The Photo of Bishop James

By Janet Walgren
Every time there is a shooting at a school or in some other public place, everyone cries for solutions. Gun control is one of the favorites. Can something be done? I believe that the answer is yes; the Virginia Tech shooting is a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. But the solution is not passing another law, or implementing another social program, or adding technology for security. I believe that the only solution is a simple solution that has been in place since the beginning of time. If we identify the cause of the behavior, we can eliminate the behavior.

While I was living in New Orleans, old Bishop James taught me a powerful lesson that I will never forget. He was a master at teaching this lesson; he had taught it for many years. He visited my house one night while I was busy hanging up pictures of my children. He looked at the photos and commented on each child with great interest. He even memorized their names. Every mother likes to brag about her children so I was feeling pretty good about that time. Then suddenly Bishop James said, “Have you ever seen a picture of my son?” as he whipped his billfold out of his pocket.

I looked at the old worn photo of Bishop James exquisitely dressed in 1920’s clothing standing beside his new Model T Ford with his arm around that dumb looking kid whose picture was on the cover of Mad Magazine. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I burst out laughing and Bishop James started to cry. You know the guy on Mad Magazine? Did you know that he was for real??? No kidding, this was before the days of trick photography; it was even before the days of color photography. It was before computers or any of the wonderful graphic tools that we had now, so I new it was real.

I don’t know which was greater – my shock when I found out that Bishop James’ kid was for real and not just the figment of an artist’s imagination, or the shock that I was standing there laughing uncontrollably at this dear man’s child. I could tell that this was not the first time that he had had this experienced because huge tears were streaming down his cheeks as he sobbed uncontrollably. I desperately tried to get myself under control, but to no avail. I was so embarrassed. I tried to explain that I wasn’t laughing at his child; I just didn’t know that his child was a real person. I wanted to die! I wanted to have the earth open up and swallow me. This horrible scene went on for 15 minutes and it seemed like the clock stopped and time stood still. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. That was 15 minutes that I never want to repeat. Ever!

Then just as suddenly as the photo appeared, it disappeared as Bishop James slammed his billfold shut and said, “Got You!” as he burst out in a fit of laughter. A NASA photographer made the photograph for him long before anyone ever knew that such things could be done…and Bishop James had enjoyed, yes even perfected the use of this prized possession as he tortured people with his joke year after year after year. It was the cruelest joke I had ever encountered. It took me years to get over it. But it changed my behavior and my life.

A decade later, I was a counselor at a girl’s camp in Michigan when I saw some girls being very mean spirited to a lone girl who didn’t quite fit in. All of a sudden the memory of Bishop James’ joke came to mind and the Holy Spirit taught me a great lesson as I talked to the girls. I told them about my experience with Bishop James and how I felt as he was pulling his cruel joke on me. Then I bore testimony to them that the day will come when each of us will be called to stand before the Lord and he will in essence say, “Have you ever seen a picture of my child?” Then we will be called to give an accounting of our thoughts, our actions, and the feelings of our heart as we see laid before us a photo of every child of God that we encountered here on earth. Will God be crying like Bishop James was? How will we feel when that moment comes?

Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the antidote to the problems of our day. It is the only answer. It isn’t enough to preach the principles. We have to live the principles. We have to love everybody. We have to have charity towards ALL of God’s children. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan and don’t cross the hall to pass the lonely stranger. If every person felt God’s love for them and our love for them through our interactions with them, they would never get to the point that they would want to pick up a gun and do such awful deeds. The Lord has told us that charity or the pure love of Christ never fails.


9 Responses to The Photo of Bishop James

  1. Donna says:

    Thank you Janet, your blog was right on. I followed your comment from Ben’s blog to here.

    I had a similar response last evening as I posted to my blog
    The post– “America Mourns Virginia Tech.”

    I wrote another piece this morning about what introversion, extraversion and the difference elementary and junior high school teachers can make in the classroom. The difference between a Teacher/manager and a Teacher Leader. OK it was a vent and got a lot out. I did not post that one. I know threads of it will show up later.

    Then I read today’s news and findings. I believe that our peer socialization in schools is a Lord of the Flies mentality and this social darwinism that has replaced the golden rule in the name of separation of church and state, is coming back to haunt us.

    I am glad you had the courage to open the windows of heaven to those girls at camp. That is adult leadership at its best!

    Charity never faileth

  2. janetwalgren says:


    The wonderful news is that there is so much good out there. The problem is that virtue doesn’t get much press. I raised my children in Washington State. The schools there strongly support education in the arts. I love the role that the arts played in the positive socialization and academic excellence of my children. Children who are enjoying themselves and excelling in the classroom are happy and socially adept.

    The arts are inclusive and give adult leaders the opportunity to volunteer in the classroom, on the playground, and in other settings where they can make a real difference in all of the children’s lives. If your schools are not producing the results that you would like, try to get the arts into the mix and then volunteer. It will really make a difference.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.


  3. Donna says:


    I agree that there is much good out there. There are wonderful teachers, often hamstrung by policies that are agenda driven and not in the best interest of the children. I also agree that goodness does not get much press. We tend to take it for granted and look, as a society for the sensational.

    I am an artist. I was raised by an artist. I grew up in one of the poorest and school districts in the nation. We were in the bottom 13%. My mother was a divorcee. Thank goodness she took me out of class, to go to the matinees at the Honolulu symphony, to concerts, and to plays. Yes, arts make a difference.

    My older children attended public school. I worked to make positive changes in all the schools my children attended, and succeeded. When I moved to Utah 14 years ago, my oldest daughter begged to be home schooled, because she wanted to learn and the schools were a year behind and using the same textbooks that rural Colorado schools had used the year before. I talked to the Ed Psych department at BYU and they sent me a large envelope on home schooling gifted girls. After deep consideration, I chose to homeschool her, though her older siblings spent 2 1/2 years more in pursuing a diploma. Even after I brought her home, I was active in getting changes in the schools that have been an academic benefit to other children. Her younger siblings followed in her footsteps. My younger children are thriving, learning, and are doing well socially. As they have gone on to college, they thrive there.

    I am presently working toward my Master in Education through a private, Great Books/Classical Liberal Arts College. I feel that the manager model has driven education for far too long and children are more in need of being inspired and led, not tended, not managed. Of course, the only way to change how teachers are taught, and the models of education we use, is to be in a position to do something to change that.

    The original issue was about Virginia Tech and how a boy could end up so conflicted as to do what he did. There were many adults in his life that could have made a difference. There were teachers, and parents of other children, as well as his own. This was not a problem that developed over a short time. There were red flags and issues all along the way. Then add to that our bandaide approach to working with troubled youth both educucationally and medically. Yes, he had his agency, but I do not believe he was playing with a full deck, by then. In my 30 years as a parent, I have seen much meaness defended, by educators and parents in the name of “socialization.” We have adopted the Darwinist survival of the fittest” and have abandonded “the golden rule,” in our classrooms.

    I have also seen a few teachers and parents of courage that step forward at approriate times and lead things to higher ground. We just need more of them. I do not believe that they were trained in teacher college to be such, they brought it with them from their homes. Unfortunately, it has been two generations now of “leave the child rearing to the experts” mentality. We are finding fewer and fewer teachers leaders, because fewer are being trained in the home or in the classroom, to be such.

  4. Hi Donna,

    I have been watching your comments on Ben’s site and have visited your site on several occasions. I would love to have a conversation about home schooling with you some time. From what I can gather, you have done a terrific job with your children. I saw the stained glass tree of life project that you did with your daughter. It is a very nice piece.

    Thank you for your comment on education. I was a government major and as such, I spent a lot of time studying government entities and their budgets. Are you aware that a school board is a government entity and as such has control of a huge budget? Politics within the school board play a huge part in how budgets are spent in the public education sector. They also determine top level hiring decisions (who the teacher’s bosses are), and set policy for the district. If you want to really have some influence, get elected to the school board. School boards have incredible power to determine what society is taught, who will do the teaching, and how the teaching will be done. In other words, their decisions determine how a community is educated and socialized.

    It seems that you are getting the credentials to be taken seriously as a school board candidate and that you have a large social network of like minded individuals in the home schooling community who could help get you elected. You pay taxes, so do the others that have chosen education in the home. Why let a few high minded individuals highjack our schools and our communities? Anyway, you spoke of influence and in my mind this might be a good place to start.

  5. Donna says:

    Things have already been highjacked here. In the state of Utah they changed the law under Levitt. We no longer get to choose who runs for state school board. The Governor gets to select who runs, and we get to decide which of his canidates get elected. I would say that is pretty much a non-voice of the people.

    Much of what happens in textbooks and policy are driven by federal laws and the laws in the states with large student populations, such as, California, Texas, and Utah. We have no business having a federal department of education. I am for smaller government and closer to the community. Believe me, I work for it as well.

    I have given recommendations to charter schools and private schools, upon their request. I have seen some highly valuable programs die, because of poor staff education and buy in. I suggested that instead of bringing certified teachers together with those who understand the programs that they can prevent faculty fracture by getting the teachers trained first. Also, that parents be brought on board as well, that if they want their children in the charter or private program, they need to agree to training, as well. They also need to agree to supportive environment. In reality, it does not matter how great the program is, if the home life is dragging anchor, most students will fail to make progress. They put training requirements on student athletes, why not on students? The thing I suggest are not cost intensive. Just a paradigm change. Ah, but a person convinced against their will…

    The other option is to move to a small town, county seat. Help make their system really work. Then use that as a springboard to make a difference elsewhere. It is not so much about funding as it is about thinking creatively.

    However, first my family, then my thesis. I am only 1 credit away from prosectus and thesis. My youngest is 8 and I still have 5 at home. If I change the state of education and benefit the whole world, but lose my own children, then I have lost indeed.

  6. Wow Donna, I had no idea that you were so young with so many children left at home. I am happy that you have your priorities right. I have seen too many neglected children whose parent’s tout the “I’m giving my child quality time, but I need to work to be fulfilled routine.” I wish you luck in your endeavors as you strive to accomplish so many worthy goals.

    In regard to the school board and the government, I raised my children in Kansas, Michigan, and Washington States and I was raised in Kansas. I saw a lot of creative things go on while I was in the thick of things and I know that parents can make a huge difference. I am surprised that Utah has so many dysfunctional things going on in regards to the family… education included and I am surprise that Governor Levitt got away with usurping the voice of the people. Was there any opposition?

    Education is one of the things that the U.S. Constitution reserved for the states or the people. The federal government has no business doing what they are doing in regards to education. I haven’t read the documents that set up the state of Utah so I don’t know what provisions are there. Being that I don’t have children or grandchildren in Utah public schools, I haven’t bothered to research it. I guess that I should.

    I am interested in the socialization of society and the part public, private, and home schools play in emerging society. I am also interested in the part that government social agencies play in regards to parental rights and the education and socialization of the family. Ben started to comment on this once by asking, “what if a family is dysfunctional?” But he hesitated and backed out of taking his comment any further. His comment was about home schooling and an article that Connor blogged about before I was in the loop (I have only known about blogs and Ben for about three months now.)

    Perhaps I will look into this more and do a little research from a government and a social paradigm. In the mean time, I would be interested to learn more about what you have to say. Thanks for your comments.

  7. Donna says:

    I am 52. Children 8 dd, 12 ds, 15 ds, 18dd , 24 dd, 26 ds, and 28 ds. The oldest two are married. I have 5 grandsons. One in Heaven, one will be 3 in August and little brother will be 1. I have another that will be 3 in December, and little brother will be 1 in December. I am still in the middle of parenting, and just beginning grandmothering.

    I feel government plays too big a role in the family. The institutionalization of childhood creates disfunctional families. The tax burden alone, caused by the increase in social programs and inefficient mass schooling, drives many mothers into the workforce.

    I do not care for the “It takes a Village” mantra of Hillary. The real village was closely related, often the same tribe. Their were clear cut roles, and the buck stopped with grandparents. Hillary’s village is institutionalized, agenda driven, and
    would not be healthy for society.

    I look around and see a high percentage of dysfunctional families. Parents that do not know how to raise kids and are glad to turn their children over to someone for 8 hours a day. After all, it is “free” to them.

    I was raised by a divorced mother. We took no federal, state, church, or any kind of outside aid. We lived simply and frugally. She took advantage of all the education she could lay hold of.

    What happens when there comes an end to Babylon, and end to all nations? It will be family to family, helping each other be our best self. I have spent the last 13 years helping mothers be more successful. Basically, their moms did not show them how. They were pushing their duaghters to careers, and neglecting teaching them mothering, how to run a home, and how to be a helpmeet and companion. Family to family the tide will change. The church learned to not take over when families flaunder, but to help the parents succeed. I do not think the government will get it.
    The government seems to create the problem and does a terrible job of fixing it.

    What if the government is dysfunctional?

  8. Donna,

    There is no “What if” our government IS dysfunctional but it is better than no government at all. You may have not understood what I meant when talking about socializing society. I was not talking about socialized society in terms of socialized government programs. I was referring to the fact that a person, a family, or a community – society in general is socialized by the culture created by media, educational institutions, and population that is prevalent. I agree with everything that you say about society and government. I think that parents should strive to protect their children and that except for instances of extreme abusive behavior that endangers the child, families should be left alone.

    The problem is, one can not isolate a child or family into a safe bubble because the bubble’s surface area will always have contact with the culture that surrounds the bubble. My point is that while we are striving to protect our families in the bubble, we should also be striving to influence the environment which surrounds the bubble. Otherwise, we will find ourselves hiding is a closet like the Jews in WWII surrounded by an out of control immoral world that is far more dangerous to the soul than war is to mortal flesh. (Yes I know that it already is, but it can get much worse very quickly – I prefer to try to stem the tide.)

    I disagree with you supposition that taxes are the reason so many women work although it is a piece of the problem. I think that it is selfishness and greed both on the part of the working women and also on the part of business. The problem is that we live in an economy driven by supply and demand that has adjusted to a dual income standard. Not many women are willing to garden, can, sew, create and do what ever it takes to stay home with their kids. I don’t think that they even know how anymore. Being a stay-at-home mom is a demanding business. The skills of frugality are not common in today’s world and women can’t teach their daughters what they themselves don’t know. Another problem is that many children have been raised by single parents and watched them struggle. One thing that is totally obvious to them is that they should be prepared to support a family if their husband dies or becomes disabled. Yes they are career oriented but most would drop that in a heartbeat if given a chance to marry and stay home.

    My daughter, Heather, started college at 16. In Washington, the state paid for her college education for the years that she would have been in high school; the money was transferred from the high school to the college. The program is called Running Start. I can’t tell you how many mothers of boys came up and told me that they hoped that their son would marry someone “just like Heather” so that she could put their son’s through college… One father even went so far as to announce “Heather, I give you (the boy’s name)” at his graduation party. Their son’s had the same opportunity as Heather, but chose football or some other sport instead. Why a young woman would be interested in such a “child” I don’t know, but I know that Heather wasn’t and still isn’t.

    Heather wants a man who understands his purpose in life. She is very prepared to be a wife (and a mother, but not to her husband) She wants a partnership and would marry in a heartbeat if the right man asked her. She has some very strict standards both for herself and for what she wants. I think that is ok. She shouldn’t settle. Until that opportunity comes her way, she will focus on preparation in all realms including career.

    I know that at least one of your daughters is college educated. I think that is wonderful. Uneducated women tend to raise uneducated children. Brigham Young said that if he had to choose between educating his sons or his daughters, he would educate his daughters because they had the responsibility of teaching the kids. I believe that the education should include a wide variety of subjects so that children grow up well rounded. I also believe that the education should be global. Children need to understand how to live in a world where people are capable of respectful dialog. Not everyone thinks the same and we need to use correct principles when trying to persuade; we need to be willing to agree to disagree agreeably and respect others agency as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights and agency of others.

    I know that this is very much a Utopian dream and I grew up in an age where it was common for people to tell why this couldn’t happen instead of asking how we can help it happen. Fixing ones self is much easier than fixing a school district, city, nation or world, but I will do all that is in my power to try.

    This is starting to get long so I will quit for now. Anyway, I would love to hear more about your home-schooling experiences. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Donna says:

    I only have three daughters. One in college. One starting college. Another is 8. I am a stay at home mom, but we do not live in a bubble.

    We travel. We bought our Honda Odyssey in July, 2 years ago, we have put over 50,000 miles on it. We have traveled north to Canada, west to the coast, and we have driven the Pacific Coast Highway from Washington to San Diego. We enjoyed coast line, mountains, redwoods, sequoias, National Parks, and people. 11 years ago we did a 12,000 mile 6 week camping trip across the US and Canada. We went from here to Nauvoo, Carthage, to New Orleans, across the gulf coast, Key West, up the east coast, into the smokies, down to DC, up to Philly, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Vermont, Maine, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Palmyra, Niagara, Henry Ford Museum, Detroit, Chicago, and home. We stayed in a hotel two nights. We enjoyed the gulf coast and the beaches off St Augustine. We did the trip in the summer.

    Last fall we drove to Mesa Verde, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces, New Mexico to see my son compete in the X Prize.

    We partake of the arts. I am a stained glass artist. I am getting into sand carving. Myu children love to work with their hands.

    We probably have had more people to dinner, than anyone in the neighborhood. All my daughter in laws are stay at home moms. my daughters want to be stay at home moms. I try to be the change I wish to see. I have run an international outreach to help moms create in themselves and in their homes, what they long for. I am an idealist. Like George Bernard Shaw I ask, “Why not!”

    I have a yahoo group that was LDS, but 25% of the people were jewish and other Christian faiths. I switched it to a newsletter last July. We were wt 811 then. We are at 984 now. News letter is much more manageable and not taking over my life anymore. My online school has 314 families in the US, Canada, New Zealand, India…Again, even though the school is LDS, I have people of other faiths that join.
    I won’t be teaching classes this fall, except a once a month Liber Tea. It is time for renewal and time for family. I even put all the learning guides online free. I consult once in a while, but I have been greatly reducing outside commitments. I have 1 credit, a prospectus, and a thesis left.

    Gotta quit. I have to run.

    No bubble. Very strong standards.

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