By Cordell and Janice Vail

28 Mar 2004

Copyright 2004 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

Penguin Home Teaching

I have a dear friend who some time ago found my epistles web page and wrote to me about one of the articles there. We have been writing to each other ever since. I shared with him my thoughts about visiting people that were in the Sunday Sermons last week and he sent me back this letter about visiting and home teaching in the church that I think is just profound. Having received his permission, I would like to share his insightful analogy of penguins and the priesthood with you.

Uncle Cordell


Hi Cordell,

Thanks for your kindness again. It is appreciated and remembered.

I hope you and your family are well.

I was always maybe a little too forward when I first came back to Church. The gospel was so exciting; but I couldn't wait for others to come to me so I would often show up unannounced on members’ doorsteps. Mainly because I thought that is what you do when you commit to "loving your neighbor" - you reach out. I always wondered why they were so surprised.

Also, because selfishly I needed their support and if they wouldn't give it to me then I would go take it from them :)

I hesitate to wonder what the global statistics on home teaching are. I wonder also when did plain old neighborly friendly drop-by visits stop. Like yourself I have only had a handful of Home Teaching visits in my membership life - through this past year of most extreme trial and difficulty, visits per se, were even less.

I've never considered myself a griper, never expected visits, but only to visit - but sometimes, just sometimes, we all need a little extra care. When that time of greatest need came, my dark hour - I was disappointed, saddened, hurt.

I hoped for a little extra. I turned to my noble Priesthood brothers around me. As I began to feel weakened, abandoned and alone, I tried to hold also to the ideal demonstrated by another brotherhood, captured in the promise of the men and women of the Military Forces: "Leave No One Behind" oh what a promise. Surely the promise would be found in MY brotherhood. Other than in a rare few - you as an example, my heart fell, broken for want of a visit or caring embrace. It’s as if a deep sleep had fallen?

I remember watching a documentary on the Emperor Penguin. Regal and noble of all penguins of Antarctica, they taught me a powerful lesson in brotherhood. In the dead of winter, Antarctica is formidably treacherous. With temperatures as low as -140 degrees Fahrenheit (-60 degrees Celsius), the 13 million sq km of ice is a barren open wasteland. Howling gales of snow and bitter wind shriek across the plains. In the center of this vast strange land, is a dark, moving speck. On closer view, a huddled group.

Hundreds and hundreds of male Emperor Penguins...

"...the male Emperors clump together in huge, huddled masses. They take turns moving to the inside of the group, where they're protected from the icy cold temperatures and wind. Once they've had a chance to warm up, they take their turns back on the circle's edges, giving fellow penguins time in the warmer center.

Winter arrives in Antarctica in March. Nearly all creatures leave except for the emperor, the only animal that spends the winter on Antarctica's open ice.

After a courtship of several weeks, a female emperor penguin lays one single egg then leaves! Female emperors take off toward the open sea to feed, traveling up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) across the frozen surface. Where does that leave the eggs? At the feet, literally, of the male emperors.

Each penguin egg's father balances it on his feet and covers it with his brood pouch, a very warm layer of feathered skin designed to keep the egg cozy. There the males stand, for about 65 days, through icy temperatures, cruel winds, and blinding storms. And they eat nothing that whole time.

Finally, after about two months, the females return from the sea, bringing food they regurgitate, or bring up, to feed the now hatched chicks. The males eagerly leave for their own fishing session at sea, and the mothers take over care of the chicks for a while. The youngsters stay sheltered in their mother's brood pouch for two months. If a young chick falls out of that warm spot, it can freeze to death in as little as two minutes."

I thought wow, that's the Priesthood brotherhood. That’s what I belong to. We are in the dark and dreary wasteland, with only each other to support and care for. We are beaten and battered by the winds of adversary and opposition. And still, we not only care for ourselves, but for our precious cargo wrapped within our folds - our families, our young, our faith, our race. What a power we could be if we learnt from the Emperor Penguin. Are we not also taught of our royal and noble birthright?

We are each to take our turn on the edges, protecting those within. Then when our time is up, we make the move inward - to healing, safety, warmth, and comfort an active, moving, living spiral. Once healed and filled! (Lamps, oil etc) we move out again bringing our cold, beaten brethren into the fold.

I long for the day when this will echo more powerfully the Priesthood of God on the earth. I hope for this day. I will do what I can for this day.

Thanks to you, Cordell, when the gales were at their bitterest, when I lost my footing, when I lay on the freezing ice, broken from the group, without will you reached out a hand a cyber email hand from the other side of the world. You left the group to find me. I am still bruised, hurt and weak. But I survived. I nearly didn't. I nearly gave up all hope - it was my darkest Gethsemane. But maybe, I wasn't all that alone in that Garden. Maybe I had company I didn't realize I had. Someone regal and noble. An Emperor no less, turning His back to the winds and ice, me huddled helpless at His feet. I wasn't alone . . . like Him (with Him), in that bitter hour, though some of His beloved brethren slept, another awoke an Angel. For me, “cleverly disguised as a human”. Wiping the blood from His eyes - from my eyes.

Matt 23
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

Luke 22
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Mark 14
41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Still, I wish I didn’t have to wait “even unto death” to find out I wasn’t alone. Sometimes, just sometimes, we all need a little extra obvious care. Sometimes it helps to see, feel and hear that extra care from real people too.

. . . I wonder if there are Penguins in Heaven, and how good would they be at home teaching . . . at least they all wear suits :)

Thanks noble Brother.

Take Care,

NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.

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