Monday, July 26, 2010

Ivan of Salt Lake City would have been 49 today

Posted: Monday, 26 July 2010

It took a text message from son Jim today to jolt my memory about what was so special about this day. This is the first time I did not automatically recall its significance as Ivan's most important day. Call it what you will, old age, preoccupation, a fading, he lives within us all, as well as near and far beyond. This is what came to mind about him today:

...So, we three went down
And shook his hand, then listened
To my struggle speaking truth to power.

My confession of my bright lost son
Evoked hot tears of hope and joy--
And grief--still seeking ways
For search and rescue
As did He of old for one lost lamb.
My first son then spoke again
Before the Man of Plan
Of scathing recent letter to his dad,
Recalling past injustice.

His father now, white-faced and chastened,
Repented low, and found new words
That healed a justice-starved breach
To set example for this Man:
Inviting him to show the truth he boasts
And ask the questions needed
To reveal the truly true...

[From Trying the Church Before the Family (Los Alamos, 24 Feb 05]

More than five years have passed since these lines were penned and Ivan has appeared to many of us more than once, most notably to Jim, bringing redemption, forgiveness and support.

Bless you, my very dear, bright son...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meeting Stephen Betts

Posted: Saturday, 24 July 2010
Updated: Sunday, 26 July 2010
For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them. But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my widsom is greater than the cunning of the devil. (3 Nephi 21:9-10) 
For lunch yesterday (Friday, July 23) at Quizno's I met with Stephen Betts, former LDS bishop of the Los Alamos Ward and now counselor in the Santa Fe stake presidency. I had felt his hand on my shoulder from behind in the crowded ward chapel on the Fourth of July as I was about to leave the building after fast and testimony meeting. "Welcome, Brother Kovalenko", he said. That kind, warm gesture kindled in me a desire to get to know him personally and to re-examine certain feelings and conclusions I had come to about him five years earlier. Despite those years in between, this was to be our first one-on-one conversation.

[Note: In 2005, as ward bishop and at the direction of the recently released stake president, Betts had written an official letter to my son James, then a resident of Los Alamos, who had asked that his name be taken off the roles of the LDS Church. Both my wife and I found the letter appalling and I wrote a strong rebuttal to my son for his defense and comfort, which I copied church authorities and family records.]

As I write this I recall the dream I had in the early morning of the Fourth that motivated me to change my mind about not again attending such F&T meetings unless the Spirit overruled my decision. This dream clearly seemed to be such an overruling and the dream man whose hand I had clasped in friendship now seems to resemble Stephen. (Earlier I had thought that the man resembled George Jennings, the new ward mission leader. They are both of a similar physiognomy.)

Two subjects were on my mind to discuss with Stephen as I had gathered several books, papers and other items from my library and files to bring to the meeting as reference. First, I wanted to learn his story about his family's adoption of two Ukrainian children. Second, I wanted to discuss his letter to my son James noted above, but we never got to it!

I arrived at Quizno's a few minutes early and was sitting outside at a small round table drinking lemonade when Stephen arrived on his bicycle in helmet and riding gear and parked nearby. I recognized him now as one of the guys that I would often pass on their way to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory while I was driving a morning school bus. He is obviously fit and healthy.

After he ordered and returned with his sandwich, said a silent prayer over his food, we began by asking each other how long and under what circumstances each of us had come to Los Alamos. Stephen came to the Laboratory from the University of Illinois where he took a degree in nuclear engineering 17 (?) years ago and has been here ever since, currently with nuclear non-proliferation responsibilities. I spoke of my own background as a nuclear materials scientist in 1963-65 at General Atomic in La Jolla (close to where Stephen grew up in Escondido), my subsequent experience in Soviet-American trade in 1973-75 and as an engineering manager for Brunswick Defense in the 1980s, which three experiences had motivated a nuclear waste management group at the Lab to hire me as a consultant in 1993. That group was especially attracted to my anti-nuclear attitude, since they were attempting to deal with the anti nuclear activists in the area who were determined to shut the Lab down and believed that I could function as an effective intermediary. After that assignment became compromised in a few months, I was hired in 1994 to coordinate a joint seminar between Russian and American nuclear scientists to address a nuclear accident in 1993 at a Plutonium reprocessing plant in Siberia.

Then I asked Stephen to tell me about his adopted children. And what an amazing, surprising and deeply moving story he told! Before I could raise the subject, he told me of an early dream that began the inner guidance that helped him miraculously navigate a bureaucratic adoption nightmare. He told the story of how the family (wife and three children) desired to adopt two young Ukrainian children, a brother and sister. His caution, preparation and sensitive concern for their well-being and adjustment to a new country and culture was impressive and I felt my earlier judgment of him as a misdirected Mormon bishop begin to change.

Soon our conversation turned to my father, his escape from Ukraine in 1920 as a White Army boy soldier after the Russian Revolution, coming this country in 1922, changing his name and eventually coming west where he joined the LDS Church in Salt Lake City just before the 1929 market crash. A few years later he met and married my mother in the Phoenix Second Ward and I came along shortly thereafter in 1933, followed by my brother a year later.

This morphed into discussing my own LDS upbringing and subsequent conflicts with the ecclesiastical institution. We left our conversation with his agreement to discuss with the new stake president my desire to stand before the high council regarding past unjust institutional decisions. I was left with a new sense of hope that the above scripture was apropos and comforted that the Paraclete is guiding the conversation, especially through dreams.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Posted: 17 July 2010

Leonardo di Capprio's newest movie, "Inception" should give dream work a new level of attention, if not credibility!  The movie is science fiction, yes, but it draws from the science fact of lucid dreaming and dream sharing. Perhaps viewers will give increased credence to Joseph Dillard's Integral Deep Listening or Dream Yoga? I'm told by Rolf Johnson, a new multi-media producer acquaintance, whom I met at the recent IRVA conference, that the subject of dreams is now a source of huge numbers of hits on the internet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Second meeting with new LDS bishop

Event: 11 July 2010
Updated: 21 July 2010

On Sunday, July 11, I met again privately with Los Alamos Ward Bishop Ian Alexander. I had felt the need to meet with him again since our first meeting months earlier and after the May 2010 fast and testimony meeting at which I felt moved to speak.

Because one of his subsequent email comments advised me not to speak again or partake of the sacrament while under the ecclesiastical judgment of 1992, I announced my intention not to attend another such meeting unless the Spirit overruled that decision. That is exactly what happened on the morning of July 4th when I dreamed of being at an LDS ward. The date seemed wondrously symbolic.

Responding to that dream, my purpose in going to the Los Alamos Ward was to check its external reality by re-entering the ward building during its fast and testimony meeting to explore the dream brother's assertion that the Lord's will was for me to enter that building. I also wanted to determine if ward members were capable of seeing beyond their ecclesiastical box, which is what I personally believed the Lord wanted. I was also open to hear whatever else the Spirit would reveal. The clasp of friendship between the brother and me in the dream is of particular significance to me.

When Bishop Alexander and I met privately the next Sunday, I brought two books as gifts: Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Foundation and The Leader as Martial Artist by Arnold Mindell. The first book evolved from BYU Professor Terry Warner's six-week  BYU Moral Values Seminar, which I attended in early 1979. The second was a book by an old, valued and enlightened friend.

Regarding the 1979 seminar, I had had two powerful dreams, which were clearly about my experience of it. The first dream came the night before the seminar and the second the night after. Within the last two years I have learned Joseph Dillard's Dream Yoga technique of interviewing dreams, so I brought my Dream Yoga interview of the second dream with me to the second meeting as an addition to the book gift. I hope it will speak to this bishop. I called the first dream "Enemy at the Window" and the second "Disarming Hitler's Nephew".

A few days after our second meeting, I felt prompted to make him aware of a long-ago memo to the late Richard Forbath, which I'd earlier felt prompted to send after our first meeting, but had resisted. It is now posted on my Orthodox Odyssey blog for the time in October 1976 when it was written.

Note: Continually in mind in all of this is the comfort of a favorite Book of Mormon passage: 3 Ne 21: 9-10. Others may find these words as comforting. May God the Father bless them, whoever they are.

On Sunday, July 18 I wrote to Bp. Alexander:
I have desired for many years to have an opportunity to meet with the current Santa Fe stake president and high council about my 1992 Ventura stake excommunication, which I feel was unrighteous dominion. 
He replied the following day:
Thank you for meeting with me and for the wonderful conversation. I will pass on your desires to President Zollinger. I will keep you in my prayers and thank you for the reading material, it was very kind of you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Surprise Call

Posted: Sunday, 4 July 2010
Updated: 11 Aug 14

St. Dimitri of Rostov parish

After leaving the Los Alamos ward of the LDS Church, I drove to St. Dimitri of Rostov parish to attend the fellowship after the Reader Liturgy. I had a message to deliver from our Orthodox brother Jean-Pierre, who had called me from France earlier that morning. While talking to Orthodox brother Dimitri (president of the parish council) in the church study, I received a phone call that took my breath away! Of all the calls least expected but most dearly hoped and prayed for, it was from my heretofore estranged son, Michael, calling from New York City to announce the birth of his first child, a son!

I had much to reflect on during Michael's call, all of which went unspoken. Such words seemed out of place as I heard my son's voice and his wonderful disclosure. Most of all it was the sensitive, thoughtful manner in which he honored his father by the phone call before sending out the general announcement to family and friends. This was most healing for me.

Bless you, Michael. And bless you, Mother Maris and my newest, most welcome grandson!

4 September 2013. During the above call, Michael explained that Maris and he were delaying naming the baby. They chose to wait until they got to know him better so that his name would reflect his early characteristics. The name they eventually chose was "Bodhi".

My first meeting with Bodhi was on Father's Day 2013. I had flown to Seattle at the invitation of their parents, now living their new home, to meet Bodhi face to face in a quality encounter. I'll never forget it. I was asleep on the futon prepared for me in the front room and when I opened my eyes that morning there he was standing off to the side of the bed smiling and waving. He had been waiting for me to wake.

Surprise decision reversal

Posted: Sunday, The Fourth of July, 2010
Updated: Sunday, 11 Aug 2014
The Blue Van
On May 4, 2010, I sent an email to the new Los Alamos Ward bishop Ian Alexander that I would not be attending further Fast and Testimony meetings in his ward until the 1992 excommunication decision by the Ventura stake president was either reversed or rigorously appealed or unless my decision was over ruled by the Holy Spirit. I had felt to attend that ward's meeting on May 2 after having last spoken in such a meeting 15 years earlier. It became a most irregular meeting, "breaking all the standard rules", exclaimed the new bishop at its end, "but clearly having the Spirit present made it all worth while, which is the bottom line." I had been one of those who spoke that morning, recalling an experience in 1961 where I had been set apart for a University of Utah stake mission by Oscar W. McConkie, Jr., then a member of the U of U stake presidency. I had noticed that his older brother, Bruce R, a controversial apostle, had written the text of the sacramental hymn while dying of cancer, which was sung at that morning's Sacrament meeting.

When I wrote to the bishop how much I had enjoyed the meeting, he replied that although he also enjoyed the spirit present, I was not to take the Sacrament or speak again in such a meeting so long as I was an excomunicant. That was the first time in my experience that any Church cleric had ever enforced that ecclesiastical rule. Hence, my above-mentioned emailed decision.

Well, this morning I had a dream which seemed clearly to over rule that decision! Here is the dream:

In blue van in parking lot at LDS Church (looks like Los Alamos Ward) with group of young LDS ex-spooks (military, CIA, FBI, etc.). Some have had psychedelic experiences. A man comes over to van to encourage us to come into the building. I'm sitting in driver's seat and motion him to driver's window. The man (reminds me of George Jennings) comes over and takes my right hand, which I've extended through the window in a clasp of friendship. I say, "I'll tell you what I want and that is to do what the Lord wants." The man lets go of my hand and says, "Well the Lord wants you to come into that building." 

So, I again attended the Los Alamos Ward's Fast and Testimony meeting, which began at 0900, arriving late just as the Sacrament was being passed. I waited in the ante room beside the chapel until that ordinance had been completed, waving off the young priest who offered the Sacrament emblems to me and others also waiting.

It was an unusually rich meeting and I was moved by many of those who spoke. Perhaps the most moving for me was the testimony of a young mother, who had served a mission to Bulgaria. She spoke of having been required by the mission authorities to pass out Church literature to people in the Sophia public square and encountering an old man whom she and her companion asked, "Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?" The man stopped, grabbed her and her companion's arms and replied with great emotion something like, "Oh yes! You see, we were not permitted to express our true beliefs until very recently. It is the greatest of freedoms to speak openly of our love of the Lord." And then he walked away, leaving the two young women stunned and speechless.

After the meeting ended and I was leaving the building to attend the Liturgy at the local parish of the Orthodox Church in America, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder from behind. "Glad to see you, Brother Kovalenko", the man said. He was the former bishop of the ward, now in the stake presidency, and one of those who had given his testimony. If I remember correctly, he has adopted teenage children from Ukraine and I made a mental note to talk to him soon about his adopted children.

Next, before leaving the building, I met the new bishop to whom I'd sent that May 5th email, reminding him of it and my decision, but explaining that I'd had a dream this morning, which caused me to reverse my decision. He apologized for not replying to my earlier email and looked forward to meeting me privately next Sunday afternoon.