Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Day the Music Died & The Day It Lived Again

Everyone has a Ghost from Christmas Past don't they?

December 19th, 2003 was an infamous ghost of Christmas Past for the Joseph Tenney family, and let me tell you why: 

Anyone who really knows my dad, knows that he's a dreamer.  He's a can-do person, a don't-take-no-for-an-answer kind of guy.  He's the epitome of an American Patriot - and has the entrepreneurial heart of a true believer in capitalism.  He's passionate about everything he does.  And I do mean everything.

Well, the down side is that sometimes the greater you are, the harder you fall. 

Around 1996, my father and mother lost their business - a very successful CADD systems company that he partnered with his nephew.  The company bit the dust in a way that took our family down with it.  We lost everything & had to sell our beautiful dream home with a large yard, swimming pool, and basketball court...the place that was meant to be where my parents would settle & raise their family.  That's when we moved to Lindsay & Ray and rented for a year. During these hard times people were very kind to us and we were the recipients of Secret Santa gifts showered with love. The memories of opening the door & seeing all the presents on the doorstep still makes me cry.  Even though my parents were able to sell their home, they felt like they LOST their home.  A year later we had to move because the home-owner moved back, so we moved to Gail Street - fortunately in the same neighborhood and continued to rent for a long time.  My father was able to obtain what seemed like a successful enough job with Cox Communications.  He was a good salesman and earned commissions.  But unfortunately, there came a time when his particular division of the company made changes and someone within wouldn't honor the contract, and chose not to pay my father commissions for the deals he closed.  So now he was unemployed again, but this time had no house to sell, a year's worth of commissions that were no longer coming in, and he had 5 children to feed.  The dark days were getting darker.  He took any and every job he could - but they were the kinds of jobs that couldn't feed the family of 7.  He never gave up even when he was down, and one of his endeavors in this dark time was to build up his music business to try to provide for the family.  He was getting contracts with big name artists, he was meeting up-and-coming artists, and my dad was a BELIEVER.  He knew that if he worked hard enough, he could make things happen.

During this time--in 2003--we threw all our efforts and energy into hosting a benefit concert for The School of Life Foundation.  We hosted it locally at Gilbert High School, and we worked our tails off to advertise, to sell tickets, and to get people there.  It's no small feat to rent an auditorium and put on a show, and we knew that if we believed enough, worked hard enough, had a good enough product, and certainly if we PRAYED enough, we could make it happen.  We also got some big local names to join us - we involved Jeff from Jesterz, we had William Joseph, Kirsten Millsap, Three2U, and we had the Riggs' sisters.  We tried getting Deseret Book on board, but to no avail as the AZ market is a tough cookie to tap into, and we also happened to be performing head-to-head with Michael McClean that evening, so that was a major hit against us.  Even so, we had an excellent show lined up and knew we could draw attendance with the quality we had.  After a grueling & extremely stressful lead up to the concert, including almost dying in the Gilbert Days 5K...even after doing all we could do, when it all boiled down, "no-one" showed up.  That's not actually true - we had probably about 175 people there if I remember correctly, but MOST of them were our very own extended relatives and close friends, and I'll never forget the way Rosanne Tidwell shook her head and said to me, "I'm so sorry" as I was up there in the booth helping her get ready to call the show.  In an auditorium of 1000+, when your starving family was using money they didn't have as well as investments from others to pull this together, an experience like that was like a nail in the coffin.  In the coming days when people said why they couldn't make it or why they did not come, it was just all the more painful - it felt like insult to injury - not that they understood what was at stakes for our family.

My parents lost so much money from that concert alone right before Christmas, and they had no idea on earth how they were going to feed their family or how soon anything else would ever turn around for us.  My mom had a job at $9/hour, but her job alone was not enough.  I cannot even express to you how devastating that concert was for my family, my father, my mother, and for me. To recap just exactly what happened - after a downward spiral of losing a business, a home, a job, another job, and a contract with a big artist, losing all retirement, losing all health insurance, December 19th, 2003 was the final day my father lost all the faith, joy, and belief he'd had remaining in the very LAST thing he thought he had left to hope or believe in - music.

I will never forget the look on my mom's face the night of that concert.

And I will never forget the look on my dad's face when the true financial damage was assessed the next business day.

THAT was and HAS EVER SINCE BEEN labeled as, "The Day the Music Died" to my father.  How painful it was for us to understand the full magnitude of what he meant when he made those kinds of statements, and to literally see the light of hope & joy extinguished in someone we love.

But it didn't just happen to him - it happened to all of us, and none of us believed anything extraordinarily special would ever come from music to our family again.

In the wake of that dark time, my friend Lindsay encouraged me to apply at Steve Madden Shoe Stores. I took the job at $7/hour.  I was also employed shortly there-after by Bro. Mabb & his business, and my father and mother were given the opportunity to work with Brett Brewer, doing hard-labor jobs. My father started doing them alone.  One day he was in a backyard looking at fence-high weeds and sat down on the back porch and even cried.  He told God he couldn't do it alone, that he needed help.  He says that that's when God did one better and sent him a son-in-law instead.  I had recently met Mitch at Institute, and while we were dating, Mitch took on working with my dad and mom.  For a long while we joked that our job was "cleaning toilets" (because included in what we do was cleaning a lot of nasty toilets). But over time the business has grown, and my husband who is very handy is now partners with my father for a business that originally started out as a music company, but that now has a larger maintenance & repairs division than we ever imagined.

Fast forward a few years.  I have no recollection of how it even came to happen, because we all knew that "the music had died" for my dad, but Richard was now a cancer survivor, and in 2010 Three2U made the "Deep Peace" album, and my father started to find joy in music again.

Fast forward again to 2015/2016, the trio was coming up on a 20 year milestone of singing together and decided to commemorate by doing another Christmas album - as Christmas music with the Three Kings album was what had "started it all" for their trio.  They've been practicing all year, were arranging & recording, when OUT OF THE BLUE they got a phone call from Jason Deere who invited them to come to Nashville and record their songs in the studio of Jay Demarcus from Rascal Flatts.  Going to Nashville was a dream come true for Joe (my dad), Richard, and Jon.  Richard called it a bucket list item, and Jon said if he had gone to Nashville when he was younger he would have never come back.  They had the time of their life, ate delicious food, because we all know they go out to eat as much as they "practice" music,.  And wouldn't you know, they got invited back to Nashville again.  

While they were there, Michael McLean (the same Michael McLean whose concert was on the same day as our concert all those years ago) wrote a new chorus for the song Let Him In that my dad solos on the album.  

Amid all the recording and trips to Nashville, my dad started talking about doing a concert again.  I knew exactly how much effort goes into something like that because I was involved last time, but I got distracted from the magnitude of the feat because from the beginning my dad suggested using Gilbert High School.  I told him I'd host the concert ANYWHERE BUT Gilbert High School, because we were NOT going to have a repeat of "The Day the Music Died".  We seriously almost used a high school auditorium - I literally called Highland High School, and Campo Verde High School, and Queen Creek High School, but I didn't even check the schedule for Gilbert High School because I personally couldn't do this concert there and re-live that awful experience.

Well life got crazy, and extra stressful - more busy than the last time we did something like this, because I bought a house, I'm adopting children, my dad is a bishop, my parents are running their maintenance business, and the music is on the side...fortunately it's on the side this time...but still because it's on the side, the fires to put out for it were extra stressful.  I honestly still have no idea how we found the time, but we found the time to pull it together.

Last week Three2U toured with The Nashville Tribute Band.  Our company, Golden Bee Productions produced their concerts - one in Show Low, and two in the Mesa Arts Center.  Interestingly enough our biggest day was on the 19th again, but of November this time.  Honestly it wasn't until the day of the Mesa Arts Center that I really started to freak out.  I was so sick to my stomach.  I realized I had actually been in denial over the last many months of planning, and I woke up realizing the full magnitude of what we were trying to do.  I literally wondered, "WHAT ON EARTH WERE WE THINKING TO TRY THIS AGAIN?"  Maybe you could say that I had a little bit of PTSD going on from the trauma that had been created back on Dec 19th, 2003?   

In the end though, when this last weekend all boiled down, we had 3 successful shows, one of them was SOLD OUT.  We thought we were going to fall flat on our face again with the Show Low concert, but people pulled through and bought tickets last minute - my cousin Tiffani even arrived with a literal BUS LOAD of high school kids who wanted to come to the concert. There was a children's choir at the Mesa performances, and without purposely planning it this way, interestingly enough had children from the Mabb family and the Brewer family - both families that had been involved in our lives back when the music died and who helped us get on our feet, and even the company my mom used to work for during that time carried our insurance coverage for the event.  My friend Lindsay was there.  Mitch was there.  Friends & family were there.  Strangers were there.  And on the front row was Greg - who my dad had partnered with all those years ago.  The concert was an amazing experience - definitely so fun to meet Jason Deere and spend time with Dan Truman, his boys, and all the members of the Nashville Tribute Band.  I can't say we "made money" on the events, but everything was different this time and our efforts and experiences were well worth the investment.  Now when people ask me if I'm the manager of Three2U, I can say - "I guess that I am!" - I was doing all the things for Three2U that Manager Jeremy Barron was doing for The Nashville Tribute Band. :)

This time it was like God sent us a gift.
For my dad, my mom, and my family, this experience was definitely a healing kind of gift.  It was also like the Lord sent us our own little "It's A Wonderful Life" kind of moment last weekend.

It was like this time He told us that He believes in second chances, and that He wants us to have them.

It was like this time He told us it's okay to heal from the sadness of the past.

It's like He told us it was okay to believe again.

It was because of Him that we were able to experience "The day the music lived again."

Now I'll never forget the content expressions on my Mom's face before & after this concert, and I'll never forget the way my dad said to me, "We did it, D-Jo!  We did it!"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

BOOK OF MORMON EVIDENCES by Guest Author Heber Tenney

I don't typically publish works from others in full, but my brother Heber Tenney sent me an essay that was too good not to publish and share today:

Heber Tenney
Brother Wilcox
BOM T, TH, 2:00
16 November 2016
You Cannot Hide the Truth

            Since the original copies of the book were published back in 1830, Anti-Mormons and critics have vehemently attacked the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith was aggressively persecuted for having published the Book of Mormon; antagonists claimed that he had written the book himself and lied about having been guided by God. There is an old saying which states “The truth always reveals itself”. With regards to the Book of Mormon, the same principle holds true. While critics may preach against the book’s divinity and have repeatedly strived to hide the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the truth that the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture from God, always seems to come to light and prove itself.
            C.S. Lewis once said “Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish”. The biggest evidence that the Book of Mormon is the word of God comes due to a witness from the Holy Ghost. However, as Lewis proclaimed, it is not bad to have rational arguments because these arguments can allow us to obtain a special witness. Sometimes people are close minded and refuse to believe something when it appears illogical or irrational to them. Rational arguments can help people break down those hard-hearted barriers so that the spirit may testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to them. One of these rational arguments in favor of the Book of Mormon has greatly affected my life and helped me to be even more firm in my testimony; this evidence is word printing.
            Word prints are the equivalent of finger prints for writers. Everyone on earth has a finger print that is unique to them and only them. Writers and Authors are the same, they possess a distinctive writing style that is exclusive to only them. John Hilton III describes word print as “writing patterns that are different and distinct from those of other authors”. The way authors use conjunctions, or how they use words such as: the, a, as, or of, give each of them a literary thumb print by which we can identify them as the writer. Researchers from BYU embarked on a project to determine whether or not Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. To determine if he was the author of the book they did a word print analysis.
            What the researchers found, gave even more proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet guided to translate the Book of Mormon. First off, the analysts found that each book in the book of Mormon, whether it be, Nephi, Alma, or Moroni, has a unique word print. So, in other words, the person who wrote the Book of Alma is not the same person who wrote Moroni. This proves that the Book of Mormon is not the product of a single author, rather many different authors. Since there are multiple authors, Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon by himself. Anti-Mormons claim that Oliver Cowdrey could have helped write portions of the Book of Mormon, but the researchers concluded that it is “indefensible to propose Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdrey as the author of the Book of Mormon”. Neither Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdrey’s word prints matched with any of the authors of the Book of Mormon.
            A person may try to fake their word print and try to write in a style they think will disguise their writing style but this has been proven to be inutile. John Hilton III showed why this is a pointless effort when he explained “Even when writers try to change the way they write, their word print follows them”. The way our minds organize our thoughts is impossible to hide, eventually, somewhere in our writing our word print will still leave its mark. Joseph Smith couldn’t have written the Book of Mormon by faking his writing style throughout the entire book because his word print would have shown at some point in the text and it never did.
            Word print has not only been used for religious purposes but also has been used by the FBI for finding criminals. In the 1980’s there was a criminal known as the Unabomber, who was an American domestic terrorist. In 1995 this terrorist wrote an article in the New York Times anonymously, the FBI worked with experts from BYU to see if the word print from this article matched any of the word prints of their possible suspects. John Hilton III explained that his grandfather, who was working for BYU at the time, helped the FBI with this investigation. The Unabomber was later ratted out by his brother and his identity was revealed as Ted Kaczynski. Given the fact that the FBI was willing to trust word print in order to capture one of the most wanted criminals in the United States, goes to show the reliability of word print.
            The rational arguments that word print gives us in support of the Book of Mormon have been important to my personal testimony that the book is true. I have known since I was eight years old that the Book of Mormon is the word of God because I felt a strong burning in my bosom that I knew came from the Holy Ghost, there was no other explanation. Since that day when I felt the Spirit so distinctly, I have stayed firm in my testimony and received other witnesses confirming that the Book of Mormon is true. While I was on my mission in Mexico, I confronted many Anti-Mormons and people who tried to convince me that the Book of Mormon wasn’t true and that Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet. I never let these people hurt my testimony, but sometimes I would have little slivers of doubts, not necessarily doubts, rather, more so a fear that they could be right. I guess what I’m saying is that I would psych myself out a little. Thankfully, the Savior allowed me to feel the spirit, which confirmed that what I had felt before was true and those fears went away.
            When I learned about word print, my testimony of the Book of Mormon grew even stronger. Those slivers of fear and doubt that I have had due to some of the world’s rationalities are now irrelevant because I have rationale in favor that the Book of Mormon is true. These rational arguments aren’t the foundation of my testimony but they help me to think about the gospel from a logical standpoint as well. Once you analyze it, its logically impossible that Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon, Joseph never knew that word print was going to be invented and used as a way to link authors to their literary works. Even if he did somehow magically know that it would be invented, it would have been impossible for him to have changed his word print for each individual book within the Book of Mormon, never making any mistakes. It’s simply, irrational to believe that Joseph Smith was some psychological genius who could predict the future, create the Book of Mormon and hide the fact that he wrote it. The truth would have come out at some point that he was the one who wrote the book, but it never has and never will because Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, he translated it by the gift and power of God.
            Along with the other rational arguments in favor of Joseph Smith such as: the time he took to translate the book, his level of education, and the fact that the 11 witnesses never denied their testimonies, word print shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who was called to bring forth the Book of Mormon. I feel more confident now when I am asked to defend my belief in the Book of Mormon because I have not only a spiritual argument, but also a rational one. I know without any doubt in my heart, that the Book of Mormon is true and that our Heavenly Father gave us this sacred book of scripture to give us peace and guidance in these last days.

Work Cited
Hilton, John. Little Book of Book of Mormon Evidences. Deseret Book, December 8, 2011.
"Ted Kaczynski Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

I love this article and agree with the evidences of word printing.  I know the gospel is true. I love that it has been shared throughout the ages and across the continents. The Book of Mormon is evidence to me that God loves ALL his children and wants them to all know about their Savior Jesus Christ.