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Jerry Earl Johnston: Old friend offers fresh outlook

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 7:10 p.m. MDT

Last Thursday I spent the day with my friend, Rios Pacheco.

And that's always a treat.

Rios is not only a savvy sage in the Shoshone Nation, he is a savvy sage among Latter-day Saints. His family joined the church in the 19th century when 300 Shoshones were baptized in the Bear River.

And Rios has kept the faith.

But what fascinates me about Rios is the way he blends his Mormon beliefs with his Shoshone roots. He is a master reconciler. Somehow, inside of him, the two traditions harmonize like singing twins.

For example, Christians of European decent see the number three as special — three members of the Godhead, three degrees of glory, three times the cock crowed for Peter.

Native Americans prefer the balance and harmony of the number four.

When people like me look at the logo of New Mexico, we see a round sun with rays shooting out in four directions (most tribes have a similar image).

But Rios sees four directions being pulled together — gathered — not spread. And they meet in a sphere at the center where they become one.

When people like me think of Lehi's sons, we think of Laman, Lemuel and Nephi. And we see them in conflict.

Rios sees four sons, not three — Laman, Lemuel, Nephi and Sam. And he talks of how, in end times, they will be brought back together as a single family.

Rios is a gatherer.

I am a divider.

And so our conversations go.

A few moments with Rios gives me a fresh picture of the universe. I don't need to visit China to learn a new world view. I just have to walk up the street and knock on his door.

Last Thursday our conversation turned to Pres. Spencer W. Kimball. Most Mormons know that Native Americans have a fondness for Pres. Kimball. They think it's because he spent so much time with them.

But people like Rios feel he spent so much time with them because he was so much like them.

Pres. Kimball, like Rios, was a gatherer. He brought things together.

When I mention that Pres. Kimball also gave us the scripture "quad" and created the Sunday block of meetings, Rios sees him gathering.

Pres. Kimball took the four meetings — Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting (that number four again) and he pulled them into a single unit.

He took the four standard works and made them one.

And he is the one who took a race that had been left out of the Priesthood blessings and joined that race with others to create a seamless humanity — like that circle at the center of New Mexico's logo.

For Rios, religion is forever about uniting things — families especially. He sees God gathering all his children from the four corners of the world — from north, south east and west — until at the end of history the human family will meet at the foot of their maker like a brood of chicks.

Someday, perhaps, I'll be able to see the world that way, too.

I hope so.

It's one reason I keep hanging with Rios.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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