questions: First, why don’t police shoot suspects in the leg? And, second, are police taught to shoot to kill?
By law, officers are trained and mandated to use the least amount of force necessary to effect an arrest and to do so safely. However, it does not mean officers should put themselves at a disadvantage or in a position where they could be injured or killed.
Below are some of the things officers learn with training and experience.
Shooting someone in the leg doesn’t mean he or she will stop shooting. 
The same is true of someone who is shot in the arm or shoulder, or even in the chest. Shooting someone in the leg won’t necessarily stop he or she from standing, walking or even running. Shooting someone in the leg doesn’t even mean he or she will fall to the ground. And, it doesn’t mean the individual will stop feloniously aiming a gun at a police officer or an innocent citizen and pulling the trigger.
Even so, if an officer did shoot someone in the leg, there is a chance it could sever the femoral artery and still potentially end that person’s life.
Officers learn how difficult it is to shoot accurately under stress. 
An officer can be a near-perfect shooter on the range, but the stress of a real firefight is totally different. Shooting a gun out of a person’s hand is nearly impossible, and it would be dangerous to attempt in real life.
Even if an officer wanted to shoot someone in an appendage (leg or arm), doing so would be incredibly difficult to do under stress. Real gunfights are not static; they’re mobile. Trying to hit a moving leg or arm would put an officer at a greater disadvantage than he or she already faces.
Action is faster than reaction. Since police react to illegal confrontations, they’re at a disadvantage. Rarely is an officer ready for a lethal confrontation, even if his or her gun is already drawn. Police are not the aggressors; they are the defenders. They have to perceive and process the threat and then act based on a subject’s actions. The reaction won’t always be a lethal option either.
Those with felonious intentions have the upper hand because police cannot read their minds. Those with murderous intentions have already made up their minds they’re going to murder, attack or otherwise injure another person, including a police officer. Criminals have the tactical advantage because they determine when to make the surprise attack. Police aren’t the ambushers or the murderers, but a lot of police have been both ambushed and murdered.
Reacting to a threat decreases an officer’s effectiveness. Because an officer must react to another person’s actions, it changes the physical (cognitive) and mental (psychological) response more drastically than if the officer were the attacker. This causes a breakdown of cognitive and psychological performance. Reaction would do that to most people, particularly when feeling the mental and physiological effects of possibly being critically wounded or killed.
Research by Dr. Bill Lewsinski of the Force Science Research Center shows that during actual officer-involved shooting incidents, officers only accurately hit moving threats 14 percent of the time at distance under 10 feet. On the corollary, attackers successfully hit officers 68 percent of the time within the same distance. At such rates, it’s fortunate that more police officers aren’t killed.
This underscores two concerns: First, the near impossibility of an officer being able to shoot a weapon-wielding subject in the leg, and second, the need for law enforcement officers to be really good at their jobs.
Kenneth Murray, a leading law enforcement trainer, said he may not want protector classes to take pleasure from shooting and injuring others, "but they must be good at it" for the sake of protecting their lives and the lives of the citizens they protect.
Law enforcement officers are taught to shoot center mass on a threat or target.
Those who shoot closer to the thoracic cavity on realistic-looking human targets and silhouettes score higher during live-fire training. Why? Because there is a higher likelihood that hitting a person in that area will stop him or her, but it won’t necessarily kill him or her.
Moreover, the most obvious reason for shooting center mass is because that portion of the body is a larger target than, say, a leg.
It is incorrect to believe that if someone gets shot in the chest he or she will die.
Shooting someone in the thoracic cavity or abdomen may not even stop him or her. First responders and emergency medical personnel see plenty of people who survive gunshot wounds.
Even after suffering an excruciating lethal hit to the heart, it can still take 10-15 seconds for a person to stop. In that amount of time, a motivated and moderately trained active shooter, for instance, can still murder a dozen people or more, and reload a gun once or twice.
Police are trained to stop the threat.
Police don’t shoot to wound or shoot to kill; they shoot to stop the threat, period. This is not just a manner of semantics either. The moment the threat no longer exists — when a violent criminal stops shooting or drops a weapon, for example — officers stop shooting.
Of course, perceiving and processing this under stress can take time — even one second is a long time in a gunfight — but officers know to quit. Not stopping in a prudent and timely manner would be unjustified and considered excessive force.
To reiterate, officers are not trained to shoot to kill. Instead they are taught to shoot until the threat has ended.
It is a myth to believe that a single shot from a handgun will stop someone.
Police are taught to keep shooting until the threat stops. Traditionally, officers will shoot twice and assess. Some of this is because of ingrained range training, but for their safety and the safety of others, officers should keep shooting until the threat stops. Just because a person is shot once or twice, if an officer can even tell the person was hit, it doesn’t mean that person is incapacitated or no longer a threat.
Police are taught to save lives.
After officers are involved in a lethal confrontation, they are taught to secure the scene to ensure there is no longer a lethal threat to any person. After that, officers will get help for the person they injured, and often times it's the person who just attempted to kill or seriously injure them or others.
Police will do all they can to save that person by calling for emergency medical assistance and, where possible, perform medical treatment.
Police place the lives of others before their own.
In a very real way, law enforcement officers prioritize lives. Police will run into a hail of gunfire to save hostages and other innocent civilians. Police officers stand as the buffer between those who want to harm — as well those who will murder — and those who don’t.
Although it may seem somewhat paradoxical, officers don’t want to end lives when they use deadly force; they want to save lives. As such, law enforcement officers often resolve hundreds of situations without using lethal force.
Using lethal force is always the last resort. 
Officers don’t want to kill, but they’ve accepted the possibility that it may happen. And they’ve internalized the moral and legal right and wrong should the worst occur. Officers carry the burden when forced to use lethal force, and it changes their lives forever. They didn’t wake up that day thinking they would kill or injure someone; they reacted as part of their moral and legal obligation to do so.
Police officers are trained to shoot center mass, and although extremely rare, they may even shoot unarmed attackers whom they fear will take away their guns and kill them with it. Officers may present the gun quicker than other tools on their belt because they know that over 20,000 police officers have died in the line of duty, and many of them were murdered. They know action is faster than reaction, so they want to be ready, just in case.
No officer is trained to kill, but he or she understands that shooting someone in the arm or the leg won’t stop the threat either.
The bottom line is officers don’t shoot to kill anyone; they shoot to save lives, including their own. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Wish - Help the Children

Recently, I wrote an article for an online Guns magazine where I'm a paid freelancer.  I wrote a Christmas wish list.  I thought it would be worth it to share just one of them:

Help Shield Our Children

Please spare the children from violence.  Help them not witness it.  Keep them from its awful grasp, so that they can grow up seeing the good.  Too many suffer.  Too many children have been brutalized by evil people. Help justice to be done in behalf of these innocent victims of horrific crimes.  Help mediators and the justice system speak out for those little ones whose voices are not yet developed and whose tongues have not yet been loosed.
Help the laws against sexual predators and evil people be enforced with sternness.  And, help those who must witness the abuses in order to prosecute such evils, have peace, especially the victims.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Helping soldiers and understanding PTSD

I recently was able to attend a meeting with a veteran and act as a mediator. It turns out his son's elementary school teacher heard the term PTSD from his wife during parent-teacher conference and the teacher took some drastic measures.

The teacher called the police and had them come to his home for a welfare check on the children.  The veteran told me the cop rolled his eyes after seeing the young boys and left.  There was no reason for this ignorant teacher to call the cops. There was no bruising, not injury -- nothing. The boy said he wanted to stay at school instead of going home because he was sick one day and all of a sudden, this teacher felt the veteran was a threat. The wife only innocently said the word in casual conversation. After all, care givers can have challenges, too, from living with someone who never forgets the hell of war.

This teacher even had the audacity to tell this veteran that he was not to come to the school anymore unless he told the principal. Are you kidding me?!

This male elementary school teacher had absolutely no idea what being a veteran is all about.  He has no idea what war and PTSD are. He labeled this good veteran as a killer and, in so many words, felt just because he may have PTSD that he's a threat to the school and everyone around him.

It's ignorant for anyone to think that a veteran with PTSD will one day flip out and murder everyone. It's totally offense.  If I hadn't been there to hear it myself, I wouldn't have believed it.

The teacher even invited the police school resource officer to sit in and listen.  Of course, there was absolutely nothing criminal that took place.  The only thing that happened was two veterans became upset -- myself included.  I think the teacher was scared and so he wanted a police officer there. Well, unbeknownst to the teacher (but the SRO knew it), I'm a police officer.

I just don't understand how people can be so ignorant and offensive.

...And then I think of those who served in Vietnam.

Recently I was able to go on an incredible guided hunting trip sponsored by great people who appreciate veterans. To my great delight and surprise, my guide was a Vietnam veteran. We had some things in common and after hanging out together for just a day, I feel I have a lifelong friend and confidant.  He gave me a hug at the end of the hunt. That meant the world to me. We're brothers and friends -- brothers-in-arms who understand one another.  I was completely and totally honored to be able to go on that hunting trip.

Of course, I have no idea the horrible things my friend faced, especially after returning from Vietnam. The political climate back then was horrific.  He even told me he had some friends who never spoke to him again after the war.  Well, it wasn't his fault.  He did the honorable thing.  There was a draft.  He answered the call of his nation.

Thankfully, his generation have done wonderful things for my generation.  The VA care is so much better than it was. The political climate is so much better than it was when he came home from war.  I'm reminded of Bill Dahl who wrote a chapter in my book, Warrior SOS. He said he came home in uniform and a girl he thought was cute, walked over to him and spat in his face.

I'm so grateful for the veterans who've gone before me. They've done all they can to make sure veterans would never be treated so horribly again.

Unfortunately, there are still people who will just never get it.  There are people who will never understand.  Sometimes, only veterans can help other veterans because no matter how hard others might try, there are somethings they'll never understand.  And, thank God for that.  Some things are just too horrible to have to live through.  War is one of them.

For more about PTSD and warrior help, visit my other blog:

WWII soldier remembers Christmas in 1945 in the Philippines

EnsignChristmas Under Corrugated Metal, Dec. 2014, 79.
by Erwin E. Wirkus

While I was stationed in Manila, Philippines, during World War II, I would often meet with a small group of other LDS servicemen to hold sacrament meeting. During one meeting I noticed a Filipino woman at the back of our bombed-out building peering through an opening that had once been a door. I wondered if our singing had attracted her. While our eyes were closed for the benediction, she quietly slipped away.
During one of her subsequent visits, we invited her to join us. Her name was Aniceta Fajardo, and she enthusiastically accepted our friendship. As she continued attending our meetings, she learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
With Christmas approaching, we decided to bless Aniceta and her familywith some Christmas presents. We gathered canned milk, meat, and vegetables; a couple of blankets; and a medical kit, including penicillin to treat Aniceta’s sick grandson.
On Christmas Eve we loaded up the gifts and went to Aniceta’s home. She lived with her daughter and grandson under sheets of corrugated metal that leaned against a brick wall—a remnant of a building that had been blown apart. We wondered how they could survive with such little protection during the tropical rains so prevalent that time of year.
One of our men pulled a branch from a mango tree and stuck it in the ground. We found bits of litter to decorate the branch.
Aniceta and her family looked on with delight and amazement. When they saw the gifts we had brought, their delight turned into tears of happiness and appreciation. They hadn’t seen or eaten such food in a long time, and they wept so much that for a time they couldn’t speak.
Because it was Christmas Eve, our thoughts turned to home and loved ones. I thought of the cablegram I had received just two days before, informing me that I had become a father. We shared our feelings, ending with our testimonies of the Savior and the restored gospel.
We assured this wonderful family of the Savior’s love for them. They found comfort in our words, and a feeling of peace warmed the night air. Then we bid our dear friends good-bye and wished them a merry Christmas.
Soon afterward I was transferred to a new area, and I never saw Aniceta or her family again. But years later I opened the Church Almanac to a section on the Philippines and read that Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo was the first Filipino to join the Church in those islands. What a wonderful blessing to think of the seeds that were planted during that Christmastime in 1945.
To learn more about the greatest Gift, click on

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Goal Setting

I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential.  When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

—Elder M. Russell Ballard, talk given to Salt Lake Area young adults, Oct. 18, 1981


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Dirge for Two Veterans

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
(‘Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,

My heart gives you love.

(For more military and tactical writings, see my Warrior SOS blog: