Tuesday, February 26, 2013

President's Weekly Letter #21

(1 Nephi 18:1)

Belgium/Netherlands Mission


In the United States the standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number, so why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. So the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches was derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. The chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now the ironic twist to the story... When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big solid rocket boosters, or SRBs, attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.  The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRB would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.

The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's behind!

I found this story some years ago from an unknown source.  Elders and Sisters, I tell this story to set up the question, “What trail are you leaving?”  Your example and life will effect, in many ways, generations to come of loved ones, people you meet on your mission and those with whom you associate. 

In the course of our mission, we all leave a trail just like a cow on the mountain leaves a trail.  I run cows on a USFS mountain permit.  I learned in my youth that gathering cows in the fall is 10% herding and 90% tracking.  I learned tracking skills from the best, Gene McBride, Jack McBride, Earl Johnson and my father.  Is the trail you are leaving something you are proud of?  Do your tracks meander around like a cow trail or is it purposeful and straight?  Success on your mission requires a pure heart and singleness of heart as we work smarter.

The Lord commands us to be engaged in building Zion.  Building Zion is exactly what we are doing in the Mission:

“For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

…Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.” (DC82:14,19)

 “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness...” (Moses 7:19)

The Lord had a purpose other than starting a city when he commanded the Saints to settle in the Jackson County Missouri referred to as Zion. (Zion meaning a place.)  But the Saints made a serious mistake.  They assumed that they could build a place of Zion without building a people who were Zion or pure in heart. (Zion meaning a condition.)  They disregarded the Lord’s continued warnings and, as a result, were driven from the center place of Zion by the mobs.

President Hinckley summed up what I wish to say when he outlined what will bless our individual lives and missions with success.

“I speak of the need for a little more effort, a little more self-discipline, a little more consecrated effort in the direction of excellence in our lives.  This is the great day of decision for each of us.  For many it is the time of beginning something that will go on for as long as you live.  I plead with you, don’t be a scrub!  Rise to the high ground of spiritual, mental, and physical excellence. You can do it.  You may not be a genius.  You may be lacking in some skills.  But so many of us can do better than we are now doing.  We are members of this great Church whose influence is now felt over the world.  We are people with a present and with a future.  Don’t muff your opportunities.  Be excellent.”
President Robinson

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