Sunday, February 12, 2017

My reading of the end Chapters of the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.

In 1 Nephi 19:23 Nephi tells us that he read the books of Moses and of Isaiah to his people and that he did “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” I think this is good advice, but it is sometimes harder to “liken the scriptures” to ourselves than at other times, and sometimes we just forget to try. We can be so intent on just “getting through another chapter” that we don’t even try to “liken”. When I say “we” perhaps I just mean “me”. Perhaps I am the only one who reads and doesn’t “liken” and just tries to get through another chapter?

The chapters towards the end of Alma can be particularly difficult. All this war and bloodshed is not something that we can easily “liken”. Most of us are not fighting for possession of our homes and cities. Most of us are not in armies doing this away from our homes.

I think most of us are very familiar with the story of Helaman and the 2000 stripling warriors, young men who were sent in to battle as their parents had made a covenant that they would not be involved in any more bloodshed.

Helaman, with his 2000 young warriors, Gid and Teomner were fighting under the direction of Captain Moroni and Moroni reported directly to Pahoran, who was the Governor of the land.
Moroni was “angry with the government because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country”. In Chapter 60, Moroni wrote to Pahoran, complaining fiercely about the lack of support from the government while his soldiers were struggling in battle to maintain possession of many of the cities in the land. He used some of the strongest language possible in complaining to Pahoran about the government. But behold, great has been the slaughter among our people; yea, thousands have fallen by the sword, while it might have otherwise been if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength and succor for them. Yea, great has been your neglect towards us.
 And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.
 Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren— This is a  classic verse that I have always loved. He goes on to say that the “inward vessel (of the government) shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also", referring to the fact that he may return and "cleanse" the inner vessel (the government) if they do not help him and his men.

For the rest of the chapter Moroni complains about the lack of enthusiasm, and the lack of provisions being sent to the soldiers in the battle. It is, in my opinion, one of the best chapters in the Book of Mormon, but it has often puzzled me as to why it was included in the Book, as most of what Moroni was complaining about was not justified.

In Chapter 61, Pahoran responds to Moroni saying, "Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul." He then explains to him the difficulties that he is facing with a rebellion at home, which was so fierce that he had to flee to the land of Gideon and he had lost possession of Zarahemla.  In verse 9 he says “And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.”

Pahoran tells Moroni that the rebels, the kingmen, had forced him from the judgment seat and that he and his supporters had fled from the city of Zarahemla to the land of Gideon. He felt unsure about going to battle against his brethren, but then when he heard from Moroni, who said that if they did not repent he felt he was justified in fighting them, he asked Moroni to come back and help him re-take Zarahemla. Once Zarahemla is back in their possession, they would be able to send more provisions back to Helaman, Teancum and Gid.
In chapter 62, Moroni, with some troops, marches to the aid of Pahoran. On the way back he gathers more followers around the “standard of liberty” and arrives at Gideon and strengthens Pahoran and his followers. They then go to battle against Pachus and his followers who had taken possession of Zarahemla, killing Pachus and taking his men prisoners. His (Pachus) men were put on trial and if they did not repent and covenant to fight with Moroni and Pahoran in defence of their country, they were put to death.
Moroni and Pahoran then take an army with them to go and re-take the city of Nephihah. On the way there they meet an army of Lamanites in battle, killing many but taking about four thousand of them prisoner. They cause them to enter in to a covenant to “no more take up their weapons of war against the Nephites” and send them to live with the people of Ammon (the parents of the 2000 stripling warriors) helping them with their agricultural tasks in providing for the Nephites.

This is all very interesting, but how do we “liken it to ourselves”. I have always loved Moroni’s letter of complaint to Pahoran, but have been puzzled by its inclusion in the Book of Mormon. In Chapter 48 of Alma, we learn the type of character that Moroni was. This chapter could taint our view of Moroni, in that it could paint him as a person that makes wild and false allegations against his leaders. To me, it actually strengthens my view of him. He is passionate in his defense of truth and right, and passionate about getting the support that his troops need, to the point where he is willing to risk his relationship with Pahoran. He uses powerful and persuasive language to try to get what he needs for his men.

Elder Neal A Maxwell once labelled Pahoran’s response to Moroni’s letter as “gracious”.  Is this a pattern for how we should respond to accusations that are made against us, whether true or false? Moroni then responds by gathering forces to go to the aid of Pahoran, rather than just digging in his heels and feeling hard done by.

In a general sense the wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites can be viewed as a battle between good and evil, as can the rebellion at home against Pahoran. But more specifically it can be likened to the missionary efforts of the Church and the battle the Church can sometimes face within its own ranks as various individuals and groups “murmur” and even come out in open rebellion against Church leaders, seeking to dethrone them. (A recent unsuccessful law suit filed against Thomas S Monson in England comes to mind see this link)

Try thinking of Moroni as a modern day Area President and Helaman, Teomner and Gid as Mission Presidents. Without modern communications it would be difficult for Moroni to know what was happening back in the “heartland” and with the Church President (Pahoran), with the rebellion he was facing at home.

Missionaries engaged in full-time service of the Lord can sometimes wonder why the regular members that they are serving with, or the Church back home, don’t send more “provisions”. Provisions from local members could be seen as referrals to teach their non-member friends or literally provisions in the form of food. Provisions from Church headquarters or from family back home could be seen as resources to help the missionaries succeed in their fight against evil. Why do you “sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor while the enemy spreads the work of death around you?” Why don’t you give us more referrals?
But these accusations are usually unfounded. The local members are battling the enemy by striving to raise righteous children (who may eventually become missionaries). They’re striving to fulfil their Church callings and to earn a living. They may be fighting health issues that restrict their capacity to give more. They are living in the world and desperately trying not to be a part of the world (spiritual Babylon).Church leaders use the Church resources very conservatively and with great wisdom and planning, to strive to bring the Gospel to as many people as possible.

Fortunately, missionaries and mission presidents at some stage return home, mostly like Moroni returned to Pahoran and probably his family, with honor. They come home and strengthen the Church by serving in their callings, getting married, raising a righteous family, and even doing their missionary work. They get a good education, and commence a fulfilling career, thereby providing “provisions” to those back in the mission field.
So what messages do we take home from all this?

If you are a missionary “lift where you stand” as President Uchtdorf said in October 2008 General Conference. Don’t complain about what the members aren’t doing. Focus on encouraging them in their battle against the forces of evil.
If you are a returning missionary, return with honor and help strengthen the Church in your home ward and aim to marry and bring more of Heavenly Father’s spirit children in to this world.

As an established member of the Church, strive not to “sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor”. Don’t be guilty of that accusation. Make sure that if you do get falsely accused, you accept the accusation graciously and explain your situation, and perhaps, as Pahoran did, ask your accuser for assistance. Do not rebel against the Church leaders and if you do know people who are rebelling, reach out to them, if possible and reasonable to do, and help them see the error of their ways.

I am sure other people will get something else out of this part of the Book of Mormon, but this is what I “take home” from it as I strive to do as Nephi suggested, that is, likening the scriptures to ourselves for our profit and learning.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I must be getting old. I see photos of myself and I look old. I see myself in the mirror and I look old. I find it more difficult physically to do things that were once easy. I forget to do things, and sometimes I do things twice, forgetting that I've already done it! Heck, I am only 57. It's all down hill from here. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in your eighties!

One of the ironic things about the way I feel, is that I am actually in pretty good shape for 57. Sort of average in my peer group though, the guys that I hang out with, and the girl I have been blessed to live with for the last 18 years. We are all pretty active, exercising regularly, eating good food in moderation, not drinking or any other unhealthy vice like that.

When I tell some people that I went surfing in the morning  before work at 7.00am and then kite surfing after work for a couple of hours they sort of look at me like I am a bit crazy. Most of those types look way older than they actually are, and may not last too long past retirement age. I just want to keep having fun in my life for as long as I can. I know there will come a time when I can't surf or kite surf anymore. Maybe then I will start stand-up paddling around Limeburners lagoon.

A few months ago, my wife and I were called to be Temple ordinance workers. Every Friday we go to the Temple in Melbourne to assist patrons who are there to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased family members. It's a real priveledge to serve them in the more sacred space of the Temple.

Doing this has increased my own spirituality and has helped me focus on the eternities and the things that we need to do and they way that we need to live in this life to receive the greatest reward possible in the life hereafter.

I am one of the young guys in the Temple worker crew! Most are retired or at least semi-retired. So I can't help thinking when I am there that I am now part of the really old group in the Church. It's part of life. We pass through various stages and need to accept whatever stage we are in and make the most of it, knowing that nothing is permanent in life and the thing that we can expect most is that things will change.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Open letter to Ordain Women

Ordain Women - How would it work?
I am wondering if anyone in the OW network has stopped to think about how things would actually work in the Church if a revelation ever was received that lead to a change in the way things are currently managed in the Church.

I am not pretending to be any great authority on Church organization or doctrine, and I am certainly not a great writer on these sorts of things. I simply want to ask questions. If you have all the answers, well that’s great.

So let me ask some questions of you. How would this work?

With regard to ordinations - do you want women to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods? Would we start ordaining 12 year old girls to be Deacons, 14 year olds to become teachers and 16 year olds to become priests? Who would get to pass the sacrament? Boys one week, girls the next, or perhaps would should mix it up? What about preparing and blessing the sacrament? Would we have the girls prepare it one week and the boys pass it that week? And what about blessing the sacrament? Two boys and one girl or girls one week and boys the next? Why is all this important? Training.

We need to consider how Home Teaching would operate. This is essentially an Aaron Priesthood responsibility. If girls are receiving the Aaronic Priesthood they would need to be fulfilling this duty. We would suddenly have a great influx of junior companions ready to help out, but I suspect we would not have enough senior companions for them all. Maybe their Mums can be the senior companions then. Would this conflict with Relief Society Visiting Teaching and would it just load up faithful mothers, who are already laboring under a heavy load, with even more that they struggle to do? Or would we at last finally see Home Teaching statistics becoming somewhere close to Relief Society stats?

What about the Melchizedek Priesthood? When a girl turns 18 does she then decide to go to Elders Quorum or Relief Society meetings? Should women be ordained to be an Elders only? Or High Priests only? What about Patriarchs? Should we also now have Matriarchs? So when a person is due to receive a Patriarchal blessing, should they also have the choice to receive a Matriarchal blessing? Or should they get both? Who pronounces the lineage? Patriarch or Matriarch? What if they pronounce different lineages? Does one trump the other? Should a married couple be called to be the Stake Matriarch and Patriarch? When one of them dies, is the other automatically released or does the survivor need to get married in order for them to function properly?

Callings - do you want women to be able to receive all callings? If women are ordained to be High Priests, all ward and stake callings would theoretically be open to them, or would they? Will we have both men and women serving on the Stake Presidency and High Council and associated callings? Do we need to have exactly six men and six women high councillors (and in the Apostolic quorum too for that matter)? Which brings to mind the various quorums of Seventy? Would each gender need to be balanced equally in all those quoroms?

Would callings that are currently held by women only (Young Women Presidency, Primary Presidency and Relief Society Presidency, and associated callings) now be open to men to hold as well? How would that work?

What about non-priestood callings that are held by men, like Ward Clerk, Executive secretaries, Sunday School presidency – would they also be open to women? Why is it those callings are currently “male only” callings?

How would presidencies work? Could we have mixed gender presidencies? How would they work?

Would we still have separate Relief Society and Priesthood meetings?

Would Aaronic Priesthood meetings and Young Women meetings on Sundays now be held together? What about week night Mutual activities? Would the boys and girls need to decide each week if they are going with the Young Women or Young Men?

What about Gender identification issues – would ordaining women lead to de-masculinization of Mormon men, and the de-feminization of Mormon women. Could men lose sight of what it means to be a Mormon man and Mormon women lose sight of what it means to be a Mormon women? See Jacob Bakers excellent post at

What about in the home? What are men useful for, apart from inseminating wives and earning money? If wives can do all that a man can do, why is the man needed at home now? He doesn't need to give blessings, can he just go off hunting or fishing or surfing or whatever other activity he prefers, and then just come home when he needs to?

Why does a man now need to be worthy to exercise his priesthood if he can now just let the wife do it? If a man no longer needs to be worthy to give blessings or baptize his own children, what will that lead to?

Is this issue any different to many other issues that feminists have raised over the last 50 or so years? Will it mean that women would actually lose more than they would gain? Would men gain or lose by it? Would it be a win-win situation? Would children win by it? Would anyone win by it?

I have not seen answers to any of these questions on the OW website or in in other publication. I think we are talking about a complete re-structure of the LDS Church policies and procedures and Mormon society, are we not?

I think someone in the OW movement needs to start re-writing both General Handbooks of Instruction in preparation for when the revelation comes. Who's going to do that? I guess it would happen under the direction of the 15 men we call apostles and probably the people who only a few years ago revised the previous editions of the Church handbooks.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it sisters. I don't think it will happen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Bruce Did ...

I had originally intended to write a post titled What Would Bruce Do, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that the things that Bruce did were amazing and they should be documented, at least from my perspective.

I am not sure if Bruce Walshe kept a journal. He was so busy with everything else I don't know how he possibly could have had time to do that as well. But maybe he did. He was so obedient to the counsel of our Church leaders that he most likely did, and I am sure it would make an interesting read.

I don't know much about Bruces' early life. I didn't meet him until I was 24 years old (32 years ago) and he would have been 28. He was a convert to the Church in his early 20's and I was a convert at 24. He was found by in 1976 Elder David Young and Elder Jeff Gillette when they felt impressed to go tracting in a Graves St in Essendon within the Glenroy Ward boundaries. I was found by missionaries when they tracted the street that I lived in, in Manifold Heights, Geelong Ward.

He served a mission in (I think) the Fiji Mission, as a very recent convert. I served a mission in New Zealand 18 months after I joined the Church. He was a surfer and so was I. He played guitar and sang at a professional level, while I was a hack. He was a talented artist. I simply admired art. He had a beautiful wife, and I hoped to one day have a beautiful wife! Almost everything that he did, I either did too, or wanted to do, but never could do was well as Bruce. I do have a beautiful wife, but only 2 kids - he has 6!

Bruce, Jenny, Stephen and Campbell in 1984

I first became closely aquainted with Bruce when I came home from my mission and he and his beautiful wife Jenny had moved to Geelong and were living in Church Street, Geelong West. They were hosting and teaching the Young Adult institute class. This would have been in 1985 and they already had a young growing family. Campbell would have been 1 or 2 years of age and Steve a couple of years older. Rochelle was born a year or so later. I think sometimes the classes involved more entertaining of the two young boys. I particularly remember their balls skills at such a young age. Potential footballers I thought.

I can't remember any of Bruce's lessons or even if he or Jenny shared the teaching. But I do remember the feeling of being there and the camaraderie that developed between all of us. It was during this time that a young 24 year old by the name of Nicholas Grbin started coming to these classes and then accepted an invitation to be taught by the missionaries. It was a great period of time in our lives!

The first 10 years of my married life I lived in Melbourne. We would visit Geelong Ward occasionally and I would catch up with the Walshes. I would sometimes bump in to Bruce when going for a surf, but we never really organized to surf together. There was never much planning involved in surfing in the days before the internet and decent surf forecasts.

Bruce's son Campbell reminded me recently that he first met me at Point Impossible, near Torquay, one day when he was going for a surf with his Dad and I had just finished surfing and was heading back to the car park. Several times over the years I would be walking up the Winki Pop stairs at Bell's Beach while Bruce was coming down. We always stopped for a quick chat, to catch up on the latest news.

I decided to move back to the Geelong area with my family in 1999. At that time, John Carthew was the Bishop and I have a feeling Bruce may have been serving on the Stake High Council. After various leadership changes (which saw Richard Watts have a short term as our Bishop), Bruce was called as Bishop of the Geelong Ward in I think 2002.

At about the same time that Bruce was called to be the Bishop, I was called to be the High Priest Group Leader (HPGL). Prior to this we had both served on the Stake High Council for several years. With me now as HPGL, it would mean more time spent working very closely together. For maybe the last year that Bruce was Bishop, I was called to be one of his Counsellors, which meant that I worked with him even more closely. 

One responsibility I took very seriously was looking after my Bishop by making sure he surfed regularly. I would always call him when I knew the surf was good and I was going down the coast. It was usually early in the morning, often scheduled around getting kids to early morning seminary classes and the season. Cliff Slade and I would often pick up Bruce as we drove through Geelong from Lara. Graeme Aydon would often join us, as would Nick Grbin. We all loved each others company, but it was always just a little bit more special when Bruce was with us.

I remember the first time that Cliff met Bruce and we surfed Guvvos, just past Anglesea. They hit it off immediately and when Cliff saw Bruce catch a wave, he made a comment about what a good surfer he was. Bruce had surfed in the Rip Curl Pro at Bell's Beach in the mid-seventies. He really was very good. Cliff and I were clearly in very good company - he was several cuts above us in ability, skill and experience.

Adam Roberts wrote a really insightful piece about what it was like to work with Bruce in a Church setting. I can only echo what he has already said.

Bruce is an intensely spiritual man (I like to use present tense when talking of Bruce still in some instances. He is not here with us physically any more, but his spirit lives on). He learned to practice Yoga from a relatively young age. He was going through an intense period of searching for spiritual enlightenment prior to the missionaries finding him, and he was attracted to the the Eastern philosphies and learned Yoga. He continued practising Yoga throughout his life. He studied the Latter-day Saint scriptures daily and prayer, both family and personal, had become part of his daily routine over many, many years.

He learned about his religion and he practised it. He was a most loving husband and father. He reached out to those around him constantly. He had genuine concern for people. When Bruce asked "how are you", it was not just conversational - he really wanted to know how you were  travelling and what was happening in your life.

He practised true religion - to visit the widows and the fatherless. But he didn't just visit. I remember one elderly sister telling me that when he was Bishop and visited her, he vacuum cleaned her floors. That was not an isolated incident.

Because of what he did and how he made people feel, I expect to see hundreds of people at his funeral. It is being held in Werribee as the Geelong Chapel is just not big enough to accommodate all the people that will be there.

I could keep writing all night about Bruce, but I won't. A man must sleep. One thing that Bruce taught me was the importance of looking after yourself. Keep your life in balance. Take time to smell the roses (or at least go for a surf if roses aren't your fancy).

He taught me so much. I will always miss him.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bruce leading from the front, pulling the cart. A couple of years ago on the Trek.

The following post is by Adam Roberts, my first guest blogger. Not quite a Mormon Aussie Bloke, we will call him a Kiwi Mormon Aussie Bloke, that'll do!

Murray has inspired me to put a few words to cyberspace. His invitation was to close friends and family which may result in a quite a few doing the same because Bruce made everyone feel like a close friend. He was the man who had a smile and a twinkle in his eye for everyone. When I think about Geelong Ward, Bruce Walshe is always the first person to come to mind. He was the Bishop when I first moved over from New Zealand with my family. Swept back silver hair almost like wings attached the side of his head, piercing blue eyes and a smile that that was always on the verge of a chuckle.

I wasnt long in the ward when Bruce felt I needed a bit of coaching in the Bishopric. Murray Muzz Ceff was his other counsellor and I saw a love and respect between these two brethren that went far deeper than a life of church service together. They were soul surfing buddies. They had a level of communication that comes from sitting for hours together in the water between sets at the crack of dawn. Ever the diplomat, Bruce would acknowledge Muzzs witty and sometimes cynical comments with a wink. He would tolerate my rash and over-the-top ideas and temper them with the wisdom of his many years of experience. It wasnt until I was sitting in his desk a few months later as the new Bishop of the ward that I realised just how great a bishop Bruce was. As I tripped and stumbled through the problems that needed a Bishops attention, I often found myself thinking, how would Bruce handle this, and What would Bruce do? (funny to think that Murray proposed this as a title of another blog). He was and probably still is in my mind the ideal bishop. A man without guile, beaming with the Spirit, and with the compassion of the Savior.

Later we would serve together on the high council, and I would pick up Bruce on the way. I would have 40 minutes to pick his brain and get his sagely insight into problems we were seeing in the Stake. He never gave a quick answer, he was more thoughtful than that. In fact, he never gave advice without a pause to share an experience of a principle he had learned in the lessons of life. I remember one car trip, he broke the news that he was changing careers, leaving behind his design and advertising work to become a youth worker. He spoke of his experiences with hardened kids who had grown up without love or sometimes even in abusive situations. He would have to endure through violent outbursts, destructive behaviour and sometimes even have to lock himself in a safe room until the and angry teen had calmed down. I couldnt think of a worse job. But Bruce loved it, I think, because he was able to love the unlovable kids. And he found a job where he was sorely needed. He had the perfect temperament for it, but even more so, he had the heart for it. One of my cherished memories of Bruce is a couple of Treks ago when he was a adult leader of a group of kids who really didnt want to push the handcart. Against orders that leaders were not to push the handcart for the kids, Bruce tied a rope around the front handle, fashioned the end into a couple of shoulder straps and pulled it like an ox. You couldnt wipe the smile of his face.

On Thursday, I got a phone call from our Stake President, Anthony Parton, who said he had some sad news. He often calls with harrowing news of members in our Stake needing help or suffering tragedies. But none of those previous calls compared to the stone I felt in my gut at the news that Bruce had been involved in a surfing accident. I hung up from that phone call in shock. I didnt realise how much Bruce had meant to me until I found myself halfway between sighing and sobbing. As the story unravelled throughout the day, it became apparent that it wasnt an accident. Something happened in the water that day that happened quickly and mercifully. In fact, Im sure if you had asked Bruce how he would go if he had the choice, he would have probably said in between sets, on the back of his favourite board, made by one of his best mates, at his favourite beach. The fact that his usual surfing buddies were not with him that day was a perhaps tender mercy to his mates who would have felt even more devastated that they werent able to save him. I dont think Bruce would have wanted them to suffer the trauma of trying to revive him.

Ill miss him. I think we all will. There will be a great big empty hole where Bruce used to be. He was a such a good man and I doubt he had any regrets. And he left this life as gracefully as he lived it. There are things Bruce mastered and lived in his life that Im sure will take me much longer to learn. Perhaps thats why he was called home a bit earlier than most. Perhaps there is more important work on the other side that he is needed for. Perhaps the surf is better

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What happened Thursday 13 March 2014

Bruce Walshe
b. 22/08/1953 d.13/03/2014 at Bell's Beach
I am going to write a few posts here, hopefully over the next couple of days, just to try to explain to everyone a few things that have transpired over the last few days and how it has affected me and others. Please contribute to the conversation, either here on this blog or on Facebook. I really want those closest to Bruce and those he loved the most, his family, to contribute too. It may be hard, but it will help. Writing stuff down helps get it out of your head a bit. It's great therapy. I should do it more. This post is simply titled "What happened Thursday 13 March 2014". Many of you want to know step by step what could have happened to take Bruce from us so suddenly, with little warning, so unexpectedly and so sadly.

Another post will be WWBD - "What Would Bruce Do". Another one "Why we surf (and do other crazy things)". Another one might be "Why we believe what we believe". I am not sure what order I will write these in. These topics might be a bit ambitious for someone of my limited writing ability and intellect, but I will give them my best shot. That's what Bruce would do.

You won't, of course, know how I feel as I write this, but you will have your own feelings as you read it. You won't know how many times I have had to stop to dry my eyes enough so I can see the screen, just like I won't know how many times you have to do the same.

Last Thursday (13th March 2014) started out like many others in my sometimes busy and oddly fragmented daily schedule. But let me go back to the day before to start with, as that will help understand the Thursday just a little. (I am writing this without much of a plan, so it's a bit of a ramble.)

Simon Degaris and I decided to go for a very early surf on Wednesday morning. Both of us felt we needed the exercise and Simon wanted to give his new camera a test run in the surf. We paddled out to Winki Pop, from the Bell's Beach side. We were joined later by Cliff Slade, another one of Bruce's close surfing mates.

The surf was terrible - small, onshore, choppy - everything you don't want, if you want to have a good surf. We knew it was going to be awful surf and that's why Bruce wasn't there.

Bruce lead an extremely busy life for many years. While he was the Bishop of the Geelong Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many years, I worked with him very closely and I took it upon myself to make sure he got enough surfing time. Good quality surfing time though, as his time was too precious to waste surfing in junk surf. So I would only call him to tell him I was going for a surf when the surf was good, not like it was on Wednesday.

I must also say, that while he was Bishop, he also managed the production of the Australian Smartsaver, plus he had a relatively young family of six kids. Plus he was actively involved with the Geelong Interfaith Council. Do you get the picture of how busy he was?

Thursday morning, the conditions were looking pretty good for a nice surf. Slightly increased swell from the day before and a light offshore. I drove out my driveway, around the corner on to Rennie St, and gave my mate a quick call to let him know the surf would be nice and worth his time to drive down. He said he had the day off work and a bit of time up his sleeve, which meant he wouldn't be rushing down.

I arrived at the Bell's car park about 9.00 am I think. Late for me. I had to drop off a parcel at a freight depot in Lara on the way to Torquay and they didn't open till 8.00 am so that slowed me down a bit.

My very close mate Cliff Slade is camping in Torquay for 2 weeks, as he and his family always do at this time of year, and he got there maybe half an hour before me. Cliff had to start work at 11.00 am in Geelong, so he was going to be getting out of the water about 10.

As I pulled in to the car park, Jeffrey Binch was getting changed in to his work clothes. He had arrived there at the crack of dawn as usual, and caught all the good waves before the wind picked up. Simon Degaris was there with him in the water, but I didn't see Simon.  It's not that unusual to surf the same location without necessarily seeing your buddies. Jeff and I had a quick chat and then he went to work and I got ready to surf.

I walked around to Centreside, a short walk from the bottom car park at Bell's, to where I knew Cliff would be, and where I told Bruce we would most likely be, so he could join us.

Surfing is a great way to clear the mind. I had a great time, caught a couple of little waves and then had a real cracker - not a big wave, just a nice little long one that peeled perfectly, as Centreside can in the right conditions. I paddle back out for one more, and as I did, Cliff caught a wave in, as it was really close to 10.00 am.

I and Paul (of the Tubby variety, not Tall Pall or Dickos mate Pauly, another regular Bell's surf crew) paddled back to Rincon. I caught a little wave from Rincon, halfway in to the Bell's Bowl (which wasn't really breaking properly) and then caught a tiny wave most of the way in to the beach. I walked up the stairs and in to the car park, and there was Bruiser's car, parked just to below the toilet block on the left as you are looking up the hill. We all have our regular car parking spots and that was probably Bruce's most regular.

"Oh yes, Bruiser you're here!" was my immediate thought. I looked back around to see if I could see him in the Bowl or Centreside and I couldn't. No big deal, he was going to drop in to the shop on his way back to Geelong to say hello and to drop in a spare board for us to sell for him. He had a spare 6'10" board he had bought from me "for Genevieve" but I am not sure she ever got to use it. He didn't use it too much either. He loved his little 6'2", a pretty short board for a "senior surfer" to be riding.

So this was about 11 o'clock I guess when I left Bell's to get back to the shop in Torquay. I didn't need to rush as Alex said he would open the shop that day. After a while I was anticipating Bruisers' visit.

I got a phone call from a policeman. He was calling from a mobile and it was a bad connection, the type of call where you are barely catching every second word and trying to piece together what the other person is saying. After a minute or two I worked out he was trying to identify a person by the serial number on a surfboard. He assumed I would have kept a list of board owners by serial number. Obviously doesn't know the surf industry too well, I thought. I told him I would be happy to help though if he wanted to drop in with the board.

Sometime later "Ebay Pete" (not to be confused with "Smokin' Pete") dropped in to the shop.  He started telling me what had just happened back at the beach. He described the surfer he had helped out of the water, telling me how a group of guys had spotted someone with his face in the water and one leg up on the board, like they had fallen off from a sitting position. He described the person and the board. I knew it was Bruce. "So how is he now?" I asked, not wanting to here the answer I got. "He's gone."

Kenny, Tristan (don't know surnames), "Ebay" Pete Bistak, Brendan Arnel - these are the guys who tried to save Bruce. One of them spotted him first, paddled over to see what was going on, called the others over to help. Mayhem! Four guys, one unconscious, four surfboards tied to legs, thankfully fairly small surf, but trying to get in over a shallow reef, cutting feet, tripping in holes, struggling to keep Bruces' head above water. Tristan seemed to be a bit of an expert in CPR and coordinated things. Pete got hold of a phone (it's a couple of hundred metres back to the car park where a phone would have been) and tried desperately to call 000. Talking to Brendan and Pete later, it seems that Bruce was probably gone even while they were dragging him in. But they did CPR for nearly half an hour while they waited for the paramedics to arrive. The paramedics took over of course, and tried even harder. But to no avail, our friend was gone.

After hearing all this from Pete, I ran across to the Police Station to see if there was anyone there and I could get some more information. No-one there. Torquay's a small town and the station is not always manned. There's a button of the door which I pressed several times which was supposed to put me through to the police mobile phone but nothing happened. I was panicking a bit, trying to call some of the Torquay Police, kite-surfers that I know. No luck. Started running back to shop. An ambulance drives past quite slowly in the opposite direction to me, back towards Geelong. Bruce was in there. I wanted to run after it. Pointless.

I arrive back at the shop just as the police car pulls up. I walk over and see Bruces' board in the back of it. That was tough. That's when I really knew it was Bruce. That was real tough on me. I gave the officer all of Bruce and Jenny's details and offered to help in anyway that I could. The officer was good -  comforting and helpful. I was a mess, I was in shock.

I know the surf would not have killed Bruce. It was not that big and there is no way known at that size that Bruce, with his years of experience in the water, would have got in to difficulties. He was an accomplished surfer. The autopsy may show what happened, depending on what happened.

I  stayed in the shop, not really knowing what to do, but knowing that I could't really tell anyone till Jenny and the family were notified. I waited a few hours. I am not sure who I told first, my wife Margot, or our Bishop Craig Sandford. I think it was Craig. I could hardly speak but he helped me get the words out. He called David Cowan, Jennys' brother. He found out that Jenny and her good friend, Jayne Crouch, were in Sydney for a few days. Eventually he got word through to them. Miracles happened in Sydney, and they got back to Geelong that night.

In the meantime, my practical side kicked in and I started making calls and telling a few key people what happened. I drove back to Bell's where I found Bruces' car still in the car park. Looking for keys, trying to get it out of the car park and back to Geelong. Simon Degaris went back at dusk to try to find the keys. No success. The car was in the car park overnight. I wanted to go sleep the night there to stand guard over it. Fortunately, Margot said she would be worried about that and I stayed home. I didn't sleep to well though.

My friend was gone!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I was going so well for a while there, writing regularly here, a new form of journal, for all the world to see just how good I was at journal writing. Well, it seems that this form of journal has gone the way of all other forms of journal. Starts with a bang, off and running, only to wimp out half way around the track and not keep going!

Knowing that I am not the only one in this predicament could be a comforting thought, but it's not really. We can all be guilty together can't we?

Truth is that I love reading and over the last year or two I have read some long books that have taken up loads of time. First there was Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman. That took me ages to read, not because it was hard to read - it wasn't - but just because it was soooo  long, and my available time is not that great.

Then I read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, a classic of French literature. Most people know it as a musical. The book is so much better. It's a very long book, nearly a thousand pages. I have been reading on Kindle, and thankfully it has a very good built-in dictionary. One needs it when reading Hugo.

I am now reading The Man who Laughs, another less well known book by Victor Hugo. He has a distinct style. Easy to read but not easy to read, all at the s
same time. (Those astute readers out there will know one reason I read these on Kindle - they are free!)

But even reading long difficult books is easier than journal writing. But here I am, struggling again, trying to make the effort to leave something for someone else to read. If no-one wrote, what would we read? What a blessing it is to have prolific writers like Bushman, Hugo, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C Clark Nancy Cato, Henry Lawson and countless others.