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Greg Dart, All
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the commencement speaker at the 122nd commencement exercises. Elder Holland with his son, Matt Holland, await the processional. Monday, May3, 2010, Photo by Greg Dart

I first met Matt Holland — or President Matthew S. Holland, as he's known in some circles — when he came to speak with the Deseret News editorial board as the newly appointed president of Utah Valley University.

He brought some family "slides" along with him that day, he said, to help us get to know him.

He flashed a photo on the screen of "young Matt" dressed like Roy Rogers to "showcase my Western roots," he said.

Then he showed another shot of himself as a boy, this time wearing a frightening combination of red, blue and white clothes.

"As you can see," he said, "even at a young age I was very patriotic."

Needless to say, we liked the man right away.

Of course, that same disarming, down-home style has been a Holland family trademark for many years.

And I came across it once again last night as I read through a little pamphlet Matt Holland published for Father's Day called "A Fork in the Road" — a warm and jaunty little tale about a father (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve) teaching his son Matt a valuable lesson.

It's a brief but well-made story that shows a writerly knack for foreshadowing events and creating drama.

And like most worthy stories, it has something to teach us. The lesson is this: Sometimes God shows us a dead end so when we do find the right path, we'll get on with things and not waste time fretting about what might lie at the end of the "road not taken."

It's a simple thought, but one that crops up time and time again in life and Holy Writ.

Matt's point is God will sometimes lead us to a non-threatening dead end to teach us wisdom.

But I think, too, God allows us on our own to wander into dangerous dead ends when a harsher lesson is needed.

That's a story we also often hear.

It's the story of The Prodigal Son.

Once the boy was back home with his father, he didn't dream about what he might find if he left to test the world.

He already knew. He'd find a dead end.

The dead end that leads us to the right path is also the story of St. Francis of Assisi and Alma the Younger.

It's the story of poet Maya Angelou, baseball player Josh Hamilton and quarterback Michael Vick.

Unless you've seen the "dead end," your imagination can fill the "road not taken" with all kinds of thrills, chills and excitement.

But such things are an illusion.

All roads may indeed lead to Rome, but only one road leads to fulfillment — the narrow one, the one that never ends.

I know.

In his little four-page Father's Day tale, Matt Holland pretty much laid out the story of my life.

Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: jerjohn@desnews.com