The Master’s Touch II

By Mildred Nelson Smith

 

Chapter 1

The Calling of a Seventy

 

          Delbert Smith entered the pavilion happily greeting other appointee ministers of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who had been called together by the apostle in charge of the area for a weekend of worship, study and fellowship. It was a rare privilege to be under Apostle Oakman’s tutelage, and my husband, who was then a young seventy, anticipated the forthcoming study expectantly.

          It seemed to Delbert that the class had hardly started when he heard Brother Oakman saying, “If you will please stand, we will close the class with a prayer.”

          “Close the class? Why, he had just begun!” Del remonstrated silently and looked about him amazed that the others seemed ready for its ending. As the prayer proceeded, he gradually became aware of what had happened that had made him lose track of time.

          As the class opened, Delbert had been abruptly removed from the beautiful Palos Park setting in which the group was meeting to an even more exquisite locale - a place of ethereal beauty. As in a dream he turned slowly, surveying all about him, trying to comprehend the wonder and splendor of his new environment. A pinpoint of light on the far horizon captured his attention; he stood transfixed, watching it intently. As he watched, the light began to grow steadily, increasing in size and intensity as though the source of it was advancing toward him. Awe and wonder swept over him as the light drew nearer, and he began to distinguish within it the form of a man. Hardly had the form appeared when to Delbert’s mind it was identified as Jesus the Christ.

          Suddenly he was overwhelmed by a deep sense of unworthiness. In one swift motion he ducked his head and threw up his arm to cover his face. Still the figure advanced and Del felt the imprint of Christ’s thought on his mind. Although no word was spoken, the seventy’s attention was directed toward a large lump of bituminous coal that lay upon the ground.

          “Pick it up!” came the command transmitted without words. Continuing to shield his face from the magnificent Presence he stooped to comply. Carefully he lifted the chunk of coal from the ground, and in response to yet another unspoken direction held it out to the Divine One.

          Delbert still did not dare to look at the figure clothed in light. Instead, his gaze was focused on the coal in his hand as he extended it toward the Master. To his amazement he saw the finger of Christ reach out and touch the coal, transforming it into the largest, most exquisite diamond Del had ever seen. Each facet flowed with the beauty of the reflected light of the Master. With reverence Del stood contemplating the transformation when Apostle Oakman’s voice intruded with the announcement that the class was over.

          For weeks Delbert pondered the experience, awed by its impact on him. He dared not speak of it lest he be misunderstood.

          Then one night I received a call intended for my husband. “Can you get a message to Delbert?” asked the caller when he found that the seventy was not in town.

          “He probably hasn’t had time to get to Albert Lea yet,” I replied, “but I’m sure I can get him tonight.”

          “Then tell him he’s got to come back over here.” I knew that “over here” was 110 miles away in another state for I recognized the caller as Ken Holloway, who had just been baptized that day in Minneapolis.

          “What’s the problem?” I inquired. Del had already gone a hundred miles in the opposite direction, and I knew he would want to know the reason for returning immediately to the area in which he had just been working.

          “I have a man who wants to be baptized!” Ken spoke excitedly.

          Ken and Mopsy had returned from their baptism to their home in the beautiful resort community surrounding Lake Chetek. Although Ken was still a breadwinner, many of their friends had retired to the leisurely life of fishing, boating, swimming and golfing. Just across the way in a little cottage sheltered by stately oaks lived Jess and Marie Butcher. Jess Butcher was a retired bartender and of no professed religion. Marie was a good Catholic. The Butchers and the Holloways had been best friends since the Butchers had moved in.

          When the Holloway car had slowed to a stop, Jess and Marie had emerged from their front door as though they had been keeping watch. As Ken struggled with his crutches in getting out of the car, Jess accosted him.

          “Where the _____ have you been all day?” Jess’s rough greeting was friendly and concerned. He had kept a close eye on Ken since the accident and didn’t want him doing anything that would delay his recovery.

          “I’ve been to Minneapolis to be baptized,” Ken announced happily. Had it been a few weeks earlier, he would have used even stronger expletives that Jess.

          “Well, what do you know?” Jess mused. Then he continued, “That’s something I’ve been thinking I ought to do- be baptized,” he explained to make sure that Ken did not misunderstand.

          “Come on in and let’s talk about it,” Ken said as he adjusted his crutches and led the way across the drive to the house.

          Pausing only to invite his guests to seat themselves, Ken swung himself across the room directly to the telephone and called Paul Harcourt, a priesthood member who lived near by, to come and talk with Jess. When Paul left, Ken called for the seventy.

          “Do you know what he did?” Ken asked. “He left without saying one word to Jess about baptizing him!”

          I smiled a bit into the telephone. It was good to feel the enthusiasm of the newly baptized man. “Perhaps Paul feels that Jess should know a little more about the church before he gets all the way into it, “ I suggested gently.

          “Then tell Del he has to get over here and teach him!” Ken was accustomed to having things done when they needed to be done.

          “I’ll have him call you tonight, “ I promised, “And Ken, it has been a wonderful day, hasn’t it?” I reminded him, fearing that his disappointment that his friend’s baptism was not arranged immediately might dim his memory of his own happy experience with the Christ.

          “It has been wonderful!” Ken agreed thoughtfully.

          Delbert called that night then followed that call with a visit as soon as it could be arranged. Because Ken still was not able to move about freely, the meeting was arranged in the Holloway home.

          “I know all about you ministers,” Jess bragged, not at all the humble suppliant Del had thought he might find asking for baptism. “Why, I’ve talked to drunken Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, and Jewish rabbis.” The seventy knew he was recalling his days behind the bar. “You don’t fool me one bit!”

          My husband wasn’t quite sure whether Jess was being contemptuous or just issuing a challenge. Praying silently for direction the seventy replied patiently, “I’m not trying to fool you, Jess. Ken said you wanted to be baptized, and I think you ought to know what you’re getting into before you take that step. I’d like to tell you about Christ and his church. Do you want me to, or don’t you?” The seventy’s voice was firm but he smiled as he spoke.

          “Sure I want to hear you,” Jess said slowly, then glanced surreptitiously at Marie, wanting but not asking her approval of the arrangement.

          It was nearly two o’clock the morning of the visit when I awakened with a start at the ringing of the telephone. “Mildred,” Del was on the line, “I won’t be home tonight. We’ve just stopped talking to have some lunch, and the Holloways have invited me to get some sleep here before I make the drive into the city.”

          Again and again it happened, the drive to Wisconsin for a cottage meeting, the late night call. Finally, Del just arranged to stay overnight each time he went to teach the Butchers.

          “Jess thinks you’re great!” Ken informed the seventy-one nights after Jess and Marie had gone home.

          “He does?” Del asked in surprise. “He doesn’t act like it! Why, I’ve never in my life seen a man fight so hard against the truth. He trys to tear down everything I say!” There was a tone of exasperation in my husband’s voice.

          “Yeah, but you ought to hear him quote you when you’re gone,” Ken said reassuringly.

          After one particularly lively discussion that had gone on into the night, Marie suddenly accounted, “I want to be baptized.”

          “You  do ?” Jess looked startled for a  moment , then rushing across the room to Marie, he folded her in his arms. “Oh, Marie,” he spoke tenderly and his voice quivered with emotion. “I have waited so long for you to say that!” 

          “You have?” It was the seventy’s turn to be surprised and puzzled. “Then why have you been heckling me so?”

          “Delbert, you know Marie is a Catholic. I have been asking all of the questions I thought she would need to have answered before she could decide to make the change, “ Jess explained earnestly. “You will baptize us, won’t you?” In his earnestness, Jess almost sounded afraid that Del would deny him that blessing. “I know that my life has been everything but saintly, but…”

          The seventy didn’t hear the rest. In that moment he stood again in the presence of the Christ, shielding his eyes from His radiance and holding out toward him the lump of coal. Again he saw the finger of the Divine One touch the coal, and he wondered anew at the shimmering beauty of the diamond that sparkled in his hand.

          With the imprint of the same Spirit by which the experience was first received, Delbert knew his mission as a seventy; to take humanity, however unrefined, and hold it  humbly up to the Christ. That was the call of the seventy- to watch reverently as the touch of the Master’s hand transformed life into a beautiful reflection of himself in all His glory, intelligence, truth ,and love. That was the joy of the seventy!

          “Jess,” the seventy said as he enfolded the man and his wife in his own long arms, “it will be the happiest moment of my life!” and his voice trembled with the wonder of it.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Ken Holloway’s New Life

 

 

          The tall, lanky Wisconsin farmer rubbed his eyes. Did he really see what he thought he saw? Deep down in his heart he hoped it was not so. Ken Holloway was the one man in the world that Willis tried to avoid, and here he was listed on the hospital roster as a patient. He could not avoid him here.

          It wasn’t that Willis was angry with Ken or hated him or anything like that. It was just that Willis  could not tolerate the foul language that spouted continually from the man’s mouth ! In addition to his farm, Willis worked at the local feed mill. When he saw the foul mouthed salesman approach the mill, Willis always tried to find something far away to wholly occupy his time so he didn’t have to listen while the owner negotiated his purchases.

          In addition to being a farmer and a feed mill operator, Willis was also an elder and  the pastor of the local congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In that capacity, he regularly visited the hospital. On those visiting days, he made it a practice to scan the list of patients and visit any that he knew or felt that he could bring ministry.

          Outside room 221 , Elder Metcalf found a woman weeping. Slight, raven haired, attractive even in tears, the woman obviously was overcome with grief. Her proximity to Ken’s door indicated to Willis that she must be Ken’s wife. The good man’s heart was touched. Compassionately he introduced himself.

          “How is he ?” he inquired nodding toward room 221’s door, still unaware of why Ken was there.

          “The doctor says he can’t live.” Mopsy responded, trying to brush away her tears with a tissue already hopelessly sodden. A sob shuddered through her body as she struggled to regain control. “Only God can help him now!”

          In had been two days now since the accident, Mopsy was finally able to explain. The handsome, debonair fertilizer salesman had been traveling from one customer to another. Surrounded by an aura of success from his last call, he sped across Wisconsin hills onto a level stretch of highway that skirted the beautiful lake country.

          It was October,  and even though winter was making feinting passes at the area, it was clear that fall was still very much the mistress in charge. Brilliantly colored leaves still clung to a few of the trees or lay in heaps beneath the clusters of oaks and maples in the farmyards.

          This morning there were icy spots on the highway. The police reported that it appeared that Ken had slowed a bit as he approached a spot that caught the morning sun in a suspicious sort of way. But the motorist coming from the opposite direction did not see the reflection of the sun on the ice. Without warning his car skidded directly into Ken’s pathway . There was a shuddering crash, and Ken lay helplessly entrapped in the wreckage of his car. It took a gargantuan effort just to get him out of the wreckage, and no one thought he could possibly live!

          “The doctors found thirty two breaks in the bones of his chest alone, many of them puncturing his lungs” Mopsy continued. “He has a severe head injury. His legs are both broken, the left one so badly that it looks as though someone had just tried to twist it off his body. The doctor says they won’t even try to put it back together.”

          All the time Mopsy was talking, Willis kept remembering her words, “Only God can help him now!” Finally he spoke.

          “Mrs. Holloway, “ Willis was emboldened by the promptings of the Spirit. “I am a minister , an elder in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The scriptures tell us to call for the elders of the church when we have need of healing. The elders are to anoint us with oil and pray for us. If we pray in faith, God promises to hear and answer our prayer.”

          Mopsy responded immediately. “Oh, would you pray for Ken?”

          Remembering Ken’s usual irreverence even with the name of deity, Willis hesitated. “I will, if he wants me to,” he said.

          “But he ca’nt want anything, “  Mopsy protested. “He hasn’t been conscious for even a moment since the accident.”

          “Well, let’s go see.” Willis proposed and the two of them entered the injured man’s room.

          Leaning over the helpless man, Willis spoke his name. Then he asked, “Do you know me?”

          The eyelids flickered and Ken whispered faintly, Willis. Willis Metcalf, Inland Mills.”

          Mopsy could hardly contain her joy! Tears flowed freely again, but now they were tears of hope.

          Again Willis explained the Lord’s instruction for the elders to anoint with oil  and pray for the sick and asked if Ken would like for him to act upon that instruction. Ken nodded, and Willis prayed.

          Excitement radiated from room 221 as the news spread that Ken Holloway was conscious. Treatment that had been delayed because of his condition and the expectation of death was begun. As it became apparent that life was imminent instead of death, even the mangled leg began to receive attention.

          Arrangements were made to bring an orthopedic surgeon from St. Paul to perform surgery on the leg. Fully conscious now, Ken asked Willis to come  and pray again that the surgery would be successful. As Willis  prayed this time, he asked specifically that the Lord would guide the surgeon’s hands.

          The morning the surgery was scheduled, the specialist called to do the intricate procedure went to Ken’s room to explain what would be done and what results could be expected. Ken listened patiently as the surgeon explained the need for a metal rod to be inserted, the complications presented by the twisted muscles, the many breaks, etc. etc. The operation, the doctor said, would take approximately six hours.

          Impatient to get on with the surgery, Ken said to the doctor, “What you  don’t know, sir, is that the Lord is going to guide your hands!”

          Startled, the puzzled physician left the confident patient to scrub for the operation.

          The operation did not take six hours. It took less than one hour and a half. The chief surgical nurse described the experience as comparable  to a symphony.

          “I always had the instrument the doctor needed in my hand before he needed it, “ she explained in amazement.” And he worked with a skilled precision that I  have never witnessed in all my professional life ! ” In fact, she was so moved by the experience that she began to ask Ken questions about  his new found faith.

          AS soon as Ken was released from the hospital, Willis called for the seventy to come to Chetek and teach the Holloways the gospel. Among  those who came night after night to learn about this wonderful  Lord whose love and power could change lives so profoundly was the surgical nurse who had witnessed that power in the operating room.

          During the time of recuperation, Ken resumed his work as  a salesman, calling by phone. As he contacted each of his old customers he would first identify himself, then proceed to explain his wares and negotiate the sale. Almost always, Ken told us with a little chuckle , the customer would interrupt the sale to inquire, “Who did you say this is?”  Ken would repeat  his name  only to hear the customer protest, ”This can’t be Ken Holloway. Ken couldn’t talk without swearing!”

          The day came when a baptismal service was arranged for the Holloways in Minneapolis. Ken was still on crutches and had to be helped into the font. I was in the congregation, my heart nearly bursting with love and joy for the wonderful event. But when it was finished and Ken was lifted from the water , I was disappointed. I  expressed my feelings.

          “Ken,’ I said. “ I really expected you to walk out of that font on your own! I expected you to be healed completely in that water!’

          “No,” Ken smiled quietly and said gently, “The Lord has too much to teach me. He couldn’t let me loose so soon!” Then he added as if by an after thought or as an affirmation of the presence of the Spirit in his life to date, “but, you  know, I haven’t used a foul word since the day Willis first laid hands on me when everyone else had given up hope!”.

 

*****

 

          When the seventy began cottage meetings with Jess and Marie Butcher, one of the local  priesthood questioned the wisdom of such a procedure. “That man has done everything in the book,” he affirmed, “and he still does some of them. I don’t think we really want him in the church”

          “Don’t worry,” Delbert consoled the troubled man. “Not everyone to whom I tell the gospel is baptized.”

          But Jess and Marie Butcher were baptized at the church in Minneapolis. Soon after the baptisms were finished, the priesthood member who had questioned the propriety of sharing with the Butchers accosted the seventy with, “Do you know what Jess Butcher just did?”

          “Yes,” replied the seventy, “he just got baptized”.

          “No!” remonstrated the indignant man. “He went out on the front steps of the church and lit up a cigarette! Why did you baptize him?”

          The seventy was taken aback, but in that moment the Lord supplied the answer. “I baptized him because I know that man has caught a vision of the kingdom. For anyone who has caught  a vision of the kingdom, that sort of thing becomes unimportant.”

          Moments later the Holloways and the Butchers joined the Smiths in the almost empty living room of their duplex home. Word had been received from the church officers that the Smiths were assigned to Hawaii and would be leaving as soon as the Sylvester Coleman family was ready to join them for the journey. Only bed linens and personal belongings were to be taken with the exception of a few appliances not available in Hawaii or available at great expense. Everything else was to be stored or disposed of . We were nearly ready for the transfer. Our only furnishings left in the living room were orange crates that served as table and chairs. Jess entered carrying the cigarette he had lit on the church steps and so offended the priest who had questioned his baptism. I hurried to find something to be used as an ash tray. Jess guessed what I was about.

          “Don’t bother ,Sister Smith,” he said firmly. “this is the first thing that has to go!” With that he walked to the front door, flipped the offending article out the door and returned, never to smoke again.

          Once we were in Hawaii, Ken kept us apprised of the happenings in Chetek, particularly with respect  to Jess and the church. First he said Jess was going out three times a week on cottage meetings with the pastor, running the projector for him. Then he wrote that Jess and Willis  were still going out three times a week on cottage meetings, but now the pastor was running the projector for Jess!

          Jess was almost single handedly remodeling the church. He had put in new stairs to the lower auditorium that made that part of the building much more readily accessible, especially to the older members of the congregation. He had put in a new furnace. He had made a cry room for young mothers. On and on the reports went. Jess was ordained. Jess was an elder.

          By now it was confirmed that Jess was one of those chunks of coal tha the Lord’s finger turns into shimmering diamonds. For a lot of years we lost track of the Butchers. Then some forty years later, with the help of Seventy Bob Elrod, we found Jess and Marie again in Wisconsin. Marie was confined to her bed in a nursing home but her mind was still alert. With a warm smile she welcomed us and recalled those early days of ministry and still bore her testimony  of the Lord’s goodness to them through the years. Jess was still very much the minister though now his activity was limited by age. His testimony, too, was that the Lord had been good to them especially in giving him all those years in which to minister for Him.

         

FROM YOUTH UP

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Papa Learns to Read

 

          “Is that the best you can do, Alma?” Mr. Adams, the teacher of the one room Missouri school, had waited patiently for the shy sixteen year old to spell out the words of the passage he had been asked to read aloud.

          “That’s the best I can do!” my embarrassed father responded. He could only attend school for three months or less each year, depending on the weather. If it was good enough for outside work, Papa had to work. His father was schooled in the tradition of the “Old Country.” His own schooling had ended at age nine when he was forced to begin supporting himself, and he was certain his own sons should take their share of responsibility supporting the family. Only if the weather was bad did Papa get to school.

          Even then , it seemed strange that he could not learn to read. He was very good at arithmetic. And history? He loved history! He listened intently as that subject was discussed in the classroom and remembered everything

he heard. But he could not read. At noon when the other men would scan an entire newspaper, Papa might get one or two headlines spelled and pronounced well enough to understand them.

          “Just don’t come back to class,” Mr. Adams instructed. “You just take up too much time!” Embarrassed and ashamed, Papa took his seat.

          In spite of his ineptness, there was one book Papa wanted passionately to read. He wanted to read the Book of Mormon. Time after time he would open  the book , spell out the words and try to make sense of the small bits he could piece together only to be disappointed. Finally in desperation he cried, “Lord, I can’t do it ! Help me! Please, please help me!”

          Once more he took up his Book of Mormon. This time when he opened the book , he could read! There was no more spelling of word. Not only were the words recognizable , but their meaning was explained to him instantaneously. Even the strange names were pronounced for him . Delighted, he read on and on.

          My father’s reading was not confined to the Book of Mormon. Now he could read anything that he wanted to read with amazing clarity and understanding. The Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Church History and other good books became his passion. At Christmas and birthdays, if we wanted to make him happy, we could always count of a book for his gift. Scriptures were his first love and poetry probably his second. Both were used skillfully in his ministry.

          As a very young child, I well remember awakening many times at night to find the kerosene lamp lighting the dining table covered with books and my father bending over his tablet with a pen frequently dipped into his inkwell as he marked his scriptures or made notes of the great ideas that came to him from them. Time after time Papa would rush into the house as though on some urgent errand only to enthusiastically share some new insight he had just received for his next sermon or in  answer to a problem for which someone had asked for his help. Each insight had to be first shared with Mamma, always with the hopeful query, “Do you get the point?” Once confirmed, the “points” with their supporting scriptures  would then be written down for future use in inspiring sermons or saving ministries graced by the Spirit of God in their presentation. Troubled families came from miles around to get his help. Many a marriage was saved by his inspired counsel.

          As a child, I was constantly exposed to the Book of Mormon along with other scriptures through his generous sharing at home and in the church. He was one of the first  in our area to take the course in preaching offered by the Stake officers and was known for his succinct, scripture filled sermons that were always short and often finished with  an appropriate inspirational poem. For a long period of time he taught a Book of Mormon class for all ages on Sunday nights before the regular church services. Farm chores had to be done early or left until very late on Sunday evenings so we could drive the three miles to church in a lumber wagon for him to teach. Other farm families did the same just to be a part of the class.

          At the time of his death, he was the teacher for a church school class. When his assistant teacher declared that she could not take the class  that first Sunday after he died because she was too upset by his death, I volunteered. I could not think of anything Papa would rather have as a memorial than a good church school class!

          Even in that class, the familiarity I had with the Book of Mormon because of Papa’s  teaching stood me in good stead. There was in the class a man, older than Papa, who was a pest! Constantly he interrupted the discussion with some inane observation or errant thought. I  began to wonder why such a man still lived and Papa was taken. Then the story of the slaughter of the Anti Nephi Lehi people by their own brethren came to mind. The record says, “We know that there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.” That was it! Papa was ready. The disruptive class member needed more time!

 

 

Chapter 4

Grasshoppers

 

 

 

          “ Grasshoppers! Grasshoppers !” The urgent cry went up from the barnyard where my family was just finishing the morning chores. Even as a very young child I had been taught how to prepare some of the foods we usually ate for breakfast, and on this day, as usual, I had remained in the house to prepare breakfast instead of joining in the  outdoor work.

          The presence of the voracious creatures was not surprising. For weeks during that memorable summer, we had been protecting our equipment from them as much as possible . If we were hoeing in the corn fields, cutting out weeks the cultivators could not reach, or pitching hay from windrows onto the  wagons or from the bull rakes onto the stacks, we were continuously cautioned to bring our hoes and pitchforks in from the fields even for the brief rests we took. We were accustomed to sheltering the handles of our tools from the burning sun when we rested, but this summer it was different.  Any exposed handle wet with sweat was an irresistible temptation to a grasshopper, and the person who inadvertently left his instrument so exposed was almost certain to return to a hoe or pitchfork so pitted and pocked by the insatiable insects that  it was impossible to use the tool without cutting and scratching and finally blistering the hands that tried to wield it. But the urgency of the cry from the barnyard signaled something different from the situation with which we had been coping all summer. This was an invasion of unprecedented enormity.

          I ran to the window and saw my father racing toward the crest of the hill just north of the smoke house where our land touched the farm of our nearest neighbor. Curious and concerned at his evident haste, I quickly abandoned my current task and sped across the hill following him .He topped the rise just ahead of me, and we both stopped running, transfixed by the scene of complete devastation that met us. A horde of grasshoppers had attacked the neighbors cornfield and was systematically stripping every leaf from every stalk as the creatures marched inexorably toward our land. Only bare stalks were left standing where moments before there had been a promising field of corn.

          As the grasshoppers  made their way down the hill toward the barbed wire fence that was the  only barrier between our land and them, I heard my father praying. Simply and earnestly he told the Lord of his need for that crop. He had a large family to feed ,  and he always tried to help others in need. He had always paid his tithing and wanted to continue to do so, but, he explained, if there was no crop, there would be nothing with which to pay tithes. In expectant faith he asked the Lord to prevent the hoppers from stripping our fields.

          We waited breathlessly as the pests ate their way right up to the fence. We watched in grateful fascination as they lifted in a cloud that momentarily masked the sun, then flew over our farm, away to the west, leaving our fields and all the rest of our neighbor’s fields untouched. Right then and there we offered prayers of thanksgiving and Papa even helped compensate the Hudson’s for their loss by purchasing the remaining stalks for feed for his pigs.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

Papa and the Bull

 

 

          It was a beautiful summer day down on the farm in Northwest Missouri. Papa sent me to the south forty to herd the cows. A violent flash flood had washed out the fence that separated the pasture from the cornfield, and the cows had a taste for tender young corn growing across the now docile creek. It was my assignment to see to it that no cow left the pasture to satisfy either her curiosity or penchant for tastier food. No one of us even gave a thought to the fact that not all of the herd was female.

          Since the task was expected to be an easy one, I took a bucket of gooseberries with me. My  intent was to find a nice shaddy position close to the breach in the cornfield fence, spread my newspaper carpet around me and the bucket of wild berries and remove both the stem and blossom ends adhering to the tiny fruit to while away the time. My presence near the breach was to be adequate deterrent for any ideas the cows might entertain about eating the corn.

          All went well for an hour or so. The berries were slowly filling the container set beside me and the cows munched contentedly on the lush pasture grass. Suddenly a fierce bellow split the summer air. The bull, who had apparently just become aware of my presence, came charging out of the herd, head down and nostrils flaring, headed directly for me and my gooseberries.

          Instantly I looked around for some place of safety. There was none except up  in a tree, and I had never been successful at climbing trees. Not once had I found one that I could conquer unless the branches began very close to the ground! One glance at the shade that I had chosen showed there were no such climbing aids, however, it did offer some possibility. I had been sitting under two trees growing close beside each other so as to form a kind of crotch between them that I quickly  mounted with alacrity, almost walking up between them, and soon found myself ensconced in branches just above the reach of the charging bull!

          The trees that sheltered me were, however, quite young and fragile under the ferocious onslaught of the enraged creature that now assaulted them repeatedly. For long moments he would paw the ground and bellow then charge the trees, using his head for a battering ram propelled by his almost ton of weight. Under each onslaught the trees trembled and I was forced to hold onto their slender branches in sheer terror to remain above the massive head that was tossed high into the air after each encounter. With each blow, I because more and more frightened that the trees would not be able to survive.

          Needless to say, I was praying from the time I first heard the bull bellow. Now my prayers intensified as I called on the Lord for deliverance from the intractable creature. Suddenly, right out of the blue sky, it began to rain. The bull had just raised his face to reach as high as he could into the trees toward me when the deluge began. With full force the water hit the upturned face. The bull shook his head as though in amazement, turned and  galloped away to join the herd. The rain ceased as suddenly as it had begun.

          As soon as the animal had abandoned his quest, I surveyed the area looking for a safer place just in case he should notice that there was no more descending water and return.  The pasture stretched for several hundred yards around a hill that bordered our neighbor’s forest. If I could just get to the other side of the hill without being seen by the bull, I should be able to cross the fence to the wooded area and be safe. From there I could reach home safely by a roundabout way that I was certain I could follow.

          Hurriedly I slid down  between the trees and ran as fast as I could for the forest on the other side of the hill. By running fast, I quickly put the hill between me and the cows, climbed over the fence and kept running through the forest. After what seemed a long time, I saw an opening in the trees and was certain that I had reached our neighbor’s  farmyard. Imagine my amazement  when I cleared the forest only to find myself face to face with the herd of cows from which I was fleeing. I had run in a circle through the dense woods and was now on the herd’s side of the hill on which I had counted for protection.

          I turned and started running again, this time not so sure that I was fleeing to safety. I was tired and frustrated and scared, probably more so than there was reason to be, for the bull showed no interest at all in my unexpected presence so near to him and his harem. Just then I heard my father’s voice calling my name. I stopped and looked toward the sound. There was the most welcome sight I had ever experienced. Papa was riding on a horse and calling to me. He had heard the bellowing of the bull and knew I must be in trouble , so saddling  his horse he had come from the far end of the farm to rescue me and my gooseberries.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

A Teacher For His Children

 

          The current teacher at Whiteford School was a strapping six foot some inches tall and handsome as a movie star. His coaching skills were phenomenal as could  be attested by all the other rural schools whose districts bordered Whiteford. They had all been beaten by the Whiteford softball team at one time or another. Recesses and noon hours were lots of fun for most of the students. The children idolized him!  The only trouble was that many of the students were not learning much from books ! Those for whom learning was easy or who already had a good start in the basics could get along pretty well, but for those for whom  reading , writing and arithmetic were difficult, there were problems.

          The Nelson family had three children in the school, one of whom was a much better ball player than he was a student. Our parents were concerned !  School board elections were just coming up  and Papa and Mamma were praying about the welfare of their children and others in the neighborhoood. They finally decided that the only way to change the situation was for Papa to get elected to the school board and see to it that a more scholastically inclined teacher was obtained.

          In those days one did not declare  his or her candidacy and campaign for a seat on the board. The entire district just met on the designated day, candidates were nominated and the elections took place on the spot.

          It was just three quarters of a mile through the fields to the school house where the elections was to be held, so Papa walked just as the children almost always did. On the way he was praying, asking the Lord to help him get elected and promising that if he was successful, he would do all in his power to hire Neva Ross, a well qualified teacher who was still without a situation.

          Suddenly Papa heard music, beautiful music sung by a magnificent choir. In those days there were no televisions, no radios , no boom boxes, no tape recorders, not even any wire recorders from which the music could have come out there in the middle of the fields. Gramaphones were pretty much confined to parlors of the wealthy, and there were none such within miles of my father. The music had to be heavenly music and the choir made up of angels. Papa stopped to listen, awed by the beautiful sound.

          Then a strange thing happened. Two voices stood out from the others and Papa recognized them as the voices of Neva’s father and mother. Aunt Letty, as we children called the beautiful lady who had given us all music lessons until her untimely death, and Uncle Will, whose years as our pastor were likewise cut short in death, were singing with the heavenly choir!

          No words were spoken concerning the school board election, but  when the music faded away, Papa went on to the school confident that he would receive the post and that Neva would be the one to teach the children during the next school year. And it was so. Neva taught at the school until she was called away to teach other teachers at the Northwest Missouri State Teacher’s college. Her tenure at Whiteford lasted five wonderful , productive years !

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Maple Grove Tongues

 

          Wednesday  morning of the Farwest Stake Reunions back in the nineteen thirties was a special time for the youth. Early in the morning we would hike to the Maple Grove church several miles north of the camp. There we would participate in an early morning prayer service and breakfast and hike back to camp in time to join with the adults in prayer and testimony later on that morning. The Wednesday morning of which I now speak was even more special than any other we had ever known.

          Many of our leaders were in the shaded back yard of the church preparing breakfast. We were inside the white frame church seriously engaged in prayer and testimony. Suddenly, according to Neva Ross who was our Guilford youth leader, some of the workers stopped their work and asked sharply, “Did you  feel that?”

          Whatever “that” was, many had felt it and were anxious to know what it was all about. Immediately all of them abandoned the breakfast preparations and ran to the open windows of the church to see what was transpiring inside.

          Inside I was seated just behind Wayne Simmons when Patriarch Ray Whiting arose and moved to the front of the rostrum. Suddenly Wayne turned to look at me. I was not long out of high school and quite shy in the presence of a young man whom I respected so highly as Wayne. I would have been uncomfortable had I seen his inquiring glance. But I did not see it. I was totally absorbed in the ministry Brother Whiting was about to give. It was only later that I learned of Wayne’s query.

          When Wayne saw that I was not paying any attention to him, he directed his attention toward those in charge of the meeting. Soon, however, he told me later, he turned to look at me again. He said he felt a tapping on his shoulder and thought I was trying to get his attention. When the tapping came the third time, and I was obviously oblivious to anything that was happening to him, Wayne became aware that it was a messenger from the Lord who needed his attention.

          As Wayne looked toward Brother Whiting, he saw not only Brother Whiting but a heavenly messenger standing by his side. The heavenly messenger was identified to Wayne as a Nephite. When Brother Whiting finally composed himself and started speaking in a tongue with which none of us was familiar, that language was also identified to this dedicated young man. It was the Nephite tongue. It was the beginning of Wayne’s realization that he had a special calling to minister to Book of Mormon peoples.

          Others who were there later testified that they saw angels hovering over the youth in the congregation. My sister saw the Christ with outstretched arms inviting the youth to come to him . My entire attention was given to Ray Whiting as he spoke and as he interpreted the language in which he first spoke.

          So far as I know , no one recorded the message that was given that morning. I only remember  the assurance of love that I felt and the urgency of the counsel that some who were there had only a short time in which  to do all that they would be permitted to do for the Lord on this earth.

          There were rumblings of war in Europe, but few, if any of us there had the slightest notion that war would come to the United States or that we would be involved. War did come, however. Many of us gathered at Maple Grove that Wednesday morning had to participate  in it, and some of us did not survive it! The Lord had chosen to create a dramatic moment in our lives to draw us closer to Him.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Scarred For Life

 

 

          I was eighteen and teaching my first school at Fairview, a little rural school just north of Barnard, Missouri. The early winter snows had  been followed by rain that turned them into fields of ice that  now blanketed the rolling hills of northwest Missouri. My students skated gaily over the rough terrain. Those of us not so proficient on skates wore cleats made of  the triangular cycle sections of mowers bent down at each of the three corners and riveted to harness straps fashioned into sandals and made to fit over our boots. Without the cleats, we could not stay on our feet. On that first morning after the ice storm, I stepped out of the door of my boarding  house and suddenly found myself coasting all the way to the end of  the lane without benefit of a sled, graded papers, books and my sack lunch flying in  every direction as I fell. It was coasting party time, all right. Of that there could be no doubt, and tonight’s moonlight party for the community had just begun.

          I was eighteen, and here I was staring into the school’s new first aid kit’s mirror at a face sliced open from above my left eye all the way down to my collar. Blood flowed profusely from the vent, splashing finally into the basin of cold water from which I had dipped the clean white cloth that I now held to the wound trying unsuccessfully to staunch the flow of crimson fluid.

          Whether it was the cold water or the shrill cry of the young girl who had just entered the building and discovered me, I was suddenly aware of the unusual events of which I was a part. Perhaps it was shock. Or maybe I really did want to reassure my student. At any rate, I laughed a silly laugh then asked for my brother  who had come to enjoy the party and then to take me home for the weekend.

          Immediately Mary Lee disappeared from the door, and again I was alone bathing my bloody face with the now blood stained cloth. I tried to remember . What had happened? Why was I here? The school children had been coasting down the hill inside the neighbor’s fence at every recess of the day. When the neighborhood youth came for the moonlight party, they started to go directly down the road with their sleds. That route required driving through a crossroad intersection then  maneuvering around a bend and across a narrow bridge. I thought that too great a risk to take at night and so suggested that we follow the course the children had used inside the pasture. Their run took them down the hill where they made a turn  that took them parallel  to a barbed wire fence that skirted the road. That would be safer, I reasoned, than following the hazardous road route!

          I was the first one down the hill. Where the children had been successful in turning to ride parallel with the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill, I was heavier than they and it was dark. Only the moon lit the area  with its eerie glow. I did not see the fence coming so quickly and I did not make the turn. Instead, I hit the hedge post with my head so hard that the staples holding the barbed wire in place bounced out of the post leaving the wire dangling. The force of the impact knocked me and the sled backwards, and I was riding it unconscious  when it passed through the treacherous barbed wire that now dangled menacingly beside the damaged post. It was the post that damaged my head and the wire that tore through my face, neck and knee.

          But I didn’t know all of that then. Vaguely I recalled feeling a warm liquid flowing down my cold face as some force impelled me to pick up my sled and head for the schoolhouse. Twice I had reached up to test the fluid and try to determine what it was. Each time I withdrew my hand more puzzled than before. Then I remembered nothing.

          Now I was again conscious , standing in front of the first aid kit that I had just that day hung in the one room school house. I was bathing not only  a gaping wound that ran from above my left eye all the way to my coat collar but also one that slashed jaggedly across my face under my nose. Whether it was the cold water from the basin below or the sudden outcry of the young girl who had just entered the room  that brought me back to consciousness, I did not know . I only knew that I was terribly hurt and no one seemed to know. No one was helping me!

          Strangely enough, my first reaction to the puzzling situation had been to laugh. It was  a silly, embarrassed laugh. Here I was supposed to be hosting the community coasting party, and I was inside the school bathing away blood that still flowed copiously from two gaping wounds on my terribly marred face. What had happened? Why was I there ? How would I get the blood to stop?

          “Kenneth! Kenneth!” I heard the call go out beyond the school house door.

          Kenneth? Was my brother here? I had already forgotten that I had asked Mary Lee to get him. If Kenneth was here, I had nothing to fear. Kenneth was two years younger than I and very small for his age, but Kenneth would take care of everything! With that assurance , I continued to try to bathe away the blood while I waited for Kenneth to come and make everything right.

          “Sis! What happened/” I heard his voice and smiled a crooked smile with the right side of my mouth where the muscles were still connected.

          The next thing I remembered, we were in the office of the country doctor who cared for all the medical needs of the entire area. Vaguely I heard him talking about his decision not to try to sew my face together for fear that stitch marks would only intensify the scar that was inevitable. Butterfly bandages, he said, were new, but he would like to try them. The jagged cut under my nose worried him most. Like the slash down the cheek, that cut had penetrated the oral cavity and he could not tell for sure that it had not damaged the salivary glands so that there might be drainage to the outside unless he could get that wound secured perfectly. And there was the eye. Even though the sinus above the eye was crushed and the wound resumed just below the eye, the  strong bone of the brow had protected the sight from injury; but the scar could easily contort the contour of the eye to make it horribly disfiguring.

          Shock, too, was of concern to Dr. Humberd. Carefully he wrapped his own long fur coat around me and helped me into the back seat of our family Model A Ford. “Now take it easy! “ he instructed Kenneth, “And be sure to keep her warm!”

          The roads were rough in those days. There were some five miles of rutted gravel and three miles of even more deeply rutted dirt roads between the doctor’s office and home. I felt every bump., even with Kenneth’s careful driving and my semi-conscious state.

          With my head swathed in bandages made very thick to absorb the still oozing blood and wrapped in the doctor’s great fur coat, I knew I could be a very frightening sight to my parents. “Go in ahead of me.” I instructed Kenneth. “Tell them that  there had been an accident but that I am all right.” Then while my brother ran ahead , I stumbled to the house trying hard to pretend there was nothing very wrong with me.

          Monday I was determined to go back to school to teach, bandages and all, but the kindly school board members decided that the school needed a new furnace and this was the time to get it. They cancelled school for a week!

          By the time school resumed, I was still held together by butterfly bandages, and the wrappings protecting them were still generous. While everything seemed to be mending well, there was still one serious problem with my appearance. As it healed, the cut that had barely missed my eye was now drawing my left eye into a grotesque appearance, like something one would design for a frightening make-believe monster. Kindly as the children were, they could not help staring wide eyed when  they  encountered me. The younger ones were not certain that they should not be frightened. I was concerned.

          The possibility of having a scar all the way down my face had not troubled me greatly. I had known from the time I was very young that I was not beautiful . One day my aunt was fixing my sister’s beautiful curls for some long forgotten event. As she worked, she spoke of her beauty. Then she turned to me and remarked with a little laugh, “And you, you ugly little mutt!” My hair was straight as a string and very unattractive. The fact that I knew I was ugly, though , kept me fro being especially concerned even when I knew my scars would be as long as my face and very red. If I was not beautiful in the first place, their presence could be of little consequence. But for my eye to be disfigured to the point of grotesqueness was more than I could easily accept.

          Wednesday night always found us at church. This Wednesday night, I went with a special purpose. I asked the elders to pray that my eye would heal in such a manner that my appearance would never detract from my testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As is the custom in our faith, the elders anointed my head with oil , laid their hands on my head and prayed as I had requested. When next I looked in the mirror, the grotesque angle was gone from the lower lid. My eye had returned to its normal shape! The rest of the scars continued bright and red down and across my face, but rarely did anyone seem to notice.

          One day when I had returned to college to complete my educational degree, I had dashed into the restroom for a moment. Since I was editing the college paper, serving on the student senate, doing my student teaching, living in the home management house and carrying a full load of academic subjects, I had little time to think of my appearance. This time a timid young woman approached me cautiously. “I- I envy you  your scar!” She finally blurted out her message and then hastily retreated as though fearing she might have offended me.

          “Why?” I was startled. Although I rarely gave any thought to the ugly red streak down my face, I hardly considered it desirable.

          “ Everyone on campus knows that you are here,” the meek little voice explained. “No one knows I am around!”

          Still too surprised to think of anything really intelligible to say, I murmured something I hoped would be reassuring, and rushed off to fulfill some urgent duty. I guess the girl was one of those people who just seem to fade into the woodwork. I don’t remember ever seeing her again.

          Years have passed. The scar is still there. It is still ugly and clearly defined. I can trace it with my finger from above my left eye where the sunken place in my head still hurts occasionally, down my cheek, across under my nose and down my throat where the wire incision barely missed my jugular vein. There are scars on my knee, too, from the same accident, but they are rarely seen. But through the years when the subject of injury and scars comes into a conversation of which I am a part, someone will frequently ask in surprise, “Your scar! What scar? I never noticed before that you have a scar!”

          Truly the blessing for which I asked did not stop with returning appropriate proportions to my eye. Throughout the hundreds, even thousands of lectures I have given inside and outside the church, even appearing frequently on television during the six years I worked for the University of Missouri Extension Service in the St. Louis area, my appearance seems not to have detracted from the testimony I have to bear. That testimony is not always telling of the Lord’s many rich blessings to me and mine. More often it has been sharing the truths God has shared with us both in science and religion. Thank God I didn’t need a pretty face to share that testimony.

          And I’ll always be grateful for my aunt’s honest evaluation of my appearance . Had I thought I was beautiful, the presence of the expansive scar  might have caused me great distress. Early in my young life, the Lord had prepared me for a life of joyful service whatever scars remained.

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Seek Learning By Study And Also By Faith

 

 

 

          “You’ll never get anywhere  in that field ! “  It was my good friend and benefactor, Harold Jobe speaking as we traveled from Northwest Missouri State Teacher’s College in Maryville around Harold’s newspaper route which helped pay for his college. With it, Harold made it possible for me and several others to attend college, too, by allowing us to ride with him for seventy five cents a week. When Harold learned that I had chosen to major in home economics, he assured me that was not a field with a future.

          Much as I valued Harold’s advice, I continued to pray for direction in my career and found myself continuously guided into the field I had initially chosen. One happening after another that I could only attribute to divine providence propelled me from situation to situation until that career was indelibly established, linking my secular studies with my religious beliefs. The illness of a dear friend and secretary was the final event that determined the  character of my career.

          It was war time. I was working on Delmo Labor Homes , six communities of homes that had been built by the federal government to house the poor agricultural workers of southeast Missouri on the delta of the Mississippi that extended into Missouri. My secretary, Lauree, who had been accustomed to serving the East  Prairie and Wyatt camp s from our East Prairie office, now found it necessary to move from place to place and serve seven of the camps plus the main office in Sikeston. After a rather prolonged absence from east Prairie, she returned to work for  a week or so. I gave her work to do and departed to work at Wyatt for the day. When I returned, the work had not been done . Lauree said that the women had been in to visit with her  and I accepted her explanation knowing that the residents loved and missed her.

          The next day I gave her the same work to do and left again. Again I returned to find the work undone. Later I found the words, “I’M SCARED!!” written  in large letters followed by the multiple exclamations points scattered through my files and the library where she had evidently hoped I would find them. Unfortunately, I did not until much later.

          On the next day, I was with my friend all day. She seemed much like herself except that she was unusually flighty. Once she wanted out of the car to pick flowers. She flitted among the flowers joyously and I had difficulty getting her back into the car to resume our trip. When I took her home to Sikeston that night, she said she was afraid and wanted me to stay with her. I couldn’t stay because I had a food preservation demonstration scheduled on the East Prairie camp the next morning, so I assured her there was nothing to be afraid of and left her alone in her apartment.

          While I was giving my demonstration the next morning, Paul Cornelison, our area supervisor in whose office she was to work that week, came to the door, called me out and into my office. Then he called me into my  private office, placed his hands under my elbows as if to support me and said, “Brace yourself for a shock, Lauree has gone completely berserk!”

          That morning our usually prompt secretary arrived at the area office an hour late with no apology. She had gone by the dime store and bought a lot of trinkets with which she tried to demonstrate to Paul how his work of managing the farms should be handled. Later we found  that she had gone to the  Greyhound Bus station to try to get a bus to work, which was just around the corner. The attendants there sent her away thinking that she was drunk. Paul , too, aware that something was terribly wrong, sent her home to her apartment. Very soon there was a call from a frantic landlady. Our secretary had gone into her room, locked the door, upset the wastebasket on the floor and set the contents on fire. Fortunately, seeing the fire sparked something in her brain and she did put it out, but she would not open her door. Paul came to me thinking that because of our friendship, I might persuade her to let us and a doctor reach her.

          When we arrived at her apartment, she had already opened the door. She had taken a shower and was dressed immaculately as usual. She seemed perfectly normal except that she talked all of the  time. For our usually timid, retiring young lady, this was not normal! We decided to take her to her home over toward Poplar Bluff. On the way she chattered about everything, even those things I did not want our boss to know. For one thing, several of us had grown adventurous and had applied for transfers to Alaska. Lauree had typed our applications. She told Paul all about it!

          When we arrived at the Moran home, we simply told Lauree’s parents that  we had brought their daughter home for a rest. She had invited the entire staff to her home to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, and we would all be there in a few days. We said nothing about her strange behavior thinking that this was probably not the first time it had happened to her and her parents probably would know all about it and how to handle it. But that assumption proved fallacious.

          The next day I received a call from the most irate parents you could ever imagine. Lauree had gone to the fields with her father and had gone completely berserk again. She laughed a silly laugh , tossed dirt over her shoulders and called for me. The family took her to the hospital and there the doctors said she was either drunk or drugged. Since she was calling for me, they put two and two together and decided I had had her out on a wild party and really got her fixed up!

          When I arrived at the Poplar Bluff hospital, I found my secretary friend locked in the basement of the hospital so she would not disturb the other patients. The doctors were still declaring that she had to be either drunk or drugged. People just didn’t act like she was acting without one or other . All my protests that that could not be the case since she did not drink or take drugs went unheeded. For the better part of a week her parents and I stayed with her in that locked room. She became progressively worse. She continued to chatter, telling stories of entire books in detail, talking about all sorts of happenings in her life and that of her family, sometimes just mumbling unintelligibly. Never did she actually rest except for brief times when one of us would lie down with her and soothe her like a child. Finally she became violent, breaking dishes when we offered her food and otherwise being destructive as her small stature and weakened condition would allow.

          Finally I demanded that she see a specialist who would know what was happening to her. Her Poplar Bluff doctors obtained an appointment for her with a specialist in St. Louis. Her parents and I started with her wrapped in a blanket between the two of them in the back seat. Soon she was tied in the blanket to keep her from wrecking the car. Her constant pleading to be in the front seat where she cold play with the gadgets caused me to finally stop the car and tell her that she could come up front if she would let her father hold one of her hands and put the other  behind my back. She agreed, and we rode peacefully the rest of the way to St. Louis.

          When the doctor opened his door to invite his patient into his examining room, she pulled off her shoes and flung them at him. He ducked the shoes and, shaking his finger at us said, “Take her away and get her some food! I’ve seen dozens like her !”

          We retrieved the shoes and while her family took her back to the car, I stayed to write a sizeable check for his services and to inquire, “Where will we take her?” His response was, “To the mental hospital at Farmington. There is only one doctor in the state of Missouri who knows what to do for her, and he is there.”

          My next question was, ‘Will she ever be well?”

          The doctor looked at me a bit disdainfully and responded, “Of course she’ll be well, but the state you’ve got her in, it will take six months!”

          I was shocked. I didn’t know what state I had her in, but I did know at that moment that if food had the power to do this to a healthy young girl’s mind, I had to know more about it. Before I left that doctor’s office, I was determined to return to school  and learn what was the connection.

          We took my secretary to the hospital, and when those metal doors clanged behind her, it had all too final a ring to it. After a couple of weeks we visited her ,then the doctor said for us to make no more effort to see her until he notified us to come for her. That happened in just about four months instead of the six the specialist had predicted. We got back a beautiful, healthy young girl. She weighed more than she had weighed when we took her in, but now she was her old self.

          When Lauree returned to work, circumstances had changed for Delmo and the poor of southeast Missouri. Her services were no longer needed in that area and she declined the government’s offer of a transfer to Chicago. Instead she became the receptionist for the hospital near the one in which she had been locked in the  basement room. There she worked until the next fall when Graceland College opened. She graduated from Graceland with honors and again went to work for the government.

          During this time, she met a young man whom she wanted to marry. Knowing the seriousness of her illness, the young couple wrote to the hospital to ask whether they should ever have children. The hospital answered back that her illness was purely nutritional and as long as she was well fed it would never happen again. That has been fifty years ago. Lauree’s children have also graduated from college and had children of their own. Lauree has had other health problems from time to time as most of us have, but there had never been a recurrence of this mental aberration.

          Back at Iowa State in a Master’s degree program in Foods and Nutrition I soon learned that Lauree’s illness was atypical pellagra. Pellagra is sometimes called the disease of the four D’s: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. Most pellagrins  first evidence their deficiency state by a rash on their hands and feet. Gloved hands and feet they are called. When that symptom was noted, many doctors knew to enrich the patient’s diet  with foods such as meats, milk and nutritional yeasts. For some reason, Lauree skipped the first two stages of the disease. Because she went immediately          to the dementia, her disease was not recognized until it was beyond the help of simple foods. She needed large amounts of niacin, but the knowledge that niacin was the missing nutrient and could be given in prophylactic quantity was very new. That was the reason that only one doctor in Missouri knew what to do for her. Pellagra had been known for

centuries. The disease followed corn eating people, and corn was a staple of Southland USA. In fact, it was a limited diet comprised principally of soup and cornbread, resorted to in an effort to make her meager expense account cover her needs as she moved from camp to camp outside her normal residential area, that had been responsible for Lauree’s illness.

          It was estimated that about 15,000 people died of pellagra yearly and that as many as half the people in mental hospitals of the South in the early 1940’s  were there because of pellagra. Thousands of dollars were spent on research to learn what poison if  any there was in corn that caused the devastating disease. No toxin was found, but early in that decade the vitamin, niacin, was discovered and proved to be the missing nutrient. It was then that the federal government authorized the enriching of cornmeal and white wheat flours with niacin along with thiamin, riboflavin and iron, all of which were missing from corn and were being decimated by the practice of refining wheat. Pellagra, along with some other deficiency diseases, was virtually eliminated from the general population. Only one other time have I seen it in all the intervening years.

          I resigned my position at Delmo to enter graduate school the fall after Lauree was hospitalized. During my first spring semester at Ames I attended a far West Stake Conference at St. Joseph. The business session was to be held on Sunday morning with Arthur Oakman to be the speaker for the conference. First Church was packed. The first instruction given was to tell us how to leave the building in case of fire. Although some questioned the advisability of having a business session Sunday morning because those sessions were not always pleasant, this one was Spirit filled. It did, however, last much past time for the morning worship service. We were asked whether we wanted to hear Brother Oakman preach or break for lunch. We chose to hear the sermon. When it was finished, we were told that there was only enough food available to feed the children. We were asked whether we wanted time to go out and find food or whether we would rather fast and be on hand for the prayer service scheduled for two that afternoon. We chose to fast.

          At that Spirit graced afternoon prayer service, Brother Oakman spoke for the Lord. Among other things, he said, “The time will come when though I would like to protect my people, I cannot except they be obedient to the Word of Wisdom.” or words to that effect. He said more that I cannot remember, but those words burned into my consciousness as I realized they were pertinent to the things I was studying at Iowa State.

          My father carried his Doctrine and Covenants in the glove compartment of his car. On the way home, I took the book and with great excitement, turned to Section 86 and read, “All grain is good for food, nevertheless wheat for man, corn for the ox…” “See , Papa,” I  explained and my voice shook a little with excitement, “The Lord knew it all of the time. Here we have been trying to find a poison in corn, and there was none. It was something missing that is in wheat. There are no wheat eating peoples who have endemic pellagra as do corn eating people. Now we know it from experiments but the Lord knew it all of the time and tried to tell us how to live healthfully!” Then my father, the farmer-minister, and I had a long talk about the difference in the digestive system of the ox. Cows have an extra stomach, the rumen, that we have learned is a veritable factory of vitamins and proteins that are needed for growth and health. When the cow finally passes the food into her second stomach for assimilation, the needed nutrients are there. We do not have the ability to enrich our food in the way a bovine does. The nutrients have to be there when we eat it. That day the Word of Wisdom became inseparably connected with my expanding knowledge of nutrition.

          Because of that connection my offer to teach the people of the church has resulted in  my giving many classes o the subject in a large variety of settings in and outside the church. My professional teaching and writing was profoundly affected by the knowledge that I could trust the word of the Lord to guide me through the labyrinth of conflicting information of an infant science. Because of it , I did not have to make the mistakes that others of my profession were making in interpreting the available data. For the church , I wrote The Word of Wisdom: Principle With Promise  published  by Herald House in 1977 and its companion volume, Word of Wisdom Helps :Food, published n 1979 .  And because of it, I was sometimes able to assist my Seventy husband in his ministry. One time in particular I was thankful for my knowledge of pellagra.

          It was the only time after I left Southeast Missouri that I ever saw pellagra again. The institution of enrichments for breads and cereal products essentially eliminated the disease from the general public. While we were in Canada, however, we had a good church friend who was a double amputee. One summer we kept hearing that Ernie was very ill. Extreme depression seemed to have hit this usually affable Deacon. He had lost his legs to a debilitating disease characterized by blood clots in his legs. To prevent one of them breaking loose and lodging in his heart or his brain, he was amputated, but that was not the cause of his depression. He had long ago adjusted to that life and was very active at home and at church. Something else was bothering him. Although we were too far away to visit, we often prayed for our good brother’s blessing.

          By the time we returned to Saskatoon from our summer activities in camps and other church responsibilities, Ernie had reached the depth of his depression. When we called to see whether we could visit, his wife told us that he had refused even to see a relative who had driven some three hundred miles one way to see him, but he had never refused to see any of the church people. She would ask. Ernie said we could come.

          Mary ushered us into Ernie’s bedroom. Delbert began immediately to visit with the sick man trying to cheer him as was his custom. I stood aghast at what I saw. There, lying on top of the covers were two gloved hands of a pellagrin ! I had never seen the disease more pronounced on any of its victims that I had encountered in the South. These were textbook manifestations of the disease.

          As soon as I could graciously do it, I sought out Mary and asked, “Mary , has the doctor said anything about Ernie’s hands?”

          “Oh, yes.” Mary responded. “He gave me some lotion for his hands and some vitamin A for him to take. “ Then she hastily explained, “It didn’t do any good!”

          “No! I’m sure it didn’t !” I answered her firmly. “Would you mind if I got him some niacin?”

          Mary was puzzled but desperate for some solution to Ernie’s plight. “If he needs niacin,” she said a bit hesitantly, “I’ll just have the pharmacist down at the hospital fix some up for him.” The hospital was just a block away and the state of Ernie’s health was well known to all the staff.

          Mary went straight to the telephone and called the hospital pharmacy. The pharmacist assured her that Ernie had no need for niacin, so she asked him to talk to me. I introduced myself to the man. “Sir,” I said respectfully but firmly, “I am a nutritionist and I have seen pellagra. This man has pellagra!”

          “Oh,” was the startled reply. “If that’s true, then he needs niacin!” 

          “Yes, sir!” I agreed.

          “I’ll get it ready immediately.” I could almost see him rush away from the telephone feeling the urgency of the situation.

          Delbert and I stayed with Ernie while Mary went to the hospital and obtained the niacin. Two weeks later we dropped by the house to deliver something, the nature of which I have forgotten. Ernie was sitting  in the living room surrounded by a number of guests. His depression was gone. His hands were smooth and pink like a baby’s skin.

          Two weeks later when we were in town for a longer period of time, we called to see whether we could visit. This time Mary said they had an appointment for Ernie’s checkup at the hospital that afternoon. Could we come the next day ? Of course we could.

          When we arrived at the house at the appointed time, Ernie had just finished scrubbing the floors. His checkup had given him a clean bill of health and he was eagerly awaiting our visit. The field of study that looked as though it had no future had once more brought good to God’s people. The Lord’s wise counsel to “ Seek learning by study and also by faith” had once again been justified.

         

 

 

Chapter 10

 

 

Like Precious Faith

 

 

          “You can’t go to Cornell ! Why, I would never get to New York to see you. Please make it Ames !” It was my good friend Harold responding to the news that I was leaving my work in  southeast Missouri to return to school to try to find the answers to the myriad health problems that faced our poor in the Boot Heel of Missouri. The spectacular illness of my secretary had sparked the decision to make the change. Already I had resigned my position and there was left only the decision as to where I would go. Cornell University in New York and Iowa State University at Ames each had reputable nutrition programs. With Harold’s urging, and the generous offer of an assistantship by the foods and nutrition department of the school, Iowa State won.

          Harold was a wonderful friend. We had been dating ever since we had met on an outing to Reel Foot Lake months before. We had each gone with other friends but had found so much of interest that we had in common, that our choice had been to be with each other. On one of our first dinner dates, Harold had observed , “You don’t drink. You don’t smoke. You don’t even drink coffee. That’s what attracted me to you from the first.”

          Immediately  I reasoned silently, “Here is a good opportunity to share my testimony of the Restoration with this good Methodist for whom I have such admiration.” Aloud I said, “You  know, we believe that the Lord speaks to people of this day just as he has always done. One of the revelations he has given in our day we call the Word of Wisdom. In it we are told that these things are not to be used if we want healthy bodies.”

          Harold drew himself up to his full six feet or so of height and responded, “Can’t anyone figure that our without the Lord having to tell them?”

          This young man had figured it out and was living a good, clean , healthful life. He also had a good job with the government and lived in his own beautiful southern plantation home where he kept a number of excellent riding horses which we both enjoyed. He was a boy scout leader and the superintendent of his church’s church school. So far as I could see, he had everything to recommend him as a companion for life except that he was not a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. About that I was not certain. I was already in my mid-twenties and had long been looking for a companion of “like precious faith” as my patriarchal blessing had instructed me.

           I valued the counsel of my priesthood father, so on my first trip home from Missouri’s delta land, I took my concern to him. After sharing all that I knew about my friend and advising him of the instruction of my blessing, he thoughtfully said, “Maybe he is one of like precious faith. Why don’t you give your friendship some time and see?”

          Then one Sunday morning, I was seated at the piano in the little old one room country school house just outside Sikeston where our congregation held its services. The building bore the name “Slap Out” for some long forgotten altercation that had occurred there, but for those of us living in a radius of some fifty miles from the city it was a peaceful and valued place of worship. For a long time we had only church school except on the days that  Elder Ralph Wicker was in the area. Ralph was an accountant  with  the O’Dea Finance company of Des Moines, Iowa and came into the area periodically on business. When we spotted his roadster parked in the school house yard as we approached, we always drove just a little faster in happy anticipation of his ministry for that day!

          Finally the war brought a young priest into the area. Orval Hooten was working on the air base at Malden, some forty miles away, and came to Sikeston with his family every time he was free to come . Now we had more nearly regular preaching services and a pastor.

          This morning I was waiting for him to announce the last hymn of the service when he began to speak in prophecy to the congregation .Although he did not address me by name, I was aware that some of what he said was for me. When he suddenly stopped speaking, I whirled around on the piano stool on which I was seated to look askance at him. He paid no attention to my puzzlement. He just announced the last hymn, we sang and he closed the service. After it was over, I tried to reach him to talk to him, but others had the same idea , and soon he had to rush off, hurrying to get to his work back at the base on time.

          All week I pondered Brother Hooten’s strange behavior, and when Sunday arrived, I went early to church. The young priest likewise came early. When I announced that I had come early to talk with him, he assured me that was the very reason he had come early- to talk to me. I asked, ,”Why didn’t you complete the message you had from the Lord last Sunday?” He responded , “Because the rest was so personal that I thought you would rather have it given in private.”

          Brother Hooten did not know that I was planning to leave the best job I had ever had to return to school. My father thought I was foolish. My supervisor assured me that I would never get a position that paid so well. And I knew it would mean selling my car to finance the endeavor. That in itself didn’t look really smart during war time when cars were not easily available . I had been praying for direction. In his public prophetic ministry, the Lord had assured me that He was directing my life. Now He wanted me to know that He had seen my loneliness and my desire for a companion. He wanted me to know that if I would be patient, he would give me His servant to be my companion , one with whom I could build a happy, Zionic home.

          After I entered school at Ames, Harold came to visit me there, and we enjoyed every minute of our time together. After I finished my Master’s Degree  and was employed by the University Extension as a Foods  and Nutrition Specialist with responsibilities all over the state, he met me when I was working near the Missouri and Illinois border. We attended church  services at Nauvoo, spent the day with the principal guides there and had a wonderful time recalling the beginnings of the church to which I belonged. When time for the World Conference approached, we made plans to meet in Independence for the first weekend of that event. When it became apparent that he would be there before I could make it, I made arrangements for my sister to be his hostess until I could arrive.

          By the time I arrived ,Harold had about all of conference that he wanted, and he had made arrangements for us to go to Graceland farms south of Independence on Sunday morning to look at some Arabian horses in which he was interested. I went without protest, but it was then that I knew that this was not the person of like precious faith with whom I could make a Zionic home. As soon as I returned home, I thanked him for his friendship and advised him to look for another to be his special friend.

          Then I waited for the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. There were long years of loneliness. Oh, I had many friends and was constantly busy with people in my work and in the church, but many a night as I drove from one county seat to another miles away in preparation for the next day’s work, I looked at families I could see gathered around the supper table or on the lawns of their homes and wondered when I would  ever have a family with whom I could spend an evening.

          During the time I was working on my degree at Iowa State , I was asked to go to the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital one summer to serve as an assistant to Vera Goff, hospital dietitian, during the time her regular assistant was away furthering her education. During that time, I often heard two of the cooks talking about the imminent return from the south Pacific of one of their family who had been serving there during the war. They described him as a tall red head named Smith. My sister, who knew something of the young soldier, advised me that he was a little strange.

          After the summer was over, I stopped at Graceland College to see my young friend who was once my secretary. She pointed out a tall young red haired man by the name of Smith who, the rumor was, had just returned from the South Pacific war.  He had an immense shock of curly red hair and a full, bushy, equally red beard that , it was said, was grown in service and had just  been cut. Immediately I identified him with the Smith about whom I had been hearing at the San.

          Soon after my return to Ames, I received a letter from Lauree. She had met this wonderful man with the bushy red beard and curly red hair. It was rumored that he was engaged, but, she wondered, would it be all right for her to invite him to one of her house functions? I supposed it would be all right, but I prayed she would not get involved with such a strange one. In fact, by now I almost had him labeled as a kook!

          Lauree invited him, and the evening was a wonderful success. Now she hoped he would reciprocate. I prayed for her safety! He did ask her out once to return the favor of her evening of entertainment, and she was elated. He never asked again , and she was terribly disappointed. I was thankful!

          That year went by and with the opening from of the next fall semester, a large influx of students arrived at Iowa State from Graceland. I was a little late at the first service of the church group, and when I entered room 222 of Memorial Union where we met, there was a tall, clean shaven red head giving one of the most exciting worship talks I had witnessed in a long time. I listened with great interest when I learned that his name was Smith. When he was positively identified as the Smith who had so excited Lauree, I launched out on a project to make up for the times I had discouraged her interest in the man.

          My letters now highly recommended the young serviceman, whom I now knew to also be a priest in the church; and when he passed through Kansas City where she was working on his way home for Christmas, I gave him her address and asked that he visit her while he waited for his bus. He made the visit, and I was elated, certain that I had made retribution for the part I had played in keeping them apart at Graceland. Lauree wrote that she had enjoyed the visit but found it especially interesting to hear the way he talked about me and the way I talked about  him. By then she had another interest.

          My admiration for the young priest grew with every experience we shared in ministry or in social situations. If Lauree was no longer interested in him as a companion, perhaps my younger sister would be. Accordingly, I invited Winnie to spend a weekend with us in Ames. They had known another for an entire year at Graceland and had no romantic interest in each  other. I was disappointed.

          Delbert and five other young men, all priesthood members except one, rented rooms in one house and had to eat out on Sundays. It became almost routine for the group to come to my apartment one Sunday  for dinner and then for them to take me out to dinner the next. One day as we were all walking across campus beside Lake LaVerne, something was said about  my having gone bowling with one of the other young church members. Suddenly, Delbert, who had seen me as an older professional woman in contrast to his own youthful student status, realized that I just might be an eligible date.

          From that day on, the young priest and I spent more time without the others present, and soon I began to realize this could well be the Lord’s servant, one of like precious faith, for whom the Lord has advised me to wait. When, several months later, he asked me to be his companion for life, the only hesitancy I had was that I was a few years his senior .When that difference seemed no longer to be of significance, we were married. After forty five years, five children and seventeen grandchildren, we still share that like precious faith that has made our home as nearly Zionic as I could ever have hoped it would be.

          Interestingly enough, there was a testimony of God’s love even in dimming the significance of the years between us. Years earlier, when we had no knowledge of each other, we had both planned to attend a youth conference at Graceland College. Delbert was going as a high school student participant, I as a young professional on staff. I was traveling  from southeast Missouri by bus. As I disembarked at the Kansas City station, I was  being paged. My grandmother had died and I was to go home instead of to Lamoni. Had we met then, there would have been such an apparent difference in our ages that probably we might never have considered each other for life long companions. That must have been why the Lord asked me to be patient and wait!

 

 

Chapter 11

 

Blessed By The Spirit

 

 

          The Farwest Stake Conference convened at First church in St. Joseph, Mo. that year with Apostle Arthur Oakman as our guest minister. The conference was usually well attended, but when Apostle Oakman was with us, the congregation was always extra large .When I arrived, every seat on the main floor was occupied and I was ushered to a place on the far north side of the balcony. There I sat reverently as the worship service proceeded and Brother Oakman began to preach.        

          The sermon seemed to come straight from the throne of God. All around me people wept tears of joy in response  to the Spirit they felt emanating from the servant of God speaking from the pulpit.

          But I had no tears of joy. I felt left out of the blessing that was being enjoyed by so many others. I could only wonder why it was that  amidst all this outpouring of the Spirit, all I could do was to remember every bad thing that I had ever done, even back to the time when as a small child I had deliberately said hurtful things to my grandmother in retaliation for some disciplinary action she had taken with me. It was a devastating experience! If I could have shed tears, they would have been tears of bitter disappointment with myself and humble repentance, but my eyes were dry and my heart was heavy.

          All of a sudden, ‘Brother Oakman seemed to interrupt his sermon. Looking directly toward my corner of the balcony, he lifted his index finger and shook it in my direction as he exclaimed, “It is the Spirit of God that  reminds us of our sins!”  I was getting my share of that beautiful Spirit that pervaded the sanctuary that day. And since that day, I have thanked the Lord each time He has reminded me of the things in my life for which I need to repent and of the One who takes away those sins and makes me glad again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SEVENTY AND HIS FAMILY

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Facing Oscar’s Death

 

 

          “ Oscar’s been shot! Oscar’s been shot!” shouted young Tim Rand as he bounded through the kitchen door of the farm house in which Delbert and I and our baby son were dinner guests. The Rand family had asked for baptism and the seventy had come to make arrangements for the service.

          Stunned silence greeted Tim’s proclamation. We all sat frozen in our places as though under some strange hypnotic spell.

          “Oscar’s been shot!” declared  Tim emphatically. Obviously he felt the need to goad somebody into action.

          “Oscar?” Delbert inquired surveying the bewildered family. He could only suppose that Oscar must be the prized bull that presided over the herd of dairy cattle Tim had been milking.

          “Who’s Oscar?” Delbert persisted.

          “Oscar is my brother!” Lester Rand sobbed the reply.

          The spell was broken. Dinner was forgotten as the family scrambled from the table and surrounded Tim, plying him with questions. “Who shot him? “”How did it happen?” “ Is he dead?”

          “Joe shot him. His best friend! My brother Joe shot him!”  For the first time we were aware that there were others than the family present. Dave and Nan Westerly and Oscar’s wife, Vivian, were right behind Tim. It was they who had brought the news.

          “We don’t know whether he is dead! We don’t know where Joe is! Oh, we will be the next on his list!” wailed the distraught Dave. “Haven’t you got something to drink? I need a drink!” Dave sobbed in desperation and self pity at the thought of his crazed brother hunting him down and killing him next!

          By this time Lester had begun to comprehend something of the seriousness of the situation. “Don’t know whether he is dead?” he shouted. “Why don’t you know whether he is dead?” The demand was almost an accusation, and pandemonium broke loose. Everyone talked at once and no one made any sense.

          “Del,” I whispered, “You’d better take over. That man may need help, and these people  are too upset to think clearly.”

          “Tell me,” the seventy spoke quietly but authoritatively as he moved quickly to Vivian’s side and touched  her arm reassuringly. “Where is Oscar?”

          “He’s in a ditch beside of the road.” Vivian shifted her shoulders slightly as though grateful to let another bear part of her burden.

          “Is he dead?” Del continued questioning.

          “I don’t know.” Vivian was gaining some of her composure. “I was afraid to  go near him for fear Joe might be waiting for me , too.”

          “Can you  tell me right where he is so I can see if he needs help?”

          “I’ll take you there.” Vivian’s eyes lighted with anticipation of knowing whether Oscar might still be alive as she turned and ran from the house with Del following close behind.

          Overhearing Vivian’s offer, Tim charged ahead of them both. “I know where he is, “ he shouted. ”I’ll take you there!”

          “Don’t you have anything to drink?” Dave demanded again. “I’ve got to have a drink!”

          “Nothing.” Lester brushed the demand aside. “Now tell me what happened!”

          “Joe has been acting strange lately.” It was Nan who spoke. They took him to Dr. Wakeman yesterday, and he said he should be sent to the hospital. The doctor was making the arrangements.”

          “But what happened between him and Oscar? Oscar was his best friend!”

          “Nobody knows,” Dave forgot his own fears long enough to reply. “We just know that Vivian saw Joe in the north pasture with a shotgun early this afternoon. She didn’t think anything of it. Just suppose he was hunting. But when Oscar didn’t come home for supper she drove the truck out to find him.”

          “ The tractor was still in the field,” Nan broke in.

          “But she found Oscar in a ditch beside the road,” Dave added.

          “He must have climbed the fence to talk to Joe, “ Nan conjectured. ‘         “He was Joe’s best friend!” Dave was getting upset again. “He’ll be after me next. I’ve got to have something ! Don’t you have something to settle  a man’s nerves?” He looked pleadingly at Suzie Rand this time as Lester turned thoughtfully away oblivious to the distraught man’s plea.

          “All I have is aspirin.” Suzie spoke solicitously.

“That will do!” Dave and Nan  chorused eagerly.

          Suzie produced the bottle of aspirin. The Westerlys swallowed huge quantities of the pills!

          “I’m not staying here, “ Dave announced suddenly. “Joe could be anywhere, and I know he will be gunning for me!”

          “Where will you go?”  I asked, speaking to them for the first time.

          “Anywhere!” responded Dave. “We’ll just get into the car and drive. We won’t let anyone know where we are so Joe can’t find us!”

          With that, the Westerlys, fortified with aspirin, drove away in Oscar’s car.

          Lester suddenly declared, “I’m going out there where Oscar is.  Brother Smith may need help!”

          Don’t you  think the sheriff should be notified?” I asked.” And maybe you should take a doctor.”

          “Sure! Sure!” Lester rubbed his forehead in the gesture of a man trying to awaken from sleep. “Why didn’t  I think of that before?”  and he headed for the telephone that hung on the kitchen wall.

          “ I want to go with you ,Dad, “ twelve year old Lester, Jr. spoke urgently.

          “No, son. I’ll take Mother with me. You stay here and bring the sheriff when he comes. He won’t know where to go.

          Reluctantly Junior agreed.

          As soon as his parents left the house, Junior sprang into feverish activity. He slammed the front door shut and barred it securely. Then he went from window to window closing each with a band and turning the latch to make sure each was secure. The stifling heat of the midsummer Wisconsin evening was quickly apparent as one source of breeze after another was closed off.

          “What are you doing?” I finally questioned.

          “Gonna make it so that man can’t come in here and get us!” Junior declared firmly.

          “Don’t you know he has a gun? “ I asked quietly. “If he wanted to get us, he wouldn’t have to come in. Shutting the windows can’t keep out bullets!”

          “Then what’ll we do?” Near panic had seized the boy with the departure of his parents.

          “God can protect us.” I spoke reassuringly. “Shall we ask Him?”

          “Don’t know how.” Junior was not convinced.

          “I’ll show you how.” I volunteered.  “ Would you like that?”

          “Yeah!” was the terse reply.

          The frightened twelve year old and I knelt beside a chair in the living room of the Rand house and prayed. We prayed for protection from Joe, but we also prayed for Joe and Oscar and for all those who were trying to care for the needs of  both. Tension drained from Junior as we prayed, and he went about readmitting the cooling breeze to the house and awaiting calmly the arrival of the sheriff whose guide he was to be.

          In the meantime Delbert drove cautiously as the car neared the cut in the road where Vivian had spotted Oscar in the ditch. He had not moved. Urging Vivian to stay in the car, Delbert and Tim hurried to Oscar’s side. There was no need for haste nor for a doctor. The shotgun blast had exploded at close range and the hole through his neck and shoulder would easily have admitted a baseball, but still Delbert reached for a pulse. There was none.

          “Is he…?” It was Vivian close behind the seventy, emboldened by his presence and no longer able to wait to know if Oscar was alive.

          “He’s dead!” Del turned to look at her, and Vivian saw for the first time the extent  of the wound.

          “Oh!” Vivian gasped, and Delbert guided her gently back to the car.

          “Wonder what really happened, “ Tim  queried when Del returned.

          “Oscar’s body must have rolled down that bank,” my husband mused, noting the crushed grass above the body. Without a word, Tim scrambled up the bank to investigate.

          “Here’s Joe!” Tim’s excited voice was almost incredulous. “Here’s Joe!”  he repeated.

          “Don’t touch anything.” Del advised as he joined Tim atop the rise.

          On a little knoll some ten feet from the fence Joe’s body lay sprawled beside his gun. After he had shot Oscar, he apparently had knelt beside his gun. The blast from his second barrel had shorn away one side of his face and head and had shredded his hat. There was no reason for fear or caution. Joe would never hurt anyone again.

          “Let’s go back to the car and tell Vivian,” Del suggested, and the two men turned away from the gory sight.

          While Del and Tim were on the knoll, Lester and Suzie joined Vivian in the roadway below.

          “Someone will have to tell Joe’s mother.’ Suzie reminded them when they wee certain that Joe was dead.

          “You wait here for the sheriff,” Del proposed, “and Tim can show me the way to Mrs. Westerly’s.”

          The light of the long summer evening was almost spent as Tim and the seventy approached the Westerly home. The house was dark and the doors were locked up tight. Madge Westerly lay on the couch ill and horribly frightened. Before they completely left the area, Nan had called to tell her that her son had shot Oscar. She had heard no more. Where was Joe? Would he try to kill her , too? Maybe her other sons could help! She had called them, then made the house as secure as she could and lay down to wait.

          Delbert’s knock and identifying call brought her to the door, visibly comforted to have someone with her. Even the news of her son’s death brought relief from the awful, fearful waiting.

          Soon lights in the lane indicated that someone else was coming….probably some of the family she had called. Halfway up the lane, the car suddenly reversed and backed away.

          “They’re afraid,” Madge said. “They’re afraid Joe may be waiting here for them , too.”

          “Where’s the switch to the yard light?” Delbert thought quickly. “Turn it on and I’ll go stand in the light so they will know it’s all right to come on in.“

          Assured by the sight of the seventy standing in the circle of light, Madge’s sons drove up the lane and joined their mother.

          Back at the Rand house, Lester was worried about his parents and Oscar’s . “I can’t tell the folks, “ he confided. “They have to know, but I can’t tell them ! Brother Smith, would you tell them for me?”

          “Of course I will,” Del responded reassuringly. “They’re probably in bed by now.” The seventy knew the faithful old couple, well into their eighties  now, usually retired early. “But we’ll go by on our way home.”

          I was feeding baby Alan when the seventy’s car drove into the senior Rand drive. “You go on in , Del,” I suggested. “I’ll stay in the car with the baby.”

          I heard the knock at the door. I heard and saw the joyous welcome of the octogenarians as they recognized the seventy. Then I heard Delbert say, “I’m afraid I am not bringing  good news tonight, Brother and Sister Rand. Oscar has been shot and killed.’”

          I held my breath, remembering how hysterical some of Joe’s family had become at the news. This time there was a moment of stunned silence as before. Then dear old Brother Rand questioned quietly, “Oscar? Oscar Dead?” and Sister Rand reached for the seventy’s arm. As she pulled him gently inside the kitchen she asked, “Brother Smith, will you pray with us?”

          It was that simple! There was no panic, no hysteria, no effort to escape from the awful reality of the seventy’s message! By reason of their long association with their Lord, they simply turned to Him for strength in their time of helpless need.

          I listened wonderingly as the beginning of Delbert’s prayer drifted through the open door. In my mind’s eye I could see the three of them kneeling in earnest  supplication before the one they knew would supply all of their needs. What a contrast to those who turned rather to the oblivion of drink or drugs or to the dubious security of running away!

          A thrill of gratitude ran through my body as I pressed our little one close and prayed, “ Oh, God, please make him and us instruments in  your hands to bring such peace to all the peoples of the earth who will respond to the love of thy son, in whose name I pray. Amen!”

 

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Through the Locked Door

 

 

          It was the winter of 1954. The seventy and his family were comfortably housed in the ground floor of a substantial duplex located on Oliver Avenue North in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The owner of the building, a widower of a number of years, occupied the upper floor. The back door of the building opened into a hallway from which the Smiths entered their kitchen and Mr. Steinberger mounted the stairs to his quarters. The front doors were separate and each opened onto a broad screened- in front porch.

          On the night  of this unusual occurrence, Delbert had taken our three boys and me to church in the church car. That in itself was unusual. Most of the time, the seventy was out in his mission field and we were without transportation. The five or so blocks to the church were then traversed on foot!

          When the seventy was at home, the church car was almost always parked in the drive behind the house. So it was natural that we had exited the house by the back door on our way to the church. The front door was secured by a combination lock that included a dead bolt.

          While we were away, Mr. Steinberger came home. As was his custom, he entered by the back door. As was also his custom at eventide, he locked the back screen, closed and locked the back door and fitted a heavy bar into brackets attached to the casings at the sides of the door to make certain that no one entered that part of the house after dark.

          Knowing there would be no possibility of entering the house by the back door, when our family come home from church, Delbert parked on the street and prepared for us to take the children into the house through the only entrance  available to us, the front door. When we reached the door, however, we could not find the key. We searched every pocket  each of us had. There was no key. We emptied my purse. There was no key! Without the key, there was no entrance into the house!

          Thinking that the key might have been dropped at the church, we returned  and searched the parts of the church that we had occupied . Hard as  we looked, we could find no key! Again we parked on the street desperately trying to think of a way that we might gain entrance to the house. I stayed in the car with the children while Delbert went again and tried the door on some vague hope that it just might not have been locked after all. It was locked!

          We knew that Mr. Steinberger would be sound asleep in bed by this time and would not look kindly upon any interruption of his sleep. We had experienced his fury at being disturbed once before and were certain we did not want to irritate him in any way. The duplex was the only home we could find that was near enough to the church that I could walk with the three little ones aged four, two and a few months. Delbert was away  in the mission field three of every four weeks, and since the church did not allow appointees to have a personal  car at that time, the family walked.

          Retaining the apartment was a financial necessity as well. All other places we had seen cost at least one hundred and ten dollars a month. This one rented for only seventy-five. To awaken Mr. Steinberger was to risk both convenience and finance. That was not a viable option!

          Delbert tried the door again. It was as firmly closed against his entry as before. He then returned to the car, took out some of his tools, and headed for the front porch.

          “What are you going to do?” I was alarmed. Certainly any  damage to the premises would be viewed with even greater fury by our landlord than being awakened!

          “I am going to see if I can open a window.” My husband explained.

          “They’re all locked, too.” We both knew that the windows were fitted into deep grooves as a protection against the cold Minnesota winters. There was no way they could be pried open!

          “I know! “ Delbert did not sound hopeful. “But I have to do something! I guess I will just have to take off the sash!”

          “Oh , no! “ My remonstrance was almost a prayer. “If you do that , he will surely hear you! Please __!” I had no other suggestion to make!

          Seeing no alternative, Delbert proceeded toward the window with his tools.

          Just then baby Steven began to cry. It was getting cold in the car, and the children needed to be in bed. In desperate faith, I bowed my head and asked  the Father in the name of His Son to give the family entrance into the house. Then I laid the baby on the car seat and started for the house myself.

          “Where are you going?” Delbert questioned, his tools poised to begin removal of the window sash.

          “I am going into the  house!” I replied firmly.

          “But the door is locked!” Delbert protested.

          “I know the door is locked.” I responded as I reached for the door knob.

          This time the knob turned freely and the door swung open as easily as though it had never been locked.

          Quickly the seventy returned his tools to the car trunk while I picked up baby Steven and together  we hustled the children into the house. Delbert, always the gentleman, was the last to pass through the door.

          “Come here, Mildred,’ he called. “Look at this lock!”

          I looked. The bar, fully an inch from top to bottom , was protruding from the open door, still in the locked position. “There is no way I can close the door until I unlock it!’ Delbert declared.

          For a moment  we both stared at the extended bar as the realization of the magnitude of the miracle God had just performed in our behalf became etched into our consciousness. We remembered how the great iron gate of a prison had swung open for Peter in response to the prayers of the Saints and knew we were dealing with the same God who had freed his servant so long ago. Then with a whoop the seventy gathered me up into his arms and hugged me joyously before he turned the lock back into the door and closed it.

          We found the keys to the house  behind the pillow on the divan where four year old Alan had been playing with my purse before church. Prayers of thanksgiving continue to  this day!

         

 

 

Chapter 14

 

Two Dreams and a Radish Bag

 

         

          We were on our way to our new assignment. It had come as a complete surprise as most assignments did in those days. Delbert read the first letter from President W. Wallace Smith with dismay. “Your request for  time off to complete your Master’s Degree thesis had been denied,” it read.

          How could the church officials make such a decision? When we had been asked to take the mission field early in the summer of 1951 , Delbert had been assured that if he would serve at the summer camps, he would  be given ample time to complete his thesis for his Master’s Degree after camps were finished. He had already completed his course work and had done much of his research for his thesis. The argument was that we would be right there with the University of Minnesota and so have an adequate library for him to use in the completion of the work. When we got into the field, however, it was a different story. Apostle Chesworth was new in his position and apparently had never heard of the assurances given to Delbert concerning his thesis. Instead, his decree was three weeks working in the field and one week, still working, at home- no exceptions!

          So it was  that four years later, Delbert had not had time to work on his thesis and he was anxious to get the work completed before his five year grace period ran out. His request for some time for the work was denied outright ,and we were a little distressed. Then two weeks later we received another letter from President W. Wallace Smith explaining that we had already been assigned to Hawaii before the request for time  was received. He assured Delbert that the officials were certain he was doing his work well without a master’s degree!

          Before we received the second letter, however, each of us had an unusual dream. Delbert dreamed that he was standing talking with Brother H.I. Velt and someone else at General Conference when the person to whom he was talking asked if he knew that he was being assigned to a new field with that man, pointing to a man whom Del later learned was Sylvester Coleman. He did not know where we were being moved until we got Brother Smith’s letter and his dream was confirmed when the Coleman family was named at Conference.

          In my dream, I saw our family arriving at a new home with only our suitcases- no furniture. The house we were to occupy was built high off the ground so that we had to climb many steps to get into the living quarters. I saw it painted a sort of buff color with the church situated down the street to the east painted the same color. Inside the living quarters I saw a lot of people visiting but only one piece of furniture, an old divan.

          At the conference of 1956 the Smith family was assigned to Hawaii along with the Sylvester Coleman family, as  Delbert had dreamed. As soon as we met Apostle Farrow after our assignment was announced, I asked Brother Farrow about the mission house. He told me it was built high off the ground. We had to mount a long stairway to reach our living area, and there was only one piece of furniture in the house - an old divan. Together he and I would furnish the  house when we got there.

          On our way to Hawaii, we visited Delbert’s brothers and their families in Wenatchee, WA. For our trip to California, from where we were to ship the car and fly to the Islands, our sister-in -law Laudell packed us a lunch. In that lunch were radishes in a plastic bag--a bag that  proved to be the instrument of a miracle.

          We were stalled in a rainstorm along a long stretch of desolate highway traveling south through Oregon forests. With a very small measure of hope, Delbert got out of the car and opened up the hood. When nothing he could do was at all effective, he climbed back inside and we prayed for help. Very soon a man stopped. Delbert watched while he took off a glass gizmo, declared that there was dirt in the gas line, did something inside where that piece of glass had been, replaced the glass and had us start the car. All went fine for about 5 miles- then the car stopped again and again we were stalled.

          By now it was raining much harder. Of the very few cars that appeared, not one stopped. Confident that he had learned what to do from our benefactor, Del again opened the hood, took off the glass gizmo, which turned out to be the cover for the carburetor, and laid it on the fender while he worked. Suddenly there was a great blast of rain. Delbert hurriedly retreated to the car and slammed the door. The glass cover plummeted to the pavement and shattered!

          Again we resorted to prayer. This time no one came along to help. When the rain abated, Delbert picked up the shattered glass and tried to piece the cover together. The pieces almost fit, but there was no way to keep them in place. Finally I thought of the radish bag and asked if it might work as a replacement for the broken glass. Del was willing to try. We emptied the radish bag and replaced the carburetor cover with broken glass, the radish bag and a rubber band. Wonder of wonders it worked! You can imagine the surprise of the face of the mechanic, when we finally reached one, when he saw that plastic bag! God can use some unusual ways to answer our prayers, and we have always been thankful for that radish bag!

          With Brother Farrow’s confirmation of our living quarters in Hawaii, I was certain we would find the house of my dream when we arrived at Hilo. When we saw the house, however, some of the elements  of my dream were missing. There was a  long flight of stairs to the living quarters where there was an old divan, but the house was white, the stairs were at one side of the house instead of all the way across the front as I had seen them, and 88 Manulele Street was a long way up the mountain from the Ululani Street church. I was puzzled until the first Sunday after church. Our pastor, Miguel de la Cruz, and his wife, Ludi, took us sightseeing. One of the first places they showed us was a house at the west end of Ululani Street. “This is the first mission house on the Island,” they announced enthusiastically. There was the house of my dream with the right façade of steps and in the right position with respect  to the buff colored church down the street.

          Before our mission in the Islands was finished, Delbert was certain that experience was of far greater worth to his ministry than any academic degree. The church officials had been wise in asking him to forgo the completion of his master’s thesis.

 

 

Chapter 15

 

“Whoso Treasureth Up My Words”

 

 

          My friend was a good woman whose greatest hope was to help build Zion. Her elder husband was a good man who was very busy helping to make a living for his young family. He was involved with the Scouts with his son. He was the children’s pastor at church, and regularly participated in other priesthood duties. His wife, however, felt that he should also be conducting cottage meetings and otherwise speeding the coming kingdom.

          The day came when they needed some remodeling done in their home. I began to get letters about the priesthood man  whom they had employed to do the work. He was described as so much like Jesus that it was a thrill to have him in their home. Letter after letter told of his Christ like demeanor and of the prophetic messages he was delivering to the family, but more specifically to her. I was very anxious to meet such a person.

          When I did meet him, I was shocked! The only resemblance to Jesus Christ that I could see was that he was a male! His dress was indiscreet. His manner toward my friend was possessive and manipulative. I was frightened for her and her family! When I expressed my concern , however, she steadfastly affirmed that I was mistaken. She knew that he was sent from God to bless their home!

          I was told of experience after experience that was supposed to confirm the spirituality of the man. One overt expression of his prophetic nature was to have happened one day when he arrived for work asking,  ”Where is your diamond?” My friend extended her ring finger to show him the diamond, but it was not there. The setting was empty!”

          “That’s all right.” the man assured her. “The Lord has shown me where it is.” She followed his direction and found the diamond just where he said the Lord had told him it would be found.

          One day my friend told me that she and the man were making plans for their missionary work together in the future. “How can that be?” I remonstrated. ”You have a husband and he has a wife!”

          “Oh , the Lord has taken care of that, “ she said with a smile. “My husband and his wife are both going to die. We already have plans made for our new home! ”and she told me of their plans for a beautiful home complete with a room for cottage meetings with a children’s play room near by. The intent was that they could attend to both prospective members of Christ’s church and their children at the same time. “He says we will be the greatest missionary team the church has ever had!” she announced happily.

          At that I really protested. “haven’t you read your scriptures lately?” I questioned, the shock vibrating in my voice. “You know that the Lord is not in the business of breaking up families!”

          “You don’t  understand!” she protested. “This is not to break up families. God is taking care of that! Besides I know that what we are doing is approved by God. I have more spiritual power than I have ever had in all of my life !”

          “Shouldn’t  you be comparing what you are doing with what is written in the scriptures?” I protested.

          “Oh, I am fasting and praying about it, and the Lord is confirming our way.”

          The next time I was in town, I happened to see my friend’s doctor who was also a mutual friend. “Have you  seen Merna lately?” He inquired . “She has lost a lot of weight. She looks wonderful!”  

          Actually she had lost a lot of weight. Instead of the one hundred and sixty pounds at which she had begun this chapter in her life, she now weighed one hundred and twenty five. She had fasted from all foods but liquids for forty days to be more like the Master. She had even attended  large dinner meetings and banquets related to her profession but had refused to eat the food set before her. She said it was embarrassing, but she recalled the scripture that asked whether we should obey man or God . She intended to obey God!

          She came to a reunion at which I was teaching. One afternoon we sat on  my bed and talked. She had already borne her testimony that she had feared the trip to the camp because it required changes in busses and she was not accustomed to such travel. The carpenter had comforted her telling her that she had no need to fear. The angels would accompany her and keep her safe. It was her testimony that they had done just that.

          Now she was relating more information that he had given her. One incident that he had asked her to recall was a time that she was walking to her country school. He asked her to remember that a man met her, riding a horse. He said the man was he, and that it was at that time that the Lord told him she was made for him. He had waited all of this time for her!

          At that I exploded. “He’s a devil!” I exclaimed between clenched teeth. She expressed her sorrow that I was so spiritually impoverished that I could not understand the ways of the Lord.

          A few weeks later we were walking through the streets of her city and she was again extolling the marvelous virtues of this prophetic carpenter. She did admit that there was a time when she had had some questions about his directions. He was working with her husband on an open scaffolding that was quite high in the air. Since her husband was crippled, he suggested that it would not be hard for him to fall! The thought of murder frightened her for a moment; but she soon dismissed the fear believing that awful thought was just hers. She had just imagined that what the carpenter meant was not Christ like!

          Finally I said, calling her by name,  “Have you had sexual intercourse with this man?” She immediately replied, “NO!”

          Two days later I received a letter from my friend. “It was not until I lied that I realized that it was not  the Spirit of God who was directing us, “ she wrote, “I am not in the habit of lying!”

          My friend called a priest whom she could trust, and he accompanied her and her husband to the office of the president of the church. There she retold her story and confessed her adultery.  The prophet called in the errant  priesthood member. He was silenced and his position as president of one of the local quorums was removed. Her husband forgave her, and together they raised their beautiful family, relying on only those spiritual experiences that could be supported by the written word!

          It was recorded that Jesus Christ responded to the inquiry of His disciples”- what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” with a vivid description of the events of that coming day and with a caution resident in these words, found in verse 39 of the 24th. chapter of Matthew, “And whoso treasureth up my words shall not be deceived.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

Birth Customs Changed By The Gospel

 

 

          “I wonder if I could get that information from Marian.” I was talking to our Japanese pastor’s wife by phone about some data I needed for official records. Marian was our church secretary.

          “Oh , do not ask her now!” Mildred’s concerned voice cautioned me. “You would insult her whole family!”

          “What do you mean, I would insult her family?” I questioned in surprise. “She is the secretary, is she not? And the information is not secret!”

          “Oh, but her baby was just born….”

          “I know, “ I interrupted. “We have been wondering whose baby would arrive first. Her Kevin made it a little before our Karen, but what does that have to do with my asking for information from the secretary?” This was something new in the culture of the islands of which our missionary family was not aware, and I was eager to learn more.

          “That is what I was about to explain. “ Sister Nii reminded me of my interruption gently. “For thirty three days after a Japanese woman gives birth to her baby, she is not to use even her eyes for anything but her baby. For her to look into the records for you now would be unthinkable.”

          “Was that why someone else was taking care of Michael the other day when we went to visit/” Delbert and I had talked about how strange it seemed that the two year old always went to someone other than his mother.

          “Yes, and that is why Kokichi was so surprised when he found you doing the laundry when he and Carole came to bring you a gift for your baby.

How old was Karen that day? “

          “Five days, I guess.” I confessed, “ but I did feel fine and the laundry had to be done. There was no one else to do it.” I justified my actions.

          “But the traditional Japanese could never allow it.” Sister Nii assured me tactfully.

          “Maybe that explains something else we have wondered about. When we went to visit Reiko after her baby was born, we found her and the baby secluded in a rough room under the house.” I  recalled my amazement at being ushered  from the cheery, beautifully furnished  living quarters, down through the floorless area under the house where the laundry was hung to dry. Delbert had even held the clean wet clothes aside for me to pass. Finally we were conducted into the dreary  room equipped only with an  old fashioned bed, a crib and a rough chest. “Reiko seemed terribly glad to see us.’ I was sympathetic with the young mother and concerned. “And she did not seem to want us to leave. She wanted to know everything about everybody as though she had  been isolated even from news.”

          “Well, she has no telephone in her room, and her folks are Buddhists . They know very few of the church people. She is not allowed to read, so I expect she was completely isolated from all of the recent happenings, especially of the church.

          “But you were not closeted away when your children were born, were you?” Custom or not, this was something I could not understand.

          “No, but I have been in the church a long time, you know.” Mildred explained. “That is the old way. I am surprised that her parents took you to her. Most families have changed as more of the young ones have become Christian, but the old way was to keep the mother and her baby completely isolated under the  house, or in some out of the way place, for thirty three days before they were allowed back with the family or anyone else.

          “Doesn’t anyone come to see her?” I was perturbed.

          “Oh yes, they bring her food and fresh clothing and linens. But she is not to do anything but attend to the baby’s needs.”

          I was still puzzled about such a strange practice when Delbert and I went to visit another young mother who  had just given birth.

          “Please, Sister Smith, talk to my mother,’ Yoshiko begged. “They insist that I eat only chicken cooked in liquor and eggs preserved in vinegar for a whole month!”

          “Is that why your aunt was cleaning all of those chickens down by the door when we came in ?” Delbert was curious when he saw the large array of fouls being plucked.

          “That is my food for the month!” Yoshiko nodded and her nose curled at the thought of it. “I  am sure it is not adequate for either baby or me.” Yoshiko was a university graduate and had a fairly good understanding of the nutritional needs of nursing mothers.

          “What else do you get?” I was making notes. I was quite sure once Yoshiko’s mother saw the nutrients that would be missing from such a limited diet, there would be no real problem convincing her that the old custom might not be valid today. I was still surprised at Yoshiko’s answer.

          “Nothing!” The young mother shrugged. “Nothing but rice.”

          “And fruit? “ I was sure  that our hostess was so accustomed to the luscious and abundant tropical fruits that she had just forgotten to mention them.

          “Not a bite!” Yoshiko was emphatic. “Not even an orange or a papaya!” The anxious young woman noted the fruits ripening within sight of her window. “Neither fruits nor vegetables of any kind. Just chicken boiled in liquor, eggs preserved in  vinegar and rice.” She reiterated the strange diet and emphasized it’s strict  limits.

          I took the information home and carefully compared the nutrients available with those recommended for a nursing mother. Then I went to visit the concerned young mother’s mother.

          “Yoshiko asked me to talk to you about her food, now that the baby is here, “ I explained timidly, hoping and praying that I would not offend this highly intelligent and in so many ways modern woman. I had made a chart of many of the nutritional needs of a nursing mother and beside it I had placed the nutrients of the chicken, egg and rice diet.

          The gentle Japanese -American was shocked at the discrepancies that the chart disclosed. “If she could have some fruits and vegetables and milk,  they could do a lot to fill in the missing nutrients,” I explained, not even trying to change the basic diet that had been prepared. I t might get a bit monotonous, but would certainly provide good basics.

          “I am getting to eat with the family,’ Yoshiko announced happily the next time the seventy and I visited her. “Thanks a lot.”

          “The gospel changes more than just spirits. “ Delbert and I mused as we thanked the Lord for our new understandings and for the changes the gospel was making in those who received it. We were especially thankful at this time that it was liberating young Japanese women from burdensome customs that must one time have served a valid purpose in their culture.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 17

 

 

Hawaiian  Christmas Party  Celebrates Christ

 

 

          The Christmas party for the Saints in Hilo, Hawaii was to be held at the Waikea Kai Mission. It would be the first time the seventy had celebrated this holiday with the multicultural congregation.  Many of the Saints from the older congregation that met on Ululani Street had known the Christ for generations, but the congregation at the Waikea Kai Mission was different. Many of the young ones there were first generation Christian as well as first generation Saints. Some of them  had only come to know the Christ during the previous year. They had never experienced a celebration of this sort for their  newly found Savior. Many would be there whose families still treasured the pronouncements of the Buddha, and could still not believe there was another better way. 

          “What shall we do to make this Christmas party a real celebration of the Christ?” Delbert asked as we began to look toward the coming event. We wanted it to be fun for all ages, as well for those long acquainted with the Savior as for those just learning to know him.

          “Will  Santa Claus be there?” It was Glen, the little Japanese neighbor boy who had heard the words, “Christmas party” who wanted to know.

          Glen had just come in  from his Japanese lesson and had announced happily, ‘I can sing a Japanese Christmas song.”

          “Oh, “ I responded eagerly. “Please sing it for us!”

          Enthusiastically  his clear soprano voice began, “Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!”

          “No”, I assured Glen. “Santa will not be there . This party is to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ”.

          “Jesus  who ?” It was apparent that Glen did not yet know the real significance of Christmas. It was for youngsters like him that we wanted this party to be special.

          We could tell the story of the Christ’s birth with colored slides. They would all like that. Colored slides were fairly new to most of the people, and Delbert’s had never before been shown to either congregation. Slides of Christ’s birth would be a part of the evening’s agenda.

          “Did you  ever play Bible  baseball?” The seventy had a budding idea. That was apparent from the glow on his face as he asked it.

          ‘Ye-s-s.” It was equally apparent that I was hesitant about the appropriateness of such a game with people whose knowledge of the scripture might be limited.

          “Why  don’t we make up questions about the scriptural stories of Christ’s birth to challenge the older ones who know the story?” Delbert’s enthusiasm grew with his verbalization of the idea. “Then we’ll make it a game so even the very young can be on a team to cheer their teammates on ! That way everyone can be involved and even the older ones might learn something.”

          “Sounds good.” I was beginning to see possibilities in the seventy’s proposal.  “How do we start?”

          We each already had paper in front of us and sat with pens poised to record whatever came next.

          “Let’s  make the first ones easy.” Delbert proposed. “We don’t want to embarrass anyone. That might take the fun out of the party for them.”

          “Surely everyone of the older ones will know that Gabriel was the name of the angel who told Mary that she was to have the baby Jesus” .

I was sure that would be easy.

          “Just in case anyone challenges us,” Delbert queried, “do you suppose we should put down the references to support our answers?”

          “That would be a good idea. Some of them might be new to even seasonal scriptorians.” I agreed, remembering how Brother Roy Weldon had surprised us long ago when we first heard him declare that the real story of the wise men was not all found in the Bible.

          By the time the evening was over, the seventy and I had pretty well designed thirty questions to be used in the “baseball” game. Most of them required only a true or false answer so anyone could play.

          At the party, we began the baseball game after the slide story was told of Christ’s birth. A table was designated as the field. One corner became the batter’s box and home base. Each of the other corners was a base. A batter who correctly answered the question pitched to him or her went on to first base, and a second batter stepped into the box. If the answer was not correct, an out was called. Three outs retired the side. A team scored only if a batter answered correctly when each of the three bases was loaded, thus bringing the first batter home.

          We were right. The first questions were easy.   

          1. Gabriel was the name of the angel who told Mary that she was to have the baby Jesus (Luke 1:26) It was known to be true.

          2. An angel appeared to Joseph to tell him about Mary’s baby. ( Matthew 2:3) ( 1:20 King James.) That was likewise true.

          3. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth also knew that the baby Jesus was to be born ( Luke 1:42-44). True. The bases were filling fast.

          4. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. Why were they in Bethlehem when Jesus was born? (Luke 2:4-5) . The player knew they were to be taxed. Team one scored.

          5. Jesus was born in a beautiful palace because he was to be a king. (Luke 2:7). Everyone knew  that was not true! Team two was off to a good start.

          6. The shepherds believed what the angels told them about Jesus, found the Christ child and spread the news abroad. (Luke 2:15-18). Right!.

          7. The shepherds knew that Jesus was the Christ because they saw the star shining over his birthplace (Luke 2:12 & 16 ). Wrong! The player was one of the most knowledgeable of the older church members. Even the opposing team was stunned! How did they know him? He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The wise men were the first to make mention of a star! Luke did not record the shepherds or anyone else even having seen such a heavenly body.

          8. The wise men visited the Christ child in the stable (Matthew 3:11) (2:11 KJ .Version) Wrong again! Another old timer out. What was happening?

          Where did they find him? In a house and he was no longer a baby! How could he be after all that had happened since his birth? He was circumcised on the eight day of his life (Luke 2:21) . He was taken to the temple after his mother was purified according to the law ( Luke 2:22-24 & Leviticus 12:2-8). That meant that at least thirty- three days had passed since his circumcision. Then Luke says the family had returned to their home in Nazareth (Luke 2:39).  Whether they were there or had returned to Bethlehem or Jerusalem for the feast days, as was their custom, is not clearly explained in the scriptural narrative that we have. We do know that these things had transpired, though , because Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt during the night, immediately after the wise men’s visit and did not return until after Herod’s death (Matthew 3:13-14).

          9. The Bible teaches there were three wise men who visited the Christ child ( Matthew 3:1) ( 2:1 K.J.). Not the ‘Bible. Henry Van Dyke’s The Other Wise Man. Sorry . Team two has three outs. The entire room was buzzing! Those were things we had all believed were true. How could they be so wrong?

          10. According to the Bible, the wise men were kings from the Orient (Matthew 3:1)(2:1 KJ). By this time the players were wary. “The song says they were.” Team one’s player probed for the answer. “But I wonder. Maybe they were not.”

          When the seventy only smiled in response, that player guessed it might not be true and was sent to first base.

          11. The Bible names the wise men Caspar , Melchior and Balthazar. If it was Van Dyke’s story that said there were three wise men, could it possibly have been he who named them? Team one’s  second player guessed correctly that the Bible gave no such information. Two bases were occupied, just like team two’s bases had been.

          12. People in America knew when Christ was to be born (Helaman5:55). Unfortunately, player number three was new to the church and was not yet familiar with the Book of Mormon stories. She did not know of the prophet Samuel’s message that Christ would be born in five years from the time of the prophecy. Out number one.

          13. The prophets of the Bible told of a star to appear to announce the birth of Christ. Now that seemed obviously true! The confident players started to advance to their respective bases. “Sorry!” The seventy smiled but shook his head. Again the whole room bussed as the puzzled players expressed their surprise.

          14. Prophets in America told of a new star to appear at the time of Christ’s birth (Helaman 5:59) . If Samuel told when Christ was to be born, maybe he also told more. The player guessed that he told about a star. Right. The bases were loaded. Team one’s second score was in sight.

          15. People in America saw the star and knew that it signaled Jesus’s birth (3 Nephi 1:22-24). This time the player really did know. He confidently answered in the affirmative. Score two for team one.

          16. People in America knew that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Alma 5:19).Still basking in their recent success, team one’s player’s affirmative answer spelled their downfall. Three outs!

          17. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14;, 9:6-7; 11:1-2). The Book of Mormon people had many of Isaiah’s writings. They must have known his prophecies of Christ’s birth. Surely he did tell them where Christ was to be born. The answer must be ”true” ! But the seventy shook his head, and team two was off to a bad start again.

          18. Wise men who studied Hebrew scriptures would have gone straight to Bethlehem to look for the new king (Micah 5:2). Surely that could not be right. The wise men went to Jerusalem to ask where he could be found. The statement must be false. Out number two!

          19. Wise men who studied American scriptures would have gone to Jerusalem to inquire where the new king could be found (Alma 5:19). Where was this leading? If wise men who had studied the American scriptures would have gone to Jerusalem, and the wise men did go to Jerusalem to inquire, could it be that there was some indication that these wise men were from America? At least it was worth a try. A slightly hesitant “True” was good for a base hit! (Actually Alma prophesied that the Messiah would be born at Jerusalem, the land of our forefathers.”)

          20. The wise men never lost sight of the star, but followed it from the time they first saw it until they found the Christ child (Matthew 3:9-10) ( 2:9-10  KJ.) That had to be right. How else would they have found their way?

          But it was not right. If they had followed it all of the way, why were they so happy to see it again after they came from Herod’s palace? And why did they say that it was the star they had seen “in the east”? Side two was retired again.

          21. The wise  men spoke to Herod in a language he understood (Matthew 3:7) (2:7 KJ). Herod did call them privately to ask them when they first saw the star. They must have been able to understand each other. A “yes”  answer started team one on their way again.

          22. Wise men from America were familiar with the Hebrew language (1 Nephi 1:82 Mormon 4:99) Well, that was certainly true. The ones who wrote the book said they would have had no errors if they could just have written in Hebrew instead of the more abbreviated but less familiar Egyptian. The second player took her base.

          23. Angels appeared to wise men in America about two years before the birth of Christ (Helaman 5:126 & 129) . So this was where the story was going! There were wise men in America who knew that Christ was to be born! The bases were loaded.

          24. The Book of Mormon records that at least one prophet departed from the land after the angel’s proclamation (3 Nephi 1:2,3 & 46). Nephi gave all of the sacred things entrusted to his care to his son, Nephi , and departed out of the land. He was not heard of again for at least nine years. Could he possibly have been on a journey to see his Savior, the one whose coming he had preached so long? He at least did leave his land on an unknown journey. Team one scored again.

          25. The wise men told Herod that the star appeared: a. the night before they arrived in Jerusalem. B. two weeks before they came to Jerusalem. C. nearly two years before they came to Jerusalem. (Matthew 3:7 & 16)( Matthew 2:7& 16 KJ.) The wise men were always pictured at the stable, but the “usually believed” was turning out not to be true. It must  have been answer c, nearly two years before they came to Jerusalem. Correct. A base hit!

          26. King Herod wanted to find the Christ child in order to worship him ( Matthew 3:8, 13 & 16) ( Matthew 2:8, 13 & 16 KJ). Well , that part of the story was well known. The statement was obviously false. Team one was really on a roll!

          27. Joseph was warned by an angel to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt in order to escape Herod’s soldiers ( Matthew3:13) (2:13 KJ). That, too, was confidently known. Bases were loaded for team one again.

          28. King Herod had only newborn babies killed in his effort to kill Jesus ( Matthew 3:15) (2:16 KJ). So that’s how we know that the wise men did not arrive until nearly two years after  Christ’s birth! Herod had all of the male children in Bethlehem two years old and under killed, according to the time he had “diligently inquired “ of the wise men as to when they first saw the star. Team one scores again, and without an out!

          29. The scriptures offer more evidence that: a. The wise men were kings from the Orient, b. The wise  men were believers in Christ from America. Before the next player could answer, the seventy stopped him. “That is a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves, “ he explained. “We need to study it out from the scriptures. I have a list of the scriptures from which we got the answers for tonight’s game. You may each have a copy as a Christmas gift.”

          “ I would like you to answer another question for yourself, too, when you do study this one out, “ Delbert continued. “Question number:

          30. “What did Christ teach about the danger of substituting human traditions for scripture? In fact,“ Delbert said, “let’s look that one up together ( Matthew 15:6)” . He then read directly from the scripture he held in his hand: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”

          There were more games and refreshments, but nothing equaled the interest the ball game had generated. The next morning there were two sermons and an adult class based on it, all ministry given by the local priesthood who had found a new and more complete understanding of the Christmas story to share with those who were not at the party or those whose limited knowledge of their new found faith could benefit from a more explicit recounting of the story . Suddenly the Book of Mormon had new meaning for the Saints. Even the story of Christ’s birth was not complete without it. !

         

 

 

Chapter 18

 

Angel On The Road To Creston

 

          It had been a very busy time during our mission in Lamoni back in the early sixties. With five children participating in their respective school activities in addition to their music lessons and paper routes plus the responsibilities of the home and local church, I had not had time to make adequate preparation for my assignment with the Creston church women and their guests. I was even  running a bit later than I would have liked. Always when I had such a responsibility , I tried to be at my destination at least half an hour to an hour before the appointed time, depending on the time needed to get organized for my presentation.

          I was traveling north on a gravel road as fast as I felt it safe to travel. On the seat beside me, I had placed a note pad. In  my right hand, I held a sharpened pencil. Periodically,  when it appeared safe to do so, I touched the pencil to the note pad and jotted down ideas that I expected to share with my prospective audience.

          All went well until I topped a rise in the road and faced a very short hill at the bottom of which there was a narrow bridge. Just entering the structure from the opposite side was a farm wagon being leisurely drawn by a team of plodding draft horses. They took up the entire roadway across the ravine.

          It was apparent that there was not room for both the wagon and my car on the bridge, and the wagon was already there: so I stepped on the brakes confident that I could easily stop while the wagon crossed. When I touched the brakes, however, I hit loose gravel and began to skid precariously toward the team that drew the wagon. Knowing what a disaster it would be to hit the horses and their cargo, including the farmer who held the reins of his team loosely in his hands, I determined to go off the road and down a steep embankment into the creek on the right side of the road.

          No sooner had I started to steer the appointee car toward the embankment than the wheel was taken completely out of my hands and whirled to the left, in the opposite direction from that which I had determined. While I watched helplessly but in awe, the car was turned back into the roadway and I could almost hear the crunch of metal against the vehicle now emerging from the bridge. Instead I saw the horses and their wagon pass safely off the bridge while I  crossed the road first to the left and then again to the right . The front of my car barely missed the horses’ noses as it arced toward the right side of the road this time, and the rear of the wagon barely escaped impact with my car as it completed the arc headed back toward the left side of the road and came to a complete and easy stop immediately across the end of the bridge.

          I sat trembling at the wheel. My first thought was of the horses, the farmer and the wagon. They were proceeding up the road as though nothing had happened. I surveyed my situation. There was a small black hole in my left hand where the pencil I was holding in my right hand had penetrated my flesh between the thumb and forefinger when the steering wheel was ripped from my grasp and whirled violently in the opposite direction from which I was steering. My car was parked so close to the banisters of the bridge that I had to maneuver my way out of the parked position to gain access to the structure which  I now had all to myself. As I regained access to the roadway, I drove off to Creston thanking the Lord for sending His angel to save both me and the farmer and praying that someday I would be permitted to see that heavenly being who so adroitly guided my car to avoid an accident that would have been horrendous!

 

 

 

Chapter 19

 

Unexpected Surgery for Alan

 

 

          It was almost evening when the police car roared up our drive, lights flashing and siren blaring. The uniformed policeman jumped from his car and ran toward the door. He didn’t quite make it! I met him half way. There must have been fear mixed with curiosity all over my face when the officer straightened suddenly, held out his hand and said reassuringly, “Now don’t get excited. It is just that your son has had an accident. He’s at the clinic and they need your consent to do some surgery!”

          Not get excited? Consent ! Surgery! What was all this display of haste and urgency if I was not to get excited?

          Fortunately, Cleo Boswell, whose son had been attending the football game at Graceland College with Alan, was just behind the police. “Come with me,” Cleo invited with a calming  smile. When he smiled like that, his mouth always twisted slightly as though he knew some tremendous joke that he was about to share with one . I chose to ride with Cleo to the doctor’s office.

          “It isn’t really that serious,” Cleo assured me as he drove with moderate speed toward the doctor’s office. “The boys were playing under the bleachers during the halftime activities at the game. As Alan rounded a cement post, somehow he just fell against it and cut off his ear!” Again there was that little twisted grin that told me that he, at least, found some subtle humor in the situation. I really did not need to get too excited.

          At the clinic I found our twelve-year-old also grinning a sort of sheepish grin as though he was embarrassed by what had happened more than he was hurt. He was lying on the operating table patiently awaiting my arrival. His left ear had been as neatly severed from his head as if one had taken a sharp knife and cut it off deliberately. His slightly pinkish skull gleamed through the precise incision. The ear lay upside down across his cheek, held in place only with a small section of facial skin. If there had been blood, it had been wiped away before I came in.

          Permission for the surgery took only a moment. The stitching was expertly done, and we had one more family story to tell the seventy when he returned from his mission!

 

 

 

Chapter 20

 

Apostle Oakman’s Story

 

 

 

          “I just heard the most wonderful story!” It was the seventy returning from a missionary journey with the apostle under whose supervision he was working at the time. “Here,” he set his tape recorder into the middle of our living room floor. “Gather around. I didn’t  get a very good recording of it, but you can still hear it if you listen hard.” Then with an affirmative shake of his head he emphasized . “It’s well worth the effort!”

          We “gathered round” literally, all of us , and listened, fascinated, to the remarkable testimony which we heard repeatedly during the intervening years and never tired of hearing . Each time Apostle Oakman repeated it in our hearing, we thrilled again to the wonderful love of our heavenly Father. In later years we obtained a good recording of it which we would like now to record in print.

          Following is a transcript of Apostle Arthur Oakman’s rich testimony, using his own words so it will be accurately recorded for future generations. We share it now because we have heard others try to tell it in their words , and it never seems to come out quite right. Apostle Oakman said:

          “When I was a youngster, very young, at our house we were very poor. We were poor as church mice. You know how poor church mice are. I’m not so sure about that any more since we have these modern kitchens in almost every church. I’m not sure the mice are poor, but they used to be when that saying was invented. I remember going to school in a pair of pants that had been patched so many times that the only thing left of the original pants was the shape. The shoes I wore had the bottoms out of them. I was lucky indeed sometimes if there was brown paper to go in the bottom of the shoes to keep my feet from off the ground. My  mother would send me to the butcher shop…..

          “Let me tell you how poor we were. My father was a journeyman plumber, and in those days before World War One, there was no such thing as economic relief. You either had to go to the poor house or you sang in the street or you drew pictures on the sidewalk- put you cap down for people to drop pennies and halfpenny in , or you starved to death. That was the terrible alternative.

          “The times were bad! Many and many and many is the week when father would earn two shillings and sixpence which was the equivalent of thirty cents, no the equivalent of sixty cents, pardon me , in those days. Our rent cost thirty cents a week. Tells you  what kind of a house we lived in. And with the other  thirty cents , I don’t know how mother did it, she fed the four of us for a week. I remember going to the butcher shop  time after time after time after time. “Two pennyworth of bones and rinds, please.” The butcher, if he had them , piled  them out on a big hunk of newspaper. I’d wrap them up and take them home and mother would put them in a stew pot and stew the bones. We were poor!

          “ I said to my dad one day, “Dad, we belong to the true church, don’t we?” He said, “We certainly do, Son!”  “Well, “ I said, “Why are we so poor?” He said, “I don’t know, son, why are we so poor, but two things come to mind.”

          He said, “It may be I’m not the kind of man that can be trusted with a lot of money and I’d sooner be a poor man with my faith than a rich man without it.’ An unlettered, uneducated, ( No he wasn’t uneducated, was he? ) journeyman plumber!

          He said, “Another thing I want to tell you, son, is that one of these days the Lord is going to set his hand to bless our house, and when he does we’ll never want in basket or store.”

          “So, content with that, we used to wait, my sister and I. We lived in a cul-de-sac, which is a dead end street, a French name for a dead end street, at least I think it’s French. We were thirty nine houses down Garfield Road. ( Garfield Road, I think, was named after President Garfield who was assassinated. They surely assassinated that street, too. Maybe that’s why it got it’s name.) And these houses were built row on row. You see, there was just a nine inch brick wall between you and your neighbors next door, one after the other.

          “We used to stand in front of it. There was a back fence on the other side of which there was an orchard which was owned by a rich uncle of mine, but do you think he cared anything about us? We- I had to be like the rest of the boys. If I wanted an apple, I had to shin over the fence and get it at the risk of being caught. No! We were poor!

          “And my sister and I used to stand with my mother at the bottom of the street, as we called it, waiting for father to come around the corner. You know, we knew when he had any money in his pocket by the way he walked. It’s funny. We could tell at a distance, about a hundred yards, I imagine. If he had any money, he would throw his left leg in a certain way. And if he came around dragging his feet, Mother would turn into the house with a sigh. We’d eat what we had, if there was anything.

          “One day we stood there waiting for Father. Instead of Father, there stepped out into the street from around the corner on High Street a man who was dressed in a black suit, a long black coat. Took his hat off. He had a white beard. He stepped into the middle of the  street and started to sing. ’Begone unbelief. My Savior is near, and for my relief will shortly appear. By prayer let my wrestle, and He will perform. With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.’

          “He began to walk down the middle of the street singing, ‘Though dark is my way, since He is my guide, ‘Tis mine to obey. ‘Tis His to provide. Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail, The word He has spoken will surely prevail.’

          “Nearer and nearer he came. ‘His love in times past forbids me to think He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink. Each sweet Ebenezer  I have in review, confirms His good pleasure to bring me quite through.’

          “We heard every word distinctly. ’Since all that I meet does work for my good, the bitter is sweet, the medicine food. Though painful at present, t’will cease before long, and then , Oh how pleasant the conqueror’s song.’

          “By that time he stood facing my mother, and he said, ‘Sister, do you have a crust of bread you could spare an old man?’ She did. She had two slices of bread in the house, and that’s all.

          “Yes”, she said, “I think so”. (We have a saying among us, ‘It’s the  poor that help the poor’, you know.) So she got a sheet of paper and she wrapped one slice of bread in it and she came out and gave it to him.

          “Then he turned to her and he said, ‘Sister, because of the sacrifice you have made this day, the Lord has set His hand to bless your household, and from this day forth, you  shall never want in basket or in store.’ And he bent down and kissed me on the cheek, and he said, “This little lad will grow to manhood and will preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in many lands. ‘(Note: Brother Oakman often said that every time he told that story he could feel that angel kiss on his cheek.)

          “He kissed my sister and told about what would happen to her. Mother said, “If you’ll wait a minute, I’ll give you a penny.” ( She had two pennies.) ‘You can buy yourself a cup of tea.’ She turned into the house to get the penny from that purse that I can see at this moment, well worn, and when she came out, he was gone. Who was he? That remains with us. It is a topic of perpetual conversation.

          “Just after he had gone, Father came  round the corner of the street. We knew by the way he walked that he had money in his pocket. He came bursting into the house and he grabbed mother and swung her around and he said, ‘I just landed a big contract.’ He said, ‘We’ll never want for anything anymore.’

          “And so at night when Mother and Father’d pack us children off to bed, they would sit around the little kitchen stove in the tiny room and sing together and talk of this mysterious stranger. My  sister and I , who knew the exact spot where every stair creaked, (You know. When you are going up and down stairs they creak.) avoiding those places would creep downstairs and sit outside their room for hours and listen to what they had to say.

          “He was our guardian angel from that time , and I well remember when my mother was on her death bed in 1918. (We moved to another part of town, to a better home. My father could hold cottage meetings. He was a priest in the church. Still talking, and in the background the consciousness that there was another member of our family somewhere. We didn’t know who he was.)

          “Then when she lay dying, I went to the doctor place to get some medicine for her; and while I was there, one of my boyhood chums came in and told me that his mother had just died. And I ran all the way home as fast as I could and burst into Mother’s bedroom, even though she was gasping for breath and dying- I didn’t know that. I said, ‘Mum, Skinny Ennis’ mother has died.’ She said, ‘ Son , you  don’t need to worry. Your mother won’t die.’ And childlike, I said, ‘How do you  know?’ She says, “You remember that man that came to see us when we lived on Garfield Road?’ I said, “Yes’. ‘ ‘He just came to see me,’ she said, ‘and told me that my sickness wasn’t unto death but unto life.”

          ( In a very few minutes Sister Oakman was dead. Brother Oakman frequently said that at that moment he learned a lot about life and death.)

          This transcript is from a class in which Brother Oakman told the testimony to priesthood, but he often shared it with the rest of us with the same assurance. In this setting he said:

          “And these powers are yours, brethren. When you are committed to the work of God and know there is no turning back for you, and when there is no way that the All Mighty can reach you through his servants which are upon the earth, then you may rest assured you shall be reached by his servants which are in heaven.

 

 

 

Chapter 21

 

 

Baptized at 99

 

 

          “I would like to share a bit of good news with the congregation this morning,” announced the genial pastor of the thriving Leon mission. “I received a call from the Methodist minister informing me that there is a man at the rest home who wants to be baptized by a minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Brother Smith and I are going over there  after this service to see what it is all about. We thought you would like to know.”

          With that and a broad brotherly smile, Elder Clarence Bohall announced the last hymn of the service.

          “Do you know who it is?” Delbert inquired eagerly after  the benediction had been pronounced upon the congregation. “And how does he know about the church?”

          “Yes,” Brother Bohall responded to the questions in order. “First, he’s George Lasley. It seems he has lived around Lamoni all of his life and  has always admired the Saints but just never joined them.” Then he went on to explain, “Now he wants to make his covenant with God , and he believes it has to be done as he has heard the Saints teach.”

          The Methodist minister had explained to Clarence that Mr. Lasley had  been telling the personnel at the nursing home for a long time that he wanted to be baptized. Just the week before this Sunday they finally took him seriously enough to ask the Methodist minister to attend to the baptism. When Rev. Daly arrived with the equipment for a sprinkling, the good minister told Clarence with a bit of a chuckle, Mr. Lasley protested loudly and assured him that he wanted to be baptized by immersion like Jesus was, and that by a minister of the Saints.

          “Well, let’s go?” Del was eager to meet this determined man. To have anyone respond to the call of Christ was exhilarating to the seventy, and the unusual circumstances surrounding this request promised to be especially exciting.

          At the rest home Delbert and Clarence found a wisp of a man occupying a neat room sparsely decorated with mementos of bygone days.

          “Mr. Lasley,” Clarence had asked the seventy to take the lead in the conversation. “We hear that you would like to be baptized by a minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Del had raised his voice and was enunciating distinctly in an effort to make certain the old man would understand all that was said. “I am Delbert Smith, a seventy in the church, and this is Clarence Bohall, an elder. Brother Bohall is the pastor of the Leon congregation.”

          The old man nodded his acknowledgement of the introductions and hospitably invited the two ministers to be seated beside him bed.

          “How old are you?” Delbert was curious. The frail body that lay propped against the pillows seemed to have grown too old for the alert mind and twinkling eyes it housed.

          “I am ninety nine, soon to be one hundred!” The old man smiled with a trace of pride in his achievement. His voice, pitched high with age, trembled a little with excitement.

          “How long have you known about the church?” Delbert questioned without bothering to repeat the name of the church again.

          “All my life!” The old man paused a moment. “Well, almost all of my life,” he corrected. “I remember when Joseph Smith III came to Lemony. I used to love to hear him preach!”

          “But you never asked for baptism.” Del’s statement was really a question.

          “No.” The monosyllable was all that he offered, and the ministers did not press for an explanation.

          “Mrs. Elliston,” Del addressed the nurse who had admitted them to Mr. Lasley’s room. “We would like to take Mr. Lasley to the church next Sunday to baptize him.”

          “I’m afraid that will be impossible,” the nurse responded professionally. “He’s hardly able to be out of bed, and certainly would not be strong enough to leave the home! We just could not take the risk of his becoming ill from such a venture!”

          For a moment Del and Clarence exchanged glances trying to think of an alternative to baptism in the church font. To try to convince the nurse that they would be responsible for the elderly gentleman seemed unwise. It did not take a medically trained person to see that his frail body was not capable of exerting much effort in any situation.

          It was Clarence who offered the solution. “Could we baptize him in the bathtub?”

          “Of course!” The seventy was enthusiastic, but he was not so certain about the nurse’s view of the suggestion. “Could we use the bathtub for the ordinance?” He turned to her questioningly.

          Mrs. Elliston wrinkled her brow contemplating the ludicrous request, then shrugged and gave her approval. “If you think you can manage it, you are welcome to try!”

          Arrangements were made, the date was set, and a few of the Saints accompanied the two elders to the home for the service. Mrs. Elliston and her cooperative staff filled the bathtub almost to the overflow. Mr. Lasley trembled with anticipation as they brought him to the side of the tub in his wheel chair. His white shirt hung limply about his shoulders. His pants were gathered into a belt that had long since become too large for him.

          Carefully Delbert explained just what procedure they would follow and urged the old gentleman to leave the mechanics up to the elders and just enjoy the Spirit of the service.

          Tears crept down the old man’s cheeks as Clarence read the scripture, and his lips moved with the words of the hymn the cluster of Saints sang at the bathroom door. His head bowed reverently as the prayer of invocation was given. He listened intently, nodding his head in affirmation, as the seventy spoke of the significance of the covenant he was making with his Lord and Savior whom he would soon meet face to face.

          Then Delbert slipped off his shoes and stepped into the tub with his back to the wall. Clarence moved to a position very near the wheel chair and bent to lift this eager covenanter. The two elders lowered the trembling body of the old man gently to a sitting position in the water.

          “George Lasley, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ,” The seventy’s left hand rested lightly on the old man’s head, his right hand was lifted heavenward, and his upturned face glowed with his commission. Clarence supported Mr. Lasley’s body so there would be no difficulty in his keeping his balance in the deep water that reached to his chest. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!”

          Delbert bent; a bit awkwardly to be sure with his back so close to the wall, and the two elders carefully immersed the white head and bent shoulders that alone had remained out of the water. Gently they lifted the newly covenanted one from the water, wrapped him in a blanket and returned him to his chair while the little band of Saints sang reverently,

          “Find the old, old path, twill be ever new,

          For the Savior walks all the way with you.

          In this old, old path made strangely sweet

          By the touch divine of His blessed feet.”

          The benediction of the Spirit of God rested warmly on our little band of Saints as we quietly moved to the hall outside our new brother’s room to await his preparation for the service of confirmation.

 

 

Chapter 22

 

Sherm’s Confirming Testimony

 

 

          “Sherm, I have heard your testimony. It’s so beautiful that I would like to have it to share with others. Would you mind telling it again so I can record it?” The seventy was working in Creston, Iowa and came to the home of Dorothy and Sherman Phipps equipped to record the unusual testimony of a faithful priesthood member, father of four, and successful contractor in the community. Sherm was eager to share the experience that he said had carried him through many a trial in his life and held him steadfast to the church in which he and his family were investing their lives.

          “It came about when I was in the service, “ Sherm began, “my experience with the angel at Hunter Field, Alabama on January 22, 1944. I was twenty-two years old at the time.

          “I had been given the three standard books of the church as a graduation gift when I graduated from high school, and I was somewhat disappointed at the time because I could not read well at all; but after Dorothy and I were married on May 8, 1942, Dorothy would read to me, and from the time we were married, we always tried to read some scripture before retiring each evening. What seemed like a disappointing gift became my most precious possession!”

          Dorothy had been able to be with her husband during most of the first two years of service during World War II except for a few weeks just before and after the birth of their first son, but the time came when that was no longer possible. She had to take their young son and return home while Sherman moved on to other areas of service. Sherman missed the scripture reading to which they had been accustomed. He loved hearing Dorothy read the scriptures to him, and after his young wife had to leave the area, he felt very much alone in spite of the presence of the many men called into service with him. He tried time and again to read the church books but he simply could not read them. He could read only the small words like it, and, but, but of the larger words he could make no sense.

          Sherm’s inability to read in no way indicated that he was uneducated in other ways. He was a skilled auto mechanic and worker in wood. He could do almost anything anyone could do with his or her hands. The lack of ability to read, however, kept him from progressing to higher rank and better pay even in the armed services.

          At the time of this experience, Sherm had just been shipped to Hunter Field after his unit had been simulating combat. Their fare had consisted largely of dehydrated foods, dried potatoes, and dried cheese to take the place of butter. In every way the food had been very poor. He had eaten one meal, a delicious breakfast with pancakes and real butter at the new base and was eagerly looking forward to his second good meal when this experience of suddenly being able to read occurred.

          “After eating breakfast at the new base, I went back to the barracks and again attempted to read the scriptures,” Sherm says. “I was praying about many things,. Since I was a new father, I had a desire to know how I was to raise my new son. I asked the Lord if the work was really true. Was Joseph Smith truly a prophet? I wanted to know because if this really was God’s church, I wanted to raise my son up to serve Him in it. If it was not true, I didn’t want to waste my time. “

          One of the last things Dorothy had read to her husband before she left stuck in Sherm’s mind. Sherman said he thought God had caused her to read it to him so he could remember it. She had read from James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” Over and over the instruction raced through his mind until finally he decided to put it to the test. “I prayed about it and did ask God,” Sherm says, “and when I picked up the Doctrine and Covenants to try again, why, I was blessed! The Spirit came over me very strong, and I could read! I was really thrilled! I could read every word that was there- the big ones and the little ones! I was given to know every word, how to read it and what it meant! It was like a dictionary there to give me the meaning of every word, so it really meant a lot to me! It was such a wonderful Spirit!”

          “I thought of the good food, and the approaching dinner hour kept entering my thoughts. I was really tempted to go eat, but I was having such a wonderful experience reading and understanding, gaining knowledge I had never had before, that I decided that I would skip dinner and continue reading as long as the Spirit was with me. In that Spirit, I could read very fast. I would stop every once in a while as questions came into my mind, but I didn’t want to really stop,” Sherm explained. “I was so thrilled with the experience of being able to read that I didn’t want it to end, and I was afraid it might if I quit reading!”

          Sherm didn’t go eat. Instead he read on for three days and three nights. “When night came and it was time for lights out, I took my books and went outside around the building to the furnace room where I could turn the light on and continue reading, “ Sherm said. “When morning came, I would return to the barracks. I continued to do this for three days and three nights.”

          On and on he read. First he read the Doctrine and Covenants. Then he read Inez Smith Davis’ The Story of the Church. Finally he was reading the Book of Mormon when another wonderful thing happened!

          As he read, Sherm would often thank the Lord for his blessing. And as he gained knowledge, he became more and more concerned about things that were important to his life. He said, “I told God that I really did believe there was a God and always had, but I kind of wanted a testimony somehow,” he explained,” and I don’t know what kind of a testimony I expected, but I wanted some kind of a testimony to know that this work is true, that the church I was reading about was God’s church.” The young soldier didn’t expect the kind of a testimony that he did receive.

          Sherman was reading Moroni, chapter seven, verse forty-one, almost at the end of the Book of Mormon. Suddenly “The worst fear of my life came upon me. I was engulfed in a dark cloud. It was the worst darkness I have ever felt. I was afraid and I prayed for God to take away this awful cloud of darkness and fear!” Suddenly the darkness and fear were gone, and in their place there came the greatest joy Sherm had ever experienced.

          The barracks just seemed to fade away and Sherm was looking right out into the sky and space. Sherm says, “I looked upward and saw a pillar of light, the brightest light I have ever seen, pure white, not as the sun, but pure white, about a block away and descending toward me. When the light came near, I saw that it was a personage. An angel was moving toward me in the light. The angel came steadily down until it stood in front of me about three feet off the floor, and reached its outstretched hands to my face and smiled a really kind smile. I’ll never forget the look on that personage’s face!” Sherm exclaimed when his effort to describe what he saw was inadequate.

          Sherm was never certain whether the angel spoke audibly to him, “But it just as well have because everything was impressed on my mind as though it was spoken, “ Sherm said. “It just told me - just impressed on my mind, “ He corrected himself, “Now that you have seen an angel, you can surely believe that there is a God.’ I replied that I could. Then I was given to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that all these things I had been reading were true. This was the true church that I belonged to, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that I was given this testimony to help me try to raise my son in the right way.”

          “ And I was- had the feeling that there would be more children in our family and we were to raise them in a God like way, teaching them about God’s church. It would not be a waste of time. That I should teach them to keep God’s commandments and to serve God to the best of their ability throughout their lives, because they’d have a work to do, which we’ve found out by now to be true, “ Sherm added, “since the two boys have been called to the priesthood and are doing some work in the church, as much as they possibly can while they go to college.”

          Sherm never lost his ability to read. After the experience he was able to make great progress in the armed services. He completed his training as an air force cadet, but for very good personal reasons refused his commission as a pilot and instead flew his overseas missions in another capacity. Back in civilian life, Sherm testifies, the ability to read, write and spell made it possible for him to become successful in business and gave his family a much higher standard of living than they could otherwise have had. By this miraculous blessing, his ministry, also, was enhanced both in the church and out.

 

 

Chapter 23

 

 

Casas and the Offending Fence

 

 

          At the 1964 World Church Conference, our seventy family’s assignment was to the Missionary Development District in the Magic Valley of Texas. Our base of operations was to be Weslaco, Texas, where beautiful church facilities had been provided, with the help of the world church, especially for ministry to the Latin Americans there and across the border in Mexico. We did not speak Spanish and were told that ours was to be a short assignment. We were advised to rent rather than to buy a home.

          Our first rental home was beautiful but far too small for our growing family. Even with the garage converted to provide a bedroom for our boys, the space was far from adequate. After two years of crowding and constant rent increases with no evidence that the assignment would be terminated, we began to look for a place to purchase. One especially appealing place became available. It not only had space for our family but also had additional apartments from which rent could be used to pay for the property. In fact, however, the price was so low that the payments would be less than the rent we were then paying. My brother offered to loan us the down payment, a mere three hundred dollars. When we asked permission to complete the deal, however, permission was denied on the basis of the fact that we were soon to be reassigned. The realtor who had shown us the property promptly bought it for herself and told us later that it was the most lucrative investment she had ever made.

          The day finally came that the decision was made to leave us in Weslaco for a longer period of time than originally planned. We were given permission to purchase a home. This time we found a big, sturdy, old, brick house only a block from school and situated immediately back of the church, likewise only a block away. There was room aplenty for our family, and for the extensive entertaining we enjoyed so much. We had real bedrooms for the children as well as for ourselves. There was a hallway at the head of the stairs that had been used as a recreation room by the former occupants of the house. For them it had even accommodated a table tennis court. It because Delbert’s study. There was a family room that stretched from side to side of the back of the house. It was sixteen feet wide and forty-two feet long, totally glassed in on the three sides away from the house. It was perfect for ironing, sewing, homework, and fun!

          There was a beautiful living room with a fireplace and a dining area attached that exceeded in space anything we had ever experienced. French doors opened from the living room onto the hall from which there was access to the downstairs bathroom, our bedroom and the kitchen. There was also a spacious, airy bedroom opening off the living room, right near the front door. We knew in a moment it would be Karen’s. There was an upstairs bathroom and a kitchen. The upstairs had once been an apartment. Up there, there were also closets within closets that were perfect playrooms for our youngest and their friends. Downstairs, the spacious kitchen also was equipped with a dining area that easily cared for the needs of our family and a few of our friends. There was a pantry and a utility room. There were air conditioners to temper the Texas heat. Orange trees graced the front yard, hovering close to the wide veranda that shaded the west side of the house. Often on Sunday morning when the place was cleaned and furbished, I would stand at the front door on my way to church. Before I closed the door I would survey the portions that I could see and thank the Lord for permitting me to live in such a beautiful home.

          It wasn’t all perfect. The chimney for the fireplace was pulling away from the rest of the house. The bricks were worn and the architecture of the house would not have won prizes even in its youth. The garage was distinctly tumbledown. The house was even infested with fleas so badly that when one stepped inside fleas covered one’s legs almost to the knees. The former occupants had a dog from which the legacy of the pests had come. A competent exterminator ended the legacy!

          The price for the property was ten thousand dollars, financed by the owner. When we asked the elderly gentleman, at what rate of interest, he asked tentatively, “Would four percent be alright?” Needless to say, the terms were acceptable!

          Next door to our spacious home was the modest home of a Mexican American family named Casas. Theirs was a neat little frame home, much smaller and less pretentious than ours but surrounded by a much more lovely, well kept lawn with gorgeous plantings. Some of the plantings were obviously an attempt to hide the termite eaten wooden fence that separated our properties.

          When we moved into the property, we tried to be neighborly, but could get little response. When our children invited the Casas children to go with them to church school, they were horrified. “What are you trying to do?”  they demanded. “Make us sin!” Our children had not understood the ways of Catholics before. This was a good opportunity for learning.

          We had been in the house only a short time when we went away to camp for more than a week. When we returned, I saw Mr. Casas at the post office where he worked. “We’re home!” I announced cherrily.

          Our neighbor looked at me quizzically and questioned, “Oh, have you been away?”

          Once we were home again, our first task was to get rid of that termite eaten fence. To our amazement, when the fence went down, all of the Casas Family’s reluctance to be friendly went with it.

          First Mr. Casas apologized for the plantings and volunteered to remove them. We objected to their removal, for now, with the fence gone, we could both enjoy them. The stately poinsettia was our favorites.

          Mrs. Casas and I shared recipes and chores. I learned that she made the most delicious tamales that could be made, and engaged her to make tamales for two hundred and fifty youngsters in Alan’s graduating class. I had the responsibility for providing their food on their graduation outing on a dude ranch, and of all the tamales I have ever eaten, none have even compared to hers.

          Marcia joined the Junior Girl Scouts troop at the church, for which I was the leader. When Vacation Church School time came the next summer, we had twice as many Catholic youngsters attending as we had members of our own church.

          When the troubadours came late at night on Mother’s Day to serenade Mrs. Casas, we enjoyed their music along with our neighbors. When the hurricane came, we shared our water with the Casas family. The Smiths and the Casas were no longer merely living beside each other. We were neighbors and the Casas were now friends of the church they had once disliked, even feared. Removing that fence proved a heaven sent blessing to us all!

 

 

Chapter 24

 

A Bed for Juan

 

 

          Hurricane Beulah had struck the Rio Grande Valley with unbridled fury. Violent winds had toppled the entire row of stately trees that lined our street. They lay like a row of fallen dominoes, the tips of each one covering the roots of the one ahead of it like a verdant blanket endeavoring to protect its companion from the elements to which it had been so summarily exposed.

          There was no electricity in the house. Poles that once supported the wires lay snapped like matchsticks strewn over the landscape, their wires dangerously littering the sidewalks and roadways. There was good reason for the mandate that no one be on the streets except those authorized to be there.

          Our stately old house had withstood the onslaught of the first segment of the storm with only one window succumbing to the pressure of the driving rain. Rain pounding that one opening could have flooded the house, but the children and I were able to replace the glass with a sheet of plywood that unaccountably lay near the gaping aperture. All the water that filtered around the edges could then be mopped up with towels diligently applied to the floor, wrung out and applied again. There was no time to even think of our rain soaked clothing until the storm had abated and the house was safe.

          The seventy was one hundred and fifty miles away at Corpus Christi. He had called when he heard the predictions of the approaching hurricane asking if he should come home. I had assured him there was no need for him to leave his field of ministry. We would be safe. After all, we were miles from the Gulf of Mexico. What harm could a hurricane do us there? Besides, it would all be over before he could possibly make the trip home.

This was our first experience with a hurricane. Somehow, we thought it would be like a Midwest tornado. It would roar through some limited strip of land and be finished. We had no idea of the nature neither of this unwieldy beast nor of its aftermath.

          Fortunately we had listened to the instruction to fill every possibly vessel with water. There would be no safe water coming through our usual sources for, no one knew how long. That seemed unlikely to us, but we were in a habit of keeping a reserve supply of water all the time, so supplementing that reserve did not seem too outrageous a response.

          We thanked God for that bit of wisdom when we found our house filled with persons less fortunate than we, all of whom needed water in once way or another. People came from houses that had lost their roofs or now had roofs that leaked like a sieve. Some came simply because they were frightened and thought the seventy’s house a good place of refuge. Even our next-door neighbor, who had ignored the advice to gather a supply of precious liquid, found a need that we could help supply. Two overflowing rain barrels added to our ability to share.

          After the first deluge of water and wind, there was an eerie calm while the eye of the storm passed over us. That was followed by a second attack of wind and water driving the opposite way from the first. One almost expected to see the fallen trees blown back to their places, except that the force of the storm had somewhat abated by the time the other side of the whirling giant reached us.

          But then came the aftermath, which we had not anticipated. The floodwaters began to rise. Much to our amazement, they reached from the coast to our town, forty miles inland, and threatened to inundate us. To prevent that tragedy, the entire population was alerted to help sandbag the low places. Crews worked around the clock digging, bagging, transporting the sand. Many of us were kept busy supplying food and drink for the workers.

          Delbert took his place among the sandbaggers. By the time the storm had passed Corpus Christi, he had realized that there was no place for missionarying in the aftermath of the storm. Everyone was busy just trying to survive or recover from its devastation. He tried to call home, but there was no telephone service. So he started out by car, trying to outrun the floods that were fast closing the highways. As he drove down highway 77, he listened to his radio announcing the closing of first one and then another of the roads he had just traversed.

          Finally, he was traveling in water far too deep for safety, but he felt he must get home. What if we did need help? What if the house had not been able to withstand the storm? Would I have had the foresight to have needed food and water on hand? There were a myriad of questions surging through his head and driving him on through the high water.

          With the flooding there came hordes of mosquitoes. They gathered on his windshield more rapidly than his wipers could dislodge them. Time after time he had to stop, scoop up water that surrounded the car and wash away the offending insects just to be able to see the road.

          As he approached Harlingen he determined to go by a grocery store to get additional supplies just in case we needed them. Though he later realized that he should have known that we would be well supplied with groceries, that decision was fortuitous if not inspired. The choice to go to the grocery store kept him from entering a part of the highway that he usually took but through which he could never have made it that night. Others who had tried it found their vehicles quickly buried in the surging waters and were fortunate to escape with their lives.

          With relief the seventy finally made his way home only to go out again to help sandbag the town to preserve it. As a youth he had worked in a feed mill and knew how to tie knots quickly and securely. That memory stood him in good stead as others fumbled with the task and often allowed the bags to discharge a part of their hard won contents. He was soon the chief instructor in knot tying and a full time worker on that detail. Hour after hour, he and his crew secured the bags that were finally able to save our town. Blistered fingers and sore backs emerged from the effort, but the floodwaters never reached us.

          But the mosquitoes did. Millions and billions of the hungry insects came swarming in. Every inch of skin left unprotected when one ventured outside was instantly attacked. The stores were quickly emptied of all repellents and sprays. Those fortunate enough to get them soon found their supplies exhausted and the mosquitoes still hungry!

          One night not long after Beulah left the city and us was about back to normal, there was a football game at the high school stadium. The city crews came with their equipment and sprayed the enclosure twice before the game. We who were spectators came dressed as fully as we could to discourage the mosquitoes, and the fortunate ones came covered with repellent. Even our most valiant efforts were not sufficient to prevent the vicious beasts from using us for food. They bit right through all but the toughest materials. We sat slapping and squirming, dodging and fuming through the game.

          Our son Alan had the unenviable task of keeping statistics on the game. All year he had made a little extra money keeping the ”stats” of all the athletic events and calling them in to the Corpus Christi paper as soon as the events were finished. This night, he was not fortunate enough to have repellent sufficient for his entire body, nor did he have his hands free to shoo any of the troublemakers away. We cringed in sympathy as we saw him periodically swat a leg covered by the insects, wipe off the blood with his other hand and resume writing on his blood spattered pad.

          Eventually there was good news on the radio. We were all to cover our cars and any other exposed equipment and wait for the army to fly over, spraying the entire valley for the mosquitoes. Much as we disliked the smell and even the thought of the chemicals, we stood at our windows and thanked God for the relief that came with the big bombers.

          Across the Rio Grande River, the bombers did not fly. There were reports of animals that died because of the many mosquitoes that gathered in their nostrils and cut off their breath. The suffering there of both human and beast was indescribable.

          Across the Rio Grande, too, sandbagging did not stop the floods. Many people lost their meager possessions in the swirling waters. We hoped there was some way that we could help.

          Among other things we had an extra bed. It had been given to us for Karen when we lived in Lamoni. Charlotte and David Carter were the donors. Two of our boys had grown too long for an ordinary bed, and we had purchased a queen sized one to accommodate their growing bodies. Now we could pass on the Carter gift to someone who had lost their bed to the hurricane’s aftermath.

          Mildred and Harold Smith were part of the Reynosa, Mexico congregation, helping Juan Reyes in ministry there. They seemed the appropriate ones to ask to deliver the bed to some needy person. Imagine our surprise when they asked, rather timidly, if we would mind if they gave the bed to Juan. It never occurred to us that this young, dedicated national minister for the church did not even have a bed!  We knew he did not have transportation and had tried to get him a bicycle, but he had refused insisting that one day soon he would have saved enough money to buy one for himself. But a bed! How could he be without a bed?

          Soon after the bed was delivered, we received a letter from Juan written in very good English. “Last night I received a very beautiful present given from you for me, and let me tell you I’m so grateful with you for such a wonderful present. From now on I think I’m going to get up very late because I will rest as a king. I walk all day time, going to visit those who live very far from our church here in Reynosa and when I go back to my house I’m so tired, but I have to be patient…”

Our eyes burned with tears as we contrasted our situation on the north side of the Rio Grande with that of those who were separated from the abundance we enjoyed by only a stream and a different culture. A beautiful present that well used bed? Rest like a king that tired young minister! When would the time come when we would all enjoy the same benefits as we labored together for the Master? When would the time come when all the peoples of the earth would enjoy the blessings that we take so much for granted?

          We have kept Juan’s letter to remind us of the need to continue our efforts to help usher in that Kingdom of God on earth in which none will have need of the basics of life but all will have enough and spare!

 

 

Chapter 25

 

Faith of a Salesman

 

 

          We were accustomed to having the Fuller Brush man stop at our house in Weslaco, Texas periodically, so when one called, there was no reason to believe this visit would lead to anything but a small purchase. When I opened the door and found a large, sandy haired, freckled faced young stranger instead of the salesman with whom I was acquainted, I was curious.

          “You’re new in this area, aren’t you?” I inquired.

          “Just started last week,” the new salesman replied cordially.

          “Are you from The Valley?” I was always interested in people, but this towering young man with the friendly grin excited my curiosity more than usual. Maybe it was his coloring that was so much like my husband’s. Maybe it was the space between his front teeth that matched my own bane. Maybe it was his size that attracted my attention. Maybe it was the Spirit of God that prompted my inquiry!

          “We just moved here from Missouri,” Howard explained. “We’re sort of looking over the area to see if we would like to settle here.”

          “Where in Missouri did you come from?” My interest was increasing. Missouri was home for Delbert and me, too.

          “Oh, a little town named Albany.” The salesman was certain I would never have heard of it.

          “I know Albany! That’s close to my home town.” This was exciting to have someone from so near home to be sitting in our living room in The Magic Valley of Texas.

          “What did you do there?” I persisted.

          “We had a Hy-Klas grocery.” Howard was patient. Until now he had not even had a chance to show his wares.

          “But we had to sell out when a big chain came in and I got ulcers. In fact, the ulcers got so bad that the doctor said I had to get out of the store to save my life. We thought we might like to go into the supply end of the grocery business, so we’re here to check out the fruit and vegetable business in The Valley. I had to do something to support us while we look around.” Apparently Howard had decided he had just as well give me his history all at once so he could get on to the business of selling Fuller Brushes.

          I could hardly wait for him to finish! “I have a brother in the Hy-Klas store over in a little town west of Stanberry.” I knew he would know Stanberry. I wasn’t so sure about Guilford.

          “My wife’s grandfather lives in a little town west of Stanberry-Guilford.” Howard volunteered.

          “Guilford is where my brother has his store. “ It was like getting a message from home now.

          “Alma Nelson?” Howard was beginning to get interested in the conversation, too. I nodded.

          “I know Junior,” Howard continued, and then half apologetically explained, “That’s what we called him at our store meetings.”

          “That’s my brother!” I confirmed enthusiastically.

          “He’s a Mormon, isn’t he?” Howard remembered something about Junior that was different, but almost as soon as he said it, it was apparent that he wished he had not.

          “We are members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, “ I explained, hoping to ease his discomfiture. “My husband is a missionary and is away up on the coast now. When he gets back, we ought to get together. “ Then remembering that they were new in The Valley, I asked, “Have you found a church to attend yet?”

          “We’re Presbyterians, “ Howard explained, “and we went to the church over on Seventh Street last Sunday.”

          “Oh,” I hesitated for a moment. “If only we were going to be in town this Sunday, we’d surely like to have you go to church with us and then come home to dinner so you could get acquainted with the family. But there will be no services at the church for the next two weeks. We will all be at camp.”

          “You mean when you leave town there are no services?” Howard was puzzled. “You must be important people in that church!”

          “Oh, not just us!” I laughed . “All of the church people go to camp together, or most of them,” I hastily corrected myself. “When we got back a week from Monday, though, we just must get together!”

          I ordered several items that would insure that the young man would at least come back that designated Monday. This man was someone special. Delbert must meet him!

          Delivery date arrived. The Fuller Brush man opened the conversation. “My wife says she has spent more time in your church than she has in her own,” he announced. “She even knows all about those family camps you have been attending, ‘reunions’, she calls them. She was the only member of her graduating class who was not a member of your church, so she was invited to all of the youth activities. “

          “Great!” I exclaimed. “I can hardly wait to meet your wife!”

          “She’s out in the car with our little boy.” Howard was expecting an invitation.

          “Bring them in. “ I insisted happily.

          Instantly the Lynch’s seemed like family. There were dinner dates and sight seeing trips as we showed the newcomers some of the treasures we had discovered and learned to love since our coming to The Valley. And when we did invite them to attend church with us, they responded enthusiastically.

          “Tell them what happened at the meeting you attended over on Seventh Street last week,” Howard urged. Sandy was obviously glad to share.

          Sandy had been invited to attend a women’s meeting at the luxurious home of one of her church’s members. While the women were congregating, someone noticed a Latin American woman, whom they all seemed to recognize as a member of their church, coming up the walk. The women reacted with consternation.

          “She has made a mistake!” someone said.

          “She knows she doesn’t belong here!” another protested emphatically.

          “Why should she try to crash our meeting?” another questioned indignantly.

          “She will just have to go to her own meeting on the north side.” the president asserted firmly, and the comely young Latin was sent away!

          Sandy was furious. When someone was asked to take the worship for the next week, Sandy volunteered. Her service was based on the brotherhood of all. In no uncertain terms she had expressed her feeling about the hypocrisy of intolerance among Christians. “I don’t think they want me back!” Sandy concluded with a wry smile.

          There were happy times together, at church, around the swimming pool of the apartment complex in which the Lynch’s lived, in the seventy’s home. There were long talks about Christ and His church. Sandy and Howard kept our children while we made a business trip to Missouri. We planned a trip to Mexico together. We would attend a class Bob was teaching at Colonial 16 outside Matamoros that afternoon. It was the only chance the Lynch’s would have to see Mexico as it really was because they were soon returning to Missouri to another business opportunity.

          As the time for the Mexican trip approached, it became apparent that Howard was much too sick for such a venture. His old ulcer had flared up again. In those days, milk was the preferred food for ulcer victims, and milk was Howard’s principle food. One night when we were eating grilled cheese sandwiches, he tried half of one and suffered excruciating pain. He felt almost as sick as he had felt back in Missouri when the ulcer had perforated and the doctor had almost despaired for his life. On the morning the trip was planned, Howard came to the house to cancel our plans….

          “I just can’t make it!”  He said apologetically.

          Delbert was so anxious that Howard and Sandy have this one last opportunity to see the church in action in Mexico that he just could not accept this new state of affairs.

          “Howard do you know what the Lord has told us to do when we are sick?” he asked boldly.

          “I guess I don’t.” Howard confessed hesitantly.

          Delbert got the Bible. ”Here. Read what James says to do.” He pointed to James 5:14-15. Read it out loud so Sandy can hear it.” The seventy was anxious to have a unity of faith in this procedure.

          “Is any sick among you?” the sick man read carefully, “ let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

          Howard lowered the book slowly and looked questioningly at the seventy.

          “You couldn’t pray for me, could you?” the sick man protested earnestly. “I’m not a member of your church!”

          “I don’t know why not.” Delbert answered with a mischievous smile. “I don’t remember reading in the scriptures that Jesus ever asked anyone whether they had been baptized before he healed them!”

          “Do you really think you could heal me?” How Howard wished it could be true! “If only I could be free of this awful pain!”

          “No,” Delbert momentarily dashed the sick man’s hopes. “I can’t heal you, but God can! He has set his ordinance in his church to bring healing to those who have faith in Him. I think you have that kind of faith.”

          The two men talked for a long time about God’s love as it is manifested in healing ministry. Sandy and I listened. Finally Howard asked, “Will you pray for me now?”

          The seventy anointed the big salesman’s head with oil, laid his hands on him and prayed for healing.

          “OK, let’s go!” Howard announced confidently as he arose from the chair, and soon we were on our way.

          At the Palmetto Inn in Brownsville, we approached the array of Mexican foods. Howard started filling his plate generously. Delbert decided there should be a bit of caution for the man who had been suffering excruciating pain from ulcers and began to suggest some foods that were less spicy than others. Howard was obviously surprised at the minister’s suggestion.

          “Didn’t you pray for God to heal me?” he questioned. Delbert nodded. ”Then why can’t I eat what I want?”

          Delbert beat a hasty retreat, and Howard ate what he wanted.

          All that afternoon and far into the night the Lynchs, Turners and Smiths explored Matamoros, visited the Saints, attended the church service and talked. Never for one moment did Howard suffer from his meal of Mexican food.

          Another interesting thing happened that evening, too. While Bob was teaching his class in Spanish, Delbert sat beside Howard. At first, he was turning the scriptures to the books of the Bible to which Bob was referring. The seventy did know the Spanish names for the books even though he could not read their contents. Suddenly he became aware that he was interpreting everything that Bob was saying for Howard. That might not have been unusual for some, but for Delbert, it was a first.           He did not know Spanish, and could in no way translate Bob’s speech into English on his own! It had to be the second miracle of the day, the gift of tongues manifested in its unsullied form.

          Seven years after the Lynchs left The Valley, Howard was living in Hawaii. On our Christmas letter, I penned this note, “How are Howard’s ulcers?”

          The answer came back from Howard’s wife. “Ulcers? Howard doesn’t have ulcers!”

          Several years more passed before we visited Howard. Again I inquired about his ulcers. Howard smiled and affirmed that he had never had another problem with ulcers from that day in Texas when the prayer of faith healed him.

 

 

Chapter 26

 

Weslaco’s Highest Award

 

 

          Awards day at Weslaco High was frequent and the number of awards given generous. It seemed to be the philosophy of the school that everyone deserved to be commended for their efforts in as many ways as possible. There were awards for academics in every subject. There were awards for perfect attendance. There were athletic awards, music awards, citizenship awards, and journalism awards. You name it; there was probably an award for it.  Since the seventy was seldom around to attend the award ceremonies, I usually took good notes so I could share with him the achievements of our sons attending there.

          One particular day I remember vividly. I had taken a ruled yellow tablet on which to record the honors given. Alan’s class was first to be honored. I had filled one page with citations and was about to turn to the second one when I heard a conversation behind me. Two of his classmates were listening as carefully as I. Noting the many honors being awarded, one said to the other, “It’s a shame we can’t hate him!”

          That was the honor above all honors given Alan that day! It is recorded indelibly in my memory as the award I found most valuable because of what it said about his relationship with his fellow students. They could admire his achievements knowing that there was no arrogance in him.

 

 

Chapter 27

 

Our Invincible Mama

 

 

          “There has been a terrible accident! Mamma has been badly hurt. If you want to see her alive, you will need to come immediately!”

          The telephone message was from my sister, Lucy Marie Land, who was a nurse at the Independence, Missouri, hospital to which Mother and several other members of my family had been taken. I was living in Weslaco, Texas, in the area to which we had been assigned as a missionary family.

          It was May and our family was preparing to visit Missouri as soon as school was finished. For me to go immediately to be by Mother’s bedside would mean leaving the seventy and our five children alone in the Magic Valley of Texas, as least until Mother’s condition was determined more completely or school was finished, whichever came first. It was quickly determined that I would go, however, and I was on the first plane out of the Valley.

          “How is she?” My urgent request was directed to my brother, Dr. Norman Nelson, who was just buttoning his shirtsleeves as he left the Intensive Care Unit when I arrived.

          The good doctor shook his head. “We just piled the “hamburger” back around the bone and poured in antibiotics to keep down the infection until we can amputate, “ was his terse, dejected reply. “We will have to take off that leg if she is to survive,” he explained, “but every time we start to take her into surgery, her blood pressure plummets making it impossible.”

          When the accident happened, Mama had been on her way for her check-up to determine if she was still cancer free. It had been five years since her cancer surgery. She was a passenger in the back seat of my brother, Kenneth’s, car when they had topped a rise in the highway to find a large flatbed truck parked in their lane. There was no time to stop and no place to go. Kenneth swerved to the left as far as possible, but the parked rig caught the right side of the car, with the back seat where Mama was riding, getting the worst of the damage. The car was demolished.

          Everyone in the car was hurt, Mamma worst of all. Her head was cut and battered, her chest was crushed, but it was her leg, cut, crushed and shattered until it was impossible to expect recovery, that posed the most immediate danger to her life. When doctors at the first hospital to which the family was taken announced that the leg had to be amputated, Kenneth requested transfer to the church’s Independence Sanitarium and Hospital where there were doctors and nurses that the family knew and where she could more readily receive the administration of the elders as the scriptures instructed. There it was that I found them all.

          Every thing about Mamma was bloody. The nurses wanted to cut off her long, blood matted hair, but Lucy Marie refused. “Why, without her long hair, Mamma would not look like Mamma!” was her fervent explanation of her obstinate stance on the matter. So for hours at a time we sat beside our unconscious mother with pads of gauze and a pan of rubbing alcohol cleaning the long beautiful hair strand by strand, preserving the soft white tresses that had so long been Mamma’s crowning glory.

          Day after day and night after night one of us sat beside the unconscious figure of our mother. She was finally moved to a private room. Both her broken legs were put into traction. Her shattered left leg was put in a sort of rigid trough. There was no way it could be casted. The bones, with jagged, broken ends lying askew near the middle of her leg, lay exposed from her knee to her ankle. The gaping wound spread inches apart allowing unfettered access to the decaying blood, flesh and bones. The stench that permeated the room and seeped into the hall was almost unbearable! The doctors were still waiting the time when she was physically able to undergo the surgery that would remove the useless appendage.

          Occasionally Mamma moaned or shifted her position slightly. We were feeding her now. When we put food in her mouth, somehow she responded by chewing. When we were certain it was masticated we would stroke her throat and give the command, “Swallow, Mamma”. Obediently, Mamma would swallow. The words were repeated so often that they almost seemed to reverberate in the room even when they were not being vocalized. Whenever I recall those months beside her bed, the memory that rings most persistently in my mind is of stroking her throat and commanding, “Swallow, Mamma!”

          Tethered as she was to the traction on her legs, Mamma could only lie flat on her back. She could not be turned from side to side to provide even

momentary relief. She could be lifted to a partial sitting position so the nurses could give her a back rub, and the nurses did what they could to give her ease with an eggshell mattress, a fleece and frequent massage, but nasty bedsores developed. One day there would be a tape over the powder that had been used to rub her back when someone decided it might be the powder that was irritating her. The next it might be the lotion. Nothing seemed to help, and the situation became increasingly more painfully serious.

          By now Mamma was aware of much that was transpiring around her, and her back hurt. She was still very weak and rarely even opened her eyes. One morning, after noting the consternation of the nurses who found the sores worse than ever and could find no relief for her, we were all surprised to hear her whisper, “Why don’t you try consecrated olive oil?”

          All of our lives we had kept olive oil, consecrated by the elders of the church, for use, with faith, for the purpose of healing ministries in our home. Now we wasted no time in obtaining a bottle of the substance from the pharmacy. The Chaplain consecrated it for the particular use for which it was intended, and Mamma’s back was massaged with it. Almost immediately, the angry sores began to heal.

          Seeing the immediate improvement of the bedsores, some one proposed that we use the oil on the leg as well. Prayerfully it was applied knowing that it could do no harm to a leg that was slated for amputation anyway. But the next day when the doctor came to examine Mamma, he caught a glimpse of an unexpected movement. Mamma had wiggled the toes of her condemned leg!

          “Here! Here! What’s this?” exclaimed the good doctor as he hurried to the end of the bed and gingerly touched the toes to determine whether he had really seen what he thought he had seen! Mamma responded by moving her toes away from the good doctor’s touch. Doctor Szabados responded with excitement.

          “What’s happened?” he demanded of everyone in general and no one in particular. “What’s going on here?”

          Since my sister was this doctor’s office nurse and since she had been responsible for using the oil on the leg, she responded to the doctor’s inquiry. She explained how the bedsores had responded to the use of the oil and how she had decided to try it on the leg as well.

          “Here! Give me that stuff!” the good Catholic doctor demanded, and with the bottle in hand he poured copious amounts down the fleshy troughs that coursed down each side or the decaying bones.

          We watched as new bone formed below the shattered ends of the bone that had fractured during the accident. The splintered ends that seemed so hopeless just sloughed away from the fresh bone allowing it to grow strong without the bone ever being set or the splinters being knit together. Then the wound began to close, and the proposed amputation was cancelled forever.

          Mamma had been in the hospital from May until September when she was finally released. I was the only member of the family who had been freed to stay with her most of the time. My family had been scattered for the summer. The seventy and Alan remained at work in the Valley. My sister, Winifred, and her husband added the four younger ones to their family on their farm near Guilford.

          Now that school was about to begin again, and Mamma was well enough to be dismissed from the hospital, some other plans had to be made for her. She was still an invalid, far from able to care for herself. She needed to be near medical services so could not go to the Valley with me. She could not return alone to her home on the farm near Guilford. Some of us thought residence at the church’s Resthaven just across the street from the hospital would be ideal for her, and made tentative arrangements for her removal to that facility. Again Lucy Marie protested, and her protest cancelled the arrangement. She insisted that she would take Mamma home with her, but she worked sixteen hours a day and Mamma could not be alone that much of the time. Norman and Arla took Mamma into their home in Lamoni, Iowa, where Norman was a practicing physician and Arla a registered nurse,

          The following August we were moved to Independence, Missouri. There we lived in a large house, once the home of the Dr. Charles Grabske’s, just up the street from the hospital and from Resthaven. Mamma came to live with us for nine wonderful months while we were at the School of The Restoration.

          By now Mamma was much stronger. She walked with a walker on a leg that was a little short but whole. We set up her hospital bed in the library that opened through glass sliding doors onto the paved patio where she could wander at will in the beauty of the out of doors. The children made her room their haven. There she helped them with their homework, told them stories of her own life as a teacher and mother of seven, watched television with them and discussed the exciting events of each day. Nightly we gathered around her bed for our evening prayers.

          With the fall there came instruction for us to move on to our next assignment. This time to minister in Canada. That was too far from home for Mamma, and she went to live with Winifred and Ray Negaard on the farm next to her own. Occasionally she could even go to her old home for a short stay, especially on holidays when there were some of us to stay with her. We thought she needed us, but that may have been only our perception.

          It was Christmas time and we were home from Canada for the celebration. Mamma was delighted to go with us to her farm home for the holidays. The first night we were there, it snowed a lot. Early in the morning we sleepily discussed who would shovel a path to the privy. That outdoor facility lay at the end of a path that meandered from the back door of the house quite a distance down the east side of the garden, and it was usually the first place each waking member of the family sought.

          Imagine our surprise when we went, shovel in hand, to scoop the path. The walkway was already open. Mamma had trampled it from house to privy. Using her walker for support, she had vigorously dislodged the snow from the path with her booted feet until the facility was available to us all! Accident or no accident, Mamma was still in charge of her own home and the leg God gave back to her was no longer a useless appendage!

 

Chapter 28

 

Prince

         

          “Mildred, do you believe in the resurrection?”

          The seventy spoke in an aside as he held his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone. He had just answered a call, and I had no idea who might be calling.

          “Of course I do!” I answered, my voice giving clear evidence of my perplexity.

          “The police say they have our dog.” Even Delbert’s voice betrayed his confusion. The inflection of his voice was more that of a question than a statement.

          “Our dog?” Mine was frankly a question. “Didn’t you bury him?”

          “Well, not really. There wasn’t time for a funeral.”

          “But his tags are here!” I ran to the closet and produced Lightening’s collar with license and medical tags still attached. Steven had hung them there after his pet had been run over by his teacher the last day of school the previous spring. I was in Missouri keeping watch over my injured mother when the accident occurred. Delbert brought the rest of the family, except Alan, to Missouri the following day. After an entire summer away, we were home again in Weslaco_ and the police said they had our dog?

          “What makes them think they have our dog?” There had to be some mistake!

          “They say he is small and black and white like Lightening was and the dog they have is wearing our tags”

          “Our tags?” I looked at the tags dangling from the collar in my hands. How could the police have our tags when I had them in my hands?

          I gave a gesture of resignation and suggested that we go and have a look. That seemed the only way to get to the bottom of this confusing situation.

          When the seventy and the children returned from the dog pound

They were carrying a pitiful scrawny little black and white dog. He was wearing our tags. But he was not Lightening.

          Some two years before a little black and white puppy was born in our neighborhood over on Louisiana Street. Our children watched him at play with his family down the street until one day he disappeared. Steven knew exactly where he had gone. The dogcatcher had picked him up because he was not wearing a license.

          Steven also knew just how long the city would keep the puppy alive at the pound. So on the day the dog would have been put to sleep permanently, Steven took his own hard earned money to the pound, reprieved the puppy, paid for his shots and his license, purchased food and a collar and leash for him and brought him home. He named him Prince.

          All of our children were excited about the new puppy. Karen took him for a walk around the neighborhood where he was noticed by the children into whose family he had been born. Immediately they claimed the puppy as theirs and tried to take him away. Karen tried to explain that the puppy was Steven’s but there was no way the children would listen to her explanation. Frightened but determined not to lose Steven’s new treasure, Karen snatched Prince from the eager children and ran home. Quickly she fastened the leash onto the clothesline and came racing into the house calling for help. We all ran to see what was happening and found the neighbor child taking the leash off the clothesline and starting away with Prince.

          Delbert called out to the child and again tried to explain that Steven had saved Prince’s life and had paid for him. He was no longer theirs. The child could not understand but did leave the dog.

          Very soon the father of the family down the street came calling and asking for the dog. Again Delbert explained that there would have been no dog if Steven had not paid for its life. The father did understand and offered to repay all that Steven had invested if he could just have the dog back for his children. He assured us that he had not been aware that the dog was old enough to need a license.

          Since Steven had been totally responsible for saving the dog and for all the expenses that entailed, he was given full freedom in making the decision as to whether he would give up Prince. Steven looked at the pleading children and felt sorry for them. It took only moments for the sturdy eleven year old to decide to let the children have the dog. Prince went to his new/old home wearing the collar and tags Steven had purchased for him.

          Claire and Jesse Weldon and their children were fellow appointees and friends of the Smith family. It wasn’t long before they heard Prince’s story. The Weldons held a short family consultation, and then Jesse said, “Velvet will have puppies soon. Would you like to have one of them to take Prince’s place?”

          And so it was that when Velvet’s puppies were born, one little roly-poly black one with a white streak from his chin to his breast was given to Steven. That white streak earned him his name, Lightening, and he was Steven’s constant companion at work and at play until the day he was crushed beneath the wheels of Mrs. Eldane’s car. All we had left of Lightening were our memories and his collar and tags.

          The scrawny bundle of bones that the seventy and the children brought back from the pound this time could not easily have been identified except that he was wearing Steven’s tags. It was Prince! Poor, abused, neglected Prince! His license had never been renewed, and when the family who claimed him moved to California, they left him on the street with no home and no care. Someone noticed the poor, starving waif and notified the police. We were living in another part of town but finding us was no great problem for the officers. It was then that they called.

          Again it was Steven who paid the bill for Prince’s redemption. He didn’t really have to do it.  We would have helped, but it was his dog and he wanted to take responsibility for him.

          With all of the love and care that was lavished on him, Prince soon became a rollicking beautiful dog. His inordinate terror when I picked up a broom bore mute testimony to the treatment someone had given him during the time he belonged to others. And he would not voluntarily come into the house under any circumstance until we lived in Canada and the temperature dropped far below anything the Texas born canine had ever imagined. Then he would enter the side door, rush down the steps to the furnace room to his food and water. Occasionally he would rest his head on his feet at the sill of the door that led into the kitchen and watch the family at dinner or at work, but he would never venture inside the room.

          There were a couple of incidents in Prince’s life in Canada that will always be indelibly imprinted on our memories.

          Most of the family had been in camps almost all summer. Steven had been at home with Prince. He would normally have been with us, but this summer he had bid for and received the job of painting the mission house in Saskatoon. When we returned a few days after school had resumed, Steven announced a bit hesitantly, “Mom, I have to go to court on Monday, and I don’t want to miss school. Do you suppose the judge would let you go in for me?

          Needless to say, I was taken aback. It was not like Steven to run afoul of the law.  “For goodness sake! What have you done that got you into trouble?” I questioned seriously.

          “Nothing, really, “ It sounded like a teen-age waffle to escape possible retribution except that I knew Steven was not that kind of a teen.

          “They say I let Prince out of the yard to roam the streets, but I didn’t.” Obviously there was a tale here that I should hear.

          The court was glad to allow me to appear in Steven’s place. Person after person appeared before the judge charged with minor infractions of the law, for many of whom it was allowing animals to roam the streets. Most of the people just pled guilty and the fine was assessed. Ten dollars seemed the usual amount. That might not seem like much for some, but we didn’t have ten dollars in our appointee budget to spend on fines.

          When Steven’s case was called, I appeared before the judge. He was so intent on the papers before him that he barely acknowledged my being there.

          “How do you plead?” he growled impatiently.

          “Not guilty , Sir.” I responded firmly.

          “Huh? How’s that?” The surprised judge glared at me as he peered over his glasses in astonishment. “Don’t you know it will go better with you if you just plead guilty and take your punishment?”

          “But, Sir, we are not guilty!”  I spoke as firmly as before as I looked straight into his startled eyes.

          “How’s that?” This time it was a real question. “Tell the court what really happened.’

          “Sir,” I spoke respectfully.” Our son’s dog was tied inside our yard fence when our son left for school. He was tied over on the boulevard when your men found him. We have no idea how he got there.”

          “Is that right, Bailiff. Check the record.”

          Quickly the bailiff rifled through the papers in his hand. Then he nodded. “Yes, Sir. The report says he was tied with his own leash.”

          “M-M_M,” mused the judge. “Sounds like someone was being malicious!”

          “Sir, I don’t know about that.” I was becoming increasingly certain that I would not have to pay that ten-dollar fine. “All I know is that the dog was tied.”

          “Look into that charge, “ the judge instructed the bailiff. He was no longer officious in his manner. Speaking kindly to me now he said, “You go on home. We’ll look into it and call you.”

          A few days later the call came. “The charges against your son have been dropped,” the caller said. There was no further explanation, but our reaction was to thank the good Lord for His blessing.

          A second incident happened after we had discovered blood on the snow in our backyard. Prince was bleeding from an abscess on his anus the veterinarians at Canada’s Western School of Veterinary Medicine informed us.  They treated the wound then fitted Prince with a muzzle made from a dog collar and a plastic bucket. The object was to keep him from chewing open the wound that they had just sutured and prepared for healing.

          Prince had been home only a short time when we discovered him chewing on his sutured wound. His muzzle was arrayed conspicuously on our front porch! Some misguided animal lover who had apparently decided that wearing the muzzle was some sort of cruel punishment for the dog had entered our fenced yard and removed the protective paraphernalia. Little did he or she know the harm their proffered assistance had brought the object of their sympathy. I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper in an effort to inform the person or persons of the real purpose of the muzzle. The young veterinarians at the school repaired the damage and Prince recovered without further interference with his treatment.

          Prince lived to be an old dog. We kept him at home with us while Steven went away to school and finally had a home and veterinary clinic of his own. When finally the dog could no longer see or hear well and his body became wracked with pain, we took him to Steven’s clinic and asked what should be done. After a thorough examination of his beloved Prince, Steven decided his pet had suffered enough. As we stood talking, Prince lay down on the table and quietly breathed his last. His friend and benefactor had administered the injection so skillfully that neither Prince nor I was even aware of his actions.

 

 

Chapter 29

 

Virgil Perryman’s Story

 

 

          Seventy Harry Doty was in charge of the Reunion prayer services at Camp Sionito near Bandera, Texas that summer of 1967. Each morning’s gathering evidenced some new and wonderful inspiration by which God blessed the people through Brother Doty.

          This particular morning followed a disturbing evening class in which the high priest who directed the class made comments about the use of alcoholic beverages that were contrary to the Word of Wisdom and the general belief of many of those present. When an elderly brother had challenged the recommendation to take a little wine before going to bed and had suggested that there were better ways to relax, the instructor had responded almost flippantly, “But I like it!”

          Following the class, the youth introduced a skit into their campfire. One of the young ones went into a bar with a paper cup and asked the bartender to fill it up for him so he could take it to a friend. The bartender, while filling the cup, asked pointedly, “Is that  (and he named the high priest) out in the alley again?” Everyone laughed, but the tension was not entirely relieved.

          Brother Doty had not been either in the class or in the campfire, we learned later, and no one had approached him about the matter. The prayer service the next morning began with the admonition, frequently heard in such situations, that those participating should be brief to give all a chance to speak.

          During the service a couple from a distant part of Texas arrived and quietly took their place among the Saints. As soon as those immediately engaged in testimony were finished, Brother Doty pointed toward the newcomer, whom he had never met and did not know, and announced, “We will hear this brother’s testimony now, and Brother, you may take all of the time you like!”

          The newly arrived gentleman had not asked for the privilege of speaking, but without hesitation he took his place at the microphone that Brother Doty signaled he use and began his story.

          Virgil Perryman had been a successful minister of another faith. He had a radio program that was highly rewarding to him and his congregation both in popularity and in monetary returns. He was an active participant with other Protestant ministers in social as well as ministerial activities.

          At one of the social events, wine was served. When Virgil and his wife Christine questioned the propriety of the practice, the host quoted Paul’s admonition to Timothy to  “… use a little wine for you r stomach’s sake.” ( I Timothy 5:25 IV, 23 KJ) And so, reported the minister, “We were started on ten years of hell!”

          Brother Perryman then described the awful addiction to which both he and Christine succumbed. Because of their position among their parishioners, both those in the local congregation and those of their radio audience, they tried to keep their addiction secret. He told how they first tried to hide their beverage containers in their own garbage. Then they began going down their alley, distributing them among the garbage of others in the hope they would not be found out.

          The more he drank, the more he needed to drink until finally he was taking vodka into the pulpit with him. He chose vodka, of course, because he felt no one would suspect that he was not drinking water. There would be no telltale odor to give him away. What he did not anticipate was that his behavior would not be so easily disguised as the contents of his glass.

          One Sunday morning as he was being greeted by his parishioners and complimented on his sermon, one faithful deacon remained behind. When the rest were gone, the deacon approached his pastor hesitantly. “That was quite a sermon.” He opened the conversation.

          Reverend Perryman was accustomed to receiving the comments of his congregation as complimentary and so accepted this one. But the deacon persisted, “As I remember it, though, Samson slew a thousand men with the jaw bone of an ass, not beat the hell out of them!”

          The words fell like a pulsating hammer on Virgil’s now listening ear. His speech had betrayed him! He could no longer pretend to be the shepherd of his flock! As quickly as he could he resigned his pastorate and left his radio ministry. He, with Christine, joined an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter and began to try to put their lives together again. God, seeing their need, sent Seventy Ed Barlow and Elder Jack Basse to their rescue. They had responded to the gospel and now found life new and wonderful with their Lord!

          When Virgil was finished, there was hardly an audible breath in the congregation. Even Brother Doty waited a long moment before continuing the meeting. Many who had been disturbed by the events of the night before raised thankful prayers to a living God who sees and fulfills our need in wonderful and unexpected ways!

 

Chapter 30

 

Leaving Weslaco: An unexpected Move

 

 

          Our stay in Weslaco, Texas ended abruptly. On five different occasions, most of them by letter, we were assured that we would not be reassigned during any foreseeable future. As a result, we prepared our summer schedule of camps, Vacation Church School, missionary journeys, etc. with the intent of devoting our entire summer to the work of the church. Work needed on the house would just have to wait. Among the tasks we had been trying to accomplish a little at a time were carpeting the stairs and paneling upstairs walls that had seen excessive damage during previous occupancies. All our plans changed unexpectedly!

          Saints throughout the Missionary Development Area in which we worked were finding it hard to accept some of the changes being introduced into the programs of the church. Delbert had expressed his concern to the apostle in charge of the area and had discussed with him ways in which he felt the problems present methods were spawning could be corrected. He was assured that the basic gospel was not being changed, just the application.

          At a subsequent regional meeting attended by members of each of the three leading quorums of the church, Delbert joked publicly about the changing application of the gospel. The seventy was asked to introduce his old friend and previous Graceland dorm mate, Bishop Pat Hansen. Prior to the introduction Del drew a picture of the front of a church on the board. Decorating the front of the church was an upside down cross. He told a little story about a builder who left the completion of the church for which he was responsible to his helpers while he went on to another work site. When he returned he found the cross had been embedded in stone upside down.

          The minister of the congregation was furious! He demanded that the cross be torn out and placed in an upright position. Knowing how costly that would be, the builder assured the minister that there was nothing changed about the cross. This was just a new application! From the back of the room came the high pitched voice of a friend demanding, “Del! Have you got another job in mind?” Whether the incident had anything to do with our new assignment, it was always fun for Delbert to link the two for the telling.

          We had just returned from reunion at camp Sionito when we received the notice. We were to report for training at the School of the Restoration in time for the fall session that September. Delbert was to add the orientation of the new appointee to the area to his schedule. We would need to secure our own housing in Independence and to dispose of our house in Weslaco.

          Brother and Sister Harry Barto had been guests in our home both in Hawaii and in Texas. We knew that Brother Barto was in charge of the Central Development Association, so we wrote to him asking for help in finding housing. His response was far greater than we could ever dream. We were placed in the home once owned by Dr. and Sister Charles Grabske, a home equally as spacious as the one we owned in Texas, well located so far as church and school were concerned, and with a rent figure that we could hardly believe. The Harringtons, who owned the house, were sacrificing to make it possible for us to have a beautiful place in which to live during the nine months that we would stay in the city.

          Disposing of our house in Weslaco was a different matter. There were in our neighborhood several houses that had been on the market all during the time that we had lived there. In fact, it seemed that there was little effort to sell some of the nicer homes until the owners reduced the price and the realtors themselves were able to pick them up at bargain prices. We knew that we could not put our house in the hands of a realtor.

          But there was little time to sell it ourselves, either. First there was another camp that would take us back to Bandera. Then came Vacation Church School for which I had responsibility. Delbert was supposed to help with it, but now he had to spend that time orientating the new appointee to the area, which by this time included a large portion of west Texas as well as the Rio Grande Valley. All we could think to do was to put an ad in the paper and pray that God would direct a buyer to our home.

          The Vacation Church School consumed every moment of the week for

me. I hardly had time to think about the house or to pray for its sale. There was no time to worry that there had been no response to the notice in the paper. I didn’t have time for a sale!

          Friday afternoon, Vacation Church School was finished. I had just returned home when a man approached the house obviously looking it over as a prospective buyer would. After a brief trip through the house he inquired the price and immediately sat down with his checkbook. Then he thought better of it and asked if I would wait until his wife could see it before selling it to another. He could have her there soon after dinner. I agreed.

          The first man had barely left the drive when a second family arrived. Their inspection of the house was even more cursory than the first when the man offered to buy. I assured him that I had promised the first gentleman not to sell until his wife saw the house. This gentleman argued that if the other one had not paid something down, I had no obligation to wait for his return. Besides, what assurance did I have that he would return? I had better take his money and be sure about it.

          At this point the seventy returned from his travels through west Texas. After listening to the gentleman’s pleas that we sell the house to him and my explanation of my promise, he supported my decision. The man left reluctantly and called back every few moments to see whether the other prospective buyer had returned.

          Mr. Brown did return and would have written a check for the entire purchase price had we asked it. As it was, he paid us half and arranged to make the rest of the payments over a year’s time.

          By now it was Friday night, Friday of the last full week that we could remain in Texas. We were due to be in Independence, twelve hundred miles away, for registration in the School of the Restoration late the following week. Fortunately, our next-door neighbor was a judge. He said that he did the fastest bit of legal work he had ever done to have everything ready for us to leave by Wednesday. His wife even prepared dinner for the family after the truck was loaded. I was late to dinner. I just had to take a shower after working hard to leave the house as clean as I always had it on Sunday mornings when I would stand at the front door and thank the Lord for providing us such a lovely place in which to live.

          Now I stood at the same door and thanked Him for sending a buyer to make it possible for us to leave without concern.

 

 

Chapter 31

 

Steven’s Accident

 

 

          Cold snowy days and nights are a given in Saskatchewan, Canada for many months each year. That is not always the case in Iowa where Steven was attending Graceland College. So when spring break and the snow came at the same time that year, Steven and his nature-loving friend Greg decided to take advantage of it for some fun.

          Both the young men were quite inventive, but this time it was Greg who rigged up a sled made from the hood of a car. It was designed to be pulled behind Greg’s truck with a long rope. It had a steering mechanism that was ingenious and supposed to make it a safe vehicle. The young men knew just the right hill on which to test the invention. It was a long steep one far out in the country, and it had a curve at the bottom that they were certain was negotiable with Greg’s steering apparatus.

          On the way to the hill, the young men explored an unlocked Audubon cabin they saw sitting on a ridge nearby. There they found information on the birds to be found in the area and enjoyed watching those in sight.

          Just before they reached their chosen hill, the truck ran out of gas. They walked to a farmhouse and borrowed some fuel with a promise that they would return the next day and pay for it. That promise was not to be kept for some time.

          Steven volunteered to be the first one to ride the sled. He had just settled into place when Greg started down the hill with a tremendous jerk that catapulted the sled much too close to the truck. Seeing his mistake, Greg sped up to get in front of the sled. That action jerked the sled again and again hurled it toward the truck.

          Steven fought with the steering mechanism in an effort to gain control, but now Greg’s truck tires were throwing snow into his face. He turned to the right to avoid the snow and completely lost what little control he had hoped to gain. The makeshift sled left the road and careened down the ditch completely out of control.

          By that time the truck had reached the curve. With the sled trailing crazily off the road, the speeding vehicle jerked once more and catapulted Steven off the sled and into a barbed wire laden fence post.

          Fortunately Steven’s left leg hit the post first and absorbed some of the force behind the catapulting two hundred pounds or more that was him, but his head met the recalcitrant post immediately thereafter. Both blows were not sufficient to stop his hurtling body, however. It shot through the barbed wires head first, every barb ripping and tearing at his snowsuit and his exposed face. Like a missile out of a slingshot, he was propelled nearly fifteen feet into a snow bank where he lay bleeding, face down in the snow. His leg hurt. He felt sure it was broken, and he didn’t want to move it!

          As soon as Greg was aware that he had lost his passenger, he stopped the truck and ran back to find him.

          “Greg, I think I broke my leg!” Steve moaned.

          “Yeh. I think you did!” Greg agreed. Steven’s left foot lay at a crazy angle that certainly could not have been a matter of choice. What Greg didn’t tell him was that a leg was not all he had broken.

          There was a gaping hole in Steven’s forehead from which the blood oozed out mixed with wire, staples and debris from a worm eaten portion of the post.  His left nostril was ripped open as though there had been a tremendous explosion form the inside of his nose. It was exactly that, the doctors explained later. When the sinus above his left eye caved in, there was a tidal wave of fluid from the sinus that was so forceful that it blew his nostril wide open!  His face was bleeding from numerous cuts the barbed wire had inflicted mercilessly as his body passed through the fence.

          “Help me!” Steven realized that whether he wanted to move was not the question. He had to get help.

          Greg weighed some forty pounds less than Steven and was of slighter build, but they were both strong. Together they finally got the injured man into the truck. By now the pain in the foot was becoming excruciating though the other injuries were not yet sensitized. In fact, only Greg was even aware of them.

          Suddenly Steven’s vision began to fade. He was not sure whether it was an injury to his eye of which he had not been aware or if it was shock closing in on him. For a time he contemplated what it would be like to go through life without sight. Then he hazily began to remember his training.

          Steven was biology major in college with hope someday to be some kind of a doctor. He had worked as a volunteer at the Sanitarium and Hospital at Independence, Missouri as a young explorer scout. His training there made him aware that he must not allow himself to go into shock. His snowsuit still kept him reasonable warm in spite of the many tears it had sustained. By talking incessantly, he tried to keep himself conscious and awake.

          Greg raced the truck with its severely injured passenger back to the campus and straight up the road to the infirmary, past the restraining barriers and up the sidewalk to the door of the building. Steven thought that was going a little far for just an injured ankle. They had made it to the truck. What made Greg think they couldn’t get him up the walk to the infirmary? Not only did Greg take him to the door by truck, but he hailed a passing student to help him carry him in!

          Once inside the sparsely furnished room, Steven thought everyone was acting crazy. Although he could barely see, he was sure the nurse was acting irrationally! She seemed to be frantically gathering things together, but he thought she seemed afraid to do anything for him. Maybe she was doing all of the right things, but why didn’t she do something about his leg? It hurt dreadfully! In spite of all his efforts he was going in and out of consciousness! If someone didn’t do something soon, he just might go into shock! That was it. He was going into shock! He told her so, and she told him to lie down.

          The next thing he remembered was that he was on a stretcher being taken somewhere he couldn’t imagine. Four of his fellow students were carrying the apparatus and the pain was unbearable. When he thought he could stand it no longer, he prayed to die and asked God to help his parents understand that it was easier to die than to suffer that awful pain!

          What the nurse had actually done was to call the doctor, who happened to be Steven’s uncle, and asked him to meet them at his clinic where more adequate attention could be given to all of the injuries. While he was waiting for his patient, Dr. Nelson called Saskatoon to tell us that Steven had hurt his leg.

          We were not at home. There was a special business meeting at the church for some reason long since lost to memory. Normally all of the family would have been in attendance at that meeting, but this night, Douglas had not been well. Usually that would not have deterred him from being at the church where he knew his friends would be, but this night he stayed at home. He was there to get the call.

          Immediately Douglas called the church. I took the call there and thought little of it. Norman was an excellent doctor. If Steve had hurt his leg, Norman would take care of it. No problem!

          It seemed only a few moments later that there was another call from Doctor Nelson, first taken by Doug then relayed to the church. Steve had not just hurt his leg. It had been a most painful injury. Every tendon had been pulled from its moorings leaving the foot flopping at will with only the muscles and attached skin to keep it in some semblance of normalcy, a subtler dislocation, Norman called it. He had set the foot and casted it.

          But Steven also had a more serious head injury. In addition to the lacerations on face and forehead, the left sinus was caved in. There were bits of wire, staples and debris from the post still inside. Norman, Dr. Nelson by profession, was taking him to Des Moines where there would be a neurosurgeon who would do the delicate surgery that was urgent if his life and mental processes were to be preserved. Norman would go with him in the ambulance to do what he could for him until he could receive the needed surgery.

          This time I took notice. I went back into the business meeting and told Delbert. Immediately he asked those in charge to suspend business while we had prayers for Steven, for Norman and for the other doctors who would have his life and his mental capacities in their hands that night. My prayer was that none of his injuries would cause permanent disability that would prevent his fulfilling the purpose of his creation.

          The prayers of the Saints in that Canadian congregation were so Spirit filled that when they were finished, we had the assurance that Steven would be all right. We finished the meeting with the congregation, and immediately began making arrangements for me to take the first available flight from Saskatoon to Des Moines.

          Our first call after determining when I would arrive at Des Moines was to our son Alan, who was working as a reporter-editor on the Red Oak, Iowa newspaper. Since there was no way I could reach the city in time to be with Steven in surgery, could he go? Of course, he would be there.

          Just how all of the arrangements were made in Des Moines, or who all should be thanked, we will never know. Cal French was the Stake President and somehow got the word out. There were elders to administer to the unconscious boy. I was to stay at the home of Sister Myrtle Shoemaker, where Valle was staying while she attended College that summer. Sue and David Phipps would pick me up at the airport and transport me to and from the hospital daily as long as I was there. Another sister would meet me at the hospital to be with me when I first saw our injured son. Etc. Etc. It was amazing and wonderful!

          Steven remembered nothing of the ambulance trip to Des Moines, but he was told he was very vocal with his moans and groans and cries of pain. When he awakened in the emergency room of the Des Moines hospital, he was terribly thirsty. Why wouldn’t they give him a drink? Ice cubes helped but did not satisfy his craving for water! It was not until he watched the heart monitor attached to the body of a fellow patient go flat that he realized that not just a broken foot or leg had brought him to this place.

          Steven’s sight, too, had not righted itself. He recognized that periodically he was blind, or at least partially blind, and again his mind explored the thoughts and feelings of one who faces life n darkness. It was nice to have one of the nurses pull up a chair beside his bed and talk to him during one of his lucid moments. Somehow it took away some of the alienation. Later he said, “I remember her fondly, even though I don’t remember her!”

          Steven remembered, too, the promise he and Greg had made to return to the farmer’s home the next day and pay for their gasoline. Whether Greg would remember it in all of the excitement of the evening, he was not sure, but he was sure that he wanted that promise to be kept. When he was back at Graceland, he went by the farm, and finding no one home, he left five dollars in the farmer’s mailbox.

          Alan did go to the hospital to be with Steven when he came out of surgery. As he was wheeled out, a nurse asked, “ Is there someone here for Steven Smith?” Alan stepped up, took one look at the form on the gurney and asked, “Where is he?”  Steven aroused momentarily and commented on the color of Alan’s shirt. He called it the wrong color, but the effort identified him to his brother.

          Alan was not the only one who failed to recognize the bloated, bandaged face of the patient. Joe De Barthe, hearing of the accident, drove to the city to see Steven. When he was told that the patient was in intensive care, he asked to go in as a minister. His request was granted. Joe examined all of the patients in the ICU and came out saying, “He isn’t in there.”

          “Oh, yes, he is!” He was assured, so he returned to the unit and again examined each patient there.

          Just as the good minister was about to leave, Steven awakened and, seeing a familiar form, he waved a feeble hand. Joe returned to minister to the young man whom he had not recognized because of his injuries.

          It took a long time to get from Saskatoon to Des Moines in those days. There was a long layover in Winnipeg that delayed my arrival by several hours. In spite of it all, I flew and waited without undue concern. I knew from the peace that followed the prayers of the Saskatoon Saints and our own that I would find Steven on the road to recovery. He would not be permanently damaged in any way that would destroy his life’s work.

          Steven was out of intensive care by the time I arrived, and the sister who was to be there with me missed her appointment by a day. So I saw him alone and was delighted that he was able to converse intelligently so soon after his surgery. I could even laugh at his appearance. It reminded me of the way I laughed the first time I ever saw him.  The trauma of birth had compressed his little face into a caricature of himself that was at once humorous and lovable.

          He did look scary to one not so blessed by the Spirit of Peace. His face and head were still swollen out of proportion to the rest of his body and his face was covered with bandages large and small, some of which still held traces of blood. Several times some of his friends came from Graceland to see him. Most of the girls got only to the door and would recoil at the sight. Finally he asked for a mirror so he could see what was startling them so. I went to the gift shop to purchase one.

          While I was gone, someone of the hospital staff brought him crutches. It was the first mobility he had experienced. When I returned with his mirror, he was hobbling out of the bathroom shaking his head.

          “Oh, I wasted my money!” I moaned, pretending disappointment when I was really delighted that he was out of bed. “You’ve already seen yourself!”

          The puzzled look he gave me was a mixture of disbelief and disgust. “No, “ he reported. “I couldn’t see myself! That mirror in there is all covered with some kind of brown crud! I couldn’t see a thing!” What he thought was obscuring his reflection was actually reflecting perfectly the bandages and swollen features of one very blessed young man who was fortunate to be able to see at all.

          Steven was not Dr. Wintermeyer’s patient, but the good doctor came in daily to see how he was progressing. His son Keith was a friend of Steven’s at Graceland. The compassionate doctor made arrangements for the two young men to use his eight hundred number to keep Steven in touch with happenings back at school.         

          I was so optimistic that I did not really understand how very ill our son still was after he was on the road to recovery. I thought I could read to him and help him keep up with his classes at college, so I asked a friend to bring his books. I tried, but after the fist paragraph or so from a technical text, he would shake his head and ask me to stop. He could not retain the words or their meaning in his still addled brain.

          One thing he could remember. There was a young Saint who worked in the laboratory of the hospital. She felt moved upon by the Spirit of God to come to his room daily after her work was done and talk to him. Her testimony of how God had filled her life with joy and worth after a sordid childhood and youth that seemed almost too damnable to overcome impressed him deeply and gave him hope. Long after the trauma of the accident had faded into memory, he could still remember the beauty of her testimony and the feel of her rough, dry hands made so by the nervous stress of her early life.

          Another thing he could remember was the large valentine I had brought with me from his Canadian family and friends. It was a huge red cloth heart Karen had appliquéd on a large piece of white terry cloth. We hung it on the wall of his room, and he could tell something about how much he had progressed as he checked the brightness of that flaming red message of love as it appeared to his recovering eyes and brain.

          Steven’s return to Graceland was much more rapid than we had any reason to anticipate. It may have been more rapid than it should have been. Navigating by crutches left him extremely tired for a long time. And it was impossible for him to concentrate on his studies as he had normally done. He would always be grateful for Graceland. Some of his teachers there put their material on electronic mechanisms so he could go over and over it without the stress of having to read it from the technical texts he was accustomed to using. His grades suffered, but he was able to graduate with the rest of his class.

          That fall, he entered Canada’s Western School of Veterinary Medicine at Saskatoon. For nearly two years he was often extremely tired and had great difficulty concentrating and remembering, but again he was able to maintain his grades in his college and was graduated with his class. His face will always be scared. His foot will never be quite normal. His head will ache sometimes. His injuries, though extremely serious, will never prevent him fulfilling God’s purpose in his creation, and we will never cease to be filled with wonder at the peace that Christ can give in times of unimaginable trauma.

 

 

Chapter 32

 

Doug’s Delayed Healing

 

 

          He was twelve years old- a sturdy child in love with life. His usual return from his music lesson was marked by a quick wave of his music as he deposited it on the piano and rushed away to some new interest.

          This beautiful April day, his steps dragged. His eves were red with weeping and his cheeks were wet with tears. His music hung limply in his hand.

          “What happened?” My concern resonated in my voice.

          “She hit me!” Doug’s voice was listless, and he didn’t raise his eyes. 

          “Hit you?” I questioned incredulously. “Why?”

          “She said I wouldn’t use my thumbs. “ I could barely hear his words. Immediately I remembered that last week there had been a message in bold letters across Doug’s instruction sheet demanding, “ USE YOUR THUMBS!”

 With multiple exclamation points following for emphasis.

          “And did you use your thumbs?” I probed.

          “I tried,” Doug responded, “But they hurt.”

          “Hurt?” Doug had said nothing about pain interrupting his practice. In fact, now that I thought about it, he had not practiced consistently for some time. I had dismissed his reticence to commit himself to his piano practice because of his involvement with the opera his school had just presented and with the coming ping-pong tournament. Karen and Doug had each played a major role in the “Mikado”, and Doug had advanced to the finals in the all school table tennis tourney soon to be completed.

          “Hurt? What makes them hurt?” My first thought was of some school ground accident that he had not reported. He was far from a sedentary child, and he did not find little incidents worthy of complaint.

          “I don’t know,” was his terse reply as he studied his hands intently.

          It was then that I looked at Doug’s thumbs. Each of them was swollen into a rounded, shapeless blob protruding at nearly forty-five degree angles to his long slender fingers.

          “Doug!” I made no effort to hide my alarm. “How long have they been like this?”

          “I don’t know.” was his thoughtful reply. “They have hurt a little for a long time.”

          “Just give me a minute to comb my hair. We are going to the doctor!”

          This was serious! The condition of Douglas’s thumbs called for immediate attention, and here I had let it go on for no one knew how long! There had been repeated trips to the doctor last September when Douglas had suffered a recurrent fever and an unusually persistent sore throat. Dr. Pettigrew had dismissed the problem as a minor irritation that would clear itself with palliative medication, and he seemed to have been correct. Doug had not complained recently and he had sung the role of Koko in the opera creditably.

          This time the good doctor was not so casual with his patient. “I think Doug should see a specialist,” he informed me. “I’ll make an appointment for him right now.” Then as soon as the call was made he announced, “ You may take him to the hospital now!”

          “Now?” I questioned. It was not usual that one could get an appointment with a specialist so readily.

          “Now!” Dr. Pettigrew repeated firmly. “Dr. Miller will be waiting for you.”

          The drive to the hospital was a short one. That was one of the nice things about living in Saskatoon. Everything one could possibly need was readily available in the city within minutes of home. There was even public transportation to get there if one needed it, but right now we did not need it, thanks to the generosity of Bill Calder.

          On the day that Bill Calder graduated from Western Canada Veterinary School of Medicine, he came by the house, tossed the keys to his Vauxhall onto our kitchen table and announced with a flourish toward the ancient vehicle parked by the curb, “She’s all yours!” It was only later when the police came by and tagged it that we learned that its license had also expired that day. When Delbert offered to move it off the street, the kindly policeman suggested that he wait until he was out of sight or he would have to give him another ticket for driving an unlicensed vehicle! Fines aside, we were grateful for the car. For the first time in our appointee life since we had been forced to sell our Crosley some twenty years earlier, the family had transportation when the seventy was in the mission field.

          At the hospital, there was a preliminary examination. Then Dr. Miller instructed the nurse to get samples of Doug’s blood. “Most of my patients have to give me so much blood that they are anemic before I get through!” the doctor announced cheerfully as he walked away to await the results of the blood letting and analysis.

          I soon knew what he meant. Instead of the little sample I had expected, the nurse came with three large test tubes and filed them all with the rich, red blood of our son. I thought briefly of the early medical practice of bleeding the sick as a method of therapy and watched Doug’s face for some evidence of trauma. There was no protest. Only an effort to understand what was happening to him was apparent in the quizzical look he flashed in my direction. Then he held the alcohol soaked pad the nurse gave him close in the crook of his arm while we waited.

          “He’ll have to stay in the hospital!”  was the doctor’s crisp order when he finally did return.

          “Tonight?” I questioned as though some period of adjustment to this new state of affairs would ease the situation for both Doug and me. That Doug would have to be hospitalized because his thumbs were swollen was a development I had not anticipated!

          “Tonight!” the doctor repeated, “ and you can expect him to be here for quite some time.’ Then, without deference to Doug’s feelings or mine, he continued,” I doubt he will ever walk again!”

          I sat transfixed with shock. Doug offered his first protest. “Do I have to stay tonight? Can’t I play in the tournament tomorrow and then come back?

          “Tournament?” Dr. Miller was incredulous. “With those hands and feet?”

          “Feet?” Dough had not complained about his feet and I had not noticed any serious involvement with them. Obviously, the matter was settled.  Doug would not have his chance at the ping-pong championship. I was not even sure he had heard the dire prediction for his future.

          “But what is it?” My fears were growing by the minute.

          “We don’t know yet, but we think he has rheumatoid arthritis.”

          The diagnosis, even though a preliminary one, struck terror to my heart. I knew something of the seriousness of the diagnosis from my own studies and from observing adult victims of the disease. For an active young boy to be victim of such a debilitating condition was almost more than I could comprehend or accept. Before I could ask any more questions, the doctor was gone from the room and Doug and I were left to await the further instructions of admission personnel of the hospital.

          “I will go home and get him some pajamas and other clothes.” I volunteered when the paperwork was competed.

          “Oh, no!” the nurse who now had us in her charge protested. “We have clothes here in the pediatric ward for our children here. We would rather use them.”

          “Are you sure you have clothes that will fit Doug?” I questioned.

          “Of course!” The tone was scornful. “He isn’t the first twelve year old we have admitted here!”

          But Doug was not the average sized twelve-year-old Canadian youngster. He was much taller than most and heavier than the charts said a twelve year old was likely to be. ”Sturdy” was the term the doctor in Texas had used for him and his older siblings. “Overweight” was Dr. Miller’s term for him.

          So it was with interest that I watched the nurse’s consternation as each of the pants and shirts from the hospital’s available store proved to be ridiculously inadequate. “I guess you had better bring him some clothes, “ she reluctantly conceded.

          So began a long siege for Doug in the hospital. He was immediately put on a diet to reduce the weight and copious amounts of blood were drawn to satisfy a variety of tests. Now he was in a wheel chair, for his feet were badly swollen, too. But his spirits were high. The wheel chair became a racing vehicle for him and his newly found patient friends.       

          My daily visits were greeted with glowing accounts of the movies he was seeing, the fun he was having in the craft room, the school lessons he was being taught along with others of his grade (and there were several of that age group there with him), the frequent visits of Frank Ward, Orval Fisher and others of the priesthood who came to visit and to pray for him. His cheerful acceptance of his hospitalization eased my fears. My letters to Delbert, away in Alberta fulfilling his commitment to his Lord and His people, became increasingly optimistic.

          Finally the testing was finished. ”It is definitely rheumatoid arthritis,”

 Dr. Miller informed me. “He will not be able to go to school at least for the rest of this year, but after he is at home, the school will send a teacher there to keep him up on his studies. He will have to take twelve aspirin a day to try to curb the inflammation. That may cause him to have stomach trouble. You will have to watch that. You will need some warm wax applications to prevent his joints stiffening. The nurse will give you instructions. And I will need to see him next week.”

          Abruptly the doctor was gone and Doug was wheeled to our waiting car. Delbert was home now and could carry him to his bed. We had converted the study-guest room of the mission house into a room for our now invalid son.

          The reducing diet was discontinued. As a nutritionist, I preferred strong bones and musculature to scale weights that conformed to “average” twelve year olds irrespective of height or water retention resulting from disease. I had already watched Doug’s three brothers use the extra weight acquired just before their teens to fuel growth spurts that culminated in heights ranging from six feet one and a half to six feet four inches. I was fully convinced that Douglas was following their growth pattern.

          April passed and then May. Faithfully Doug’s in -home teacher brought him his assignments, taught him, and checked his work. She said Doug was one of nine students she served, all diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis. Doug was lucky, she said, At least he was still on a small enough amount of medication that it did not interfere with his thought processes. He did have a bout with stomach problems that the doctor said bordered on stomach ulcers. After a series of tests that included x-ray, his prescription was changed to coated aspirin to give him some protection. Some of the other children, the teacher told us, were on such huge doses of medicine that it was almost impossible for them to respond to her efforts to teach. She felt that the visits had only social significance in their lives. 

          With the end of May, Graceland College closed. We had to go to Iowa to bring our college sons home. Doug was showing no improvement. His hands and feet were badly swollen. His joints were tender. Although he seemed to accept it all stoically, it was evident there was trauma far beyond the pain. There were episodes of bed wetting that were entirely foreign to this formerly confident young man, and there were times when there were tears. We decided to take him to our former doctor in Missouri for additional consultation.

          Armed with records from Canada, we started on our way. One stop we were making was with friends in Nauvoo, Illinois. Harold and Mildred Smith were living in the old William Marks home where there was only one bathroom. The bathroom was on the first floor and we were sleeping on the second floor.

          During the night, Doug had to go to the bathroom. He awakened me. I told him I would go on down stairs to open doors and put on lights. I did just that and waited for him to hobble down. When he did not come, I went back upstairs to learn the reason. There he sat on the edge of his bed obviously in pain. His shoes were out of his reach, and the pain was so intense that he could not step on the floor without them.

          The following morning, Doug was waiting his turn in the bathroom to brush his teeth. Since there were many of us using that facility, I suggested that he might use the kitchen sink some ten feet way from his chair. He looked at me pleadingly and asked, ”Away over there?”

          At Independence we were disappointed. Doctor Link, with whom we had made the appointment, was out of town but had left instructions for another physician to care for Doug. Much to our disappointment, this doctor did not examine. Doug. He merely looked at the Canadian records, pronounced them thorough and prescribed prednisone. That was not the reason for which we had brought our son all of the way from Canada. We had anticipated a thorough reexamination!

          Back in Canada, Dr. Miller was furious that any doctor would prescribe prednisone for a growing child. He predicted all kinds of terrible consequences from the brief use that we had made of the medication. I was soundly reprimanded  for allowing such a dangerous happening for our son. Needless to say, the prescription was discontinued!

          Shortly after our return from the States and the termination of the prednisone, Doug had a very bad night. His feet were swollen even more than usual and the pain was excruciating.  During the night, he was unable to awaken me and unsuccessful at getting out of bed by himself to get to the bathroom . Wetting the bed embarrassed him profoundly, and when I finally did respond to his call, I found him in tears.

          I had finished changing the bed and was rubbing his feet gently as I prayed for the pain to subside so he could sleep. By now the Lord had heard thousands of prayers in behalf of our loved one. There were the prayers of family and friends  both in and out of the church. There were the prayers of the Elders who had administered to him repeatedly. My own prayers had ascended constantly for months now, but tonight was different. I had an overwhelming sense  of the presence of the Lord and the assurance that Doug was healed! In thankfulness, I fell to my knees beside his bed and thanked God for nearly an hour while he slept peacefully.

          When morning broke, I rushed  to Doug’s bedside expecting to find him entirely well. Instead, he crawled from his bed with the same hesitancy with which he had greeted every morning for such a long time. His feet were as badly swollen as they had been during the night, but he said they did not hurt as much as then. The only thing that seemed really different was his determination to return to school  and finish the year in the classroom instead of at home.

          To this request, the doctor gave hesitant approval. “He can go,” he said,” only if you will take him to school, carry him to his desk, and he will stay there until you come to take him home.”

          So it was arranged. Each morning  we took our son to school. Each noon we carried him home to lunch and back again. It was a rule at school that students could take their lunch to school only if it was thirty degrees below zero or colder, and by now it was spring with no such temperatures in sight. Each afternoon we carried him home again.

          When school was finished, our entire family went to the Hills of Peace Reunion grounds in Alberta for the church’s family camp. This July my sister, Winifred Negaard, and her family joined us from Missouri. Jim and Carol Negaard were not just cousins. They were very close friends of Doug and his sister, Karen. We could carry Doug  to his classes and to services in the mornings and evenings with them, but the afternoons when recreation was in full swing were very difficult for him.

          One day he lay in his bunk crying. He hurt, but even more he wanted to participate with the rest of the youth in the activities he loved so much. My heart cried out, too, as I remembered that night when I had felt so certain that he was healed. I didn’t understand it, but I was still sure the experience was not a figment of my imagination. I had had too many experiences with the Spirit of God not to have some idea of His identification.

          My sister was  touched, too. “Why don’t you  let us take Doug back to the States with us, “ she proposed. “We’ll take him to Norman and see what he can do for him.”

          We had thought of taking Doug to Norman when we took him to the States before, but I hesitated to ask my brother to go to all of  the trouble that I was sure it would require to duplicate all of the tests the other doctors had performed at such expense of time and effort. Fortunately for us, medical care was almost entirely free in Canada. Even hospitalization cost only a deterrent fee of two dollars and fifty cents a day. I knew that Norman would not let us pay him, so I had not asked. Now things were different. We were at the end of our hope so far as Doug’s treatment was concerned. Anything was worth a try.

          “Would you like to go?” I put the question a bit hesitantly. Doug nodded ascent through his tears.

          It was nearly two weeks before we received Winnie’s first  letter. They had taken a trip through the West on their way home but were now well established back on the farm. Doug, she said was down at the pond swimming with Jim and Carol. That was not too surprising. Many arthritics find swimming a happy therapy., and the pond was not very far from the house.

          The next letter said Doug was at the fort with Jim and Carol.  Now that was different!  The fort was quite a long distance from the house and the only way to get there was to walk or be carried. We knew that Jim and Carol could not carry  Doug that far alone  and nothing was said about anyone helping!

          With each letter we became more excited. Doug was working in the hayfield. Doug was hoeing in the garden. Doug has no swelling in either hands or feet! Doug has no pain!

          Norman’s test had shown no trace of rheumatoid arthritis. What he did find was a heart murmur and other evidence of rheumatic fever. A short time on penicillin therapy and the swelling and pain were gone and healing was well underway.

          When Doug returned to Saskatoon in the fall, we again took him to the hospital for his check-up. This time a female physician came to check him first.  There was no swelling or tenderness in hands or feet . She asked how many aspirin he was taking. The answer was, “None”.

          It was then that she asked what was happening. I explained the penicillin therapy that my brother prescribed with near miraculous results. Immediately she reached for her stethoscope and began first to examine his chest and then to look through his record. She looked puzzled and repeated her search of the record.

          “Are you looking for a record of a heart murmur?” I asked.

          “Yes,” she affirmed, “but I don’t find one.”

          “I know,” I responded. “There was nothing said about one here, but my brother found one, too.” I was certain this doctor had heard what Norman had heard when she listened  at Douglas’s chest.

          The doctor left the room and we could hear her giving  her report to Dr. Miller and one she called Peter who seemed to be accompanying him.

          “He is free of swelling and pain,” she reported to the doctors.

          “How much cortisone is he taking?” Dr. Miller’s voice betrayed the anger he had expressed when he first learned that prednisone had been prescribed for Doug on our first trip to the States.

          “None,” the examining physician replied.

          “Then it must be aspirin!” Dr. Miller’s voice was still very gruff. “How much  aspirin are they giving him anyway?
“None at all,” the female voice assured him, “but he does have a heart murmur!”

          “I don’t believe it!” Doctor Miller spat out the words. “They must be  lying to you!” With a flourish he swept into the room followed by a young medical student and the lady doctor.

          Again he asked the questions he had asked his associate, and received the same answers from us. Like his associate, he reached for his stethoscope and examined Doug’s chest . When he turned away without comment, the lady asked, “Did you hear the murmur?”

          “There is none!” Dr. Miller declared firmly.

          “Oh, yes there is !” The lady doctor was every bit as firm as Dr. Miller.

          “Then my ears are ossified!” The doctor was clearly upset. With a flick of his hand he beckoned his student to follow him as he turned to leave the room.

          “Dr. Miller!” The lady doctor spoke authoritatively. “Don’t you think Peter  should be permitted to hear a distinct heart murmur?”

          “He can listen if he wants!” The words trailed back as the door slammed behind the retreating physician.

          Dr. Miller would not sign the necessary papers to put Doug on the government’s program to provide penicillin for a year to victims of rheumatic fever. We gladly paid that bill ourselves. And it was not long before it was announced that Dr. Miller had been dismissed from the hospital staff .

          We  never did learn what happened to the other children who were being given massive doses of aspirin for their illnesses, but I have long believed that Doug’s proper diagnosis, treatment and recovery was probably the clue to their proper treatment and recovery as well. After all, there was quite an epidemic of sore throats when Doug first suffered his, and the female doctor of some authoritative stature was checking Dr. Miller’s patient for some good reason.

          As for the healing? When Doug underwent a thorough physical examination as a slender young man, there was no trace of the heart murmur nor any other evidence that he had ever had rheumatic fever. The Spirit was right. Doug was healed. We just had to wait until God could work out the details and the illness  had finished its work on bringing a blessing to others for the healing to become apparent.

 

 

Chapter 33

 

Father May I?: A Memorable Worship Service

 

 

          The Saskatoon congregation waited quietly for the morning worship service to begin. The announcement said the youth were in charge of the service, but there were no youth in sight, nor anyone else who seemed to be preparing for the service. There was not even a prelude playing, but the congregation was not restless. We waited worshipfully. By now we knew that we could trust this group of youth to have made the necessary preparation for an inspiring service.

          Faintly we began to hear the camp song, “Walkin’ Down Zion’s Road” coming from the foyer of the church behind us. The song gradually grew  louder as though the youth were approaching from a trip  to Zion’s road.

          Suddenly the doors at the back of the sanctuary burst open and the youth tumbled in loudly making plans for a game of “Father, May I?” One volunteered to be “IT” and ran to the platform  at the front of the building. Others dispersed, and it was not long until we were able to identify each one. Only one announcement was made. Patty Aird asked us all to put our fingers in number 98 of our hymn books. We would be singing “Let us Pray For One Another” at the close of the service.

          Eldon Wig was “IT” on the platform. We soon recognized that he was representing the Christ. Steven Smith was in the balcony providing the voice of God. Keith Jeffrey  was posing as the Tempter, otherwise known as the Devil. All the others were us, the people of the earth, trying to make our way to a life with the Christ.

          Satan had a different plan for each of those asking permission to take the necessary steps to approach the Christ. One person is convinced that he dislikes the game altogether. He decides he has better things to do and leaves the game before it really gets started.

          Satan convinces another that there is no reason to go toward the Master just yet. It is silly to ask for one step at a time when one can ask for as many  steps as he wants whenever he wants them and reach his goal I plenty of tie. He gets Doug Fisher to take a seat near the back of the room and hands him a comic book to keep him distracted from the game.

          Kate Turnbull was well on her way when Satan approached her and showed her a more exciting way to go. He convinced her that she could not stand traveling in a pack.  Carol Middleton wanted to go straight to the front but Satan made her aware that she was not worthy to ask permission for the necessary steps to approach the Master, Her progress was painfully slow.  One of the others had become proud of her progress and God had to remind her that it was He  who had given her the ability and the permission to move so quickly. She apologized and asked more reverently for permission to proceed. Another did not want to be embarrassed that way so she only very humbly asked for baby steps so as not to offend. She took baby steps almost as long as she was in the game.

          Patty Aird was really making progress. Every step took her nearer the Master, and she refused to be distracted. Satan ran to her side and asked subtly if she wouldn’t , please, sit down with him and tell him of the wonderful testimonies she had experienced on her journey thus far. She hesitated only a moment looking at the Master briefly before she went aside to the pew to rest and give her testimony.

          All of this time God and Christ have been urging the  players to stay on the straight path. God has been giving permission for the proper steps to be taken and had been admonishing those who have chosen to try to take shortcuts or to move out of the way. One who bragged about the good grade he got on an exam last week by cheating was refused permission to take the steps he wanted toward the goal. Another with a lesser grade but one obtained by great effort by which she learned a lot was permitted to move ahead.

          At one point Christ reminds one in the lead that she has been blessed richly and asks why she is not telling her friends about God’s love for them.

She responds that it is just not the kind of thing that usually comes up in a conversation. Christ reminds her that some of her friends are having troubles of all kinds, financial, marital, health and she knows where they can get help. He asks her if she does not care. She realizes that she does care and that she can help. Her steps that have slowed now are renewed with His permission.

          Another overhears the conversation and chimes in that he finds it really hard to talk about the church. His friends turn him off when he begins to talk about tithing or the Book of Mormon or modern day revelation. Christ advises him to start by telling them that God loves them and wants them to be happy. Then tell them what God has done for him.

          While this conversation has been going on, the Tempter suddenly breaks out laughing . “You mean you really go to church three times a week.!” he says derisively. Another hears the laughter and responds, “People will think I am crazy if I start telling in them that I go to church three times a week, that I pay tithes of a tenth of what I have, that we get healings when we pray for them. Nobody likes a fanatic! I’m doing all right right now and people accept me. That’s good enough for me.” Her baby steps grow even shorter.

          Periodically , the voice of God is heard speaking through the scriptures, urging the people not to forget His way, not to become lax in following nor fearful in asking permission for the next step, neither to be proud of their achievements nor remorseful for their neglect so that they forget His mercy and desires for them. Now He reminds them to find his promises, to trust Him , to prove His promises, to test them. They will all hold true. Some decide to test the promises by asking for frivolous information. Their progress is stopped until they repent. Another, overhearing the Lord’s instruction, determines to test God’s promise by keeping all of the commandments as well as he can. He believes he loves God with all his heart but determines to try harder to love his neighbors. He moves forward with his Father’s permission . Others get into the spirit of the new understanding of Christ’s promises and begin to respond and to move forward with their Father’s permission.

          The response is too much for the Tempter. He singles out the one reading the comic book and says confidentially, “Sure. These promises are all right for others, but you have special problems, don’t you?”

          That one responds. “Yeah! It is one thing for the richer members to pay their tithing, but I really need all of my money to pay my tuition and keep my car going. And do you know how many commandments there are to keep? There’s no way I could keep them all! When I ‘m older and settled down, there’ll be lots of time to keep the commandments. I know God has a work for me to do, but I’m just not ready for it yet. Later on it will be easier.” He doesn’t move from the seat he has occupied since the beginning of the service.

          By this time one Is heard to say that she is really happy with her church life. She loves  going to church three times a week. She always has something to contribute when the offering  is passed. Christ responds that He and His Father are not entirely happy with her. She isn’t doing badly, but when did she really sacrifice for the needs of the church or for someone else?  He reminds her that of one whom much is given, much is required. Immediately she responds with resolutions to help her brother with his car payments and to spend more time visiting sick and helping those who have difficulty getting to church. She moves ahead.

          Another tells of the great guy she met the other day. “He says God speaks to him every day. He says he prays for hours and can fast for days. He thinks it really doesn’t matter  what you do as long as you remain at peace with God, and in a way it makes sense. He says most of what we consider wrong is merely what society has arbitrarily said is bad, and it changes as often as the weather. Anyway, “ she concludes, “I’m going to hear him lecture again tonight. I like what he says!”

          Christ responds that she must study the scriptures to be able to judge what she hears. Only those who “treasure up my words,” He explains, “will not be deceived.” The one who likes what she hears protests petulantly that she is just going to hear the man speak! She moves sideways instead of toward the goal.

          Another is sure his studying the scriptures has nothing to do with his progress to the goal. He declares that he could jump forward if he wanted to do so. “I could study my scriptures all of the time I am not in church. I could pray and fast lots, but I would be alienating my friends who don’t go to church. I wouldn’t have any time to be with them. I would be so changed, they wouldn’t know me!” He stays  right where he is.

          God enters the conversation reminding the players that it is He who made them. Why, then , should He not know what would make them really happy? That is why He gave them promises and commandments, He explained, because they lead to happiness. “You are welcome to keep your friends,”  He assured them .”Only don’t let them block your way to the kingdom. Get them to come along, too!”

          “They’re not the kind that would want to be in your kingdom,” one responds and turns away from the Master.

          God affirms what Christ has said. “My purposes cannot be frustrated. They must be accomplished, and there is not much time!”

          Christ pleads, “Not yet! Give them a little more time. We want as many to join us in the kingdom as possibly can . It will be that much  more joyous that way.”

          God responds, “It can’t wait much longer.”         

          The Tempter becomes agitated, but speaks seductively to the one closest to the Master. “Congratulations Just look how far you have come. You sure must have worked really hard to get this far, and sacrificed a lot. Here, sit down and take a rest. You  deserve it.” She hesitates momentarily but doesn’t sit down as she is being urged to do.

          The one who went to hear the lecturer again expresses her feeling about the man. “That guy was really convincing last night. He claims he is a prophet sent to the world to relieve it of its sadness and tension. The world sure needs that! I am the way, he said.”

          “I am the way, “ Christ responds emphatically. “Only through me can you reach the Father!”

          “I am the way!” the Tempter trys to speak authoritatively as he contradicts the Lord.

          “Many will claim to represent me” , Christ speaks earnestly, “but beware of false doctrines.”

          “My way is easier!” the Tempter nods convincingly. Two of the players join him.

          The one who has made the most progress with the least diversion now asks the Master to take her life and make her whole. She dedicates her life to Christ’s kingdom and joins him on the rostrum.

          The one who has been creeping forward with baby steps finally decides that she can trust God with her life. She takes a full sized step and the Tempter  protests, “Hey now. Don’t get greedy. You’re out of your depth!”

          Christ counters with the assurance, “All you need is a particle of faith. I will lead you along!”

          Just then God calls loudly , “The time has come. My Son has gathered His own!” Christ reaches out and pulls everyone within his reach onto the rostrum with him. A gasp runs through the congregation as we see the wonderful love of the Master manifest as he tries to save as many as it is possible for him to reach.

          The sleeping comic book reader hears the commotion, jumps from his seat at the back of the room and rushes forward calling out , “Hey! Wait a minute. I’m with you. I was just now on my way to join you. Wait!”

          Christ looks at him sadly and shakes his head. “Not everyone who calls my name will be with me in the end.”

          The voice of God speaks, “My purposes are great and require the effort of all who would enter my kingdom. It must be built, and great are the rewards of those who work diligently for it. Great sorrow awaits those who become sidetracked or are waylaid.”  With great emphasis he declares, “The way to the kingdom is no game!”

          With Christ encircling those he was able to reach with His arms, Patty gave the signal and we sang with the youth, “Let us pray for one another, for the day is fading fast, and the night is growing darker while the scourge goes flaming past. That our lamps may then be burning bright enough to guide our way. And that we may be unwavering, for each other let us pray.”

          Our hearts were brimful. Tears graced the cheeks of many a faithful worshipper as we filed quietly from the sanctuary that wonderful day, praising God for the truth and majesty of that inspirational service with which the youth had brought us to our knees in worship. To this day, I cannot remember it without shedding tears of joy as I feel the presence of the Spirit with which we were blessed then! *

( * The script for the service described in part above was written and directed by Keith Jeffrey, a member of the Saskatoon Zion’s League.)

 

 

Chapter 34

 

From Drugs to Hope

 

 

          Allan was a young man to whom life had dealt an extremely severe blow. He had come home from work that previous summer to find the  door open and the screen door unlocked. Assuming that his sister Linda had just run out to the store or somewhere equally innocuous, he went straight to the bathroom to clean up a bit before going to his own room. Once in his dimly lit room, he was amazed to see Linda lying on the floor!

          “Linda!” he called. “Linda! Get up!’

          When Linda made no move, he approached closer and nudged her with his foot. Still there was no movement. Then he saw his rifle lying under Linda’s body. His only sister had just taken her own life!

          Allan’s world was turned upside down! What kind of a God would let this happen  to this sister be loved so dearly? What was there in life for him? If Linda could have her life cut short so unceremoniously, what might there be in store for him? Why should anyone put forth a lot of effort to prepare for a life that might end in a moment of time?

          Allan quit college, and began to do drugs. When his parents left the house for the day to work, Allan would draw the shades, brew a pot of tea, sit on the Chesterfield, smoke pot and strum on his guitar. He did take up the guitar so that when anyone asked what he was doing, he could tell them that he was learning to play the classical guitar.

          Allan’s grandmother loved the precious young man . In her later life, she had come into contact with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and had married a gently elderly gentleman of that faith. In due time, she had joined her husband in his faith, and now she determined to try to do something to help Allan see that the future for him did not end with Linda’s death.

          Grandmother was wise in her approach. She first asked Alan if he would do her a favor. Loving her as he did, Allan assured her that he would be glad to comply with her request. It was then that she asked if he would  go to see a couple of her ministers. Now, Allan has told many a congregation, ministers were the last people on earth that he wanted to see, but he had promised! So he called his grandmother’s ministers and asked for an appointment. It was to the seventy and Ronald, who happened to be ministering in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at  the time , that she referred him,

          Upon arrival at the church, Ron was the first to greet him. Allan could hardly believe his eyes. Here was a young man about his age, wearing a full beard and dressed in casual clothes. Even when he met the senior Smith, there was no clerical collar or any other evidence that he was in the presence of a cleric. Their attire  and demeanor caught him completely off guard, but at the same time set him at ease.

          The conversation quickly advanced from getting acquainted to talk about the promises of God found in the scriptures that hold hope for each of our lives. All too soon, Allan noticed that half an hour was about to end. He had to excuse himself to go put money in the parking meter at which he had left his car some distance away. As he was preparing to leave, Ron suggested that he drive the car up to the church where he could park it indefinitely without cost. Parking at the meter had been deliberate insurance that there was a way to escape the ministers if their presence proved to be obnoxious or even just too intrusive into his life style.

          Allan did park near the church until it was necessary that the afternoon session be brought to a close. Then he asked if he could come again the next day and bring a friend. Without hesitation, the appointment was made. When he called later to say that something had come up making it impossible for him to keep the engagement, Delbert and Ron were disappointed and feared they would never see the youth again. He did ask for a new appointment, however, and they prayed he would keep it.

          At the appointed time on the third day, Allan appeared with his friend Tim. Tim  was curious. Later he told us that Allan had asked him, “How would you like to see a couple of Hobbitts?” That sparked his curiosity, and he came willingly to see these strange creatures.

          After quite some conversation that again centered on God’s promises, Ron opened his Book of Mormon. Tim noticed and asked, “What is that book?” When the book was identified, Tim continued, “You must have that book open for some reason. Can you share it with us?”

          Ron was delighted and handed Tim the book open to Moroni’s counsel addressed to all who were ever privileged to read the record. Tim read aloud , “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the eternal father , in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith I Christ , he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost ; and by the power of the Holy Ghost , ye may know the truth of all things. “

          Tim was obviously moved by the words he had just read. He rose to his feet and facing the two ministers squarely he asked earnestly, “Is that really true,? Will the Holy Ghost help us to know the truth of all things?” When the seventy and the young priest who was accompanying him assured Tim that it was a promise of God, the earnest young man then asked sincerely, “May I have one of these books?”

          Without hesitation, a missionary copy of the book was produced from the seventy’s possessions and given to Tim. Then it was Allan’s turn to be curious. “May I have one , too?” he asked.     

          Delbert had only one extra copy with him, but he knew there were some in the display  case of the local congregation’s book steward. With a little          dexterous effort, he obtained a copy and gave it to Allan, assuring the young men that he would compensate the congregation  for the copy he had just “borrowed” from them.

          One evening Delbert and Ronald were invited to the Grandmother’s home for dinner. Much to their surprise , they found Allan, Tim and a young lady there as well. Dinner was barely over and there came a slight lull in the conversation. Suddenly Allan asked, “Well! Aren’t you going to tell them?”

          “Tell the what?”  The ministers were taken by surprise.

“Tell them about the promises that you have been telling us about !” Allan sounded as though they should have known without having to be reminded!

          So the seventy and the priest went to the car, brought their scriptures inside, and had the joy of again sharing the beautiful promises of a living God with people who were anxious to hear.

          Allan and Tim continued to visit their “Hobbitts”, to read their new found scriptures and to get better acquainted with the Christ those scriptures portrayed. One night ,  Allan was preparing for bed when he prayed a fervent prayer. He asked earnestly how  he could know whether there was such a Christ as Delbert , Ron and the scriptures described or could it be that he was just “praying to that  wall”.

          Suddenly ,  he testifies, the light in the room became  increasingly intense, and the Lord himself stood beside his bed, radiant in that light. When he saw him, Allan says, he felt so unworthy that he just rolled up in to a ball down beside “that wall” and cried like a baby. The Master reached down, picked him up and cradled him in His arms as one would cradle a frightened child.

          Allan’s first concern was for his many sins and the wasted time of his depression following Linda’s death. The Lord assured him of His forgiveness. Then he asked the Lord if he would let him minister for him. “If you will,” he promised, “I will go up and down the streets telling everyone I see who you are and what you will do for them!”

          With the assurance that his ministry was very welcome, he next had to know whether Ron and Delbert were telling him the truth about Christ’s promises and His church. Leaving the church of his family and entering one so little known as the Saint’s church was not a trivial choice for a young man to make, but when he asked the Lord, His only answer was, “Allan , how have you come this far?”

          Allan knew  that without the hope of the Christ that these two ministers had brought him, his life would still be a hopeless quagmire of depression and morbid searching for meaning in his drugs and his music. He didn’t answer the Lord with words, but as he understood the significance of the Lord’s question, His unspoken answer cleared the way for the most important decision of his young life. Allan was baptized into Christ’s church determined to love and serve this Savior who had rescued him from a living hell.

          A few weeks after Allan’s first introduction to the two “Hobbitts”, there was a youth meeting in the area. Delbert and Ron had gone on to other areas of ministry but Ron came back for the meeting. During the discussions, Allan would frequently ask, “Doesn’t the Book of Mormon say_ ?” and he would give quotation appropriate for the topic at hand. Usually Ron would finish  the statement  just as it was in the scripture, thus validating Allan’s  contribution to the discussion. A number of the youth were talking about Allan and his knowledge of the scriptures after the session. “Why, he constantly quotes from the Book of Mormon!”  they said. “He must really have studied that book”.

          “Yes.” Ronald agreed. “He has had it for all of two months or so now!”

          A few months later there was a youth retreat at Wainwright, Alberta. During the retreat, Ron was leading a small group discussion, and they were talking about hope. Without hesitation , a number of the young ones asserted, “Why! Everyone has hope!”

          Ron turned to ‘Allan and asked, “What about it, Allan? Does everyone have hope?”

          Allan spoke from the depths of his suffering. “Absolutely not!” he declared emphatically.

          “Tell us. What’s it like, this being without hope.” Ron pressed the issue.

          Thoughtfully the youth answered, “Why, being without hope is like being in a box where there is no light. Then when hope comes, it’s like the box bursts open, and there you are in bright sunlight!” Then Allan stopped and corrected himself. “No!” he said, “it’s like being dead and suddenly you are alive!”

          Ron had to go on to a paying job that next year, and Allan, who was now a young  priest himself, accompanied the seventy and the rest of his team on a year’s worth of missionary journeys throughout the central part of Canada and some portions of the United States of America bearing his testimony of a God who keeps His promises and gives the hopeless hope!

 

Chapter 35

 

God Cares

 

          Tim Affolter accompanied his friend, Allan White , to a church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to see a ‘couple of hobbits”. To his surprise, they were two ministers, one a young man very like himself and the other the  young man’s father . Both were enthusiastic in their affirmation  that God had made promises to mankind that He would always keep if we would fulfill the conditions that God set on those promises. During the conversation Tim noticed that the younger of two was holding an open book in his hand.

          “You must have that book open for a reason,” Tim observed .

          Ronald responded enthusiastically, offering Tim his Book of Mormon and designating the passage with which he was concerned. Tim took the book and started to read.

          “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye ask God the eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;”  Tim rose from his seat and started to pace as he read.

          “And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” Suddenly the young man stopped reading . Turning to the two ministers he asked earnestly, “Is that really true?”

          More than twenty years later Elder Tim Affolter visited our home with his wife and four sons and recalled those pivotal events in his life that brought him into Christ’s church and have held him there, with the help of his good wife and subsequent experiences, for almost a quarter of a century. “ The thing that surprised me,” Tim’s voice was animated as he began to recall those early experiences, “was that the scriptures contained promises that God had given us where if we fulfilled His condition, then God was bound to fulfill His part of the promise. I had never pictured God as a being who cared much about us, let alone one who could be bound by an agreement or promise that He had given us in the scriptures.

          “You introduced me to a very real God,” Tim spoke directly to the seventy, “a God who was very personal. You introduced me to a God who cares!

          “I had grown up in the Catholic church,” the narrative continued, “and in the Catholic church, there was always the priest between me and God; and I guess I was never encouraged, or else I never took advantage of doing it, to develop a relationship with God. That’s what you , Delbert and Ron were holding out to me, that I could have this relationship with God. You were teaching the youth about eternal life and how proving the promises led to the building of the Kingdom of God, and that was something that I got quite captivated with!”

          It was the loving actions of the Zion’s League of Edmonton and the Alberta and Saskatchewan districts of the church who then brought Tim  into the church. Tim asserted. “I wasn’t the most savory character when I first joined the league. I had long hair and I was into drugs. I just wasn’t living a life that was very exemplary . I was kind of running away from everything, and yet that group of youths at the eternal life series and you, Delbert, and Ron, just pulled me in- just loved me into the church!”

          As Tim studied with the youth and the  two “hobbits”, he said, he became convinced that what he was learning about eternal life and proving the promises was true, that there was a possibility of having a relationship with God that would be very real.

          “I remember the first time I ever asked God for something,” Tim reminisced. “I was alone in my  mother’s apartment and had a bad sinus headache. I’m prone to sinus headaches, but I think that smoking marijuana and cigarettes and everything else at the time made it even worse. The headache that night was just driving me crazy. I searched all over the apartment for just anything I could take, I couldn’t even find an aspirin!

 ( the next day I looked in my mother’s drawer and there was a capsule of 222’s sitting here and I could have taken one of them , but I couldn’t see it the day before. Maybe God didn’t  want me to see it!)

          “Anyway, I remember this terrible headache, and I wandered around the apartment for awhile then decided I would just go to bed. So I was lying in bed. I felt like my head  had two vises on it, one from front to back and another from side to side- just terrible! So I propped myself up with my face very close to the wall, and my chin propped on the pillow and I prayed. I wasn’t very good at praying yet, at least not very flowery prayers. I basically said, “Well, OK God. I don’t know how to do this very well, but if you can help me with this headache, I’d sure appreciate it.” My prayer was about that simple. I didn’t even say ‘In Jesus name’ or anything like that! It was a direct request to God, and I had never done anything like that before.

          “And the moment that I asked, it was like a little breeze blew across my face- like somebody was in front of me and whiff , blew lightly on my face. Of course, there was a wall directly in front of me, and I knew nobody was there. But I felt this little breeze go across  my face , and as it passed, my sinuses cleared, completely clear.

          “I was absolutely shocked! IN fact I was scared! I thought, ‘Wo! This really works! I’ve got to be careful what I ask for!”

          The experience led Tim to asking God for other things in his life and eventually it became apparent that he must ask whether he should be baptized- whether  he should join the church of which his young friends and the two ministers were a part.

          “Now I was raised a Catholic. Most of my family was Catholic, and I had a lot of friends in the Catholic church, “ Tim explained. “When I heard people say that this, the RLDS church, is the only true church, and others, especially the Catholic church is an abomination, the church of the anti- Christ- I didn’t like hearing that stuff! So my prayer was whether God wanted me to join this church or not. I didn’t want to hear whether this was the true church or anything like that. All I cared was that I loved God and because of his reaching out to me, I wanted to serve Him. So all I wanted to know was whether this is where He wanted me to serve.”

          Time came for a youth retreat  in Ribstone, Alberta. The meetings were held in the high school at Chauvin. On Friday, Tim says, he decide that this was to be the weekend that God was going to tell him where He wanted him to serve. “So I sort of gave Him a timeline.” Tim recalled. “A little bit  arrogant!” He added with a smile. “I told God, ‘OK Lord, if you want me to work in this church, I want you to tell me through Delbert. I want Delbert to tell me that this is the church you want me to work in . I don’t want to hear any other words! That’s all I want to hear! Just that!’ I set some awful limitations!” Tim shook his head in wonder at the memory.

          Tim then determined to fast from Friday night until the retreat was over or until he received his answer. Each time there was a meal or a snack, the young supplicant would go off by himself, read his scriptures and pray. “I’d say ,” he recalled, “Remember God, I’m waiting for this answer this weekend. Better tell me!”

          Friday evening passed. Tim had no snack with the others. Saturday breakfast passed and Saturday lunch. Still there was no  answer. “So by the time Saturday dinner time came around I was getting kind of weak,” Tim explained. “I think it was God’s way of giving me some humility. Every time I’d go off to myself, I’d think, ’What is this? Why am I not getting my answer? What is taking so long?’ A day seems long when you’re fasting. At least it did to me because I wasn’t used to doing it!”

          With Saturday evening dinner, Larry Boot was to be speaking. Although Tim would have liked to hear Larry, since the talk came with the  dinner, he excused himself and went upstairs in the school. There he seated himself at a teacher’s desk and read his scriptures a little bit but mostly he prayed, “Lord, why aren’t you answering me? Is it that you don’t want me to join this church?”

          “As soon as I opened the possibility that God didn’t want me to join this church, “ Tim said, “ it felt like someone came in and slipped an arm around my shoulders and said- almost like they whispered in my ear, ’You know, you’re putting yourself through a lot of grief for nothing. There really is no such thing as God! You’re being led down a garden path, and you’re putting a lot of energy into something that doesn’t really exist except in the minds of the people who are doing it!’

          The voice was persuasive and the startled young man began to think, “Maybe that’s true. Maybe there is nothing to this church. Maybe it’s just a nice club to belong to !”

          Then just as suddenly Tim became aware that no Spirit of God would testify against God saying that there was no God or that God did  not care for him! “I suddenly became aware that it was the Spirit of Anti-Christ or Satan or whatever you want to call it whispering in my ear,” he declared,”taking advantage of my moment of weakness.”

          Light was coming through the windows, but as soon as the realization that it was not God who was speaking came to Tim, the room became completely dark. “It was as if a great darkness surrounded me,” Tim described the event,” just like a great big buffalo robe or something like that was thrown over me; and it was totally dark in the room, absolutely smothering, and I was afraid! I was really afraid, and I called out, ‘ Jesus, help me!’ but I felt like my prayers were only going that high.” Tim held his hand just above the top of his head to illustrate. “Just above the top of my head they were hitting this blackness. But the more I called on the name of Christ and asked for release from that power, the more the darkness lifted until finally the room was light again and I could see my way to get out of there. And that’s just what I did. I made a beeline for the door and got the heck out of there!”

          Tim was pretty discouraged by the whole experience and was headed downstairs and out of the building when Delbert stopped him. Dinner was over and the group was assembling for a panel discussion. The seventy invited Tim to join them. At first the puzzled young man declined the invitation. His mind was reeling. “What on earth is going on ?” he questioned. “Here I am thinking of joining this church. I’ve prayed to God and the Devil answers! What kind of a line have I got, anyway?” But the seventy persuaded him to come into the room with the others even if he just sat back and listened.

          There were five people on the panel with two rows of chairs arranged in a semicircle for the youth. Tim pulled a chair outside the back  semicircle so that no one would make a mistake and think he was really participating in the activity. The discussion proceeded on items of doctrine about which Tim thought he had no interest at all. He was still  after the very basics of the gospel! But at one point he did raise his hand and ask, ”You know that promise that says that once you study it out in your mind and ask about whether it is true, then if it is true, you get a burning in your bosom?”

          Although Tim is not certain to whom the question was directed Delbert answered, “Yes, I remember that, and it’s true.”

          Tim asked, ”What happens if you  don’t - if it isn’t true?”

          “Well, you get a sort of a cold feeling or stupor of thought, “ was the seventy’s response. “You just won’t feel particularly one way or the other. You won’t get that spirit of confirmation.

          Tim cued in on the cold feeling and thought, “Well, that’s what I had upstairs, so that cements it! I know that I probably should not join the church.”  He did not pursue the question further.

          After the panel closed, the group stood for a circle prayer. The youth in the back row pulled a reluctant Tim into the circle, but he did not offer a prayer. He did listen intently, however, when he heard Delbert’s voice praying, “Lord, please help those who are here this weekend seeking to know whether you want them to work in this church.” Tim says, “My ears perked up . That was close,” and the young man waited expectantly for more, but the prayer was ended. The seventy said no more. Tim was disappointed.

          The prayers went on around the circle. Suddenly and unexpectedly Delbert was praying again. This time his prayer was, “Lord, help Tim and Glen (Glen Bounty was also inquiring about his place in God’s plan) to know that this is the church in which you want them to work.”

          Tim says, “And I thought, ‘Bingo! Those are the word I’ve been waiting for!”

          After the prayer ended, Tim recalled, “I kind of buttonholed you , Delbert, and pulled you aside, and said, ‘What was that you said there in your prayer?”

          The seventy explained that during Larry Boot’s talk about how the Lord’s Spirit had led him into the church, that same Spirit made it known very clearly to Delbert that he was to let Tim and Glen know that God wanted them to work in His church. Tim says, “There was the answer to my prayer. It had come through the person that I wanted and in the words that I wanted and in the time that I wanted! To this day it amazed me that God would let us- let me put such limitations on how he will respond! But He loved me enough to see through my brashness!”

          Tim continued, “And I remember that I went outside the school and knelt in the snow. It was February in Chauvin, and I knelt down in the snow and prayed a prayer of thanks to God for making  His will known to me- for leading me to this church. I was looking up and I was crying and so had my glasses off, and I’m nearsighted; but you know, it was as though I could see every star as clearly as if I had binoculars and even more! And I just had such a Spirit of confirmation that this was right! That this was true!

          “That testimony has held me in the church, with the help of my good wife who has kept me from wandering from time to time. It has held me in the church all these years and will hold me until the day I die. And I still praise God for it!”

          Delbert listened to Tim’s testimony with deep emotion stirring his memory. “I was doing some praying, too, but I didn’t - wasn’t aware that was what you were doing when you  kept leaving the group.”

          “No!” Tim replied, “You couldn’t have been. I didn’t tell anybody!”

          “That was your- that was the  turning point?” it was the seventy’s half question, half statement.

          “Yes! It certainly was. There have been times since then that I have asked God for specific blessings and have received very specific answers as well, but that was certainly the first one! I think it’s like a baby taking its first steps. There has been and there will be lots more steps to be taken- a lot of growth. I don’t think the Savior ever stops challenging us and giving us opportunities for growth!”

With fervency born of long experience, we all praised God with Tim and his family that we know a God who cares!

 

 

Chapter 36

 

Gretchen’s Grief

 

 

          When Gretchen phoned, I knew it was a desperate call for help. Surely thins beautifully talented young wife and mother of three could not be seriously thinking of suicide! Why would she  even mention it  except to get quick relief from whatever it was that was troubling her?

          Quickly I ran down the stairs to where Delbert was working at his desk. “Gretchen needs help!” I spoke urgently.”Please call her!”

          At first Gretchen refused to talk to the seventy insisting that everything was fine with her. My husband trusted my message to him and so

 believed otherwise. He soon gained the distraught young woman’s permission to come to her house to talk. With all possible speed, we drove from the mission house to the modest home of the troubled woman.

          Gretchen was discouraged. There was not doubt about that . It was not easy to cope with a child with severe handicaps under the best of circumstances. But that could not be a the root of her present depression. Neil was making amazing progress since he was getting therapy and the family was getting instruction concerning ways to help him.

          The seventy had helped bring about that situation in the home after our first visit there. This mute child, who could do nothing positive for himself, was dominating the family with his incessant violent activities. He could not walk or even stand, but he could roll and roll he would  from one wall to the other and pound with head or hands or feet so there was continual noise drowning out conversation or TV and even muddling efforts to think. The family thought the boy knew nothing of what he was  doing and so could not be disciplined. Delbert suggested a play pen, well equipped with toys to keep him occupied but able to prevent his reaching the walls. It was interesting to see how quickly the walls were no longer pounded when the play pen was just placed in the room. Neil knew far more than the family ever suspected! One thing was certain , he quickly learned how to keep from being confined to that pen!

          When it was apparent that he was teachable, the family was encouraged to get help from agencies designed to teach children with disabilities. To everyone’s amazement, it was not long until the young one was feeding himself and participating in family activities, a smiling responsive young member of the family.

          “What’s up?” Delbert could be casual and direct with this young woman with whom we had maintained a close friendship  for so long. We had even been with the family through the adoption of their little girl shortly after we arrived in Canada. Gretchen and her husband brought the beautiful little one to our home for her first meal in the city the day they brought her to her new home.

          “I just can’t go on!” Gretchen moaned. “I’m so wicked!”

          “Now! Now! “ The seventy comforted her. “You can’t have done anything so bad that the Lord can’t forgive you!”

          “That’s just it”, moaned the unhappy woman. “I thought when I was baptized that all my past would be washed away.  But it wasn’t ! It keeps coming up to haunt me!”

          “Would you like to tell us what it is that haunts you?” The seventy was certain that whatever it was, this young woman needed to talk about it.

          The story spilled out like captive waters gushing over a broken dam. All of the pent up guilt tumbled from her mouth as though it had been waiting for this moment to escape.

          The story went back to her childhood  with all of its fears and frustrations. When she was fairly spent with emotion, Delbert reached out to touch her hand.

          “When you  were baptized  you gave your best self to the Lord, didn’t you?” Gretchen responded  with a tearful affirmative nod.

          “But you didn’t giv3e him the bad things, did you?”

          This time the nod was negative.

          “Don’t you know that He died to take away the bad things that you can do nothing about? He doesn’t want just your best self. He wants all of you!” he affirmed. Then he asked Gretchen to get her Bible.

          There the seventy turned to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and had Gretchen read with him from verse 4-6.”Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrow; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes are we healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

          Tears still sparkled in the young woman’s eyes as she looked up questioningly at the seventy.

          “Don’t you see?” the minister’s voice was almost pleading. “The Lord took all those things that trouble you to the cross with him. He knew there would be things happen in our lives that we could never fix. So he bore all our griefs for us so we could be free of them. He wouldn’t want you to have to go through what he did to get rid of them. He knows there is no way you could help what is so long past. All he asks is that you give that burden to him and freely use those wonderful talents he has given you to bring joy to your family and to those about you.”

          “But what can I do?” Gretchen was still not certain she understood.

          “Oh, Gretchen!” and the seventy began to count many of th eways this dear one was already giving outstanding servide. “Most of all, accept the freedom from your past that Jesus Christ offers you so that which you cannot change will not hamper your ministry now. Give Him al of you.Not just your best self!”

          “I’ll try!” It as barely a whisper, but there was a fresh smile on the tear-stained face, and the hug we each received told us for sure that this young mother had a new lease on life.

 

Chapter 37

 

Ellen’s TestimonyIs Heard Around the World

 

 

          Ellen Pow sat in the chair one of the Gracelanders had brought outside Unit A for her. Around her, students from many nations fanned out to hear her testimony. Karen had invited all of her friends to meet the gracious octogenarian who was seeing Graceland, and the other properties of the church of which she had just become a part, for the first time. Humbly with pathos and humor she told her story.

          Ellen had grown up I a very faithful Catholic home. All of her life she had tried to do what she thought her Lord would have her do. Her Catholic faith told her to do some things that she could not reconcile with the Lord she read about in her Bible. When she asked questions, she was advised to stop reading her Bible.

          As a young woman she was visited by an angel who assured her of God’s love for her and encouraged her to continue her search for what the Lord really wanted her to do. Eventually she quit attending Catholic Mass and began searching in other Christian faiths for the God of her scriptures. The Baptists seemed to have some of the elements for which she was searching, and she was baptized in a memorable experience that she knew was graced by the Spirit of God.

          In her young womanhood , as a wife of a well respected Baptist man, she became the good friend of Tina Loucks, a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who, like Ellen, lived in Sasakatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Tina and Ellen often discussed the scriptures that meant so very much to them both, and Tina often invited Ellen to attend women’s activities and missionary meetings in her church.As she became acquainted with Tina’s church friends, Ellen sometimes invited Tina’s church women to meet in her home .

          As Ellen’s interest in what she was hearing in those meetings with the Saints increased, her husband’s aversion to her association with the group and with Tina grew. On the days that she invited some of the women into her home, she had to be certain to remove all evidence of their presence before he returned from work in order to keep peace in the family. Every piece of the Saint’s literature, too, had to be carefully concealed if it was to survive his antipathy.

          It was in 1955 when the seventy, Zed Zed Renfro, known as Z.Z. Renfro in the States, came to Saskatoon that Ellen became convinced that she had found that for which she had been searching all of her life. She had found a Gospel that reflected the God she read about in her scriptures. She even found more scriptures that ran true to her. After an especially Spirit filled encounter with those scriptures, she wrote in her Doctrine and Covenants  that Tina had obtained for her, “This day, 1955, I know this book is true!’

          Ellen was anxious to affiliate with the church that she now believed was the one the angel had assured her she would someday find, but her husband would not hear of such a thing! When she appealed to Brother Renfro he advised her to accede to her husband’s wishes and remain with him in the Baptist faith until the day would come when she would be free to make her own choice without disturbing her marital realtionship.

          For some twenty-five years Ellen was an active member of the Baptist faith. She held leadership roles in church school, women’s counsels, on church boards, in every conceivable position available to a women of that persuasion . At the same time she kept in touch with her friend Tina and eagerly accepted every opportunity to hear more of the faith to which she now believed the Lord had led her.

          Early in our Canadian Experience we met Ellen and frequently shared with her our perception of the gospel as we listened eagerly to her inspiring testimony of the Lord’s action in her life. We were aware of her husband’s death and burial and her subsequent move from her modest but beautiful home overlooking the Saskatchewan River, but had refrained from intruding on her family’s life during this period that we felt belonged to her and her life-long friends, particularly those of the Baptist faith.

          Then early one evening our telephone rang and Ellen invited us to come to her new home. There was a sense of excitement and urgency in her voice as she assured us that she had news for us that she thought we would enjoy. Hurriedly we made our way to the beautifully appointed apartment into which she had moved soon after her husband’s death.

          Ellen was all smiles as she greeted us at the door. She seemed just bursting with good news. We were barely inside the door when she announced happily, “I want to be baptized!”

          As soon as we had expressed our elation at the news, Delbert remembered how Ellen had first become convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel through Brother Renfroe’s ministry.

          “Let’s call Brother Renfro.” Delbert suggested. “He will be delighted to hear of your decision!” then as an afterthought he asked,”Would you like for him to come to baptize you?”

          Ellen nodded and smiled broadly at the thought of talking again to the dear minister who more than twenty years before had counseled her to wait patiently for this day.

          It was only moments until we had Zed Zed on the phone at his home in Independence, Missouri. “How would you like to come to Saskatoon for a baptismal service?” Delbert asked his fellow seventy.

          Zed Zed was surprised  by the question and couldn’t think of a quick answer to what he knew must be some sort of a riddle.

          By way of partial explanation Delbert asked,”Do you remember Ellen Pow?”

          “Of course, I remember Ellen!” was the prompt reply.

          “She would like to speak to you.” The seventy explained as he handed Ellen the telephone.

          The conversation was animated as Ellen explained her freedom to make her own choice now at age eighty and her wish to be baptized. Brother Renfro was delighted with her decision but had to decline the invitation to be a participant in the service. His health would not permit the long trip to Saskatoon. The service was arranged with other participants who had also long awaited this day. It was during the confirmation service that God spoke through one of His servants and told this dear sister that her testimony would be heard in many lands around the world. Needless to say, at age eighty and with crippled feet that restricted her movement, that prophecy seemed unfounded, but her faith made her look for its fulfilment.

          So there would be no unfounded rumors or mistaken notions about what was happening, Ellen called her long time minister and his associate to her home. There she thanked them for all they had done for her and her family and tried to help them understand why she now chose to join with the  Saints. Then she asked for a time to explain her decision to her fellow church members. That privilege was granted, but with the explanation did not come understanding or approbation. Instead, Ellen’s old friends with whom she had shared so many church experiences through the years, no longer called her or had any association with her that they could avoid. To their understanding, she had made an unforgivable mistake!

          It was not long after Ellen’s baptism that Delbert was taking his missionary team to the States. Two of the four young people who were traveling with him had lived in the States, but two of them had only known the CenterPlace and other points of historical significance through others. One, in fact, had only recently come into contact with the church and the other had never been outside Canada. The seventy was certain that some experience with historical settings of the church and with the officials and places occupied by the church in and near the Centerplace would enhance their ministry.

          Di Calford was one of the team. When she met Ellen Pow and heard her story, she impulsively asked,”Wouldn’t you like to go with us to Independence?” Then with enthusiasm typical of this devoted Canadian school teacher , she described in glowing terms the adventure she anticipated on the trip.

          “Oh, I couldn’t keep up with you  young ones on a trip like that!” Ellen responded regretfully,. Di had described the Auditorium, Graceland College and Nauvoo as focal points of our journey. Nothing could have pleased Ellen more than to see the places in which the church was cradled, places about which she had only read. And the possibility of seeing Brother Renfro again and maybe the prophet made her heart race at the very thought even though she felt sure she should not even dare let herself dream of it!

          “How would I ever get around all those places on these crippled feet?” She looked longingly at the offending members of her anatomy.

          “Why, we would get a wheel chair and push you around!” Di affirmed without hesitation. “Didn’t you know I am a pushy person?” she added facetiously.

          It didn’t take much by way of encouragement for Ellen to consent to go with us, and preparations began immediately . Seven in a car was not at all unusual for the appointee car traveling nonstop from Saskatooon to Independence. Besides there were no seat belt laws then .In fact, there were no seat belts to describe the area one person should  occupy  in any passenger vehicle of which we had any knowledge  except airplanes. Delbert and I would take turns driving. Ellen could have a front seat next to the passenger side door. That would also give her a door to lean against when she slept on the thirty hour trip. The four young people would occupy the rear seat.

          That was the original plan, but before we started we decided to make an exception on this trip and stop one night in a motel to give our gracious elderly sister a rest. After all, going all that way would be of little value if she were too tired to see the things of which she dreamed.

          It was at Graceland that Ellen was welcomed with unexpected warmth. Karen introduced her to one of her classes, and the students overwhelmed her with questions about her life and testimony. The hour was just not long enough.Karen then suggested that we gather again that evening, this time at Unit A where we could talk as long as we wanted.

          Evening found us clustered around Ellen outside of Unit A. It was a beautiful night. Karen and her friends had decided that we should be outside just in case everyone became too interested to stop their conversation with Sister Pow when it was no longer legal for male visitors to be inside the building. This was the night they were accustomed to gathering for worship, and they had invited many of their friends especially to hear Ellen’s testimony. They brought an easy chair outside the door for Ellen. The rest of us either sat on folding chairs or on the ground.

          Again the students bombarded this gentle woman with questions that resulted in her sharing her testimony from girlhood through the visit of the angel, to her friendship with Trina, to her rejection by her friends with whom she had labored all her days, to her second baptism, actually her third when one counts the one she did not remember as a babe. She answered questions about the scriptures that had become so dear to her. She explained scriptures that were obscure to some of the youth gathered there. She was there long after the rules would have sent us out of Unit A. Then we trundled her off to bed.

          It was then that Ellen remembered that confirmation prayer in which God had promised that her testimony would be heard in many lands around the world. She had wondered how that could possibly be. Now she recalled the faces of students from widely flung nations who just moments before had sat at her feet listening intently to her testimony. It was as the elders  had said! Her testimony was to be heard around the world. It was also enriched by the happenings of that memorable day at Graceland!

         

 

 

 

Chapter 38

 

Let No One Take Your Crown

 

          It was our first night out of Canada on a caravan to Book of Mormon lands for which the youth of Saskatchewan and Alberta had worked for two exciting years. We were at the church in Minot, North Dakota, and the youth were presenting the worship service for which the congregation had gathered. One of the youth who had suffered much from a broken home and bad companions was giving his testimony.Suddenly I felt an overwhelming love for him and heard the words directed  toward him,” Don’t let anyone take your crown!”

          I was startled !. I knew the message had come to another people  at an earlier time, for I recognized the words. Eagerly I searched the scriptures as soon as I could to find the circumstances under which they had been given so I could better understand the message that was meant for this youth. I so much wanted him to feel the assurance of God’s love for him that I had felt in that moment!

          I found the scripture in Revelation 3:11. Christ had commended the Saints at Philadelphia for keeping His “word of patience “ and had offered them protection by His Spirit in the time of temptation if they would hold fast to the way of righteousness that they had learned and had begun to follow. It was heavenly counsel that holding fast to that way of life was the only way to protect their future. It was really a warning that there were temptations coming against which they should be on guard. They should hold fast to that which they had learned of the gospel. Living righteously, there was no man who could take away their crown. Living carelessly, that crown could easily be lost.

          That was what the Lord meant when he instructed me to tell Asa not to let anyone take his crown. Asa must know that God loved him and was anxious to be his counsellor and protector. Whether I was ever able to convey that message to him effectively, I have serious doubts; but that the Spirit  of God made tremendous effort to convey the extent of His love to us all has ample evidence in the happenings of that caravan.

          Every evening as the youth presented their songs and testimonies, I felt an all consuming love for them all. As they fanned out through each congregation singing “God loves you , and I love you, and that’s the way it’s a gonna be-- forever”, with that assurance touching each individual, I was not the only one who found tears coursing down my cheeks! When they encircled the congregations at each evening’s close singing, “God love you, and not let you out of His sight. God keep and protect you, by day and by night. “Til we meet again may his love follow you. Where’ere you  go and whatever you do.’ I never cold keep back the tears.

          It was on this trip that we first sand “God forgave my sins, in Jesus’s name. I’ve been born again, in Jesus’s name. And in Jesus’ name we come to you, to share his love as he told us to.    

          “He said, “Freely, freely, you have received Freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live..” Delbert had heard it on the radio and Patty Fisher taught it to the youth from his rendition of it from memory. One congregation was so impressed with the song that they had a copy of it made for each of their hymnals. Now it is in all  the latest hymnals of the church.

          The caravan was replete with blessings for everyone of us, and we were certain the Saints who had fed and housed us had likewise felt they were blessed. But one is never quite sure about the way benefactors have felt about their ministry. There were thirty of us, and we were not certain we had not imposed on our hosts until we received a letter from one of those whose gracious hospitality had blessed us.

          “Dear Brother and Sister Smith,” the letter read. “As you know, many ‘thank-you’ notes are written out of a sense of duty, but such is not the case as I write to you. Words just cannot express the deep appreciation Frank and I have for the beautiful ministry given by you and your young people last August 23. The service was a most beautiful experience and God’s spirit truly was with you.

          “During the service , I became very conscious of God’s great love for you and I wanted to rise to my feet and testify to the fact that God was pleased with you and the young people in your caravan but felt perhaps it would not be wise to do so.

          “How thankful you must be for your lovely family and for the opportunity you have to work with young Saints who are eager to participate in the work of building the kingdom and who give of their time and talents and who enjoy doing such worthwhile activities.

          “We did receive so very much  strength from your ministry that evening and as is the case, we know you, too, received a great deal.

          “Please convey our thanks to the young people in the caravan and may God continue to bless each of you in your service to him. May He always keep you in His tender care is our prayer.”

          Bernadine’s letter put into words what we had so hoped many had felt. Thankfully, for at least some members of one congregation we had not been a burden to the Saints, but a blessing. Hopefully, the intensity of the love of God that we had all felt would help all of us, those who gave and those who received ministry, keep our crowns forever.

 

Chapter 39

 

Stephenville Samaritans

 

 

          When we left Anadarko, Oklahoma early that Wednesday morning, we had every expectation of being in San Antonio long before nightfall. Our hope was to have time for our Canadian youth to see the Alamo or Camp Sionito or both before the day was through. Instead we were less than half the way there when our engine began to fail. We limped along  most of the day and arrived at Stephenville, Texas near nightfall. Fortunately there was a garage open where we could get help, but that help would take at least two days, they informed us. We had to have a new engine.

          Earlier in the day we had called San Antonio Saints to tell them we would be very late if we made it at all for our appointment with them that night. They were not to meet us at the church with dinner . Now they were not to come expecting a service or to house us for the night Instead we had to find a place for the caravaneers to stay for at least two days!

          We had planned to by-pass Dallas- Fort Worth on our way to Mexico, and to spend two days and nights there on our return trip. At that time we planned to attend church on Sunday and experience Six Flags Over Texas the following day. My sister, Fiona Greene had made all our arrangements for food and housing. So now we called her to see if it would be possible for us to bring the caravaneers there a week and a half early. Permission was granted, but how could we get thirty people over ninety  miles late at night with no bus service  available and only the appointee car operating?

          Delbert  began calling churches in the area to see whether one of them  might have a bus that we could hire. “How would you like to be a Good Samaritan ?” was always the seventy’s opening question before he explained our plight.

          Some of the churches  had busses but could not trust them on such an impromptu journey. One Baptist group said they had a new bus, well equipped with air conditioning and everything needful, but they were gathering at their church right then preparing to take their youth to New Mexico early the next morning for their young camp.They would like to help, but a hundred and eighty mile round trip that night was out of the question. They were very sorry.

          We were sorry, too, and their refusal left us no other known group to call. We prayed for direction and help.

          In minutes the telephone at the garage rang and someone asked for Delbert Smith. That was surprising. Who of all our acquaintances would know that the seventy was at that garage in Stephenville? It was not an acquaintance. I t was  the head of the Baptist board who , with the other members of the board gathered to inspect their new bus, had decided that the bus could do with a shakedown cruise before they started to New Mexico with their young ones. They would be by in a few minutes to pick us up and take us to Dallas! The cost? Oh, nothing. They just wanted to do it! Several of the board members would make the trip with us to make sure everything went well.

          Once in the luxurious vehicle, our young Canadians asked the seventy to see if they could sing. The driver gave rather grudging permisson limiting them to a few quiet numbers.

          Joyfully the group began to sing some of the numbers they were using in their worship services in our host churches. After the first two or three songs, the driver told the seventy to tell them they could sing all they wanted, and sing they did, all ninety miles of the way! Later, though, they complained that they did not really like the luxurious bus because they could not see each other over the seats and feel close to each other as they sang.

          Once in Dallas, the beneficent Baptists discharged their load amid cheerful and sometimes tearful good-byes. When Delbert tried to pay for the bus service, the board members would only take enough to pay for their gas.

          Fiona and her husband Wally met us at the new Oak Ridge church in Dallas with refreshments and instructions for use of the church as our home away from home for the next two days or as long as we needed it.  We missed having church services with the Dallas Saints, but we did have all the time we needed at Six Flags. The Saints even arranged needed transportation for us to the park and back so no time would be lost! We did have the appointee car. I had followed the Baptist bus with it so there would be a way back to Stephenville when our bus was roadworthy again. One car to shuttle thirty people to the park and back would have taken a lot a time, however, that the Saints  thought could be better spent experiencing Six Flags!

          A large part of our tour had to be rescheduled, but we did not have to miss many of our planned events. Our funds were experiencing unexpected pressures, but there were always unexpected services available at unexpectedly low costs. The Baptist Samaritans will never be forgotten and the ministry of the Dallas Saints will always be a source of joy and thanksgiving for thirty thankful Canadians stranded in the middle of Texas while their bus’s engine was replaced!

 

 

Chapter 40

 

Angels Carried the Bus

 

          It was Tuesday, August 13, 1974, late in the evening on a frighteningly narrow and busy highway leading from San Luis Potosi to Queretaro, Mexico, that we received the ministry of angels. Let me tell you our story.

          For two years the youth of the Saskatchewan ( Canada) District of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had planned a tour of Book of Mormon lands south of the United States of America with the seventy as their guide. The idea had sprung from the youth as we returned from an exhilarating church history caravan to the States in 1972.

          “In two years we are going to Mexico,”  the young ones announced on the trip home.

          “Yeah! Yeah!” we respondd, never dreaming they could really accomplish such a feat but hesitant to dampen their enthusiasm.

          Their determination had been phenomenal ! They had studied the Book of Mormon. They had seen pictures of ruins that might have been associated with its history. They had listened intently to the travel-lectures of those who had made the journey before them. They had passed an extensive qualifying test to insure that they would understand at least some of what they were seeing on the trip.

          The youth had worked hard to earn money so they could take some young people who could not afford the trip with them. They had planned and rehearsed worship services they cold share with host congregations along the way. They had received permission from the district to use the ancient school bus the district had purchased for eight hundred dollars and equipped with a luggage rack for us to use on the church history tour two years before. . They had even painted the vehicle and affectionately christened it “The Love Bus”!

          Delbert and I had coordinated the studies, contacted congregations who would give us a place to stay and a good evening meal in exchange for the worship service the young ones would present, calculated costs, arranged entrance to such recreational attractions as Six Flags Over Texas and otherwise taken care of details necessary for such a venture. There were about thirty youth and staff on the bus most of the time. Someties one or more of them joined me in the appointee car. I drove it, loade dwith food and supplies, behind  the bus. My task was to keep them all well fed and to provide transportation in case of emergencies.

          Once before this eventful day our schedule had been interrupted. The engine of the bus had to be replaced at Stephenville, Texas. But now we were in Mexico and scheduled to be in Mexico City by nightfall.

          Early that Tuesday morning, Delbert and Vernon Dreher, our major relief driver and mechanic for the trip, had driven our ancient bus with its  brand new motor outside the gates of the Quinta Restaumex, high over the city of Saltillo, to load it. Going up the hill the night before, our bulging baggage, packed skillfully atop the bus, barely scraped through the arch, even after a day of settling. We  knew it would never clear the arch freshly packed and going downhill.

          Once outside the gate, our special loading crew attacked the mountain of luggage eagerly. Allan, Myron and Doug had done it repeatedly since we embarked on our pilgrimage just over a week before. They were anxious now, as we all were , to arrive in Mexico City where we could begin to explore archaeological sites that would help us view our legacy of the Book of Mormon with greater appreciation.

          Five hundred forty three miles to the city, our travel log said. Eleven to twelve hours we had estimated. We could easily drive in good daylight all of the way and not miss a single sight in this strange and wonderful land! To my usual store in the appointee car I had added bottled water to last until evening. Supper would be with the Saints in the City where we were to stay.

          Up the first mountain there were signs of trouble. Following the bus, my speedometer began to slow. At first I thought it was just the long pull up the steep incline, but when even the level areas produced speeds not to exceed eight miles per hour, I knew we were in trouble. Finally the bus was pulled over to the side of the road where it coughed to a stop. Del and Vern were quickly under the hood.

          “What’s the matter?” I yelled to the men high above me on the snaking highway.

          “She’s not getting gas?” Del yelled back.

          After a thorough  examinatin with tapping here and adjusting there, they decide to try again. It worked for awhile, then the bus began to slow again. Again there was examination, tapping, adjusting. We crept ahead laboriously.

          “It must be the gas filter.” Vernon finally proposed.

          Surely enough, the filter was clogged with gummy debris. That would be simple. Just get a new filter. But where? We had left Arteaga far behind and San Roberta Junction was at least sixty miles ahead. Chances that either would have a filter to fit this Canadian vehicle were slim.

          “Let’s make a hole, clean out what we can and let the rest through, “ Delbert finally suggested as the only viable solution. The filter was cleaned- the puncture was made with a piece of wire, and we were on our way: but not for long.

          All of a sudden the bus seemed to be taken by a seizure. It’s erratic movements were frightening to behold. I was thankful when it reached a place wide enough to pull off and stop!

          “What’s wrong now?” I was puzzled when Vern went under the bus, this time, instead of under the hood.

          “It’s the clutch. It keeps slipping. Vern thinks he can fix it.” Del was optimistic.

          Vern’s efforts to fix the clutch were only temporarily successful. Every few miles into the mountains Vern was under the bus, tool in hand, adjusting the clutch. Even when we traversed the vast valleys between the mountains, the clutch often had to have attention.

          San Roberto Junction proved to be of no help with bus repair. There were no gas filters and no parts of the clutch there. We did gratefully use the restrooms and some of the caravaneers bought souvenirs. Eighty three miles we had traveled, and the morning was nearly gone!

          All afternoon we limped along with Delbert and Vernon alternately blowing out the gas line and adjusting the clutch. Shadowy outlines of our humpbacked bus were falling long across the roadway when we were passed by a yellowVolkswagen.

          Being passed was no novelty. One could hardly expect the traffic of all Mexico to slow to our snail’s pace. When the Volkswagen stopped down the road and the driver began flailing his arms in an obvious effort to stop us, though, we were more than a little curious.

          As we approached,Delbert recognized the driver. It was Seventy Umberto Salas. He, with his wife, Digna, was returning from a church conference in Reynosa to their home in Jojutla.

They had been informed of our venture , and recognized the huge church seal with which the youth had marked the bus when they christened her. They knew we were not where we were supposed to be that late in the day.

          “It’s almost night.” Umberto counseled in Spanish. “I can help you get food and a place to spend the night in San Luis Potosi.”

          Gratefully we accepted the proffered help and followed Umberto and Digna to a restaurant. There over tacos and chili, tortillas and enchiladas we discussed what we should do.

          Our day’s travel had taken us two hundred and eighty miles instead of the five hundred and forty three that we had anticipated. Even when the gas seemed to flow freely, the clutch had to be periodically adjusted. Only the downhill runs had been easy!

          Sandy Woynarski, our nurse, was carrying our maps. “Queretaro is just down the road a little way,” she advised. “Why don’t we go there for the night and get an early start for Mexico City tomorrow?” It was agreed.

          Umberto seemed a bit startled at the decision to go to Queretaro for the night, but he didn’t understand our English any better than we understood his Spanish. He must have decided that we knew what we were about. At any rate, he agreed to go there to arrange the night’s lodging. Queretaro was on the way for him and Digna, and they had to get home befor morning to relieve those who were caring for their children while they were away.

          Jojutla was still a long way off, and to ask the Salas’s to travel at the slow pace the bus had to take seemed unfair. It was decided that I would go ahead with the car, follow Umberto until he found a suitable place for us to stay in Queretaro, then come back to the highway to guide the bus load to the place prepared for them. Confidently I left the restaurant to follow the Salas’s to our haven for the night.

          Our daughter Karen was feeling ill and asked permission to ride in the car. Rarefied mountain air always took a bit of acclimatization for her. Our nurse and her husband Stan chose to accompany her. So, also, did our son Ron for some now obscure reason. I think it had something to do with protecting me.

          Umberto’s little yellow Volkswagen darted into the evening traffic at such a pace that I had difficulty keeping up. “It’s just a short way,” I thought, “ but I must not lose him. How could I choose a safe place for us all to stay? How could I arrange for such a place without knowing Spanish?” So I strained my eyes and pressed hard on the accelerator to keep the Volkswagon in sight. Sixty miles, sixty five, seventy miles an hour we sped down the highway, and I was barely keeping pace with the little yellow vehicle!

          Forty miles we drove pell-mell through the traffic with no sign of Queretaro in sight. Then a huge road sign loomed on the left side of the highway. “Queretaro one hundred thirty eight kilometers”. One hundred thirty eight kilometers! Why , that was nearly eighty five miles, and my gas tank was nearly empty.

          Suddenly fear gripped my heart. One hundred and twenty five miles from San Luis Potosi to Queretaro! That was almost half as far as we had traveled all day! There had been no repairs available for the ailing bus in San Luis Potosi. Now it was dark, and I was carrying the only flashlight that we had on the trip. It was always in the appointee car. Delbert and Vernon would have to stop to adjust the clutch! How could they even see?

          How could they even stop? The traffic was frightening! Huge trucks sped by us rolling dizzily down the mountains, passing anything in their way, often topping the rises on the wrong side of the road. We had just passed a large passenger bus that had been forced off the road into rough terrain to avoid a head-on collision.

          For miles now, too, gravel had been piled on the right side, the mountain side, of the road ready for spreading. It narrowed the roadway and eliminated any shoulder that might once have been available for stopping. There was no place to stop! The constricted highway forced traffic toward the outside of the road often perilously  near precipitous drops to the valley below. The bus would be on the inside, but if it stopped, it could hardly avoid being rammed from behind by one unable to stop or to veer around it!

          The gravity of the situation overwhelmed me for a moment. How could the bus with its precious load make that trip?

          I had been praying all of the way from San Luis Potosi, mostly that I could keep up with Umberto safely. Now it was not our safely, but the safety of the bus load of youth that gripped my mind. How could they make it?

          Suddenly I remembered that the Aaronic Priesthood of Christ’s church hold the keys to the ministering of angels. Ron was a priest. “Ron,” I said solemnly , “if that bus is to make it tonight, you are going to have to exercise the power of your priesthood and ask for angels to bring it in.”

          Immediately Ron responded with a prayer that angels would be sent to bring the bus in safely. Peace settled over us in the car, and I concentrated in keeping the yellow bug in sight.

          By now our gas tank was perilously near empty. Certainly we could not go another eighty miles  without gas. Pressing harder on the accelerator to get closer to Umberto, I prayed and signaled with horn and lights until he finally noticed and pulled onto  a side road tosee what was wrong.

          “ I need gas-petrol.” I shouted. Umberto nodded and led us into the next station.       

          In spite of our concern, there was no turning back now. It was too dark to hope that we might even see the bus if we did try.

          A few miles north of Queretaro, Umberto signaled for a left hand turn. I followed onto a side road and finally onto the grounds of the Azteca Motel. With much gesturing and rapid conversation which none of us could understand, Umberto arranged housing for those of us in the car and the bus load to follow.

          Umberto and Digna went with us to our quarters. Satisfied that they were acceptable, they started to leave.

          “Will you offer a prayer for us before you leave?” I asked gesturing to make sure Umberto understood.

          On the balcony that spanned the north of our motel units, Umberto offered an earnest prayer. We could understand only a few of the words , but we felt the Spirit of them and knew that God understood them all.

          There were quick embrazzos, our grateful thanks,and Umberto and Digna were on their way.

          I went back into the room where Sandy had already put Karen to bed. “Mother,” Karen said anxiously, “if the angels are bringing that bus in, you had better get out there on that highway  so they will knowwhere to come!”

          “Yes,” I agreed. “I’ll go right now!” It was only later that I realized how preposterous it was to asssume that angels would have difficulty finding our quarters!

          I really couldn’t imagine how the bus could travel all that distance in less than another hour or two even if there were no difficulties. We had traveled at speeds up to seventy five miles an hour, and the bus’s top speed, except on a downhill run, was about fifty five. Up the  mountains it had been closer to eight to twelve that day. There was no way it could keep the pace we had , and they, too, would have had to fill with petrol. But to please Karen, I would go to the junction and wait.

          I started toward the door but stopped quickly and for a moment stood rooted to the floor, listening, motionless with astonishment. I heard Delbert’s voice coming  through the open doorway. I raced out of the door to investigate. There, right under our balcony, the bus was parked beside the appointee car. It had come quickly and safely,  not only to Queretaro but straight to the Azteca, to the very unit in which we were housed! God had truly answered all our prayers! He had sent His angels to carry that ailing bus and its precious load of Canadian youth to their impossible destination!

          Epilogue: When Delbert with his bus load started to leave the restaurant  in San Luis Potosi, a young man asked for a ride and offered to guide them to Queretaro. For a few blocks, Delbert followed the youth’s directions. Soon, however, he became aware that they were not going toward Queretaro.Finally Dlebert asked where he was taking the, and the young man answered truthfully, “Mi casa!”  He was just getting a free ride home!

          Chagrined at his own credulity, Delbert let the young man walk the rest of the way home. Having gone out of the way to accommodate him, however, he realized that it was getting very late and he should fill with gas before getting outside the city. The bus used a gallon about every eight miles, and it would be nice to be filled, ready for the drive to Mexico City the next morning. As with me, it had not occurred to him or any of the rest of those riding in the bus that Queretaro was not just outside the city.

          Once underway, though, there was never a moment ‘s hestiation on the part of the motor or the clutch. All of the way to Queretaro they performed superbly.Neither was there any hesitation about leaving the highway when they came to the side road that led to the Azteca, even though there was no human way possible that any of them could have known that we would be there awaiting their arrival.

 

 

Chapter 41

 

Canadian Youth Find Friends in Mexico City

 

          Negotiating Mexico City in an ancient Canadian school bus took all of the skill that the seventy possessed. None of the others on the bus even dared try it! I was glad to have the bus run interference for me and the appointee car!

          When Delbert and I were last in Mexico City, the church was well situated inside an enclosure high above the city in which there was ample room for our caravan. The house in which the seventy in charge of the area and his family lived was spacious. The gardens were beautiful and contained a lovely outdoor baptismal font. The meeting place was comfortable.

          This time , however, our instructions took us to a door in a row of houses that opened directly onto the street. A letter from the seventy now in charge of the area had at first told us there was no way they could accommodate a group our size. Later,  not only was permission granted but an invitation was issued by the local pastor for our entire group to stay with his family.

          There was a small room on the ground floor in which the church was accustomed to meeting. Only a few chairs and a small homemade pulpit gave evidence of the room’s utility. The pastor and his family lived in cramped quarters just above the church. It was to the home upstairs that we were invited to take the food and supplies that I carried in the seventy’s car. The welcome we received was effusive in spite of our inability to communicate in the Spanish language,  but I had no idea how far the good people would go to make  sure we knew that they wanted us!

          In the kitchen was a small refrigerator. ON the counter beside it there lay a dressed chicken, some fruit, beverages and other items one would expect to find inside a refrigerator Instead, everyting had been removed to make room for our supplies. My protest was greeted with some relief on the part of our hostess. With the use of our ice chest, there was ample room for our food and theirs!

          It was already nearing evening when we arrived at the church home. We had stopped to view some of the places of interest on our way in. Since there was no way we could get our troupe inside the room designated as the church and still have room for an audience, the youth elected, with the consent of the pastor, to conduct the evening service on the street in front of the church.

          With the first strains of music  with which the young ones began the service, windows and doors began to open all up and down the street. In moments the street was filled with the impromptu audience. Though our young ones sang and spoke in English, there seemed to be no lack of appreciation on the part of the Mexican audience, young and old alike. Every song and every testimony seemed to be understood by the gathering crowd.

          When the service was finished, there was a sudden rush of embrazzos for every member of the troupe. Home after home was opened to the youth. Invitations were extended so freely that it was only minutes before every one had a place to stay with one of the neighboring families. I could not believe what was happening., and was a little apprehensive, but one look at the pleasure on the face of our pastor and his wife told us that it was all right. The neighbors really did  want to share their homes with the Canadians!

          Before we left Saskatoon, Brother Rod Thompson, who had a small factory in which plastic jewelry, pen and pecil sets and other art pieces were made, supplied us with hundreds of small Canadian flags attached to a substantial brooch-like pin, each equipped with a clasp to make it a valuable gift likely to be serviceable for a long while. Each of us wore one, and treasured it. Now  the youth were passing out the pins to their new-found friends. Every young Mexican seemed to be wearing a Canadian flag!

           Gleefully the young people carried their possessions to the homes of their hosts. We of the staff were given comfortable quarters provided somehow by our pastor and his wife.Our suspicion  was that they were less comfortable than we!

Our every venture during the four days of our stay in the City was accompanied by some of the Mexian youth. It was amazing how quickly they were communicating with our Canadians. For some, the French language became their common tongue. For many Mexican youth it was an opportunity to practice the English they already knew. For all if was delightful!

          After we had traveled to Teotihuacan and Cholula, our bus and car stayed parked on the street near our quarters while we used  the marvelous underground transportation of the City.

          Very early the morning we were to take our leave of the City, we were awakened by the sounds of a mariachi band playing in the street in front of our church home. Much to our amazement, our hosts were all up and dressed. In fact, we would not have been surprised to learn that they had not been in bed all night. The marachi serenade was their parting gift to thirty some Canadians with whom they now had a lasting bond of fellowship in the Lord.

          Again, at five o’clock in the morning, it was the entire community that celebrated  with us. Again doors and windows opened the length  of the street and people  poured out to tell us good-bye as though they had been waiting all night to say farewell to friends they had known forever!

          When the seventy went to start the bus, we were in for another surprise. Several young men came running, waving their arms wildly in gestures designed to keep him from trying it. Upon reaching  the bus, they swarmed over the engine with some serious purpose evident in their actions, though they were smiling broadly as they worked as though they had some tremendous secret that they knew would please us. And please us it did.

          The young men had taped wads of paper in strategic places in the engine of the bus. With those obstacles, no one could start it without someone in the neighborhood knowing it. The bus would be safe from all predators!

          Nor did the celebration end with our bidding farewell to our hosts on the street. Several of the young Mexicans piled into two sleek little Volkswagens and escorted us out of the City. It was too early for most of the  City to be awake, so the six lane roads usually crowded with traffic were almost deserted except for our little caravan.  There were the bus with arms waving out of every window, the appointee car following close behind and the two Volkswagens doing a choreographed dance weaving first across in front of the bus then behind the appointee car. They crisscrossed in rhythm that set all of us smiling broadly as the young ones called names and addresses to each other from the bus and from the cars. When we reached the toll gates outside the city  the Volkswagens turned back. Still waves and good-byes were seen  and heard as long as either vehicle was in sight! Our visit to Book of Mormon lands had given us more than an increased appreciation for that sacred book! These were friendships that would be remembered forever!

 

 

Chapter 42

 

Breakdown in the Desert

 

 

          Once we had found the new fuel filter and had the clutch repaired, our Canadian caravan ran smoothly. It ran smoothly, that is, until we were well into the desert some seventy or eighty miles south of Laredo. There in the heat of the desert the engine stopped. There was no apparent reason. It just stopped. We were not out of gas. The engine was hot, but so was the ground and all the surroundings.

          We had traveled some seventy miles since the last stop in  Monterrey. The passengers in the bus were ready to stretch their legs . At first it was a relief to have some space, but soon  the hot sun made even the space seem oppressive. There was no shade. There were no bathroom facilities. We did not dare leave the group in the desert sun  for long. I did have water for us all and a bit of a snack, but that could not dissipate the searing heat or the concerns of the young.

          We had the appointee car with which we could go back to the last town we had passed for help, but that would take an indeterminate amount of time during which the group would be left to swelter in the heat either inside or outside of the bus. That gave us great concern.

          “Come. Gather round and let’s have a prayer.” Delbert proposed.

          Seeing the tension that was developing in the group, the seventy asked us to form a circle. Then he pointed to a cactus that was at the center of that circle. “See that cactus?” he questioned. “Now  let’s dump all of our problems with each other or with our situation on that cactus and give the Lord a chance to come to our rescue!”

          Thirty heads bowed. Thirty earnest prayers ascended heavenward as we all prayed for rescue. Later one of the young friends of the church who was a part of the group testified in prayer service that you don’t really know how to pray until you are stranded in the desert looking for a way out!

          Almost before the  prayers were finished, there was a rumbling in the direction of Monterrey. Every eye focused on the highway. There came an old public bus chugging up the road with its load of passengers. Seeing our predicament, the driver stopped to see if he could help.

          “Can yo take our people in to Laredo?” The seventy gestured as he spoke, hoping the driver would understand.

          “Si! Si!” the kind gentleman responded and likewise gestured to the group to enter his vehicle.

          But before we were all mounted, the good man held up his hand in a gesture to stop us while he shook his head and instructed, “No! No! No mas!”

          We were puzzled. In broken English he explained that the seats were all full.

          “But can’t the rest stand?” again Delbert gestured to make his meaning clear.

          “ Oh, si! Si! Si!”  said the man with a broad smile and a nodding head.

          While the rest of us climbed aboard to stand in the aisles, Delbert paid the fare. The driver would not charge for those who stood. Only those with seats were paying passengers.

          As we headed for Laredo, Delbert and Vernon took the appointee car and returned  to the last little town we had passed to look for help.

          We thought of nothing but the wonderful way the Lord had answered our prayers and delivered us from the desert heat until we were near Laredo and the border of the USA. It was then that I remembered that we did not have our visas with us. Without those important papers we would not be permitted to reenter our home country!

          In spite of my concern, I smiled a little as I recalled what was on those papers. At the aduana at Reynosa I had watched as the clerks gave some of the young ones husbands and wives, even children and strange histories. When I protested, I was told that it did not matter what was on the paper. Only the signature of the clerk was important. Well, the signatures were there all right, but the papers must be back in the bus!

          At Nuevo Laredo, our beneficent Mexican driver discharged his passengers. We walked across the Rio Grande and into the United States.  Of course, we didn’t go far into theStates, just to the aduana to report to the authorities our reason for appearing without either luggage or papers. Upon hearing our story, the immigration officers held an animated conference before graciously giving us permission to remain in the facility until Delbert and Vernon arrived with the bus and our visas.

          The hours passed slowly. We amused ourselves with reading everything in the place , playing little games that took no props, watching the border patrol work as they tried to prevent drugs from crossing the border with the travelers. It was especially interesting to see the dogs at work with the patrol.

          As suppertime approached and there was no sight of our men or our bus,  I began to be concerned for the young ones. Finally I took our plight to the officials again. It was then that we learned the reason  for the conference that preceded permission for us to remain free without our papers. Shortly before we had come to the aduana, a bus carrying a group of church youth of another persuasion was found to also be smuggling marijuana into the USA. Since the officers had watched the good behaviour of our group for hours and apparently decided they could trust us, I was given permission to take all but one of the group to a park for food and recreation. One was to be at the aduana when the bus arrived so they could tell its escort where we were. While our son, Douglas,  and Al Perry remained at the aduana and staff members supervised the trek to the park, I found a Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment from which we got our supper.

          In the meantime, Delbert and Vernon had found a tow truck to bring in the bus. They had also found two other families stranded in the desert. The crippled Volkswagen they tethered to the appointee car and towed to the border. The other car was too large for towing, but they took the Mexican family traveling in it into the already crowded appointee car and brought them to safety.

          That bit of Good Samaritanship proved to be a blessing to the seventy and Vernon as well as to the Mexican family. As they approached the check points of the border patrol with the crippled bus, the officials asked to see the papers for the bus. They were not in the bus. They were not in the car. In fact, they were no where to be found! From all appearances there would be long delays at best if they were permitted to bring the bus home at all.

          Finally the Mexican gentleman asked Delbert to let him go in and talk to the officials.”And be ready to go quickly,” he instructed, ‘when I return!’

          Moments later, the gentleman  emerged  from the check point with the instructions, “Let’s go!” What their benefactor said or did we will never know. We only know they had no more difficulty in spite of the missing papers.

          While looking for the papers for the bus, Delbert had discovered the packet of visas and placed them in his hip pocket. In his haste, he saw only the visas and did not notice that the bus papers were with them. When he arrived at the border, he removed the visas to secure the release of those of us who awaited his arrival , and there, stuck to his clothing and drenched with perspiration were the bus papers as well. There was no difficulty gaining entrance ot our home country.

          There was some delay in getting the bus repaired, however. It was quickly determined what had caused the problem. When the new engine was installed at Stephenville on our trip to Mexico, a vital hole through which the oil  should have circulated freely was accidentally plugged. Wtihout proper lubrication, the engine failed. Since it was still under warranty , we had to await service from Stephenville before it could be repaired.

          Again we were blessed. We had planned the trip on a meager budget. One hundred forty dollars and fifty cents per person was our asking. That was to pay for housing, our excursions to Six Flags Over Texas, the Folklorica and other attractions besides the transportation and the food.

          Most of our housing and generous amounts of food had been provided by gracious congregations along the way. At each stop we gave a beautiful worship service in exchange for a pot luck dinner and a place to sleep. Sometimes our hosts even  insisted on giving us breakfast. Already we had added additional transportation costs and one motel stay to our agenda because of the ailing bus. Now we had to postpone our second appointment at San Antonio and get motel accommodations again.

          Much to our surprise and delight, the Motel Six manager invited us to use his facility for two dollars per person per day. He even gave permission for me to feed the group at the motel and was enthusiastic about our using the swimming pool. Having an active group of young people in the pool would be good advertising, he explained. He just hoped, though , that his supervisor did not appear while we were there!

          Two days later the bus was still in repair. It was decided that the seventy would stay with the bus and the rest of the staff would take the youth on to San Antonio by commercial bus so we would not be too far off schedule for the rest of our host congregations. Again we were surprised and thankful  when the commercial bus agreed to pick us all up at the motel instead of having us try to get to the bus station on our own.

          God had heard our prayers. He not only provided us with safety but with some opportunities to minister to others and wonderful memories of his loving care  as well.

 

 

Chapter 43

 

Drowning At Hills of Peace

 

 

          We had chosen to remain in our cabin visiting with Olaf and Alice Turnbull that summer afternoon of 1973 at the Hills of Peace campground in Alberta, Canada. Our younger children and the Turnbull’s were with many of the other campers down at the lake swimming or playing on the raft tethered to fifty gallon oil barrels a little way away from the shallow water near the beach.

          Suddenly our conversation was interrupted. Marge Hodgins came racing up the hill, flung open the door and exclaimed breathlessly, “Greg Fisher has drowned! They’re searching for his body now!”

          With that  she turned and ran back toward the lake. We followed as fast as the rough terrain would permit.

          By the time we reached the beach, the limp body was sprawled across the floating dock.Greg’s face was a shade of  gray that I had never seen before. Articicial respiration was being administered by Lois Aspvik, the camp nurse, and there were anxious people all over the raft trying to help.

          The rest of the swimmers and campers watched helplessly from the beach. There was an eerie hush over the entire scene. Some were crying softly.Others obviously were praying. Every eye was fixed on the motionless figure on the raft.

          As we approached we saw our daughter, Karen, run from the gathered group, drop to her knees in the middle of the gravel road that led up the slight incline toward the dining hall, lift up her hands and face to the heavens and pray. Certainly, we too, were praying, and her demonstration of all of our need touched our hearts with empathy.

          It was evident that if Greg did revive, he would need more medical attention than the nurses on camp could give him. If he didn’t revive, we would still need a doctor’s certification as to cause of death.

          “I’ll go for the doctor!” I volunteered. I knew that Delbert and Ron would be needed on the grounds soon when the paralysis of the moment was lifted.

          There was no phone at Hills of Peace. The nearest telephone was at the home of a farmer five miles across the common pasture that empraced the camp from lakeshore to lakeshore. The sandy roads were deeply rutted. Cattle often stood in the road leisurely chewing their cuds, caring not at all that there was an emergency. I drove as fast as the terrain would allow, often circumnavigating both the deepest ruts and the recalcitrant cattle.

          Once on the phone, I called for an ambulance, a doctor and the police, assuring the emergency personnel that, unless there was a miracle, the drowning had been fatal. Knowing that the sign at the gate to the pasture that usually announced the approach to Camp Hills of Peace had recently been vandalized making it difficult to find the  camp, I also explained that I would be standing at the gate to direct the emergency units to the site of the tragedy.

          As soon as I left the lakeside, Delbert assessed the situation. First he began a search for Greg’s parents who were not yet in the group by the lake. It was soon determined that the Fishers were not on camp. Before they left, several of Greg’s friends  had heard them invite Greg to go with them to visit family friends outside the camp; but Greg had chosen to go swimming with his young friends instead.

          Knowing something of the response of large groups to tragedy in their midst, the seventy next turned his attention to the assembled campers. He knew that the people could not be allowed to just stand helplessly by nor to disperse with nothing but the horror of the situation on their minds. His next thought was to gather them together for prayer. That would at least give them an active part in the effort to save Greg’s life.

          Quickly he made his way through the gathered crowd to Elder Danny Belrose’s side. In a moment Danny was alerted to the seventy’s concern.”Help me call the people to the chapel for prayer!” Dlebert whispered.

          Dan’s response was immediate. Together the two ministers gathered the people for the trek up the hill to the chapel. Ron ran ahead and tolled the bell that usually called us to worship. Within minutes, the beach was deserted, the dock was occupied only by those who were actively engaged in efforts to revive Greg, and the camp was at prayer, doing what each one could do to help.

          My heart pounded violently and my own prayer ascended constantly as I waited at the gate for the ambulance and the police. It seemed an eternity before the wail of sirens alerted me to their approach. Gesturing wildly to make certain the crews knew that  it was I that they were to follow, I raced to my waiting car and sped off through the labyrinth of cattle paths to Hills of Peace.Even with the memory of that limp, ashen body indelibly imprinted on my mind, I could not quit hoping that there might still be life awaiting us.

          Back at camp, the congregation was still at prayer. Those trying to revive Greg had long since realized that their efforts were futile, and had brought his body to the shore where it was carefully wrapped and ready for transport. Delbert, Danny and Ron joined me in the appointee car and we followed the ambulance back to the hospital. On the way we talked of the Lord’s ability to restore life.

          Dan and Del wanted to go into the hospital with Greg’s body, but that opportunity was denied.They were not family . We returned to the camp concerned now for Greg’s parents who surely would be coming soon if they had not already arrived. We were disappointed that we could not report that God had given us a miracle and Greg was alive.

          Ole helped a lot. He was philosophical about the death. He reminded us that death is just a part of life and it is a part of life over which we often have little if any control.

          All of this time  Greg’s parents were blissfully ignorant of the drama being played out at Hills of Peace or of the part their son had in it. Upon their return , the devastating news broke upon them with numbling force. Greg was an excellent swimmer! How cold it have happened?  No one would ever know!

          Of course, it was necessary for the police to make an investigation . Kate Turnbull had called from the floating dock to ask the lifeguard sitting on the beach to make Greg quit horsing around. She thought he was just teasing her when he went under the dock. Karen had seen him roll over in the water just before he submerged for the last time and protested that he should not go down without getting more air. His face looked very strange. Karen was so concerned that she dove into the water from the beach where she had been playing with some of the small children.Others including Greg’s cousin, Doug, dove in at about the same time, all headed for the spot where Greg had last been seen.

          It was Doug who found the body, closer to the raft than had been expected, and brought it to the surface. Karen was close enough to touch Greg’s leg as it emerged. Many wanted an autopsy to be performed, for they could not believe that Greg, good swimmer that he was, could just have drowned. There was no autopsy. Greg’s young friends were comforted some when Greg’s father said, in spite of his grief, that if it had to happen, he was glad it happened there with Greg’s friends and among the Saints.

          Greg’s aunt Elaine Olson and his grandmother were also on camp and were tearful witnesses to the drama of the afternon. Later Elaine wrote a beautiful piece for the church’s youth magazine, Stride, musing wha tit must have been like for Greg to meet his Lord, Jesus Christ, under those circumstances.*

          Olaf Turnbull was trained in social processes and marveled at the way the camp responded to the crisis. He said everyone acted as though they had been trained for just such a time as this . He was right. When the Lord’s spirit is our constant companion , we do meet even the most unexpected vicissitudes of life with grace and skill born of that Spirit of Truth.

 

* See Saint’s Herald Vol. 122, Pg. 35-41, Oct. 1975

 

 

 

 

Chapter 44

 

Helmer’s Blessing

 

 

The prayer was finished. The two other ministers and Ray arose from their knees, but Helmer did not. It was then that Ron and Delbert found that Helmer had an excruciating pain in his back that limited his ability to work or even to move at times. This was quite evidently one of those times. Compassionately they helped Helmer to his feet and to a nearby chair.

          Ronald and Delbert were ministering in Paddockwood,Saskatchewan, at the time. Helmer Aspvik was the only priesthood member resident in that congregation and the only one close enough to give consistent ministry in the congregation at Prince Albert. A call had come from God for Ray to be ordained. Ray well knew that this ordination would mean immediate acceptance of ministerial assignment in one of the congregations, and he was not certain he was ready for such a responsibility. The men had all knelt to petition God for guidance and for strength for Ray. It was when the prayer was finished and Helmer was not able to rise that his pain became known to his fellow ministers.

          Ron was the first to speak. He was well aware, as were they all, that God was able to heal and had set the ordinance of administration in His church for that purpose. “Would you like to be administered to?” he asked simply.

          Helmer shook his head. “It wouldn’t do any good.” he protested.

          “Why would you say a thing like that?” Ron was surprised at this good priesthood members refusal.

          “Don’t you know how many times Frank Lowe was administered to , and he was never healed. If God did not heal that good man, why should he heal me?” Helmer spoke earnestly.

          “For one reason , “ Ron responded, “You are the only priesthood He has to help build the kingdom in this area. If you are incapacitated, who will do the work?”

          “And for another,” Delbert added, “God’s blessings are His to give. Theyare more about faith than they are about goodness.”

          “I have my pain pills.” Helmer dismissed the subject for the time being.

          Wednesday night prayer service  was at Prince Albert. The time between the discussion of healing through faith and the service had been one of fasting , studying and ministering on the part of the seventy, Ron and Helmer. Helmer had decide to receive administration as Ron had proposed.

          When the prayer was finished, Helmer started to throw his pain pills away . For some reason, Delbert suggested that he might want to keep them for awhile. The pain was eased but did not completely disappear.

          Some time later there was to be a priesthood meeting at Regina. Helmer arose very early to do some chores that had to be completed before he could make the long trip to the city. Among other tasks he had to haul in and stack nearly two hundred bales of hay. That required that he lift the two front legs of the heavy stacker onto other  bales of hay to make it possible for the last bales to reach the tip of the  stack.

          As he started to mount the tractor, the pain hit with excruciating fury. There was no way he could finish the chores or make the meeting with that pain. With his whole soul he cried out, “Lord ! If You want me to be at that meeting, You will have to take the pain away!”

          The   relief was instantaneous . Without pain, Helmer hauled in the bales, stacked them, finished his chores and drove some two hundred and fifty miles to the meeting. At the meeting that day, he arose  to bear his testimony of the healing that had occurred. In his great joy, he stretched his arms wide to demonstrate his freedom as he declared, “And I feel great! Thanks be to God!”

          Although there had previously been evidence of deterioration of discs in Helmer’s back and disease in his colon that the doctor had feared might be cancerous, subsequent medical inspection showed no trace of either disease.

         

 

Chapter 45

 

Governor General’s Award

 

 

          “Could you come to the first assembly of the new school year to accept an award for you son, Ronald?”The invitation came from Mr. Smith, superintendent of Aden Bowman, the academic track high school of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. “Your son has been awarded the Governor General’s award for excellence in academics and citizenship,” the superintendent explained, “and since he is away at college, we would like for you to represent him by receiving the award.”

          There was no question about our being at that assembly. The Governor General’s award is not something given out yearly as are so many awards. It is given only to outstanding students who show promise of continued achievement. Aden Bowman, in spite of its standing as an academic track school, had not received the award in a number of years. This was big news for the entire community. The local radio station was interviewing Ron by telephone, the superintendent said, and that interview would be broadcast at the assembly as well as on the air.

          The award was first announced to the waiting assembly of students, teachers and guests. An “Ah-h-h-h” of amazement rippled through the auditorium in which  we were assembled. Then Ron’s grades were read, subject by subject. The “Ah-h-h’s “cascaded around the room with each revelation. Finally the radio personality’s voice came over the speaker system with the question, “Ron, how did you do it?”

          Without hesitation, Ron’s voice came clear as a bell, “I prayed a lot!”

          The interview went on for several minutes, and we received the medal for our son with great dignity and ceremony, but I remembered only those first four words, “I prayed a lot!” God had been good to give us such a son and now his testimony was broadcast for all his friends and fellow students to hear. What was that scripture? “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths.” With such a teammate, Ron would make it all the way!

                  

 

Chapter 46

 

Peter’s Brother

 

          It was early evening when the call came. Peter explained that his brother had just come home from the hospital on a brief leave and was unable to keep food in his stomach. Because he knew that  I was a nutritionist he thought I might be able to help them find something he could retain when he ate.

          First of all, we were surprised that Peter had a brother. In all of the time we had known him,there had never been mention of one. Later we learned that the family had been so incensed that Peter and his family would join the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints that they had banished them from the family. It was only in near death that Isaac had  called on his younger brother for help.

          After a number of questions relayed from me to Peter to Ike and back again, I asked if we could just come to where the sick man was so I could talk to him personally. I was certain we would have a greater chance of finding some satisfactory solution to his problem.Sensing the great need for other ministry as well, Delbert asked Elder Danny Belrose to go with us.

          Whe Delbert, Danny, and I entered the home that we did not know existed, the sight that greeted us momentarily shook our composure. Ike was half reclining against a table. He had been straining against the wretching of his stomach that kept him from keeping  his food. There was a quilt draped across his shoulders, but when he turned to face us, his chest and upper abdomen were completely bare. Every rib was clearly visible and his sternum stood out like the lodge pole of an ancient roof. The fragile skin that seemed to try to wrap the bones in safety, served only to accent their stark projection.

          Deepset eyes peered out of scarcely hidden sockets. His beard hung loosely from too prominent cheek bones made so by the absence of flesh beneath the skin. Cancer of the pancreas, they explained. The prognosis was not good! The sick man was obviously hungry , but hunger was not uppermost on his mind.

          As soon as Peter introduced us and Isaac was aware that he was in the presence of ministers, instead of turning to me for help with his food, Ike turned to the seventy.”They wouldn’t believe me! I tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t believe me!” The tone was pleading as though the most important thing in his life now was to have someone with whom to share some strange and wonderful happening.

          “What wouldn’t they believe?” Delbert asked compassionately.

          Strength seemed to return to the sick man as he told his story. Ike was in the last stages of cancer. When it was apparent that he was not beating the disease that ravaged his body, he had made a decision to end the suffering. He had gone to the end of the hall on the hospital’ s upper floor with every intention of throwing himself out of the window to end his life quickly. The suffering was more than he could endure and his doctors could give him no hope that it would ever be different.

          As he started to mount the window sill, a hand closed over his, an arm embraced his shoulder and he found it impossible to jump. Startled, he looked around to see who had followed him. He had been certain the hall was empty! There stood a heavenly messenger who smiled encouragingly at him and invited him to see how beautiful his life was in the eyes of God. Then there opened a vision of the wonderful life that could be his. He saw things that he could never desscribe and heard sounds that  he said  could not be heard with ears. Finally the angel slowly rotated his hand so Ike could see that it held a metal plate  with inscriptions on it. He was given a moment to examine the inscriptions but he could not read them. Then the messenger just faded away.

          Isaac hurried back to his room filled with desire to share his experience with his minister. His minister came, heard the story and told him that he had been visited by the devil! All of his protests were to no avail. When other members of his congregation visited him, most of them agreed with the minister. Some were not so certain but thought that he might have been just hallucinating.

          “Well, we believe you!” The seventy looked at Danny and me for confirmation of his statemnt . We nodded ascent. Then Danny added emphatically , “We certainly do!”

          “Do you know why the messenger would have shown you a metal plate with  inscriptions?” Delbert was puzzled by that part of the narrative.

          “I think I know”. It was Peter who entered the conversation. “The one thing that disturbed my family most about our becoming members of the Saints church was the Book of Mormon. They could not believe that it was translated by the gift and power of God from metal plates with inscriptions on them in a foreign language.  I believe the Lord wanted Ike to know that the Book of Mormon is true.”

          Ike was nodding ascent.

          It was then that Ike asked the seventy if he would pray for him. Delbert explained the instruction of James that the elders should anoint with oil  and pray the prayer of faith for those who had faith to be healed. “That’s what I want!” Ike’s dep set yes glowed with anticipation.

          The administration was completed. Ike no longer needed my advice. He could eat. It was not many days before he was at home for good.

          Isaac’s doctors had advised him that the cancer came from heavy drinking  and smoking and both must stop.For a time that advice was heeded. Then the pressures of friends and family and old habits became too great and Ike rejoined his old way of life. Soon he was back in the hospital again.

          Twice more Ike was visited by the heavenly messenger. At one time  a nurse was trying unsuccessfully to get a sample of his blood.The angel came, laid his hand on Ike’s arm and the blood flowed freely filling the nurse’s tube. At another time Ike was suffering unbearable pain in his abdomen. This time the heavenly being placed his hand, still holding the metal plate with inscriptions , on his distended stomach and eased the terrible pain that wracked his body. Again his unexpected umprovement made it possible for him to return home. Again his pastor, family and friends, insisted that he had been visited by the devil.

          They refused to believe that his visitor was a messenger from heaven. Only Peter and his family and friends believed. To go with Peter into the Restoration, however, meant alienation from the rest of the family , and Isaac was just not strong enough to take the shunning that Peter had taken for so many years. Again he returned to the life style that the doctors had warned him was responsible for his illness and finally died of the cancer that had devastated his body.

                            

 

Chapter 47

 

Kathy’s Missing Contact Lens

 

 

          “Has your faith been tested lately? I don’t mean, ‘Has something bad happened to you?’ That is what so many times we think of as a trial of our faith. Resignedly we accept bad things that happen as a ‘trial of our faith’. But I believe there is a better meaning for the term. I mean, ‘Has the Lord given you an opportunity to try out the promises He has given you in the scriptures?” It was our son, Douglas, now a priest in Christ’ church, who was asking the question in one of his sermons. He then followed with this story:

          “A trial of my faith occurred when I was living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I was a freshman in high school and , even though I was the youngest member of the group, I had recently been drafted to be the president of the youth organization then called the Zion’s League. In that group there was one, Joni Turnbull.

          “Joni had come to a very small group of youth, usually about four, with a friend who was also new to the group. Her friend came just because she had promised  her grandmother that she would attend at least one youth meeting in her grandmother’s church. Since she did not want to go where she knew no one, she invited Joni to go with her.

          “Joni was immediately enthralled with the message of the gospel that she heard there. She would have been  baptized soon after being introduced to the church, but her parents thought it best that she wait until she was sixteen so she would be sure she was not making a mistake. The delay did not stop Joni from inviting her friends to church activities  and from being at the church every time the doors were opened. Her enthusiasm was so catching that soon even non-members were inviting their friends, and the League meetings would have forty people instead of four. This was especially true of the night we planned fun activites like the hayride on which I found just what faith can do.

          “We had had a great time throwing hay at each other, pushing people off the wagon and doing other risky things one should never do. The sun had set about 5:00 pm., so the entire  ride was in the dark, lighted only by our flashlights.The ride began and ended at the Louck’s farm, and when we returned there, everyone was having a wonderful time when suddenly Kathy, Joni’s younger sister, began to cry. She had lost her contact lens. This was actually the second time she had lost a lens, and after replacing the first set, her parents had told her that if she lost another, she would have to pay the seventy five dollar bill herself.

          “Kathy was frantic. No one of us knew what to do until Joni stepped in.”Don’t get all upset,’ she said. ‘We’ll just pray that we will find it’.

          “My heart  sank as Joni gathered everyone to have prayer. What did she think she was doing? It’s hard enough to find a contact lens on a hard wood floor, let alone in a snow covered field or a pile of scrambled hay in the dark. What if God didn’t answer our prayer? Here were all of these non-member friends who were going to be witnesses to God’s failure to answer prayer. I mean, I believed in general that God answers prayer, but I had no confidence that He was going to answer this prayer! Joni had become so caught up in the things she was hearing at church that she was actually going to try out a promise of the scriptures right in front of all of these people! She must have taken literally the promise we had read in church school from the Book of Mormon which says,”…  whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ, it shall be granted him; and this promise is to all, even unto the ends of the earth.

          “I wasn’t able to get to Joni in time to stop her, so we found ourselves holding hands in a big circle and praying about finding Kathy’s contact.

          I couldn’t think of anyting else to do, so I prayed as hard as I could that we could find the missing lens.

          “As soon as the prayer was finished, we all stood around wondering what to do next- all except Joni, of course. She grabbed a flashlight, walked over to the hay wagon, lifted a handful of hay and exclaimed ,’Here it is!”

          “When Joni picked up that lens, I learned a lot about how God can answer prayer when we believe in Him. Certainly I knew that the answer to that prayer had nothing to do with the amount of faith I had that it would be answered, but Joni’s trial of her faith was justified. It was her willingness to try her faith that brought the victory.And whenever I hear anyone talking about finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, I remember how the Lord led Joni, because of her faith, to find that contact lens in a stank of hay.

          “Incidentally, several of those present that night were later baptized, not because of the miracle of the missing lens but because they, too, found fellowship with the Master who invites us to try our faith!”

         

 

Chapter 48

 

A Youth Retreat of Faith

 

 

          “Fifty one, fifty two, fifty three-” Keith Jeffrey and our son Ron hovered over the mustard seeds piled on the kitchen table of the mission housein Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. “How many of these do you suppose would be required to yield enough energy to blow the Prairie Pimple off the face of the earth?” Keith paused in his counting to inquire. “I don’t know ,” Ron responded. “How big is the Prairie Pimple?”

          The subject of their inquiry was an artificial hill that had been built by civil engineers on the edge of an arroyo south of Saskatoon to provide a ski site for competitors in the 1971 Canadian Winter Games. The hill had been maintained to provide a recreational opportunity for Saskatchewan skiers even after the competition was history. Functional as it was, it stood like an errant blemish on the surrounding prairie landscape, and was the object of many local jokes.

          “Let’s find out how big it is,” Ron proposed as he headed toward the phone to call the engineers.

          “How many cubic feet of dirt did you  use in building the ski hill south of town?” Ron asked the engineer who answered his call. There was a long wait while the engineer found the information for him.

          Then it was the engineer’s turn to be curious. “Why would you ask?” he wanted to know.

          “We are having a youth retreat here in Saskatoon this Thanksgiving weekend with the focus on faith.” Ron responded. “You know the Bible says that if one has faith as a mustard seed, he can remove mountains. We are trying to see how many mustard seeds it would take to remove your mountain. We just wanted you to know so that if the hill disappears this weekend , you will know what happened.” Ron said it with tongue in cheek and a broad smile on his face. The engineer laughed heartily with him.

          The weekend did turn out to be remarkable. Youth came for all over Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana and three carloads even made the long journey from Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa!The Gracelanders came principally because one of their number was to be baptized along with other youth with whom many were friends, Ken Ward had found his faith renewed at Graceland and wanted everyone to know of his new life.

          Allen Perry and Murray Foster were also among those making their covenant with God that day. Murray’s parents did not understand or approve his baptism and so did not attend the service. Murray asked me to receive him out of the water , and I was thrilled to substitute for his mother in this sacrament. I can still see the broad smile he wore when the baptism was completed and feel the imprint of the kiss he planted on my cheek as I wrapped him in one of the new terry cloth robes I had made just for such an occasion. Murray had been comforted about his parent’s objections to his baptism by a dream he had before the day of commitment. Because of the dream, he felt assured that they would not always object to his decision and that his father might one day join in the church’s ministry.

          After the three young men were baptized, there was another unforgettable moment. I had made long white terrycloth robes for use at the Saskatoon church so baptismal candidates could remain in the sanctuary until the service was finished. Dressed in the robes, the three young men put their arms around each other and sang with the congregation, “Unto God who knows our every weakness, With faith we lift our hearts in prayer. Asking in humility and meekness, For his love, his direction and his care. In these Latter Days, With Songs of Praise , we all must help to spread the gospel story. Our every deed from sin be freed till Zion we  redeem” Some said they reminded them of the three Nephites about whom we had talked in one of our sessions that weekend. All of us were inspired!

          The weekend began with the arrival of the youth on Friday night. The church had been damaged severely by a recent flood and there had not yet been time for repairs. We had rented a school building for the weekend activities, but it was not available until Saturday, so we had them all come to the mission house for assignments. Since it took eight to ten hours for even our Northern Plains and Prairie Province youth to come from their homes, they were arriving most of the night. After about 1:00 o’clock we did not send anyone ot another hosue but bedded them down some place in the mission house. We went to bed for th elast time at about 4:00 o’clock in the morning! I never did get a count on how many stayed with us, but we were pretty well wall to wall people, and we had somewhere between twenty-five and thirty there for breakfast on Saturday.

          Although the rally officially closed at three thirty on Sunday, many of our guests did not leave for another twenty-four hours or so. Two carloads from Calgary could not leave. The drivers  of their cars  had gone to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends elsewhere, and the young ones had no choice but to spend the holiday with us. Some of the local youth wanted  to stay with them as long as possible, so we had something like thirty for Thanksgiving dinner, counting neighbors and friends we had already invited for that occasion. I know we served two turkeys and a ham that Thanksgiving , but did have some leftover turkey considering that we had also served that traditional bird at the school on Sunday and some had celebrated Thanksgiving at home before the rally. They were a little tired of turkey!

          Tlhe weather was supposed to have been dreadful for the weekend, but we exercised some of the faith we were to discuss, and there was only a brief downpour on Sunday morning that should not have bothered any of us. Two of the fellows, however, stayed in bed during the first service  and got caught in the deluge on their way to the second. They were so soaked that they went home to change and missed the entire morning.

          Lives were changed at that rally. At least one young man came whom we had not seen at any church event in five years, not even at camps held close to his home. Some who knew him declared that it was the Lord who brought him knowing that he would go away with new direction for his life.

          Our son Doug was responsible for one of th eactivites. On  Friday night he became very ill. Knowing the need for his ministry and his need to experience all the weekend had to offer, I suggested that he read Doctrine and covenants Section 23: 6a. There he read that the elders  were not to require miracles unless so commanded except for casting out devils, healing the sick, against poisonous serpents and against deadly poisons, and “these things ye shall not do, except it be required of you by them who desire it.”

          Doug asked for Elder Orval Fisher and another to administer to him, informing them that,”I require a healing!”

          The elders were surprised at the intensity of Doug’s request. They administered with more than usual faith.Doug was instantly healed and carried his share of the responsibilities all weekend.

          There were no classes as one usually defines classes. There were continual activities in which acts of faith were explored by scripture study, by visual presentation, by drama, impromptu and otherwise, by movies, by interviews with those with testimonies to share and by games. Every life was touched by the Spirit of God renewing and increasing faith in both young and old. Those of us who provided food and housing were blessed to be a part of the experience.

          We never did find out how many mustard seeds it would take to remove Saskatoon ‘s mountain, but we learned a lot about how faith makes life exciting and new!

 

 

Chapter49

 

Timmy Woynarski’s Healing

 

          It was Wednesday night and the Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada congregation had met for prayer service. Ronald was traveling with his seventy father in mission at the time and they were both present at this meeting.Stan and Sandy Woynarski had asked for prayers for their newly adopted son, Timmy. Twice since his recent adoption the family had made plans to take him east to Ontario to introduce him to his  extended family, and twice it had been necessary to hospitalize him instead.

          Timmy was unusually sensitive to allergens. Already the family had removed pets, rugs and every known source of allergies the boy suffered, but still there was difficulty. Although Sandy was a nurse, life threatening attacks continued to force the family to resort to medical procedures available only in the hospital to save his life. This time it was particularly disappointing because it was holiday time and one of the rare times that Stan could get away for an extended period of time.

          By way of introduction to prayer, Delbert quoted the scriptures that assure us that if two or more are met together in prayer, their minds touching one thing, the Lord will grant whatsoever they ask. He then asked the group to have a circle prayer for Timmy. Each one was to take his/her turn as the opportunity came to them in the circle to pray for Timmy to be healed.

          Enthusiastically the people entered into the prayer, but soon the seventy became aware that the participants were not united in their requests. Reluctantly he interrupted the prayers with a caution that if they were to expect their prayers to be answered, they should remember to pray for Timmy’s healing with faith and with unity. Again and again the effort was made to be united but always without success.

          Finally the service ended, but the seventy asked that any who would like to continue the prayer should gather at the Woynarski home for that purpose. Almost the entire congregation responded. The prayers at the home became increasingly united. At about eleven o’clock the group disbanded.

          Early the next morning Sandy called to report to the two ministers. “You’ll never guess what happened!” she announced excitedly. “Try me!” It was the seventy who responded expectantly.

          Very early that morning, Sandy had gone to the hospital. Timmy, the little one who had been housed in an oxygen tent, barely able to survive the night before, was sitting up and eating !”In fact”, the puzzled nurse on  duty explained, “He has been eating ravenously since just before midnight last night! I don’t know what happened.’

          “I do”, Sandy had declared confidently as she explained to the duty nurse what had transpired at the church and in their home the night before. Then Sandy checked her new son out of the hospital, and , she reported to the seventy, the Woynarskies were soon to be on that long anticipated trip to the  homefolk in Ontario. Certainly, now it was time for prayers of thanksgiving!

 

 

Chapter 50

 

Ron’s Summer Job

 

          Ron’s first year at Graceland College was finished and three more were yet to come. Appointee families were not allowed to put money in their budgets to be saved for advanced education for their children. There was a policy that promised some help when the children chose to go on past high school. When the policy was established back in the late sixties, there was a stipend of one hundred fifty dollars available for each year in college. The plan was to increase the amount by one hundred and fifty dollars a year until the amount equaled the tuition at Graceland. With Graceland’s tuition increasing yearly, that goal seemed a long while off!

          Graceland was helpful because it offered scholarships for academic achievement and for participation in school activities of a number of sorts. Ron, like his brother Alan before him, had obtained those scholarships, and there was no question but that he would be able to retain them. Like all of our children, he had also saved his money since a small child to be certain he had a start on college. Both he and Alan had carried papers from the time they were able to lug a pack of them and their carefully kept record books testified to the fact that their money was never squandered. In fact, little of it was spent except for tithes and offerings, gifts and a rare treat for themselves and friends. Saving for college was always an activity that most of our children’ friends just could not understand.

          Long before Graceland was recessed for summer, calls had come in for Ron to serve on camp staffs throughout the region. His ministry was already known from his working camps all of the summers we had lived in Canada and he knew almost all of the youth who would be served. He wanted to fulfill every request. To do so would mean no work and no money to use for that next school year. We could help a little from our family allowance for food and clothing, but with two sons in college, the help would be minimal.

          The decision was not really difficult. Ron knew from the start that he would work at the camps until they were finished and trust that there would be money for his year at Graceland when the time came.

          Camps for the summer were nearly finished when the call came. Jared Ingram was short a man on his crew that installed and serviced measuring devices on elevators throughout the northern tier of prairie states in the USA. Could Ron possible join them for the rest of the summer? The work would be hard and dangerous, but the pay would be good and all expenses would be paid. Ron could and did and ended the summer with as much money as he would have had at any of the regular jobs available to him when the summer started. God has wondrous ways of providing for those who trust in Him!

         

 

Chapter 51

 

One Memorable , Heaven Blessed Year

 

 

          Nineteen seventy seven was a memorable year for the Smith family. During the previous year Steven had been in his serious accident. Then he was graduated from Graceland College, accepted at Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon and became engaged to a charming Missouri girl named Cindy. They had set their wedding for a day in May, 1977 and the place at Guilford, Missouri, Cindy’s home town.

          We were well aware that a young veterinary student marrying a girl with years of her own college yet to finish would find it difficult to meet the financial obligations of his family. We had nothing in the way of money to contribute, but there was ample room in the mission house for two families now that our other children were all gone from home.Cindy and Steve could have the downstairs for an apartment.

          Meanwhile Ron had entered graduate school at Ames, Iowa. He had become engaged to a lovely Canadian school teacher named Di who had her own home with furnishings accumulated from her own endeavors and from her mother’s untimely death. For the past year, she had been one of Delbert’s missionary team traveling through the Northern Plains and Prairie Provinces Region. Ron and Di likewise set their wedding date for May, 1977 and set the place in Ames, Iowa. Di’s parents were no longer living, and she chose to be married near Ron’s place of residence.

          In anticipation of the weddings only a week apart and in adjoining states, I accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker at a women’s institute in Iowa just prior to the happy events. The plan was for Delbert and his team to finish their work at Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan, pick up Di’s possessions in Calgary, Alberta, transport them to the States in the old “Love Bus” that had carried the Region’s youth on two memorable caravans but which the district had retired and sold to Steven for one dollar.After the weddings Steven was to transport his new bride’s possessions back to Saskatoon in the bus while she followed in the car that her parents were giving them for a wedding gift.

          The plan sounded quite reasonable to us all, but a couple of unexpected situations muddled it a bit.

          I was to stay on Graceland’s Campus with our daughter karen during my wait fo rthe weddings. Karen saw me coming and ran to meet me. Instead of “Hello” or any such expected salutations she greeted me with the question, “Mother, did you know that we are being moved?”

          In those days it was not unusual for appointee families to be moved without being consulted. We usually accepted the procedure without question.But this time it was different. How would Steve and Cindy live if they had to pay rent as well as their living and school fees? Steven had received good bursaries and loans from the Canadian government. Whether they would be so generous with his new bride from the States was another question. This was something we had not anticipated or even suspected might happen!

          “Moved!” I repeated the word in disbelief! “Moved where?”

          “I don’t know,” Karen responded, “ but Harry Black has been telling the Canadian students that we are being moved!”

          “Well, Harry is our Regional Administrator. He ought to know. Where is he now?” I was anxious to get to the bottom of this new development.

          “He’s gone. I don’t know where he is.” Karen had told me all that she knew.

          A few minutes later, I was crossing the campus when I was hailed by seventy Don Comer. “Hi!” he said cherrily.” I hear you are being moved!”

          “Moved!” I responded as though I had never heard the news . “Moved where?”

          “You mean you don’t know?” Don was surprised and not a little embarrassed that he might have spoken out of turn. “No.” I responded. “I didn’t know until I got to Graceland, and I have no idea where we are going!”

          Don refused to give further information if , indeed, he had any more to share.

          Somehow the news got to the apostle in charge of the field that I was at Graceland and he called asking for Delbert. He said he had been trying unsuccessfully for days to find him. I told him where he was working and that he would soon be on his way to the States. Could I do anything for him? Oh, no!  He just wanted to talk to Delbert. Little did he guess that I had already been informed of what he wanted to talk about, but I bit my tongue just to see how far this charade would go before someone decided to break protocol and give the family some information.

          In the meantime back in Canada there had been a complication arise in clearing Di for her entrance to the States. At one time she had been in England and Wales for a year as a member of the church’s Older Youth Service Corps. In reviewing her application for her visa, which she had been assured was already cleared, someone finally noticed that little detail. The consul had as much trouble trying to catch up with her and the team as the apostle had been having trying to find them. So it was not until she was enroute to her wedding and had gone to the consulate in Calgary to pick up her papers that she learned that she was refused legal engrance to the USA until officials had time to check with the police in England and Wales to see if she had a criminal record there.

          Di protested that she had been told that all of the papers were in order. She had complied with every requirement of which she had been informed. The response was to ask her who had given her such information. Of course , she could not identify the person.

          When it was apparent that Di was about to dissolve into tears, Delbert took over the inquiry. He suggested an overseas phone call would quickly determine the facts. That would not do. They had to have her clearance in writing! What about a telegram? That was not acceptable, either. It had to be signed by the proper authorities. But the wedding  was scheduled for that weekend. If she had to wait for the clearance, there could be no wedding. Well, that was just to bad! Laws are laws! They had to have the certification in writing and properly signed!

          In desperation, Del called me to relay the news and to see whether something could be done from this side of the border since it was US immigration that was holding up Di’s entrance for her wedding. As was customary in the family, he also asked us to  pray with them that this impasse could somehow be resolved.

          I called Ron, and together we spent the day callign every one we could think of and praying as we called. We enlisted the help of Iowa’s senators, immigartion officials, you name it! We ketp the phone lines buzzing! Every one was sympathetic, but no one could lpromise anything to help.

          Back in Canada, Delbert finally asked the consul,”What do you suggest we do?” and Di added her tearful, “What can we do?”

          Touched by Di’s consternation, the officer’s demeanor softened. “I can’t tell you this and you didn’t hear it here, but I think if I were in your place, I would just go to the border and take my chances.”
          After cautioning them to be sure everything was in order, no contraband, complete agricultural inspection if she wanted to take any of her houseplants, no liquor, the officer said,”Don’t tell any lies, but don’t answer questions you are not asked! Don’t say any more than you have to.”

          Relieved to have this tacit approval of their venture, the little caravan headed for the border. Di and her friend and teammate Kathy Garrett were in the bus with Delbert. Allan White and Charmaine Chvala followed in the appointee car. They had all been instructed to let Delbert do all of the talking. The rest were to speak only if spoken to! And all of them were to pray!

          As they approached the border, Allan parked at the side of the drive wehre he and Charmaine prayed as they awaited the final verdict. Di and Kathy  had their prayer post inside the bus. Delbert identified both vehicles as hes responsibility. Th inspector  casually acknowledged the automobile and then entered the bus.

          “Where are you headed?” was the first question.

          “To our son’s wedding.” was Delbert’s prompt reply.

          “Have you any liquor?” The response was prompt. “No!”

          “What are these?” The household furnishings were being pointed out.

          “Household goods”, Delbert responded truthfully. No more questions were asked about their purpose or destination, and no one volunteered any more information.

          “have these been inspected?” The officer had turned his atttention to the array of Di’s house plants.

          “Yes,sir!”  and Delbert produced the proper papers from the department of agriculture that certified that the plants were healthy and acceptable. They could be admitted into the States even if their owner could not!

          The immigration officer studied the papers carefully.

          “Have you any liquor?” He repeated the question as he absentmindedly handed the papers for the plants back.

          The answer was prompt as before. “No, sir!”

          A third time the officer asked whether they had liquor. Apparently he could not conceive of a wedding party without some form of intoxicating beverage.

          Di could resisst no longer and spoke up. “Sir , we don’t drink.”

          That seemed to satisfy the man, and without a single question about the furniture’s destination or of anyone’s intentions or eligibility he dismounted the bus and waved both vehicles on across the border and into the USA.

          Prayers of thanksgiving ascended from both the bus and the car. The occupants thought the passing reminded them of Peter Harder’s stories and the stories of Brother Andrew crossing into Eastern Germany with their scriptures or even the Smith family going into Mexico with the Fishburn legacy of photographic equipment so needed there for missionary work. Di was on her way free and clear long before Ron and I knew it was safe to stop trying to get her past the border.

          Nearly a year later when Ron and his Canadian bride went to Omaha to immigration to try to make her a legal alien instead of an alien illegally living in the country, the immigration officer had a hard time believing their story. He vowed that he had worked on that border , and no one could get across on the terms they chronicled.

          For Steve and Cindy, the way was miraculously cleared as well. When we left for our new assignment in St. Louis, we were able to leave some furniture and equipment to help make their neat two story duplex cozy and efficient.

          Yes! Nineteen seventy -seven was a memorable year for the Smith family. The testimony of the crossing of the border and the provision for both young couples would long be favorite stories to share.

 

 

Chapter 52

 

First Fruits

 

 

          When we learned that we were being transferred away from Canada, leaving Steven and Cindy without the free housing on which they had planned, it was too late to stop Steven coming to the States for his wedding. He was already on his way. And it was doubtful that the young couple would want to change their plans because ours were disrupted. When Steven and Cindy heard the news, they smiled nervously, but didn’t change a thing.

          When the wedding was over, there were gifts to be packed and acknowledged. For Steve and Cindy, those gifts were also to be evaluated. They wanted to pay tithing on their value. Parternership with God had long been a tenant of their lives. Of all the things they wanted in their home, the Lord’s blessing topped the list.

          Among the gifts was an automobile that Cindy had been driving. It’s value brought the total of the gifts to five thousand dollars. One tenth  was five hundred dollars. With the  money they had been given they would pay the tithe.

          The decision startled Delbert and me a little. Although we had taught Steven the promise of the Lord to bless those who remembered to give of their first fruits in tithing, under the circumstances, this seemed a bit foolhardy. After all, God could wait. They could not. They had to have a place to live and food to eat!

          The wedding was in May, and we had until August to move. That would give a little time for finding a place to live and for arranging loans for both their college and living.

          As soon as we all returned to Canada, they began looking for a place to live. Between our home and the University of Saskatchewan there was an area of government subsidized housing. Everyone to whom we talked said there was no way one could just walk into Gladmer and become a resident without suffering through a long waiting period. But somehow, Steve and Cindy did just that. While Steven was in school, Cindy went house hunting. They were admitted almost immediately. Some of their friends had tried repeatedly to gain access to similar housing without success. Steve and Cindy knew they were doubly blessed. They had the housing and the rent  was based upon their income, which at the moment was almost non-existent. They were even given bursaries and loans that made it possible for Steven to continue his veterinary medicine education and Cindy to transfer to the University of Saskatchewan to continue work on her degree in music.

          Furnishing their new home began with the myriad of beautiful gifts they had been given. Then there were second hand pieces of furniture and appliances and some that we were able to leave with them because of our move. Their new home was comfortable if not palatial.

          Not the least of their blessings was the friendship of Peter and Amy Beuckert and their family. The Beuckerts lived on a farm outside the city. Cindy was at  home on the farm, and being there enhanced Steven’s studies of animals and animal life. From the farm, Peter and Amy furnished the young couple milk by the gallons, chickens, eggs, honey, the equal of which they had never seen except for that which the Beuckerts had furnished the  seventy’s family through the years.

          Just before Steven was to graduate with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, he received a letter. Years before, while he was in Chrisman Junior High in Independence, Missouri, the Explorer Scouts had asked him what he wanted to do for his life work. He responded that he wanted to be a veterinarian. Immediately the Scouts  invited him to join their medical unit. He was delighted even though they were involved in human medicine, not animal.

          The troupe had arrangements for training with the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital. First the Scouts were taught first aid by hospital personnel. They were then allowed to work in the emergency room of the hospital. At first it was just to carry messages and assist with patient belongings. But before long, they were more specifically involved with the patients. Steven loved it! Even on Sundays, he would run home from church, eat whatever was available even before the family arrived for their more sumptuous dinner and run to the hospital just a couple of blocks away.

          As summer approached, Steven decided he should find out whether he really wanted veterinary medicine or whether human medicine might be a better choice. To help determine the course he should really prusue, he asked Dr. Wendell Kelly if he might work at his pet hospital for the summer. “You don’t have to pay me,’ he explained. “Just schedule me in with your other help so I can see what it is like.”

          Dr. Kelly did as Steven requested. Steven worked faithfully, and at the end of the summer, the good doctor gave him one hundred dollars for his work.

          Although Steven had never suspected it, Dr. Kelly had kept track  of his progress through college. Now that he was about to graduate, there was an invitation to go to Independence to work in the same clinic in which he had volunteered all those years before. So Steve and Cindy moved to Independence and started their career, and their family.

          Soon they were pregnant. In Canada there was no concern about financing the birth of a baby. All medical care in the province of Saskatchewan was completely free. By now Steven was working at two veterinary establishments trying to save money to purchase their own facility. There were no medical benefits with Steven’s work at either clinic, and they had not thought of purchasing medical insurance. They had saved enough for the birth and about five thousand dollars towards their owning a clinic of their own.

          Thiera was born a healthy, beautiful baby with a APGAR  rating that was almost perfect. Before the day of her birth was over, however, the pediatrician who was attending her noticed that there was something wrong. Closer examination revealed that she had become infected with a very serious blood infection. No one was ever certain how the organism gained entrance to her blood stream. They were sure, however, that Thiera would have died had not the doctor been recently trained and that training had made him familiar with this particular type of infection, sometimes picked up by hospital babies.        

          In spite of immediate medical attention, the little one became increasingly ill. She became lethargic. Her white blood cell count soared. There was serious doubt that Thiera would live. We were all praying for her healing, and after the administration prayer in which the prophet, himself, participated, the medical records show there was immediate response on the part of the little one’s body.

          When the ordeal was over, however, the bill nearly wiped out the young couple’s savings. Of the five thousand dollars saved for the clinic, there were three hundred left.

          “It’s no use!” Steven reported dejectedly to Dr. Dylie, the one from whom the proposed purchase was to be made. “I have no way of buying the clinic now.” The purchase price of one hundred twenty five thousand dollars seemed entirely out of reach!

          “Could you buy it,” countered the good doctor, “if you could get it for eighty-five thousand?”

          Steven shook his head. He knew that the doctor wanted to sell the clinic quickly so he could give his full attention to his primary clinic in another part of  the city. “I have nothing for a down payment.”

          “Could you buy it , “ again the doctor countered, “if you could have it for a five thousand dollar down payment, and you could work out the payment?”

          Of course, Steven and Cindy were delighted. The deal was made. Although it looked for awhile as though God had forgotten his part of the partnership, nothing could be further from the truth. What was taken away in medical payments was returned many fold. God does honor his promises! He is worthy of our first fruits!

 

 

Chapter 53

 

Beloved Dummy

 

          Bert Morris had had a discouraging day. The work in which he and Janice had invested their lives and their material possessions was not fulfilling their expectations of kingdom building potential . Bert came to the prayer meeting unhappy with himself and the choices he had made that had put them in this untenable position.

          Bert was in charge of the service. LGordon Swetnam gave the theme talk. He used the story from John 8:3-11 of the adulteress who was to be stoned until Christ stooped and wrote on the ground. None of us knows what he wrote, but her accusers knew and each one quietly slipped away, leaving her alone with the Master.

          Picking up on the story, Bert said he wondered what the Lord would write about him if he were to write for others to see. The good elder spoke dejectedly.”If I were to meet my Lord tonight, I’m sure he would write, “Dummy!” He then told of some of the times when he felt that he had failed his Lord.

          One time in particular, Bert explained, he was attending a dinner meeting of his company. Many of his coworkers gathered very early to drink. By dinner time they were quite drunk. Bert reacted to their behavior with anger . When the atheist president of the company asked him to offer the blessing, instead of being thankful for the opportunity, Bert said he had never in his life offered a prayer standing so straight and tense.

          Sometime after that event and somehow connected with it, a woman that Bert did not know came to his attention. He learned that she was married to one of his coworkers who had been at that dinner meeting at which he had prayed so reluctantly. Somehow he felt impressed that he should tell her about Jesus Christ. Because he did not know her, he hesitated and procrastinated the Spirit’s direction. Several times, he felt that he must tell her about the Christ, but each time he hesitated and waited for a more convenient situation.

          One morning as he rounded a corner on his way to work, he met his coworker’s wife going the opposite direction and felt strongly that he must tell her about the Christ. He started to touch the brake, hoping to stop her and share his testimony, but somehow  that seemed a foolish thing to do, and he procrastinated again. That day she took her own life by hanging. Bert was burdened for nearly a year and a half because of his failure to follow  the  Lord’s direction.

          Then one day as he sat at his desk, he felt impressed to go tell his atheist boss about Jesus Christ. Determined tha the would not fail again, he got right up, walked down the hall, knocked at the door, and upon being invited to enter said abruptly, “The Lord has just told me to come tell you about Jesus Christ.” Promptly he launched into his testimony.

          His employer listened politely, then thanked him. He told Bert he still did not believe in Jesus Christ. He believed that we had our beginnings in the ooze of an ocean bed, but he did appreciate Bert’s willingness to come and tell him differently. Bert said the burden he had carried for nearly eighteen months lifted from him, and he was free!

          Patriarch Roland Stratman was visiting the St. Charles congregation that night. As soon as Bert finished speaking, Brother Stratman spoke. “Im sure, Bert,” he said, “ that if our Lord wrote the word “dummy “ concerning you, He would write, “Beloved Dummy!”

          Relief spread over Bert’s face as the Spirit of God confirmed the words of the patriarch, and we all wept with him for joy at the affirmation of the Savior’s love.

 

Chapter 54

 

An Unexplained Highway Patrolman’s Saga

 

 

          “Bert, please tell us again!” Even after the family had heard his unusual story, we wanted Elder Bert Morris to share it again and again with each friend who had not heard it. Then there was a happy day when the story was printed in Bert’s own words and distributed throughout the St. Louis Stake congregations. Here is his story just as he told it;

          “Several years ago, while a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, I was awakened in the early morning hours and told to go to an accident on highway 54  west of Bowling Green, Missouri. I may have received a phone call, but I’m not sure exactly how I was notified. As I drove to the accident, I met no traffic and the weather was wet and foggy forcing me to drive slowly.

          “’As I arrived at the scene of the accident, I saw a Ford automobile sitting in the ditch on the wrong side of the highway. The complete right side was torn out. I could see the items inside, including a lady’s purse, because a very bright light filled and surrounded the area around the automobile.

          “I parked my car in the ditch on the opposite side of the road, tilted at about a 30 degree angle. I could not draw the spotlight down across the hood to light up the area around the wrecked automobile. I could not determine a source from which the other light came.

          “The driver of the wrecked car was standing on the shoulder and crying while leaning on top of his car. As I approached him, I was given to know that he lived in Independence, Missouri,and that he was a member of the church. I then said to him, “you live in Independence and you are a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” He immediately gained his composure and told me that his wife had been seriously injured and that an ambulance had picked her up. He was told by the driver that I would know where he was taking his wife.

                    “I had not called an ambulance, nor had I met one as I traveled to the accident. When I questioned this man, he kept telling me the ambulance was there when the accident occurred. That’s the only answer I ever received from him- the ambulance was here when the accident occurred.

          “Walking down the highway about 100-150 yards, I found another wrecked automobile with two intoxicated men who had very minor injuries. Around their automobile and along the highway, it was so dark and wet that even my flashlight failed to light the area. Yet each time I would bend over in tall grass, I would pick up a can of cold beer or a bottle of whiskey that had been thrown from the automobile to get rid of evidence. I never saw any of this until I would reach down into the grass and it would be in my hand.

          “Gathering several for evidence, I loaded the two drunks and the driver of the other car into my patrol car and started to the hospital in Louisiana, Missouri. As I passed through Bowling Green, I radioed my Troop Headquarters and asked that a doctor be sent to the medical clinic in Bowling Green and that he should treat  two men that I left on the front steps. When the doctor was finished, he was to put them back on the front steps and I would pick them up and take them to jail on my way back.  My Troop headquarters questioned this procedure. To me it seemed the normal thing to do.

          “I then proceeded to the hospital and interviewed a very injured lady in the emergency room. She had three limbs broken in several places. In her arm, which was open from the elbow to the wrist, I could see the bones in several places. Yet she was happy, smiling, full of joy and thrilled to see her husband. She acted as if she had no injuries at all.

          “I questioned three nurses that were present, trying to determine who the ambulance driver was for insurance purposes. They stated they were each from different floors of the hospital, and had no idea why they were gathered at the emergency room door visiting this night. They stated they had never done this before. They were surprised when the ambulance backed up to the door. A man of average height and build got out, unloaded the patient and helped them transfer the patient from the ambulance cart onto the emergency room table. He never spoke, and they could give no further description of him. He took his cart , put it back in the ambulance and disappeared.

          “I was never able to find out any more concerning this man nor his ambulance. I believe that it  was angelic in nature.

          “It is also interesting to note that when I returned to Bowling Green, the two intoxicated men had been treated, bandaged and left on the front steps. I picked them up and placed them in the Pike County jail.

 

 

Chapter 55

 

Alan Goodman Learns He’s A “Sheep”

 

 

          The fall of 1992 brought a number of families to Graceland College with youth who were hoping to learn of her ways and one day be a part of the church’s premier college. One such family called ahead from Illinois to find lodging with the seventy and his family. Alan Goodman had hardly entered our door when he began to recall his testimony of his acceptance of the way of Christ’s kingdom as his way of life.

          “I’ll never forget that day when Delbert followed me to my car and told me I was a sheep.” Alan spoke reverently with a sidewise movement of his head that said plainly, “It stil puzzles and thrills me!”

          “Tell me about it.” I urged. If I had ever heard the story, I had forgotten it, and I knew even if I had heard the story from Delbert, this first hand recital of it would be different. This would be Alan’s story of what happened to him instead of the seventy’s story of what he thought had happened to a wonderful young husband and father who had just begun to find what great promises lay in the kingdom of God.

          “Well, Delbert was holding a series of meetings at Taylorville, and of course, Karen wanted me to go with her. Now that the children were old enough to be in church services, she had some idea that we should all be in the church together!” He  said it with a wry smile, then went on to explain, that being in church with his family really had not been particularly important to him. He had other things to do. ”Since I was hesitant to go with ther, she brought  Delbert to me,” he said with an appreciative grin. Karen invited the seventy to have supper at their home.

          “From the time this fellow came into our house, he never stopped talking about the kingdom of God and all of God’s promises in the scriptures.” At first, Alan admitted that he didn’t listen very well but something finally caught his attention. He was hearing ideas he had never heard before. It really sounded good, but he had to leave to go to work.

          “This man followed me. “ Alan pointed toward the seventy and shook his head at the remembrance as though it was still hard for him to believe what had happened. The minister had leaned on the car door, still talking  even after Alan had started the engine.

          “Alan”, the minister spoke earnestly, “You are a sheep!”

          “Now that really caught my attention!” Alan nodded to emphasize the significance of the experience. He said he wasn’t sure whether that was a commendation or an insult! So he asked, “A sheep? How do you mean I am a sheep?”

          “Jesus said, ‘ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them , and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life.’ He has let me know that you are a sheep!”  The seventy spoke earnestly. It seemed apparent that he really knew something Alan did not know.

          “Well,  that was food for thought!” Alan said he couldn’t shake it all that night at work, and when morning came, he knew he had to know more about who he really was! “What I found out changed my life and the life of my family!’  There was no question that he felt that the change had been for the better.

          Since his baptism, ‘Alan declared, Christ and His kingdom have been the center of his life and the life of his family. Now they want their daughter to have every opportunity to learn, in association with others of like precious faith for whom the kingdom is as important as it is to them.

          Fortunately, we had the opportunity to counsel Alan that it is too much to expect that other students or teachers anywhere have the same vision of the kingdom of God that he has come to share with his family. Instead we urged him to help his daughter learn for herself what the kingdom means and share tha knowledge with her friends and associates where ever she lives or attends college.

 

Chapter 56

 

Rhonda “Makes It” With God’s Help

 

 

          “Wait! Wait! Wait!”

          We heard the plea coming from across Brush Creek camp grounds as we started to town to respond to our realtor’s call concerning the sale of our house in St. Charles, Missouri. The closed windows of the car along with the sounds of the motor and air conditioning fan distorted our sense of direction so that it was difficult for us to tell from where the call was coming.Delbert slowly brought the car to a full stop as we searched the area to find the one making the urgent request. Soon we spotted a man running from between the cabins and trailers to our left frantically flailing his arms in an effort to get Delbert’s attention. Breathlessly he approached the car, slowing from his frenzied pace to rest against the car a moment before he could speak.

          “Can you come and administer to Rhonda before you go?” Ron’s pleading eyes vividly revealed his desperate need of an affirmative answer.

          “Of course I can !” The seventy quickly shifted the car into gear and parked it beside the road. “Just wait right here,” he instructed me as he joined Ron as they hurried off to the Phares’s quarters.

          Rhonda Phares was the youth director of her congregation, a beautiful person with a nasty habit that she hated with an ambivalence characteristic of those addicted to nicotine. Earlier when the seventy had visited her at home with the venerable patriarch of the congregation, they had found her smoking. She was very embarrassed and apologized. “I’m so sorry that you caught me smoking !” she affirmed.

          “Don’t worry about us catching you smoking.” Delbert assured her. “It is the Lord you need to be concerned about. It is to him that you have to answer, not to me! By the way, “ he continued, “why do you smoke?”

          “Because I just like to smoke!”Rhonda answered pertly, and th subject was immediately dropped.

          It was some time later that Rhonda was walking with the seventy over the foot bridge at Brush Creek on their way to lunch. “I’m going to quite smoking”, she announced quite unexpectedly. “I’m going to do it for Ron.”
          “You’ll never make it!” The seventy pronounced the prognosis solemnly.

          Rhonda was stunned. She had expected that the seventy would be delighted. “What, what do you mean?” She stammered. “Why do you think I won’t make it?”

          “You’ll never make it if you do it for Ron,” the seventy explained. “Until you do it for youself, it will never happen!”

          The rest of the walk to lunch was silent.

          During the week of Reunion, Rhonda’s experience with the Master caused her to really want to stop smoking for herself. She threw away the cigarettes that she had brought with her to camp and really tried to quit, but the trauma was too great for her. On this day she was suffering as she had never suffered  before. In desperation she had begged Ron to go to town and get her replacements for the tobacco she had discarded.When he had tried to support  her in her effort to quit and refused to go for the cigarettes, she had flown into a frenzy that frightened them both. Ron had run to get the seventy’s help.

          Ron and Delbert hurried to the cabin and to the suffering young woman. Carefully the seventy reassured her of the presence of the Master in her life and in her desire to be rid of the terrible addiction that held her fast to her old habit.After she was calmed and sure of her deepest desire to really quit the addiction, another elder was called in and the ordinance of administration was performed. Rhonda rested quietly and Delbert rejoined me in the car for our errand into town.

          The evening service had just finished and we were visiting with those around us near the front of the tabernacle when Delbert noticed Rhonda pressing her way through the crowd toward us. Her face was aglow in such a way that he knew she had something exciting to share with him. The seventy began to make his way through the crowd to meet the beaming young woman.

          “It happened! It happened!” Rhonda’s upturned face wore a smile as broad as her features would allow and her voice trembled with joy.

          The seventy could not help returning the smile as he responded questioningly. “What happened?”

          “The Lord!” rhonda’s words tumbled out. “He took my desire to smoke away!”

          Delbert looked back over the crowd to the place where he had first seen Rhonda. There Ron stood smiling almost as broadly as Rhonda while a tear glistened in his eye. The seventy put his arm around Rhonda’s shoulders and together they made their way back to where Ron waited.

          “Tell me about this!”  Delbert demanded. “What did happen, anyway?”
          “It was during the last hymn,’ Ron explained. “Rhonda suddenly stopped singing and nudged me hard. When I looked at her, she looked like  she had just seen an angel! She kept repeating over and over again, “It happened! It happened!” When she finally could explain it , she told me that in that instant the Lord had taken away her desire to smoke.

          “Praise the Lord!” was the seventy’s  fervent response as he hugged both man and wife. “Now, Rhonda, with God’s help, you’ll make it!” was his new assessment of her future.

          As the seventy turned his attention to others who wanted to visit with him that evening, Rhonda and Ron disappeared in the crowd. It was not long, however, until the seventy noticed Rhonda again pressing through the crowd. In her hands was a carton of fruit juice, a thanks offering for him for insisting that she must do this thing for herself and then involking God’s help to bring it to pass.

 

 

 

Chapter 57

 

Rob Rider’s Education

 

 

          The youth class had just closed at the Brush Creek reunion. The seventy was picking up his books and clearing the area for the next activity there. One young man lingered after the others had dispersed.

          “Brother Smith,’ Ron approached the seventy, his concern showing in his voice, “I have a problem.”

          It was not unusual for young ones to remain after class to ask for help, and the seventy always offered a prayer that he would be directed in giving the ministry needed at this crucial time in young lives.

          “What’s up?” The question was intended to put the young man at ease.

          “You know I just graduated from high school.”

          “Congratulations!” In the area from which Rob came, not every young man or woman passed that milestone in education.

          “I have just been accepted at Graceland College.”

          “Congratulations again !” The seventy was enthusiastic. “That’s great!’

          “But I don’t know whether I can make it!” The tone of voice and the worried look on Rob’s face told a story of uncertainty bordering on fear of failure in a costly area unfamiliar to the youth.

          “You can if you want to.” The seventy’s pronouncement was without equivocation.

          “Let me tell you about my experience. “ The seventy’s educational pursuits had not always been easy , and he felt that he had learned lessons valuable to others who faced the future with uncertainty. “I wasn’t sure I could make it when I started to Graceland , either.”

          All through high school , young Delbert had been more interested in the extracurricular activities than in the academic ones. In the latter field, he said, he had maintained only the grades that would keep his parents from disciplining him.

          He loved band and chorus enough that he would run the mile home, gulp down his lunch and run the mile back in half an hour in order to be at school for their rehearsals. Sometimes moving cars to make the trip on time.

          Drama at school and at church were first loves for him, and football! Ah, football was of paramount significance to him. Two of his older brothers were stars on the gridiron, and he aspired to follow their footsteps. The only trouble was that they were big men fit for the line either of offence or defense. He started high school weighing less than a hundred pounds!

          In English he had a friend who aspired  to be a teacher who created tests for him ahead of time and challenged him to excell. Together they made a game of it, and both of them did just that, excelled. But in math, it was a different story. He had never been proficient even in the elemental areas of math, and when he started algebra he was completely confused. One day he asked his teacher, who was also his coach, what earthly good algebra could be. If they were just substituting letters for numbers until the problem was finished then filling in the blanks with numbers, why didn’t they start out with numbers in the first place? The coach replied that it was of no value unless one was going to college. Then it was a requirement for entrance.

          That did it. Delbert had no intention of going to college. For one thing the family had no money for such a pursuit. The two older brothers who played football were offered college scholarships, only one of which was accepted. Their father’s fear of the dangers of football on the college level caused  him to cancel that opportunity for the oldest. By the time the offer came to the second one, the father had relented a little and Marion went to college on a football scholarship. Another older brother had  gone to Graceland for one year by reason of hard work and the accumulation of heavy debts with which Delbert did not think he wanted to be burdened. Algebra became just a chore that had to be endured until the end of the year brought relief.

          Ronald’s tantalizing tales of college life intrigued Delbert, however, and he began to think that Graceland College just might be for him, too. There was still no money for the venture, but there was work at the J.C. Penney store that paid ten cents an hour and gave him opportunity to return to high school to take a post graduate course or two in fields of interest to him.

          From his Penney job, Delbert went to a painting job at which he became foreman with a paycheck reflecting his advanced status. Now he got paid thirty cents an hour. When work began on Fort Crowder, which the armed services were building  near Neosho, Missouri to house prisoners of war, he was again advanced in pay to the point that he was able to save money to enter Graceland during the fall of 1942.

          World War II was now in full swing and young men of Delbert’s age were being drafted for service. Those who were in college were given the opportunity to volunteer for service and receive training to become officers. Delbert volunteered in the Navy and became a part of the V12 program training officers.

          After Graceland, there was Montana School of Mines out west, Notre Dame in Indiana, Wright Junior College in Chicage, electronics training at Gulfport, Mississippi, San Pedro Island in California and finally Navy Pier in Chicago. The studies were arduous. Training was tough. Adding academics to that program made every day’s studies intense. Radar and sonar were new techniques. No sooner was one concept mastered than an advanced in technology made it imperative that further training be received. Failure to perform meant immediate drafting into a combat unit. There was no relief from the pressure. The young recruits carried their books with them to the dining tables, to their beds. Their books were often propped up beside their mirrors as they shaved. They even took them to the bathroom with them trying to absorb every detail of the information that might someday determine whether they or other men would live or die.

          For young Smith, the pressure became almost unbearable. Early in Montana School of Mines he had received divine help when he had called upon the Lord during an especially difficult test. He had looked over every question. Every answer depended on the solution to the first problem, but he could not remember the formula with which to solve that problem. It was then that he remembered the counsel of the Lord that he had heard quoted so many times during his young life, “… ; seek learning even by study, and also by faith!’ ( Doctrine and Covenants 85:36a) And he recalled the promise of the scriptures that it is a function of the Holy Ghost not only to teach but also to bring to remembrance those things we have learned. ( John 14:26) Remembering , he prayed for help. Soon he was able to derive the formula needed and through applying it, to answer every question correctly.

          As the pressures increased, however, he found less and less time for anything outside his studies. By the time he was in Gulfport, it had been a long time since he had taken time to read his scriptures or to participate in any church related activities. In spite of all his efforts, his grades were on a downhill slide. Finally, in desperation, he told the Lord that he was going to try an experiment. He was going to read scriptures whenever there was the slightest opportunity and he was going to take time out to attend church services whenever possible . He asked that the Lord use him as he would in these and all his endeavors.

          Delbert wrote to his mother to send him his Book of Mormon. He kept the book under his pillow where it was easily accessible. At any free moment just before a meal, while preparing for bed or just when he needed a break, out would come the scripture and he would read a bit of it. And he found the church at Pascagoula where he and some of his friends were welcomed with open arms. His grades began to recover, and he remained in the navy until the end of the war.

          After the war was over, Delbert returned to Graceland, this time without concerns about finances because the GI Bill was now paying for his further education. He faced new challenges as he reentered the academic arena preparing to become a candidate for a degree in engineering. Math was now at the crux of his program. In his first calculus class, Dr. Mortimer sent him to the board to work a problem. Completely puzzled by the data given him, he stood looking at the problem, scratching his head instead of working with his chalk. Seeing his puzzlement, Dr. Mortimer approached him.

          “What’s the matter,Smith?” he questioned.

          Sheepishly Delbert shook his head and confessed. “I don’t know. I think I have forgotten everything I ever knew about math back to the fourth grade!”

          “Well, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t forget once in awhile.” The good professor assured him as he proceeded to explain the rudiments of the problem before him.  With Dr. Mortimer’s tutelage and the principles he had learned during his wartime experience, this young sailor went from complete uncertainty to an ‘A in that course. The C average of his first year at Graceland gave way to a three point eight average for his second year and on to exemplary grades all the way to the completion of the course work toward a Master’s degree.

          When the seventy had finished recounting his experience, he returned to Rob’s uncertainty. You see , Rob, “ he assured him, “the principles laid down by the Savior are the same for you as they were for me. You give Him and His work place in your life, and He is always there to help you. When you seek learning by study and also by faith, you have an unbeatable combination! The Lord has promised to be there to bring to your mind those things that are important to you and to His purpose in your being. Remember, that doesn’t mean you can lay down on the job and expect the Lord to pull you through. You have to do the studying before there is anything in your mind for the Spirit to recall for you.But you can study those things that are of greatest importance to you by allowing the Lord to direct even that study.”

          There was more to the conversation, and Rob went away encouraged. At the next year’s reunion, Rob came, his face beaming. “Brother Smith, “he announced thankfully, “I made it with a four point average for the year!”

          Several years later, the seventy was recounting his experience with Rob in a sermon at which Rob’s wife was present.After the service, Suzette came to speak to him. “Would you  like to know the rest of the story?”she asked a bit proundly. “Rob not only finished that first year with a four point average, but finished four years carrying a four point.”

          After Graceland, the young man who had not been certain he could make it in college entered the medical profession and became a successful anesthesiologist, one of the  most demanding of all branches of that profession. The last time we heard from him directly, he called to get some materials with which to teach other youth the way of the kingdom of God.

 

 

Chapter 58

 

Love Graces a Worship Service

 

 

          We left our home in St.Charles, Missouri early that Sunday morning bound for the worship service in Taylorville, Illinois at which there were to be testimonies of the reunion experience just past. Delbert was pasturing the Taylorville group in an effort to reunite the congregation in love and service. We could not resist remembering those past months in which he had actually lived in that town, away from our home in St. Charles for almost all of the time. Conditions were such that he could not live in any home of the saints because of the division among them. To live with any one family was to alienate those aligned with another faction of the congregation.

          At first it seemed impossible to find a place to live that the seventy could afford and could justify as an expense on his elder’s reports. Then he found that a neighbor of one of the families was leaving her home for the winter. There was a suggestion that he might house-sit for the Catholic neighbor. Encouraged by the possibility, the seventy accepted the family’s invitation to go with them to see whether that was possible.

          When the suggestion that the seventy house-sit for Mrs. Duncan was first broached, the dear lady was taken aback. She did not know this strange minister. How could she leave all her precious possessions in the care of one of whom she had no knowledge unti that moment? How could she be certain that he would stay in the house all the time she wanted to be in warmer climes? What if she wanted to return earlier than previously planned? Would he be willing to give up possession of the place for her return?

          All of her questions were posed and the seventy gave as much reassurance as he could that he would be a responsible caretaker of the property only as long as she wished. When she asked what he would do for a place to live if she did come home early, he assured her that the Lord would provide a place for him just as He had always provided for his needs.Mrs. Duncan smiled. “I do believe the whole world would be a better place if everyone had that kind of faith,” she rejoined.

          The seventy’s expression of faith seemed to be the deciding factor in the good lady’s decision to make the agreement with him, and Delbert had his place of residence for the winter. We laughed as we recalled some of the dishes he devised to make his provision of his own food quick, easy and nutritious at the same time.

          The first business session of the congregation held some surprises. One woman had previously resigned her position, not because of the new administration but because she had been elected to a position for which she was never provided materials and supplies. The seventy first offered to help her obtain needed supplies. She was adamant that she did not want the job. He then responded by accepting her resignation gracefully. Now two from the building committee resigned their positions on the spot. There had been such unhappiness in the congregaion about a recalcitrant roof problem that they felt they could not continue to serve. Their resignations were accepted, and under the inspiration of the Spirit of God that was present, the seventy asked two others to fill their vacated places. Those two proved to be knowledgeable and capable of solving the vexing problem that had so plagued the others.

          The seventy then suggested that frequently people get elected to positions in which they do not feel comfortable. If there were any others there who were in positions with which they were not happy, he would be glad to accept their resignations, also. He promised that if that happened, he would attempt to find places for them to work in which they could find real satisfaction in service. Four more resignations were immediately tendered.

          Almost a month passed with the seventy carrying much of the responsibility once shared by others. Then one day a woman called to offer to help. When asked what she would like to do, she did not know. Pressed as to her interests, she said she liked history. The seventy than asked if she would like to be historian for the congregation. Her response was that she did not know how, so he made suggestions that she keep a photo record as well as a written one of all that transpired in the congregation and make an album of it for all to enjoy. She was excited about the possibilities and took the task with delight. Soon others joined the ranks of the volunteers, each asking for a position for which he or she felt eminently qualified.

          The next official meeting was with the priesthood. The new pastor announced that he had heard that there was unhapppiness among the men because of the practice of rotating preaching assignments. “From now on,” he asserted, “there will be no such assignment. Each man will preach only after he comes to me to tell me that  he has a message from the Lord that he wants to deliver.” There were a number of Sundays during the weeks that followed at which times the seventy was the speaker.

          Finally the other priesthood began to come forward with their willingness to serve. One of the first was Norman. When he asked to speak, Delbert asked  how much time he wanted to prepare. “I think a month would be about right,”   the good priest responded.

          Some two weeks before the appointed time for his ministry, the seventy talked with Norman about his assignment. “How are you coming with your preparation?” he asked.

          “Fine.” was Norman’s reply. “I have found a chapter in on eof Brother F. Henry Edward’s  books that I think I will read to the congregation.”

          “Oh, no you won’t!” was the seventy’s emphatic response.”You may take some of Brother Edward’s ideas, but you have  to make them your own and present them in a message of your own to this congregation. Can you do that, or do you need more time?”

          Norman was a bit shocked at the vehemence of the pastor’s response but agreed that he thought he could do as he was instructed in the time yet remaining.

          The day of Norman’s sermon arrived. The seventy was teaching a Church school class when Norman came to ask him if he could see him in the pastor’s study before the sermon. The class was closed a bit early and the seventy hurried to the study to see what was needed.

          “I am scared to death!” Norman trembled under the intensity of his concern.

          “Do you want to concel out?” the seventy questioned. “You know the scripture says that unless you have the Spirit you shall not teach.”

          “No . I still want to do it, but I’m not sure I can.”

          “That’s good!”  the seventy smiled reassuringly at the frightened man. “If you thought you could do it all by yourself, I wouldn’t even let you try. This way I know you will be depending on the Lord. You know that same scripture  says that you shall have the Spirit by the prayer of faith. Would you like for me to pray with you?”

          Norman nodded and the seventy placed his hand on the trembling  priest’s shoulder. Together the two men bowed their heads while the seventy petitioned the Lord to send His Spirit in power on this, His chosen vessel that there might be a blessing for the congregation that morning.

          The sermon was inspiring. Norman was able to bear his testimony of the Lord’s hand in his life. That week he had gone into the bank just as a robbery was in progress. The exciting details formed the basis for his affirmation of faith. With power he had not experienced before, he delivered the message of hope he had for the congregation.

          When the service was finished, there were unrestrained expressions of appreciation for the sermon. One of the older elders questioned brusquely, “Norman, what happened to you? In all these years, I never heard you preach like that!”

          Norman glowed with thankfulness. Exictedly he spoke to the seventy, his voice filled with joy. “I don’t think I looked at my notes once!”

          People had begun to return to the congregation. Attendance was increasing week by week. The new members of the building committee had been successful in getting the problem roof repaired at about half the cost previously expected. The Catholic lady decided to remain in Oregon longer than she had planned. After all, the house was being well cared for .There was no reason to hurry back! When she did come home, another family who had heard of the house -sitting arrangement asked the seventy to care for their  house while they took a trip to Panama.

          The second house-sitting task was just finishing, when the news that the seventy was being transferred  to another state and another region was announced. The congregation was not yet ready to be set adrift. Some of the priesthood were still not sure of themselves and declared they would not even try to take over leadership when the seventy left.

          When time came for the Reunion at Brush Creek, several of these priesthood families were among those attending.It was a wonderful week of rich ministry. Lifes were changed, and we were all returning to the congregation to report what had happened to us. Plans had been made before we left the camp.

          “This is not to be a report that says,’We got up at such a time and went to these classes and saw these people,”  the seventy instructed us. “This is to be a worship service in which each of us tells what happened to us on this campground.”

          One of the songs we had sung repeatedly at the Reunion was new to this congregation. It was introduced by one of the families as a life changing experience for them. It’s opening phrase announces, “My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentations and closes with the refrain “Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

          Two of the priesthood confessed their reticence to continue to serve when they heard that the seventy was to be taken from them. In fact, they said, they had even vowed just to drop out of any participation with the group. Their experiences at the reunion, however, they testified, cause them to determine to do all that was in their power to carry on the work under the Lord’s direction.

          One family told of healing from a devastating addiction that had plagued their ministry for years. A father told of his decision to join his family in the church.

          The hour passed all too quickly. As the one in charge started to close the service, an elderly gentleman seated in the very last row next to the center aisle arose and waved his hand to get the attention of the presider.

          “May I say something?” he questioned, struggling to control his emotion. The entire congregation turned curiously toward the voice. The elder in charge nodded his permission and we all waited expectantly. “I have attended this church for forty-seven years,” the man’s voice trembled, “ and I have never felt love like I have felt it here this morning!”

          There was awed silence in the sanctuary. Reverently we sang the closing hymn and filed from a worship service long to be remembered.

         

 

 

Chapter 59

 

 

Overheard On A Russian Ship

 

 

          “This is Eric Halbach, Jr.” , the voice on the telephone said. “I have Mr. Smith’s letter, and I would like to spend some of my Christmas vacation with you.”

          O course, we would be glad to have him come. Delbert’s letter was an invitation for just that purpose. When would we expect him? The time and flight number had already been determined and were quickly communicated.

          Karen’s letters from France had spoken of two young men whom she had met in her travels who seemed interested in her testimony of the Christ and his church.One of them was Eric Halbach, Jr. Rick was planning to go to the great northwest to work when his last year of college was finished. His interest in the things he had heard about Karen’s faith had prompted him to ask for the names and addresses of churches and people with whom he might make contact out there when that time arrived. Without even guessing how deep an interest her testimony had stirred in this serious young student, Karen, who carried the church’s directory with her, gave him a list of all of the churches in the area and the name and address of Delbert’s brother who was the pastor of the Wenatchee, Washington congregtation.

          Our first contact with the youth came in the form of a letter Delbert received from his brother in Wenatchee. Ronald had receivd a letter from Rick asking for information concerning the church in that area .That request was forwarded to the seventy with the hope that he might help the youth in his quest for the church.

          “I met your niece on the ship going to Europe,” the letter read, “and she gave me your name and address as someone who could tell me about the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in that area.” It then explained that the author was a university student of chemical engineering specializing in the production of paper. Because he had always liked the mountains he decided he would like to work in the mountains of the northwest when he was graduated as a chemical engineer the following year.

          When he heard Karen’s testimony, he knew that he wanted to combine work in the paper industry with participation in her church, so he asked Karen how he could contact the church out here, hoping to be employed in the  paper industry somewhere in the mountains  of Oregon and Washington. He wanted to make contact with the church there before he decided where to settle.

          Ronald lived in the apple producing area of Washington. There was no paper industry available in Wenatchee Valley, and graduation seemed a long time to wait for one anxious to know something about the church; so Ronald sent Delbert the letter and asked him to make contact with the young inquirer.

          It isn’t every day that a seventy gets a letter from a perfect stranger asking to know about Christ’s church. This seventy reacted with enthusiastic and immediate response. Delbert sent Rick some literature about the church and invited him to contact us for more information. He even suggested the possibility of his coming to St. Charles, Missouri, during the upcoming holidays for that purpose. Rick had responded to that invitation enthusiastically with an outlike of possible dates for his visit.

          “I am looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with you.” His letter read. “I am still reading the Book of Mormon and have found it helpful in my everyday living. I should be finished reading the Book of Mormon by the time I visit you so there will be plenty of things to talk about.”

          Delbert had, in turn, given Rick his schedule for the proposed time. This call from Massachusetts was Rick’s response.

          Eric and his sister were passengers on the Russian ship on which Karen and her group from Knox College had traveled on their way to study in France. Karen and Eric’s sister became good friends on the journey and talked a lot about things that were important to them. Among other things, Karen shared something of her faith and it’s story. Rick was not a part of the conversation, but he overheard it and listened with excited interest. He determined that he must know more about this fascinating story, but they were already nearing their destination and there was not time to learn more from Karen.

          Rick’s tour abroad was only for the summer. Upon his return to the USA for school in the fall, he was surprised and elated to find a Book of Mormon in  his own father’s library. Immediately he began to read it. It was then , also, that he wrote to Ronald asking for information about the church. From what he had heard,he knew Karen had something he wanted in his life and he was anxious to pursue it.

          When Eric’s plane landed, we met a tall young man who reminded us of Charleton Heston in looks, speech and action. He was full of energy, a good athlete and an avid fan of the Boston Celtics we were soon to learn, even though an injury from early childhood kept him from being the proficient basketball player he woujd have liked to have been. It seemed that the injury had really motivated him to be a good athlete in an effort to overcome its deleterious effects. In spite of his efforts, his ailing back kept him from doing all that he would have liked even while he was with us in St. Charles.

          He was also serious about his desire to know what this church that Karen  loved so much was all about. The seventy and he were in deep conversaton about it for most of the day, only it was mostly the seventy who talked. After the first few questions, Rick seemed content just to listen. It made us wonder whether he was disappointed in what he was hearing. He did accept the written materials Delbert offered him and spent many hours reading them.

          The second day Rick was with us, Delbert took him to the East Central States Region office with him. It was the day on which the office had its regular worship service for all the staff. As others were telling of their recent experiences and expectations for the new year, Rick spoke up, too. “I came to St. Louis looking for Christ’s church, and I think I’ve found it.” he said joyously.

          A few days after Rick went back to Massachusetts, we received another letter. “I expect you wonder why I did not ask more questions while I was with you,” it read. “That first day when Mr. Smith talked about building the kingdom of God on earth, I knew I had found what I was looking for. It seeemd he had answered all of my questions before I could ask them. Now I want to be a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before the winter is over.

          We had given Rick the address of the church nearest him and the name of the appointee in the area. His next letter said, “I can tell you exactly how many people attended church last Sunday. Exactly one!”

          Rick had taken his father to the large church of his affiliation and left him there with the other two thousand or so regular attenders and had driven on through New England’s snow covered landscape to the stately little church at the address we had designated. He had no difficulty finding it, for he had made an exploratory run to the area earlier and was amazed to find it only about a mile away from the Grace Chapel he and his father were accustomed to attending. He had also found that the name in the church directory and the number on the marque of the church did not represent the present pastor of the congregation. When he had called that number, he found it not in service. He had then called the second number which turned out to be that of the appointee seventy assigned to the area who told him the former pastor had been in Peru for more than a year. The appointee then gave him the name of the present pastor, times for the services and other pertinent information. When he arrived on Sunday, however, the church was locked and empty. Rick waited. No one else came.

          You could say that I was ‘slightly confused” , the young man wrote, “when I was the only one there!” Rick went home disappointed but he was persistent. He called the appointee again. Services had been cancelled because of the storm, the seventy explained.

          There had been a snowstorm on Saturday night, Rick reported. There were some six inches of the gleaming white stuff on the ground, but the roads were clear. “Maybe I’m just a crazy New Englander, “ Rick wrote, “ but I’ve driven over 50 miles through blizzards several times, and never thought anything about it. I couldn’t help but think of the hardships the early Saints endured while serving Him!”

          The appointee seventy did contact the present pastor with information of Rick’s efforts to meet with the church in Lexington. “The pastor’s wife is very nice.” Rick wrote. “She called and invited me to their home for dinner next Sunday. I can hardly wait to meet th eSaints in Lexington.”

          Rick’s family was not as enthusiastic about his new found faith as he. His sister suggested that he wait until he was finished with school and away from home to change his affiliation, so he wouldn’t “make waves” in the family. Rick didn’t feel that he could wait, and declared , “When I visit with the Wallace’s on Sunday, I’lll be asking about church membership.”

          Rick’s plans for the future were fundamentally changed by this new turn of events in his life. Of his previous plans to work in the Northwest, he wrote, “The Northwest would have been my first choice but it is God’s first choice that I am concerned about. There are paper mills in each of the 50 states and in almost all of the countries of the world. I am willing to go anywhere to serve Him. I only ask for His guidance when it comes time to decide. Scenery is nice but it is the people that you live and work with that make living worthwhile. I only hope that I can experience a small fraction of the joy and excitement which is so obvious in your lives as you work to build God’s kingdom here on the earth.”

          In a letter to Karen, Rick wrote assuring her that it was no romantic notion about her that caused him to decide that he wanted to know about the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Although I probably would never have heard of the church if I hadn’t met you, the decision was the result  of much prayer and thought. “ He then told her about his reading of the Book of mormon, his contact with Ronald and with us, his finding the church in Massachusetts and finally said, “I can’t tell you how happy I’ve been as everything I’ve studied has confirmed my initial decision to join the church. It’s been fantastic!”

          He ended his letter saying, “You could say that I’ve been wandering through the foothills all my life but now that I’m joining the church I feel like I’ve made it to the mountain. There is still a long climb ahead, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know what lies ahead after school but I’m not worrying about it any more. It is out of my hands now.”

          Karen’s testimony on that Russian ship to Europe had truly touched a responsive chord in the life of one gallant young man whose determination to be a part of Christ’s family stirred us all to greater dedication to the kingdom than we had previously felt. If such a young man could pursue it so intently, then there must be dozens of others out there who would find it similarly enticing if only they knew where to look. For their sakes we determined to be more diligent in telling the wonderful story of God’s purpose in His creation to all those with whom we had opportunity to share! Eric just overheard it on a Russian ship!

 

Chapter 60

 

Short-term Travel Agent

 

 

          Karen was competent in the French language. It was a required subject in her Canadian high school. After her junior year she received a bursary to attend Laval University in Montreal for an intensive six week summer course in the language . If the students were found speaking anything but French five times during the summer, except for long distance calls home,they lost their credit.

          After two years of independent study at Graceland with a professor fluent in the language, she spent an entire year in France. During the summer she served as a nanny in a weathy French home. During the school year she studied at the university in Besancon. Graceland graduated her with her degree in International Studies.

          By the time she returned to the States, the family had been reassigned to the St. Louis Area. Karen came home and immediately started looking for a job that would have some relationship to her proficiency in French and her specialty in International studies. While she waited for such a position,she saw an advertisement for a travel agent’s position in a nearby suburb.

          The owner of the travel agency was then one who interviewed her. After determining her qualifications and her values, the man said, “We would like to have you  in our agency, but I don’t think you will stay with us long.“

          Karen was surprised. She had never been fired from a job, and even though she knew that she wanted the job only until she could obtain one more in keeping with her expertise, she was curious to know why he would make such a statement. She did not have to wonder long. “Your moral standards are too high, “ he explained. “You will not want to do what you have to do to be successful in this market.”

          The man was right.It was not long before there were demands for her to actively sell packages to people who would go on gambling junkets to Las Vegas. There were demands that she  overbook, knowing that someone would be disappointed when they thought they were assured of their place on a flight. She was not fired, but she did not remain in the agency long. Her conscience would not allow it. Her standards were too high!

 

 

Chapter 61

 

Return of the Errant Notebook

 

          The letter from the apostle was caustic. “You have violated your appointeeship!” it read in part. “Why were you outside your area when I knew nothing of it, the apostle of that area knew nothing of it, the regional administrator of that area or of your own knew nothing of it? What were you doing in Aurora?

          The seventy was stunned! He had not been outside his area to minister without permission. There had to be some error somewhere. If only he had the notebook that we had lost in Minnesota, he could prove that  his ministry in Aurora had been approved months ago by all the proper authorities. But that notebook was long gone, and with it the needed evidence that surely would have lifted the censure of his supervising minister.

          The missing letter was from the missionary coordinator of the Chicago District. It had come during May before we started our missionary journey to the Red River District. Brother Jim Daugherty had been planning for four  ministers to preach simultaneously in four quadrants of the Chicago District. In part his letter had read, “All the plans are nearly complete for the series in Chicago District. You have been approved as have Kenneth Stobaugh and Al Strait from Ohio. We just need one more and the District will be covered.”

          The seventy had carefully placed the letter in the notebook in which he carried his important information and planned his work. In that notebook also was the list of people now residing in the Red River District to whom he and Ron were then giving ministry.

          We had gone to visit Saints in a rural area of Minnesota. At one farm, we found no one at home. Ron and Delbert pulled out the notebook and the map to try to locate other Saints in the area whom we might visit. Once they had determined where we would go, we left the farm headed west.

          A few minutes outside the farmstead, Delbert asked to see the list of names of family members in the home they had decided should be our next point of call. No one had the list or the map.Ron remembered that they had had both spread out on the tip of the car as they were making their plans. So we turned around and retraced our route to the farm. Each one of us was carefully scanning the road in an effort to spot the missing objects that we were sure had fallen from the car top. There was nothing visible for the entire way.

          Back at the farm we did find the map where it had fallen onto the driveway. But there was no notebook to be found.

          Again we searched the roadway, prayerfully this time.Down the drive and for almost a mile several of us walked beside the ditches searching diligently for the precious book. Even after we returned to the car, we scanned the right-of-way all the way to the fences hoping to get a glimpse of the steely blue object. The corners claimed our especial attention in the belief that it might have been catapulted from the car top as we rounded a corner. There was just no notebook to be found!

          Considering the value of the contents of the notebook, we returned to the farm the following day in the hope that the family would be at home, and maybe might have located the precious object. The family searched with us. One of the little boys even crawled under the front porch where the dog sometimes deposited his treasures. There was no sign of our missing treasure anywhere!

          Finally we gave up. I had been praying, as was my custom when our need was great, and I have a suspicion that I was not the only one in the attitude of supplication. But we had done all that we could think to do. “We’ll just have to leave it in the Lord’s hands and let Him use it for His purposes,” I proposed as we bade farewell to the family that had been trying to help.

          Now it was November, and we were in dire need of the letter that was safely filed in the missing notebook. With it, it would be easy to correct the error  that had elicited the apostle’s mistaken accusations.

          We were still petitioning our Heavenly Father for direction when the mail arrived. In it was a large package, wrapped in brown paper and from Minnesota. In the package was the missing notebook. There was no explanation as to where it had been found or by whom, but contained in it was the letter confirming the approval of Delbert’s ministry in Aurora for the Chicago District series.

          Immediately the seventy sent a copy of the approval letter with an apology for causing such distress for the new apostle. All the approvals had been given before his assignment to the area, and he had apparently not been informed of the plans. It was difficult to understand how others named had been ignorant of the arrangement since all of them had very recently been informed and at least one of them had been that fourth person who was directly involved  in the series.

          The seventy closed his letter with this explanation, “As to what I was doing in Aurora, I was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a people much in need of ministry.“ The he added, “And they still need ministry!”

          The return of the notebook with its precious missive just in time to validate the seventy’s ministry was to us another testimony of the Savior’s love and power to care for our every need.

 

 

Chapter 62

 

Jonathan Ammon’s Testimony

 

 

          “I want to bear my testimony.” It was young Ammon who spoke up while Delbert and Ron were planning the final service of our missionary journey into the Red River District of the church.

          Ronald and Delbert were both members of the second quorum of seventy in the church.When vacations were planned for that summer of 1986, Ron proposed that the two families travel together to Minnesota and North Dakota in response to the invitation of the missionary coordinator of the area to visit the scattered Saints and to hold services wherever it was possible.

          For two weeks we were the guests of the Saints. Much of the time we lived in the pleasant cottage of Brother and Sister Otis Phelps beside a beautiful Minnesota lake near Clitheral. Moments on the beach watching the boys in the water, under the trees visiting with our hosts or other guests at the pleasant retreat, in the shed viewing the many trophies and other memorabilia of Brother Otis’s many years in scouting or around the table enjoying the sumptuous meals that Sister Eleanor prepared so generously were moments long to be cherished.

          Part of the time we were in the hospitable home of the David Watt family in Fargo. There again we were blessed with new understandings that have enriched our ministry through the years. There we met a blind man who, with his wife, was receiving refreshing knowledge of the Lord and his purposes through the Watt family’s ministry.

          One particular bit of knowledge that thrilled them and brought them nearer to the Master was new to us as well. Since we had used the Inspired Version of the Bible as our chief source of biblical knowledge, we were not aware of the very different story of Lot and the heavenly messengers who came to warn him of the plight of Sodom and Gomorrah as presented in the King James version of the scriptures. During our conversation with this inquiring couple, we learned that they were very perturbed by a God who would support Lot in his offering of his daughters to the men of the wicked city to do with as they pleased. It was Sister Watt who was able to immediately show them a God of righteousness portrayed in the Inspired Version who would not sanction such a procedure. Instead of offering his daughters as ransom for the three men whom the men of the city sought for illicit sexual purposed, the Inspired Version records that Lot refused, saying that God would not justify him in doing such a wicked thing, and he pled with the men not to do so wickedly with either the men or his daugheres. With this profession of righteousness, which the men of the city interpreted as judgment on them, the angels found it necessary to protect Lot and his family from the angry mob.

          Our surprise at the contrasting story was mirrored by the excited couple. They were being introduced to a God of righteousness whose acts they could understand and whose ways they found enticing!

          Wherever we were, there was always some travel time from one appointment to another. During the trip to the area, we had begun reading the Ammonite, a wonderful fictional story of one of the peoples of the Book of Mormon as told by Blaine C. Thomsen. Six year old Lehi and eleven year old Ammon were fascinated by the story, whose main character bore the name that Ammon had chosen for his own. Indeed, we were all thrilled by the story whose hero was made so very real to us by the talented author of the book! Travel time was not always enough, and we spent cabin time reading through especially exciting portions of the adventure.

          Ammon  and Lehi had become Ron and Di’s sons less than two years before our Minnesota missionary journey. I  first learned of their coming when Delbert called from Lamoni to our home in St. Charles, Missouri.

          “We have a new grandchild!” The seventy announced over the phone. “He’s five years old and weighs a hundred and eighty-five pounds!”

          “He what?” , was my startled response.

          “Well that’s what it feels like when he hits you!” Came my husband’s reply and he chuckled as he said it.

          “Hits you?” I was stilled puzzled. It was difficult to visualize a five year old attacking my one  hundred eighty pound , six foot husband. That Delbert would enjoy such an attack didn’t make any sense at all.

          “It’s just Lee’s exuberance at having  a grandfather. When he was told that I  am his grandfather, he spread his chubby little arms and came at me spread eagle as fast as he could come, calling with delight, ‘Grandpa! Grandpa!’And he is quite a chunk. He really does weigh eighty-five pounds!”

          Ammon and Lehi’s entry into our family had come so suddenly and unexpectedly that we were all a little dazed. Ron and Di had wanted children for a lot of years. Even Di’s corrective surgery  had proved inadequate for them to have their own, so they began proceedings to adopt. Once they thought they had everything in place for an adoption, but the young mother was persuaded at the last minute, not to give up her baby.

          Then one day there was a telephone call from a church acquaintance from another city. “I hear you are trying to adopt a child,” the kindly minister introduced the subject of his call. “Would you consider an older child? And how would you like to make it two or three?”

          Ron and Di were thrilled at the prospect of having children but were hardly prepared for an entire family all at once.

          “You see, “ continued the caller, “There is a woman whom we had as a foster child years ago who has to enter the hospital for a lengthy stay. She has two weeks to find homes for her children or turn them over to the state. As soon as I heard of it, I thought of you.”

          There was a hurried consultation between Ron and Di. The minister had called them both to the phone before telling them the purpose of his call.

          “Could we see the children before making a decision?” they inquired a bit hesitantly. They certainly did not want to lose an opportunity to have a family or to help the children, but the idea of a ready made family of four or five was more than they had considered!

          “Of course, “ was the considerate reply. “Why don’t you go tomorrow and see them. Then you can decide.”

          Arrangements were made for the trip. Ron and Di were to meet the children’s birth mother at her Council Bluffs home and discuss with her the possibility of caring for the children while she was hospitalized and maybe beyond. There were three of them in question. John was ten years old. Leon was five, and Sissy was three. Di was especially happy to know that one was a girl.

          The next morning was Saturday, and the two Graceland professors were free to make the trip to the city. At the designated address they were met by a pleasant appearing, youngish woman whose immediate response  startled them.

          “You must be Ron and Di,” Joey welcomed them enthusiastically, “Well, the boys are ready. These are John’s things and these are Leon’s .” She pointed to bags and boxes already packed ready for the trip to Lamoni.

          “And Sissy?”  It was all that Di could think to say.

          “Oh, my sister decided she might want Sissy,” Joey affirmed. “She will not be going with you now. Maybe later.” Joey’s voice trailed off so that if there was more said, Ron and Di did not near it.

          “And what bout the boys?” Ron was still shocked by the turn of events. “We can’t just take them! Will we be able to adopt them?”

          “I don’t think John wants to be adopted. “ The subject obviously had been discussed. “Brother,”  and she named the minister who had first called them, “says you should be given guardianship over them, though. That would only be fair.”

          “And you  will let us have guardianship over them?” The question seemed redundant after what Joey had just said, but Ron wanted no misunderstanding.

          “Sure,” agreed Joey. “Just send me the papers.”

          “And what about adoption? Will that  be possible later?” Ron and Di still wanted a family of their own.

          “Maybe. “ Joey was not certain. “You’ll have to see what John wants.”

          Already John and Leon were on their way to the car. It was as though  they were on their way to a very exciting adventure and Ron and Di were their fairy godparents, only they called them “Mom” and “Dad” before the car left Joey’s drive.

          There had to be some legal paper before Ron and Di would risk taking the boys away from their home, and that was quickly arranged.

          So it was that Delbert and I became grandparents to two boys who made an instant family for Ron and Di. Guardianship was quickly established. Joey’s sister did want Sissy, and , in fact, adopted her giving  Ron and Di hopes that one day they would be able to adopt John and Lee. Joey kept in touch  for awhile, but her telephone calls gradually ceased, and her promised visits rarely occurred at all. For a time , Ron and Di took the boys to see their birth mother, but their interest in the visits waned.

          Once, too, Bill came for a visit. Actually, he came to bring some of John’s clothes and toys  that had been left at his house when Joey had claimed John for the last time. Bill was kind and solicitous, but made no claim  to the boy when he delivered his possessions. In fact, when asked outright, he declared that he was not John’s father but felt sorry for the boy and let him call him “Dad.”

          John had lived with Bill and his wife for some time and thought that Bill was his father. When John was baptized, however, and the names of his birth parents were needed for the baptismal certificate, Bill’s name was not the one on the document. Instead John’s name appeared on the birth certificate as Johnny  Walker Abel. When he saw it , John questioned, “Who’s that?”

          Once it was apparent that Bill was not John’s father, John was more amenable to the idea of adoption. He said he had had so many “fathers” that he couldn’t even remember all of their names.

          Leon was ready to be adopted from the start. His father was dead. That was known for a certainty. He was receiving Social Security benefits from his father’s account.

          The day came when adoption proceedings  were begun with Joey’s full cooperation. Delbert and I were in Ron and Di’s home the day the social worker who was to make her final recommendation to the judge was there. It was a Saturday, and she was not sure she wanted to be working that day, but she was gracious about the assignment.

          Among other things the adoption investigator asked of the boys was her inquiry about their activities at school. When she learned about their involvement in music she asked for a demonstration. Lee played his violin for her and John played his saxophone. Both were surprisingly proficient on their respective instrument in spite of the short time they had been involved. The worker was very much impressed. Of John, she said, “He doesn’t just play at that instrument. He plays it!”

          When the musical demonstration was finished and we had all been interviewed, the social worker was visibly moved. She expressed her great pleasure at having had the opportunity to offer her recommendation to the court that the adoption be completed. It was  not usual that she could be so forthright with prospective adopting parents or prospective adoptees, she said, but this was such a pleasurable experience that she could not keep silent. She had to congratulate us all! She had not wanted to work that Saturday, she confessed, but instead of work, she had been entertained and had found this day a very special day in her career.

          When it came time for the adoption to be completed, the boys were told that they could choose new given names to go with their new surname if they wished. Both of them would have liked to have had Ronald’s middle name for their own, but Leon already had it. He chose Lehi for his new name and became Lehi Kenneth Smith. John chose Jonathan Ammon. For a time he was still called John, but gradually he came to insist on the use of one of his new names, Jon or Ammon. ( As a teenager he again became called John.)

          Life for both of the boys was now very different from the life they had known from birth, of that we were very much aware. When Ammon expressed his desire to give his testimony at the service in North Dakota, we were all delighted and a bit curious. We had seen great changes in this youth since his advent into the family, and he had seemed to enjoy all of the facets of this missionary journey, but what was this special testimony of his?

          When the time of the service arrived, and it was his time to testify, Ammon was too shy to speak. But when the service was finished, he did get the courage to tell us what he had wanted to share.

          “Before I was baptized,” the youngster said, “I used to swear a lot. Since I was baptized, I have not sworn once. Somehow, I just never want to swear any  more since I was baptized!” Ron’s face beamed and he gave his eldest son a big hug as we all rejoiced at this testimony  of the power of the Holy Spirit in this young man’s life.

         

 

Chapter 63

 

 

God’s Answer to a Young Man’s Prayer

 

 

          “I don’t care what the scripture says, I’m going to continue to serve open communion to anyone who wants it!” With that affirmation , our instructor closed the class. It had been an all day session during which the seventy cluster of which we were a part had wrestled with the now prevalent idea of opening the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to everyone. We were all aware that this instructor included non-Christian as well as Christians of other denominations in his practice. Ronald had been particularly persistent in pointing out scriptures that warned the priesthood of the responsibility they assumed if they violated the Lord’s mandate that had been the practive of the church since its inception. Only those who had covenanted with the Lord in Baptism should be served the emblems of the Lord’s sacrifice . On the way home, Delbert reaffirmed his testimony which I subsequently wrote for our congregation’s newletter as follows:

          “That’s it! That’s it! Isn’t that wonderful?”

          It was my husband whispering excitedly as he pummeled my arm as I sat next to him in church. Patriarch-Evangelist Ray Whiting was reading from the scriptures, First Corinthians, chapter eleven, in preparation for a sermon in his series of missionary sermons at Boone, Iowa. I was puzzled. I saw nothing especially unusual or revealing in the words Brother Whiting had just read. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh  condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you , and many sleep.” It was a passage often repeated, especially in services in which the Lord’s Supper was being served. Delbert and the other young priesthood serving the college congregation at Ames used it frequently in their ministry. What was so wonderful about it now, all of a sudden?

          Delbert could hardly wait until the service was over to shake Brother Whiting’s hand and fervently express his appreciation for this new light that had so radiantly filled him with new understanding! I could hardly wait to discover what it was in that  familiar scripture that could so enliven and excite him.

          On the way back to our home in Ames, my husband explained. He had served in the navy during World War II. It was his custom to attend church services on Sunday, and so he was found in navy chapel on those Lord’s Days that he was not privileged to be with the Saints. When the emblems of the Lord’s Super were served, he was accustomed to passing them by.

          One Sunday the chaplain was particularly insistent that no one fail to accept the proffered symbols of the flesh and blood of the Savior. “I was annoyed,” Delbert explained, “as the Protestant Chaplain verbally tried to coerce all who were present at the service to partake of the bread and wine. He said that all it meant was that we love Jesus and if we didn’t partake it meant that we did not love the Lord.”

          The young sailor knew that he loved the Lord but really felt uncomfortable with the idea of accepting the emblems that he had long believed meant far more than the congregation was being told. “I didn’t know very much about the sacrament , “ he explained, “but something just didn’t seem right, so I refrained from partaking.” He would have liked to have walked out of the service and away from what he felt was unwarranted pressure to conform, he told me, but he was too shy to embarrass himself and the minister by that behaviour.So he stayed in spite of refraining from partaking of the proffered bread and wine.

          The experience started him on an extended search for the reason for his hesitancy to receive  communion from other than the priesthood of his own church. “I needed to know how the Lord viewed the sacrament which he had instituted, “ he said “ and this experience motivated me to search the scriptures, ask most people whom I thought might give me an answer and seek the Lord in fasting and prayer.” His scripture search was hampered by the absence of a concordance, he explained, no one whom he asked seemed to be able to give him a satisfactory answer and his fasting and prayer were not always as consistent as they might have been.

          All through his navy career and beyond he had tried to find an answer to why the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practiced close communion. Recently that search had been intensified. A young Baptist friend was participating with the Saints in many of our activities. He liked the people and he liked what he saw and heard among us except for the fact that he could not partake of the emblems of the Lord’s flesh and blood on Sacrament Sundays. He wanted to know why. “I tried to explain,” Delbert reminisced, “ I gave answers that seemed inadequate even to me. I ended up lamely with ‘It is the practice of the church!”

          Obviously Delbert felt far from convinced that he had given his friend an acceptable answer. If it did not satisfy the young pastor, why should it satisfy the earnest young Baptist? Now he was jubilant because tonight he had found the answer that he felt sure would satisfy them both!

          As Brother Whiting read his scripture, the words ”Not discerning the Lord’s body” burned into the young elder’s consciousness. “Previously my mind had stopped after the words ‘drinketh condemnation to himself,’ “Delbert explained, “leaving the words ‘not discerning the Lord’s body’ dangling without meaning.” Now it was clear. The Apostle Paul was not talking only about the Lord’s physical body that hung lifeless on the cross! He was talking about the Lord’s living body, His church!

          “Other scriptures raced through my mind,” Delbert went on . “Ye are the body of Christ, By one spirit we are all baptized into one body. Christ is head over all things in the church, which is His body. God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, etc.”

          Far into the night my husband and I searched the scriptures for the affirmations of this “body of Christ”. They were abundant and explicit in their description of the purpose for which God had designed that church, to bring to pass His desire that all the peoples of the earth should one day choose Him and enjoy the righteousness, peace and joy which would characterize His kingdom on the earth.

          We read chapters before and after chapter eleven of First Corinthians to be certain that we were not taking  that chapter out of context. The consistency was striking. In chapter ten we read, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

          In chapter twelve we read , “For as the body is one and hath many members … so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body… Now ye are the body of Christ…. And God hath set some in the Church, first  apostles, secondarily prophets…” . Paul reaffirmed this concept of the body of Christ in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 22-23 when he wrote that God gave Jesus Christ “ to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all “.

          There was no mistaking. Paul was talking about discerning Christ’s church, the body of Christ that ministers with all of the spiritual  gifts that God has prepared for the peoples of the earth. He was talking about the church into which Christ had called and ordained apostles, prophets and other priesthood for the specific purpose of carrying out the ordinances through which the people would be blessed. He was talking about the body of Christ in which every person would have a part to play in performing the ministries with which God had designed His creation to be blessed!

          That was why! That was the reason for ‘unworthiness”. If we do not perceive what the Lord’s body/church really is, we do become weak and sickly and many sleep. One who does not recognize and become a part of this body of Christ can not enjoy the riches of the blessing the Lord hoped for them and so does condemn themselves to a life far less purposeful and rewarding than the life Christ had planned. If there is no discretion as to whom the sacrifice is tendered, even the priesthood help to prolong or confirm this condemnation!

          Scriptures other than those written by Paul further identified the body of Christ, Delbert explained, indicating clearly that the body of Christ is not just anyone who loves Jesus or even the “universal “ or “transcendant” church. It is a specific body/church which Christ established with its organization (apostles, prophets, and other priesthood ) gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues, miracles, ) and message of God’s kingdom to be established on the earth. It is the specific body/church which John saw go into the wilderness ( Rev. 12:5,14) and which was called forth out of the wilderness ( D.and C. 3:13 a-b; 32:2 a-b). It is the church/body to which the Lord referred as “The only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D. & C. 1:5e) . It is that church whose members are baptized into the everlasting covenant that God made with our forefathers (Gen. 9:21-23 Inspired Version only)that when a people would keep His commandments, embrance the truth and look upward for their life direction, Zion would come again on the earth and “all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy.”

          There were five other students, four of whom were priesthood members, living in our home at the time. In his excitement, Delbert shared with them this new understanding that had so wondrously answered his question. They were not particularly impressed. Mitchell Juergens even shrugged and asked, “So what?” Delbert, his enthusiasm dampened, placed the experience somewhere back in his consciousness where it was to remain for some time.

          It was again sacrament Sunday and the young priest who had responed with,”So what?” was in charge of the service. Delbert was to give the sacrament charge. There was a male quartet scheduled to sing for whom we had special prayers after their rehearsal  at our home on Saturday night. They were awful!

          The business meeting that was to replace the church school that Lord’s Day used more time than was anticipated. When it was completed, there was not enough time for the sacrament service before some of the students had to leave for work assignments in food service at the dorms. Rather than have those students miss the Lord’s Supper, Delbert announced that service would be postponed until the next Sunday. We would have a regular preaching service this Sunday for those who could stay.

          Immediately Sister Mae Weeks arose and asked if that decision could be reconsidered. She explained that her sister Roxie had come all the way from Marshalltown where there was no Reorgainzed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints just for this sacrament. Delbert looked over the congregation that would be left after the students who had to go would leave and determined that those functioning in the service would still be present. Without hesitation he announced that we would continue with the Lord’s Supper as planned this Sunday and would have another next Sunday to include those who had to leave.

          When it was time for Delbert’s sacrament charge, he hesitated just a moment then explained to the congregation that very early in the service it was made known to him that the message he had prepared was not the message the Lord wanted shared that morning. Instead, he said, he was impressed to tell us what had happened to him when he attended Brother Ray Whiting’s series at Boone a few weeks before.

          As the story unfolded, it was apparent that the Spirit of the One whose body we were remembering was prompting the telling. Many if not all of us felt the presence of the Master confirming the new understanding that had so enlightened our young pastor. When he was finished, the quartet, confirmed by that same Spirit, sang like angels! Then Roxie arose and asked permission to speak.

          With tears streaming down her face, this gentle woman said, “You may not know why you gave this message today, but I do!” She then went on to explain that being isolated from this church,  she had for a long time attended another church with a friend. Recently the friend and her fellow church members had been urging Roxie to take the bread and wine with them. Their explanation of the significance of the sacrament had been much like that of the navy chaplain who had so pressured the young sailors that memorable Sunday of which Delbert spoke.

          Roxie confided that she had about decided that it would be all right for her to accede to the wishes of her friend, but she had come to this service specifically asking the Lord for His direction in her effort to follow Him in this action which  seemed of such eternal significance to her. It was not her desire to reject the sincere entreaty of her friend if truly there was no good reason to do so- if she was only following the mistaken tradition of her church. Humble she affirmed that it was the Lord who promped the young pastor to share the experience which gave him his answer. In his sharing, God had given her the answer to her dilemma as well.

          The service closed. Mitch, the priest in charge, turned to Delbert. His eyes glistened with tears as did Roxie’s and many of ours. With a firm grip he embraced the young elder’s outstretched hand and pumped it vigorously as he rejoined, “Now I understand what you were saying!”

          It was the Spirit of the Master that confirmed that it is His living body that He wants us to discern. It was the Spirit of our Lord and Savior whose name we had taken upon us, whose commandments we had promised to keep, whom we had covenanted to remember always, who had made an everlasting covenant with us as with His servants of old that when His people would embrace the truth, keep His commandments and look up, Zion would again come upon the earth, the heavens would shake with gladness and the earth would tremble with joy. With crystal clarity He had confirmed His intent that all people come to know and remember His living body that His peace would one day reign over all the earth!

 

 

Chapter 64

 

Ted Beck’s Story

 

 

          The caller that June day in 1992 identified herself then asked, “Sister Smith, do you know me?” the name was familiar, but I could not recall just to whom that name belonged. I had to confess that I was not certain. So the elderly lady on the other end of the line further identified herself and asked, “Do you know any church appointee whose wife’s name was Sunshine?”

          Now that rang a bell. Of course. Sunshine Beck was the wife of Bishop Ted Beck.

          “I just knew that name but I couldn’t remember for sure.” the dear lady responded. “I was reading  the Master’s Touch and something made me think of Sunshine and their story. Is it in your book?”

          “No , I replied. “It isn’t there, but I do know it. Brother Beck allowed Delbert to record the story on tape a long time ago. It is a precious story.”

          “I just remember bits and pieces of it and can’t put them all together. Could you help me sometime? “ The request seemed urgent.

          “I could tell you the story right now if you have time to listen.” I told her.

          “Oh, could you?” was the eager response.

          So I launched out into one of the most beautiful testimonies of God’s love that I have ever known. Ted Beck was a Catholic who was married to Sunshine, a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

          Ted and Sunshine had first met when they were both living in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ted was employed in a bank and Sunshine was working as a secretary across the Missorui River in Omaha, Nebraska. Sunshine’s employment had to be abandoned, however because of ill health, and she went to live with her parents in the new home they had established on a farm in Kansas. Her father also suffered from ill health and had traded his printing business in Dow City, Iowa , for the farm at Yates Center, Kansas, in response to his doctor’s orders to get out in the fresh air. Even that move, however, proved insufficient,  and he was soon bedfast, unable to work.

          At her father’s request, Sunshine wrote to Ted asking him to come and operate the farm for them. It was while he was doing just that that they were married with Sunshine’s father, a priest in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, officiating. This was, of course, contrary to Ted’s Catholic faith, and his family disowned him for the action.

          Although not of the Sunshine’s faith, Ted had seen something of the action of that faith in various ways. One experience in particular that baffled him was a morning in which he had a visitor. He was choring when a man appeared at the barn and asked if a Latter Day Saint lived there. Ted acknowledged that one did. The man said God had sent him to heal her.

          Now Ted had not told the man that his wife was the Latter Day Saint who lived there or that she was ill. Puzzled by the man’s assertion, he led him into the house and introduced him to Sunshine who was confined to her bed. The doctors had diagnosed her condition as consumption, the usual term for tuberculosis in those days. She was so weak that she had not been able to leave her bed for a long time, and no one expected her to live.

          After the introduction and a little conversation, the man who said he had come to heal, administered to Sunshine according to the instructions found in the book of James. When the prayer was finished, Sunshine arose from her bed, prepared breakfast for them all and never again showed signs of the illness.

          After Sunshine’s father died, Ted received a request from his former bank in Council Bluffs to return and resume employment there at a considerable increase in salary. It was when they returned to Council Bluffs that Ted learned the extent of his family’s alienation because of his marriage outside the Catholic faith. His mother would have nothing to do with him, and his father and brothers would go to great lengths to avoid meeting him on the street or they would pass him without looking at him or giving any sign of recognition.

          Ted was hurt deeply by his family’s rejection and finally prevailed upon Sunshine to take instruction in the Catholic faith so they could be married by a Catholic priest and he could return to be a part of his family. The instruction was not a complete success, but the priest did marry them and Ted became very active in his faith while Sunshine was equally active in hers.

          After a  year or so in Council Bluffs, Ted received an offer to go to Norfolk, Nebraska, to work as a cashier in the bank there at still another increase in salary. It was while they were living in Norfolk that Ted became seriously concerned about the differences in their faiths.

          A son had been born to Ted and Sunshine and Ted knew that he was becoming of an age that as a Catholic, he had to do something about the boy’s religious upbringing . Ted wanted to be fair to Sunshine but knew that he could never let her take his son into her faith. So, he said,”I started talking to the Lord about it in fasting and in prayer.”

          For a long time Ted fasted, sometimes from one meal a day, sometimes from two meals a day, and sometimes he did not eat at all. He went to Mass in the mornings before going to work and prayed earnestly about his problem. He wanted to know whether his church was Christ’s church or whether Sunshine’s church was or whether there was another. No answer came.

          Finally Easter was approaching and Ted decided to fast from all but one meal a day for the entire forty days of Lent, praying constantly for an answer to his dilemma. H e went to Mass every morning and prayed in the church for his answer. Easter came, and nothing seemed to have happened except that Ted was thirty three pounds lighter than he had been when he started his fast on Ash Wednesday.

          Disappointed but undaunted, Ted continued his fasting and prayer. The fasting was not so intense as during Lent, but it was just as much in earnest and his prayers were continuous until the third day of August.

          “On the third day of August at about five o’clock in the morning,” Ted testifies, “I was awakened, and the moment my mind became conscious at all, the thought came to me, ‘Which church is right? Which church is right? Certainly one of them is. Certainly there is one that the Lord approves. There is one that has been started by His son, Jesus Christ!”

          T ed turned over and tried to go back to sleep but he couldn’t. So he got up, went downstairs, got on his knees and poured out his heart to God. He told the Lord that he had done everything that he knew how to do,and he recounted the fasting, the praying, the church attendance, the counseling, everything that he had pursued so earnestly for months now. Then he said to the Lord that he had to know! He said that he knew that the Lord could speak to him in an audible voice if he chose, but his parents would never believe that, so someone else had to be involved in the revelation for which he asked.

          Then , explaining that he had gone as far as he could go and that he needed to know that day which church was the Lord’s and what he ought to do about it, he told the Lord that he wanted His ,Christ’s , minister to be at his, Ted’s, house by no later than seven o’clock that evening. He knew that such an event would identify for him the church to which he should give his allegiance. He did not limit the choice to Catholic or Latter Day Saint. He named the Methodist, the Presbyterian, the Lutheran , and left the list open for any other minister that the Lord would choose to send by seven to represent Him. He promised that he would fast until seven, then he relented a little and said, “I’ll wait until five minutes after seven, but at five minutes after seven, I’m going to eat, and I’m going to remain a Catholic as long as I don’t know anything else to do!”

          At home from work that afternoon, Ted said to Sunshine, “Please don’t get supper ready at the usual time. I have some yard work to do and I won’t be finished by then.”

          Sunshine gave slight recognition to her husband’s request, and at five thirty, the usual time, she called him for his meal.

          “Sunshine, I asked you  not to have supper so early,” he protested. “I want to finish this work before I stop and clean up.”

          Sunshine retired to the house to wait. A second time she called him , and a third. The third time she said a bit peevishly, “Ted Beck, if you don’t come in and eat this food, I may have to throw it out!”By then it was about six thirty. At first Ted hesitated then he looked at his watch and offered that he would come in ten minutes. That would give him twenty minutes until seven. He was sure that he could spend that much time putting away his equipment and cleaning up in th ebathroom.

          While Ted was in the bathroom he heard the sound of car wheels on their gravel drive. Almost afraid to look, he pulled aside the curtain enough to peer out to see whose minister it was.

          In the meantime, in an area of Nebraska far away from Norfolk the elder who was district president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints lived on a farm. Elder Fred Gatenby and Mary, his wife, had made plans to go to another city in the opposite direction from Norfolk that day on business. At about five o’clock that same morning, Elder Gatenby was awakened by a voice that said to him, “Fred, get up and go to Norfolk!”

          Fred didn’t know any reason to go to Norfolk, so he rolled over and tried to go to sleep.When he couldn’t sleep, he got up and went to do his chores. While he was milking the cow, again the voice came as though someone had stepped up behind him and shouted in his ear, “Fred, hurry up and go to Norfolk!” Fred , startled, looked behind him but saw no one. Still puzzled, Fred did  not tell his wife about the strange instruction.

          As they entered their automobile, again Elder Gatenby heard the voice directing him to go to Norfolk. Again he tried to ignore the instruction and started off in the oposite direction. At the first possible turn in the road, the voice said, “Fred, turn around and go to Norfolk!” Fred ignored the instruction and proceeded toward the original destination.

          At the next mile corner there was no voice, but the car was physically turned around and headed in the direction of Norfolk! Fred pulled  to the side of the road and stopped. “Mary,” he said, “do you know any reason for us to go to Norfolk?”

          Mary was most interested in why Fred had turned the car around at the corner,but upon his insistence, she did affirm that she knew of no reason to go to Norfolk.

          It was then that Fred explained to Mary the strange happenings of the morning. At first she thought he was kidding her, but when he declared with all seriousness that he had tried with all his strength to keep the car from turning around at the corner, she was convinced, and they agreed to go to Norfolk. At a quarter until seven, just twenty minutes before the time limit that Ted had given the Lord to have the minister of His church at his home, Fred and Mary drove into the Beck’s yard

          When Ted saw Sunshine‘s minister in the drive instead of his own, he was crestfallen. “Lord, “ he said, “What does this mean? Am I to become a Latter Day Saint?”.

          This time, it was Ted who heard the voice. “My son,” it said as clearly as though the Lord had been in the room with him, “I have answered your prayer!”

          “But Lord,” Ted was still perplexed. “How can it be? My family will not understand! I have my job, at least in part , because I can draw the Catholic trade. What will I do?”

          Again the voice said distinctly, “My son, I have answered your prayer!”

          Resigned but shaken, Ted emerged from the bathrom and greeted the Gatenbys.”What are you doing here?” was his first question.

          “I don’t know,” was Brother Fred’s puzzled reply. Then he recounted the events of the day that had led them to Norfolk.  

          “Fred, how aobu tyou and I going down to the river fishing/” Ted’s response to the story was completely unexpected .’

          “Fishing?” Brotehr Gatenby couldnot understand that propositon this late int heevening.”All right, but I didn’t bring any clothes with me for that!”

          “Ill furnish the clothes,”  Ted responded. Then seeing Fred’s curiosity when Ted didn’t get his fishing gear out, Ted told him simply, “You’ll not need any of that tonight. You’ve got a bigger fish. I want to be baptized!”

          Supper was forgotten. Preparations for the baptism were hastily made. Saints were called to gather at the river, and the Gatenbys and Becks joined several car loads of them there for the service.

          As Elder Gatenby raised his hand for the baptismal prayer, Ted noticed a man dressed in a full suit of clothes standing near the opposite side of the river, in the river, with water up past his knees. The man bowed his head during the prayer as though participating in the service. No one noticed what happened to him until the ordinance was finished. Most of the congregation had left the scene, and the two wet men were changing into dry clothing each behind a clump of bushes. As Ted emerged from his makeshift dressing room, the man who had been in the water came walking up to him with his hand outstretched. He grasped Ted’s hand, and as he shook it vigorously, he said, “Young man, I’m very happy to see you take the step which you have just taken. You’ll never be sorry for it!”

          Ted said, “Thank you. I hope that’s right!”

          The stranger spoke earnestly, looking Ted squarely in the eye with his own piercing grey eyes, ‘That’s right, my boy!” and he grabbed Ted’s  hand and shook it vigorously again as he repeated his first assurance that “You’ll never regret what you have done this day!” With that he turned and walked again toward the river.

          Brother Gatenby, who had witnessed the encounter , asked Ted, “Who was that fellow?”

          Ted replied that he did not have the least idea. Brother Gatenby proposed that they find out who he was. It was then that they realized that he wasno longer in sight. They serched the area and followed his footprints in the damp earth. They led directly to the wate’s edge, but the man was nowhere to be seen, even though they could see for at least a quarter of a mile in each direction up and down the river.

          It was then, too, that Ted remembered that although he had seen him wading the river, when he greeted him so earnestly, the man’s clothes were completely dry.

          Finally Fred Gattenby realize who it must have been. Joyfully he introduced the newly baptized man to the story of the three Nephites to whom Christ gave the privilege of remaining on the earth to minister to people of great faith and to bring faithful souls to Christ. It was the good elder ‘s firm belief that the man who so eagerly confirmed  Ted’s acceptance of the Gospel was one of them.

          Ted Beck became a full time minister for the Christ in His church, known among men as The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

          When I finished the story, the dear sister who had asked for it responded joyfully, “That’s the story that I couldn’t remember. I just knew that it was true, but I couldn’t put it together right! I am so glad my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me!”

          “No, your mind wasn’t playing tricks on you “, I assured her. ‘Would you mind if I asked how old you are?”

          “Eighty-six, “ was the  prompt response.

          “If I’m as good at eighty-six as you are, I will count myself blessed.” I assured her and gratefully thanked our heavenly father for allowing me to be  the custodian of the wonderful story of His love and power that had so enriched my elderly sister’s life.

 

Chapter 65

 

Thiera Heeds God’s Voice

 

 

          It was Thiera’s twelfth birthday. Her father had brought her and her brothers to visit their family in Lamoni and Mount Ayr for the weekend. Aunt Di had given Thiera a special invitation to celebrate her birthday at their house with the rest of the family at Sunday dinner. Tiera was even given a choice of food for the event.

          Dinner was served on the deck at the back of the stately old house in which Ron and Di lived with their sons, Ammon and Lehi. Thiera blew out all   twelve candles with one mighty puff. Her dessert was served on  a bright red plate on which was written in ceramic letters, “You are special today!” Gifts were opened, and we were preparing to go to Mt.Ayr where the Lamoni Stake youth of Thiera’s age group were to have a special event.

          Alan and Valle’s carload went early to be at the church when the first youth appeared. I was to take Thiera and Lehi to the church to join the rest of the youth on their scavenger hunt and hike to Poe Hollow. Later, Steven, Thiera’s dad, was to bring Di and Delbert directly to the park where they would have the fire ready for the wiener roast and campfire when the rest of us arrived.

          Thiera and Lehi were tossing her new silly football in the front yard when I went to the car and called them to come. Lehi raced to the car and jumped into the front seat.

          “Oh,” I queried, “ is Thiera going to sit in the front with us? She won’t want to sit back there alone.” Lehi did not move. On his face there was a look of distress that was not characteristic of this jovial young man.

          I called to Thiera again, but Thiera made no move in the direction of the car. I called again. There was no response.

          “What’s wrong with Thiera?” I questioned Lehi.

          “She says she isn’t going!” In Lehi’s voice was a mixture of disbelief and tears. He was obviously puzzled.

          “Isn’t going?” I questioned. “Why not?”

          Lehi shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of helplessness and shook his head indicating that he had no idea why.

          Well, if Thiera was not going, then her father and the boys would not be going either. And if her father and the boys were not going, Delbert and Di had no ride except in the car I was driving. I did not dare go now and leave them on foot. It was some twenty miles to the park and they were carrying the dry tinder and wood for the fire!

          Why would Thiera so suddenly make a decision that would foul up even her plans for the afternoon and early evening? I thought I knew.

          Several times since the family had arrived at our house for th e weekend, she had mentioned that her mother had been telling her for a long time that she had something special planned for her birthday. When Cindy realized that Thiera would be in Lamoni for that day, she assured her that if she got home in time, she could still have her surprise on her birthday. If she came home after the campfire as scheduled, it would be too late and she would have to wait until her mother could find a break for the magnificent surprise. It was no wonder the child was torn between the two exciting choices?

          Thiera tossed the football aside, ran into the house and plopped herself down in the middle of the couch where she sat staring at the floor. Soon we were all gathered round with no one knowing what to say. I looked quizzically at Steven on the way in. He shrugged, too, and explained that at a time of separation for the family, it was tough for the children. “Everyone has to assert themselves at one time or another!”  he said resignedly. It was clear that Thiera’s decision was not to be challenged.

          The room was quiet. All eyes were fastened on Thiera’s bowed head, but no one said anything. At least some of us were praying. Finally someone asked, “Won’t you change your mind and go?”

          Thiera shook her head.

          About that time Di went into the kitchen. Her intent was to package a few brownines that she had made for Steven to take home. They had been teasing each other about the brownies since Steven smelled them baking when he and Thiera stopped by on their long evening walk on Saturday.

          For some reason Thiera followed Di into the kitchen. When they emerged it was with the announcement, “We’re going to Mount Ayr!”

          Everyone scrambled to the vehicles. It was time now that the fire builders needed to get on their way, too. No one even paused to ask questions concerning the sudden turn in events. We were all too happy for it to question it. We could only thank God for whatever had caused it to come about!

          Di and Thiera took the back seat of the Taurus I was driving. Steven and Delbert could start the fire. Di had more important ministry to give on the road to Poe Hollow. Lehi joined me in the front again. We had a very pleasant trip to Mt. Ayr and arrived at the church just in time for Thiera and Lehi to join the rest of the group for the scavenger hunt and hike.

          As soon as the campfire ended, Steven herded his little brood into the van and headed for home. They had gone from Lamoni only a few minutes when a Mr. Webb called to tell us that their van engine had blown up on them and they were stranded about eight miles into Missouri. He asked us to notify Cindy that they would not be home when she expected them at eight.

          Delbert and I were just settling down for  a relaxing Sunday evening when the call came. We called for Cindy immediately, but could get no response. To make sure that she would know what had happened, we called for Donna  Ingram to put a message on her door. Then we hurriedly packed our pajamas and toothbrushes, just in case we would not be home before morning, and set out to find the stranded family.

          As we topped the rise near the one hundred and six mile marker, the van came into view. Perched high on the bank away from the freeway traffic was the little family. Our arrival was greeted with shouts of joy and relief as the children all descended to us, everyone talking at once. Steven finally got all our attention. “See,” he spoke to the children, ‘We prayed that everything would be all right, and now it is.”

          He then explained how frightened they all were when the van suddenly was engulfed in smoke. They were passing a car when without warning there was a cloud of smoke all around them so thick that he could not even see the car they were passing. Whatever the circumstance, he knew he had to get the van to the shoulder and the children to safety. So he steered blindly to the right.

          The driver of the car that he was passing saw the explosion of smoke and pulled to a hurried stop on the shoulder behind him. By the time the van was stopped, that driver was out of his car and running toward them with a fire extinguisher. Mr. Webb was a race car driver and was well equipped to care for such an emergency as appeared  to be at hand.

          There was no fire. The engine had thrown a rod and the profusion of oil and antifreeze fluid that spilled onto the hot mechanism caused the huge pale of smoke,but did not ignite.

          “Oh , Grandma, I was so scared!” Seven year old Keston explained. His fright had been so intense that he had vomited just at the door of the van.

          Steven smiled comfortingly at Keston and continued his story. He had given Mr. Webb our phone number and asked that he give us the message for Cindy. It was not until their benefactor was gone that Steven remembered  that calling from Eagleville to Lamoni was a long distance call, and he had not even thought to offer to pay for it! There was no assurance that this perfect stranger would use his own money to make the call. Without it, there would be no way that we would know to come to their rescue. They could only trust God to see that the message was delivered.

          The message did get through, thanks to the beneficent, unknown stranger. “Why , I didn’t even get that  man’s name so I could properly thank him!” Steven remonstrated with himself. I was sorry that I could only supply the last name of the caller. I, too, had let my concern for the family blot out my need to adequately thank the gracious messenger.

          Once out of danger, Steven gathered his children into a circle, and they prayed that all would be well. Now they were ready to express their thanks.

          Everyone pitched in to transfer the contents of the van to the Taurus wagon , everyone except Thoric, that is. He timidly tugged at his father’s shirt. “Daddy, I pooped my pants!” he announced a bit sheepishly. His fear had been expressed differently than Keston’s!

          Without hesitation Steven asked if we had any wipes or anything else that could be used in the emergency. We had only Kleenex. The only thing that was wet in either vehicle was some leftover pop .Steven choose the orange pop and with Kleenex for  a washcloth Thoric was soon ready for a clean set of clothes. I emptied a plastic bag that was holding a new pair of panty hose to have an odor proof container for the feces laden pants.

          “Where are we going?” It was Anan who wanted to know.

          “Home.” Steven responded.

          “Oh, let’s go back to Lamoni.” It was almost a chorus.

          “We can’t do that,” Steven answered their pleas. “You have to be in school tomorrow.”

          “I’ll go to school in Lamoni !” Thiera answered facetiously.

          Steven tousled her hair a bit and joshed, “What would they do with you there?”

          It was then that Delbert spoke to Thiera in a more serious vein. “You know, Thiera, I believe you were listening to the Lord when you decided to go to Mt. Ayr. Can you imagine what would have happened if you had started home when we all went to Poe Hollow? This would surely have happened to the van and there would not have been any of us to get the message that you needed help, not us or Ron’s or Alan’s. What would you have done?”

          Thiera smiled her most beautiful smile and we knew that she was happy that she had heeded the Lord’s direction.

 

 

Chapter 66

 

Keith’s Bounty

 

 

          “I will be in Graceland next semester!” Keith’s voice exploded with pent-up relief and joy! “There will be money for my fees!”

          Keith Seidel was one of our college “sons” when we retired at Lamoni. He was a biology student hoping to be a doctor someday. When the fall semester started, however, it was not certain that it would not be his last, at least until he took time out to earn more money. Many times as we talked he had expressed his concern that there would not be enough to pay his next semester fees. We had prayed with him about it and had felt assured that the money would be forthcoming. His mother, too, had urged him to have faith.

          Delbert and I were both on the phone line as we usually were when one of our” children” called. “Tell us about it!” the seventy and I were both eager to hear what miracle the Lord had performed in this young man’s behalf.

          “This is incredible!” Keith was the possessor of a fantastic story. That , we could easily tell.

          “What’s incredible?” We were both smiling broadly into our respective telephones, enjoying the moment of anticipation with Keith.

          “Mom called,”  he began. Then he told us how his mother had received a call from a bank in a neighboring town, one in which her grandmother had lived. When she was positively identified, the caller told her that they had recently been going over their old accounts. They found one that her grandmother had opened for her when she was a baby.

          “That account is now valued at ten  thousand dollars,” the banker informed her. “What would you like us ot do with it ?”

          Promptly, Keith’s mother called her anxious son. After telling him the remarkable story, his mother addressed him. “Keith,” she said, “I have put two thousand dollars of the money in your bank account! Is that enough to finish your fees for the next semester?”

          Keith did finish Graceland and  at last account is studying to be a doctor. His faith, always strong, has not been diminished by the gracious providential supply of funds for that year’s second semester at Graceland.

 

 

Chapter 67

 

Peace in the Midst of A Storm

 

 

          We had just celebrated Steven’s thirty- eighth birthday after the close of the reunion services that Friday evening in 1992. There were Karen and her children, Judi and their children, Alan and his family, Steven with his children, and Delbert and I . Last year Cindy had celebrated Steven’s birthday with us at the same reunion grounds, but this year she had chosen to absent herself. She was asking the court to dissolve their marriage of fifteen years and no longer wanted to participate in family events. Karen’s husband and Judi’s were absent because  their employment demanded it. Ron and his family were ministering to youth encamped in Washington state.

          The celebration was over. The others had gone to their rooms leaving Judi and her children and Steven and his children to bunk in our room with us. We had offered our prayers, each one praying from the youngest, except for one year old Natalie, to the oldest  and had settled in our bunks for much needed rest. The older children had gone to sleep when the storm broke with sudden fury.

          Lightning crackled and flashed just outside our window. Each flash penetrated our darkened room with a momentary eerie brilliance followed by crashing thunder that rocked the sturdy building in which we were housed. Natalie began to cry and Thoric climbed into his father’s narrow bunk where he lay trembling with fright snuggled close in his father’s strong, protective arms. I lay in my bunk praying for peace to be granted the frightened children when suddenly I heard it.

          Across the room Judi was kneeling beside her baby’s crib softly singing. I could only hear the tune, but I knew the words and knew that Natalie, young as she was , knew them , too. “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship you. Oh, my soul , rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear!”

          Behind me there was the rich male voice of Steven singing quietly to his frightened son held close to his heart. His words, too, were almost imperceptible as he sought to avoid disturbing Judi and her children and the rest of us. “God will take care of you, be not afraid. He is your safeguard through sunshine and shade. Tenderly watching and keeping his own. He will not leave you to wander alone.” I knew that this song was not just to quiet a little one for the duration of the storm. It was the prayer of an anxious Father for all of his children during the many days ahead when he would be separated from them because of the impending divorce.

          Tears filled my eyes and spilled onto my pillow while the prayer that had become so constant during the past few months returned to my heart to match our son’s. “God will take care of you still to the end. Oh, what a Father, redeemer and friend. Jeus will answer whenever you call. He will take care of you. Trust him for all!”

          Lightening still crackled and flashed and thunder still rocked our dorm, but the fears of the frightened children were calmed, and peace reigned over our crowded room as the children slept.

 

 

Chapter 68

 

Reunion Rescue

 

 

          It was the summer of 1991. Several of our Smith families were gathered at the family camp for reunion. The evening worship service was finished. Delbert had run ahead of the congregation to reach the dining area where he was to cut watermelon for the evening treat for the camp.The children were anxious to get  to their grandfather and  the watermelon feed. Jerah, aged six, ran ahead of her mother grasping the hand of Jonah, aged two, as she mounted the suspension bridge that spanned  the murky lake lying some twenty feet below the bridge at the shoreline. Karen followed, pushing the stroller in which their three month old baby son lay sleeping. She had not yet reached the bridge. Douglas and his family were ahead of the children on their way to the dining area on the other side of the lake. I was just emerging from the shadow of the chapel, behind them all.

          Suddenly the cry went up.”Jonah’s in the water!” The two year old had somehow slipped from his sister’s grasp and slid under the hugh banister, falling more than the height of a story high building into the filthy, algae laden water below. There was no sign of him in the turbid liquid. All we could see was a slight ripple circling out from the point at which he had entered the slimy substance.

          Doug heard the cry and immediately turned around to face the lake. Quickly he pulled his wallet from his pocket, placed it on the bridge and without hesitation mounted the railing, jumped into the lake, and began making his way toward the center of the circling water. As he neared the site, he dove into the darkness and emerged with the little one in his arms. Jonah was sputtering and coughing .Both the child and his rescuer were covered with foul smelling underwater debris.

          Spontaneously cheers and prayers of thanksgiving rose from the waiting congregation as the lithe young doctor, uncle of the nearly drowned boy, climbed the slippery bank away from the treacherous waters that could easily have been Jonah’s grave. He did not immediately deliver the frightened boy to his mother. The slime and the odor were such that he insisted on getting them both through a cleansing shower first.

          Needless to say,  the bridge was off limits to the little ones of the family from that moment on. We took the longer but safer roadway to and from the chapel when our schedule took us there for family activities. Later, additional barriers were erected by the camp to make certain no other child would  suffer Jonah’s so near fatal fate.

          Awe still embraces us as we wonder: What would have happened if the young doctor had not been on that bridge at that particular moment? Would any of the rest of those nearby have been able to have made the daring leap that put him in the water so quickly that the little one did not even have a chance to inhale the unbreathable substance? What if the children had been on the bridge alone? The questions are innumerable, but it is our thanksgiving prayer that the children were not alone. Not only Doug was there but the Master of men who watches over all of His children and longs to keep them safe.

          Karen was particularly impressed that we will not always be close nor will there always be time for prayer for our loved ones at the time of danger. Only the constant presence of the Holy One and His angels can provide the protection needed, and for that protective presence we need to be continuously in prayer!

 

 

Chapter 69

 

Prove All Things

 

 

          I met my friend of many years at the 1992 World conference. She was ecstatic! “Oh, I have that wonderful article you wrote about diet and health!” she declared. “I’m going to use it for our women’s meeting in May.”

          I was puzzled. “What article is that?” I inquired. “I haven’t written anything recently that I know of.”

          “Oh, it’s that one about using the instructions of th eLaw of Moses as a guide and avoiding all of our usual sicknesses.”

          Now I was certain I had not written the material which had so elated her. “Sorry, I said,” I did not write that, but I would like to see what is being taught.”

          “I’ve sent a copy to each of my daughters-in-law.” She smiled reassuringly. “You can get Donna to let you see hers.”

          Donna was our niece but we lived a long way apart, and I was not certain I would ever get a look at the  exciting material.”I would like to see it,” I reiterated.

          “Well, if you didn’t write it , I don’t know who did; but I know you’ll love it!”  and my friend rushed away to catch up to her party.

          Soon after Conference. I received  the material in the mail. Alice had decided to send a copy directly to me.

          I had only to read the first sentence to know that this was not only material that I did not write, but material with which I was absolutely in disagreement, for both scientific  and scriptural reasons. I had to let my dear friend know my objections to it before she made the mistake of teaching it as Word of Wisdom advice to her church women and daughters-in-law. To make sure she knew the truth, I wrote her a letter in which I commented on many of the errors in the article in question.

          The first affirmation of the article was that “The Laws of Moses are as up-to-date as the latest newspaper.” Obviously, the author confused the Ten Commandments with the “laws of Moses”.  The Ten commandments were God’s commandments, not suggestions as that author erroneously called them, but they said nothing about diet! To say that the Laws of Moses are as up-to-date as today’s newspaper is to contradict Christ’s own statement that He came to fulfill the Law of Moses.

          Paul had a hard time trying to convince the Jews that Christ had made it unnecessary  to continue dietary restrictions, circumcision as a religious rite, observance of certain feast days, etc. His letters to the Gentile congregations which he had established and taught at the command of God, are replete with instructions calling for faith in the living Christ to replace the Law of Moses which he said was a ‘schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ. He even went so far as to tell the Galatian Saints that if they returned to that law as a basis of their religious activity, “Christ shall profit you nothing.”

          Paul was a peculiar fellow in some ways. Frequently he gave instructions which he identified as his own ideas, not necessarily the will or commandment of God. But when he wrote to Timothy about teachings that would come in the latter time concerning marriage and the use of animals for food, he said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly!” He made it very clear that the Spirit was the one telling him that “every creature of “God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”

          Peter got a dramatic lesson in the same vein when the vessel like a sheet was let down from heaven and he was told to kill and eat all sorts of creatures that he had been taught were unclean. The voice from heaven instructed him not to call anything that he ( Christ ) had cleansed unclean. He was to “Kill and eat”!

          Just in case we might be confused today, the Lord had told us again in Doctrine and Covenants sections 49, 59 and 86  of his intent that flesh of animals be available for our use as food. He had made it clear, however, that such food is to be received with thanksgiving , used sparingly and that He did not intend that some should have access to more than others. He even has gone  so far as to advice us that it will please Him if we fast from flesh of beasts and fowls during a part of each year. I believe it is His way of challenging us to find a way to make the foods we enjoy so much available to all people, not just the privileged few of which we who live in the United States of America are a part.

          It is not just scripturally that the material my friend mistook for mine is deficient.Scientifically the author gives some inane information. In addition to the elimination of pork, catfish and many other creatures from the diet, he/she would eliminate fat.

          Now, fat can be detrimental when used to excess, but without it we have no way to utilize vitamins A,D, E and K. Without it we have no way of cushioning our vital organs, no insulation against trauma, heat or cold. Without it, mothers risk babies hemorrhaging severely during child birth and may drown their babies in their own blood. Wtihout it we have no reserve of energy when the primary stores of carbohydrates are depleted. Without it skin erupts in eczemas. Fat is a vital part of every person’s diet who wishes to survive. It is an excess of the  nutrient that causes problems.

          Cholesterol, too, is not a bad word. It is so essential to life that our bodies make large amounts of it daily. God made us so that our bodies do not have to depend on the amount that we eat for sustenance. To do that might risk  our failure to provide enough to assure continuance of life. Without cholesterol there would be no cell repair, no growth, no hormones, no antibodies, no life! It is when that substance gets out of control that there is danger.

          The author declares that only fat and carbohydrates go into our blood stream, and they make the blood ‘thick as honey”! Surely he/she has never bled or seen anyone bleed! With blood of that consistency , how could blood circulate? How could nutrients or oxygen reach the cells of the body, including the brain? And if protein does not go into the blood stream, how can it reach muscles to build or rebuild them or to contribute to growth?

          It is highly unscientific to confuse alcohol with sugar as the author does. Sugar is a carbohydrate that the body uses for food. Alcohol is a toxic chemical which has a very different effect on the brain and other organs of the body. It must be detoxified by the liver to make continued living possible.

          Sugar has been accused of causing many health problems. It has been shown to promote cavities in teeth that are not properly cared for, but scientific evidence of its relation to many other problems is lacking. Of course, it is such a pure source of carbohydrate that when used in excess, it leaves one without the other nutrients needed for good health. Although less refined sugars as brown sugar, honey, sorghum or molasses have small amounts of other nutrients, their contribution to the total needed is very small, and excessive use of them can be deleterious to health as well. Even the ancients recognized  that fact. Proverbs 25:27 warns, “It is not good to eat much honey;….”

          Comparing sugar’s use now with that of colonial times as a reason for many present health problems is untenable, especially when there are no data  with which valid comparisons may be made to establish what was happening healthwise then. Of course less refined sugar was used in those early times. The more highly refined product was not available!  Not to be forgotten, however, is that life expectancy of those early times was far less than it is now, and many did not live long enough to get diseases that are common today. Cigarettes, too, are  a modern  invention, and they are known to be responsible  for many of the current ills in many nations.

          Vitamin B 17 is highly recommended by the author as a necessary part of a good diet. This “nutrient “ is to be obtained from eating the seeds of many fruits. Actually there is no vitamin named B17 . A man named Krebbs named a substance he wanted to market “vitamin B 17.” It is a nickname, just as we sometimes nickname our children or give each other a pet name. Just because we called my brother “Doc” during his growing up years, did not make him a doctor. It was when he had qualified with his medical degree that he became a real doctor. Krebbs’ “Vitamin B 17  “ has never qualified as a vitamin or any other nutrient essential to life. In fact, the seeds that contain the substance Krebbs calls “Vitamin B 17” contain highly lethal cyanide in such large amounts that there have been deaths reported from eating seeds as the author recommends.

          It is true these cracked fruit seeds taste a little like almonds, and for that reason our grandmothers did sometimes add a peach seed to a jar of peaches as the author states. But  there was just one seed, and it was not eaten! To crack and eat the seeds , as the author suggests, instead of discarding them is a dangerous recommendation that should never be given to anyone, certainly not in the name of the Word of Wisdom.

          The recommendation that one try single seeded fruits because they have fewer Calories is likewise erroneous. Where the idea comes from is a mystery. Certainly a reliable food chart as the USDA Handbook 456, Nutritive Values of American Foods does not validate that assertion. One will find many many-seeded fruits like melons, berries, citrus fruits , papaya, etc. with fewer than two hundred and fifty calories per pound of edible fruit. The same weight of many  single-seeded fruits such as cherries, mangoes, or seedless  grapes has closer to three hundred Calories. Even the author’s documentation will give one a clue as to the unreliability of the information. Twice in the material The National Enquirer  is sited as the source. Surely everyone has read the outrageous  headlines of that publication as they waited in line at the grocery check-out counter! It is a huge farce! Even those who publish it do not expect it to be believed! For it to be used as a source of scientific information is this article is incredible! Prevention Magazine, too, is hardly a scientific publication. Although it is gaining in reliability, as the time it was quoted, its information was accurate about ten percent of the time.

          I was tremendously appreciative of Alice’s response to my evaluation of  the material that she had mistaken for a delineation of the Word of Wisdom. Armed with the facts, she quickly  changed her perception of the article she had at first believed implicitly. Now she used it and the Word of Wisdom to help her associates learn how to evaluate information about diet that comes into their hands. To seek learning “by study and also by faith”, as the Lord instructed in Latter Day revelation, is a most valid method of arriving at truth of any matter that affects our lives.

 

 

Chapter 70

 

More Value Than Sparrows

 

 

          “I’m afraid there isn’t a very good chance that we will save him, Mr. Beckworth. He has parvovirus. “ It was our veterinary son on the phone shouting to the elderly gentleman on the other end of the phone connection who was inquiring about the young dog he had left at the clinic earlier that day for observation.

          “ I think he must have a bone in his throat”, Mr. Beckworth had surmised when he brought  the dog in. “He hasn’t eaten for three days and he seems to gag a lot. “

          Steven examined the dog. There was no evidence of obstruction in his throat . “To be really sure, we will need to X-ray,” he explained. “That is an expensive procedure.”

          “That’s all right, “ the old gentleman responded as he placed a comforting hand on the dog’s upturned  nose. “Do whatever you have to do. I have to go  into the city for awhile and I will call from there to see what you find out.” Now Mr. Beckworth was calling as he said he would to learn about the dog.

          “Parvovirus is a very serious disease, especially for a dog as young as yours. “ Steven was trying to help the old gentlemen understand that his expenditure of fairly large amounts of money might not save the dog. “With the very young and the very old, we have ony about a thirty percent chance of saving them under the best of circumstances, and your dog has been sick for several days.” Steven paused to receive the old man’s response.

          “Par-vo-virus.” Steven raised his voice and spoke very distinctly. It was apparent  that the client was not yet understanding the diagnosis. “It’s a disease we vaccinate for.” Steven went on . The virus attacks the lining of the intestinal tract and it sloughs off in a terrible odorous diarrhea with vomiting.” There was a pause. “It’s extremely contagious. Be sure no other dog goes into his quarters until you have cleaned it thoroughly  with Clorox. “

          I knew the chlorine treatment was mandatory. I had just finished cleaning up the cage in which the pup had been housed at the clinic as he awaited the diagnosis . Steven had been very specific in his instruction. Even the bars of the cage and the spots on the floor where excrement had been dropped on the way to the examining table had to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. My hands smarted from the strong solution and I had to hold my breath when I passed the cage. The fumes from the chemical were hazardous.

          “No. It couldn’t have been your nephew’s dog that gave it to him if he was  just in that cage last night. The conversation was continuing . “It takes several days for the disease to develop. Be sure to clean that cage well, though,or your nephew’s dog may be the next victim. “ This young doctor was always careful to help his clients prevent disease as well as to cure it.

          Even before Mr. Beckworth called, Steven had started treatment on the placid animal and had placed him in the quarantine area of the clinic. As soon as the conversation with the elderly client ended, he turned his attention ot inserting an instrument for intravenous feeding into the leg of an apparently lifeless cat.

          The cat had been lying in her cage all morning without a flicker of movement. I thought she was dead and when Steven’s four year old daughter had inquired about her earlier in the day, Steven had said simply, “She’s a very sick cat!”

          Now I could see his frustration as his own crippled hand failed to handle the intricate equipment with his usual dexterity. I was in the clinic that Saturday morning because of Steven’s injury. A ninety pound dog had chewed  his right hand severely and had inflicted a minor injury on his left. He had started to muzzle the dog, but the dogs owner strenuously objected. She was certain that she could control the dog during treatment, and she viewed the muzzle as an object of cruelty.

          In deference to his client’s concerns and against his better judgement, Steven permitted the insistent lady to hold the dog’s head in lieu of a muzzle. As soon as treatment began, however, the dog lunged at his benefactor, sinking  a long canine tooth into the middle of the doctor’s hand. The frightened client fled to cower in a corner of the room while the dog chewed fiercly trying to extricate his tooth. With only his left hand free with which to control the dog, it was a long time before the doctor was able to subdue the dog enough that the hand could be freed. By that time Steven’s right hand was mangled so severely that it had to be subjected to corrective surgery. For more than a week it had been necessary for him to refer emergency surgeries to other veterinarians and to postpone elective ones. Baths had been turned  down.His surgery and surgical instruments that he could use could not be maintained in their usual state of readiness. I was glad to try to be helpful, but I was not equipped to help with the delicate procedure Steven was attempting on the cat.

          “She came in so dehydrated,” Steven explained, shaking his head with discouragement now evident in his voice, “ that it is almost impossible to find a vein through which to feed and medicate her,” With a deep sigh of resignation he threw away the bent needle that he had tried unsuccessfully to insert into the freshly clipped leg.

          “What are her chances?” I knew she was not able to eat on her own.

          “None, unless I can get her vein.” Steven reached for another pack, deftly clipped the fur from another leg and tried again. “She was so sick when she came in that I tried to dissuade her owner from even trying treatment. Her kidneys were already so badly damaged that it  will be a miracle if she pulls through even with the best treatment I can give her.” With that he tossed away another damaged needle and chose  an alternate treatment for the desperately ill animal.

          “What happens if the animals die?” I was genuinely concerned. The spring of the year is the time when small animal clinics must make enough money to support  themselves during the lean winter months, and Troost had already suffered severe curtailment of income because of Steven’s injury.

          Steven laughed wryly. “As a matter of course, we rarely get paid for a dead animal.” he explained.

          “Even after you do all you can for the animal-invest your time, medicines, x-rays and all in them?” I knew no people hospital would take the loss just because the patient died. “And even when you warn the owners that there is little hope for survival?” Nothing seemed just about this state of affairs!

          “Even then.” He made the affirmation matter-of-factly. “Some do pay anyway, but they are the exceptions , not the rule.”

          “So if this dog and cat die, you will get nothing for the work you have just done or for the medicines and materials you have invested in them?” It still did not seem fair!

          “Nothing.” he repeated the word resignedly as he began making preparations to leave the hospital for the day.

          I stared after the broad back slightly stooped with the weariness of a hard day’s work impeded by the condition of his mangled hand. Even in his stance I could sense the concern for both his patients and for the meager income that had been the legacy of his injury.

          “I’ll go get some filing done while you finish up back here,”  I volunteered.

          As I passed the cages holding the provirus afflicted dog and the kidney damaged cat, I could not be reconciled to the idea of the possible loss of income from the care and concern and the overtime work that had gone into those animals . At the door of the kennels I paused a moment, bowed my head and breathed a prayer. “Lord,” I prayed, “You know that Steven has done all he can do to save those two very sick animals-animals that are sick unto death! Please intervene for their sakes  and his and bring them safely through.”

          Weeks passed and I was not near Steven or his clinic. When at last I did call steven and Cindy on their wedding anniversary, I asked first abot the dog.

          “Oh, yes, He came through fine!” Steven responded.

          “But Mr. Beckworth didn’t even want him.” Steven’s wife chimed in cheerfully.

          “Yes,” Steven explained , “He was just a stray that Mr. Beckworth didn’t want to see suffer. When he came back to the clinic, that good man paid the bill in full and then told me to find the dog a good home!”

          Tears invaded my eyes and there was a bit of a frog in my  throuat as I asked faintly, “And the cat?”

          “Oh, she came through fine, too.” Steven spoke with a tinge of joy in his voice. “And we have a new home for the dog. His new mistress has already paid for his shots and for his board until she can get him in a few days.”

          “And were you paid for the cat?” I had to be sure.

          “Absolutely! And a mighty pleased owner she had , too! That lady was almost as convinced as I was that she would get back a  dead cat!” This time I didn’t bow my head. “Thank you, Lord!” I fairly shouted as I hung up the

phone and danced my way joyously across the kitchen floor.

 

Chapter 71

 

Woman of the Year

 

          Karen was well known in the Independence community. She occupied a prominent position of responsibility in Outreach International, an agency successfully ministering to the needs of needy peoples around th world. The women’s organization of the area wanted her on their roster. She was nominated for their prestigious award,”Business Woman of the Year.”

          It was a heady trip for a young woman in her first significant career position after college. She was highly complimented by the nomination and considered the advantages to her business and career opportunities offered by being a apart of this distinguished organization. Before she accepted  the nomination, however, she asked to see  the organization’s charter and by-laws. Much to her displeasure she found that membership in the organization required her support for efforts to achieve freedom for abortion on demand and government support for the provision of the procedure for all women.Without hesitation, she declined the nomination.

          She never became ’Business Woman of the Year”, but she had a greater honor.She was truly “Woman of the Year!”

         

Chapter 72

 

A Colossal Error in Mathmetics

 

          The youth class had just been dismissed, and I was walking across  the campground with the instructor.Something he had said in class caused me to inquire, ’If what you said in class was true, what was on the brass plates?” (Brass Plates were the records the Book of Mormon states were obtained from Laban and brought to the promised land from Jerusalem by Lehi and his people.)

          “Now Mildred,” the instructor placed his hands solicitously on my shoulders, “you know there  were no brass plates . In fact , you know there were no plates at all! Why those plates would have weighed over six hundred pounds, and Joseph Smith could not have handled them!”

          By this time we had crossed the grassy lawn and were seated on a slatted swing that hung from a massive old oak tree whose shade sheltered us from the midday sun. The newly appointed high priest was so intent upon correcting my belief in the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon that lunch was forgotten. For nearly an hour he explained why Joseph Smith’s story of that event just could not have been true!

          All the while as I listened, I kept wondering about that six hundred pounds. How much would a stack of gold plates that measured six inches by six inches by eight inches weigh?
          As soon as I returned home, I called the local librarian and asked, “How much does a cubic foot of gold weigh?”

          There were a few moments of waiting while the information was sought. Then “twelve hundred pounds!” was the reply.

          Immediately I knew what was wrong with my informant’s statement. He was making a common error in mathematics. He thought that a six inch cube of gold would weigh half as much as  a twelve inch cube! Since Joseph described the plates as measuring six by six by eight, they would be larger than a six inch cube, and so, according to that logic, would weigh more than six hundred pounds!

          But a six inch cube does not weigh half as much as a twelve inch cube. In fact, it takes eight six inch cubes to weigh as much as one twelve inch cube. Instead of dividing the weight of a twelve inch cube by two, one must divide by eight to get the weight of one six inch cube. Twelve hundred pounds divided by eight, then , is one hundred and fifty pounds.

          Since Joseph said  one dimension of the set was eight inches, one must add a section six by two inches more to the calculation. That is adding one third more to the volume of the package. One third of one hundred fifty is fifty. The weight of a solid gold brick measuring six by six by eight inches would be two hundred pounds.

          But there are two errors in applying that information to the plates of the Book of mormon. This was not a solid block of metal that Joseph was handling. First, there were plates on which there were inscriptions. There would be space between the plates and space around each of the carved characters. With that much space, the weight would be lessened considerably. And second, no one who had ever seen or handled the plates ever said they were gold.

          When Joseph wrote his own story in his letter to Mr. John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat in 1838, he described the plates as having “the appearance of gold”. (See Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, Pg. 707.) The eight witnesses, whose testimony that they saw and hefted the plates was in the first issue of the Book of Mormon published in 1820-30 and in most if not all subsequent publications of the work, said the same thing. The plates had the “appearance of gold”.

          When Nephi told of making the plates on which he kept the record of his people, he said, “And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver and of copper. And it came to pass that the Lord did command me,wherefore I did make plates of ore( emphasis mine), that I might engraven upon them the record of my people.” ( I Nephi 5:217-218) .

          As I discussed this information with our son, Steven, Steven recalled an article in the Scientific American just a few noths past concerning the metallurgy of the artifacts of Central and South America. I found th earticle in the June, 1984 issue of th emagazine,pages 56-63. It was titled “Pre-Columbian Surface Metallurgy”.The subtitle reads,The metal smiths of the Andean culture knew how to plate copper with gold or silver and how to treat alloys of copper, gold and silver so that the surface of the metal consisted only of gold.”

          The article’s first paragraph reads,”When the Spanish conquistadors melted down the gold and silver objects they looted from the Incas, they were surprised to discover that the bullion they got was quite impure. Although the objects appeared to be made out of silver or gold, they were actually alloys of those metals with copper. At least a millennium before the rise of the Incas, Andean metal smiths had develoed these alloys along with procedures for treating them so that the finished objects presented a surface of pure silver or pure gold. The smilths also knew how to plate objects made entirely out of copper with a thin coating of gold or silver.”

          The span of each of the civilizations that developed the types of metallurgy that the authors studied was placed in one of three time periods. The first was set at 800-400 B.C. ( Nephi’s plates were made well  within  this time period, sometimes after 600 B.C.) The second era was said to be the time during which the most sophisticated workmanship occurred and was estimated to extend from 100 B.C.  to 800 A.D..(This was the era in which Mormon made his plates and Moroni made the plates on which he completed his record.) The third period occurred after the Book of Mormon record was closed, about 1150 to 1476 A.D.

          Two predominant methods of metallurgy are described. One is electrochemical replacement plating. The other is depletion gilding. Some objects were simply flushed with melted gold or covered with gold foil. The authors describe how they were able to duplicate each of the methods that they believe was employed by those early artisans using only the chemicals and tools available from the environment in which they worked.

          The artifacts prepared by electrochemical plating ( ot electroplating) , are described as plates of copper covered with thin coatings of silver or gold so as to make the objects appear to have been made entirely of the precious metal. Some of these coatings were between 0.5 micrometer and 2 micrometers thick, yet they were remarkably uniform in thickness, and the precious metal covered all surfaces, including edges that were paper thin. In  the depletion gilding method, used somewhat before the one hundred B.C. to eight hundred A.D. era, but chiefly during that time, an ingot composed of an alloy of varying proportions of copper with silver or gold or both is first cast. The ingot is then hammered until it becomes too hard and brittle to be worked further. It is then repeatedly heated and gradually cooled ( annealed or tempered) and further worked until it holds the desired shape. With each annealing, copper forms an oxide scale that is removed until eventually the outside is depleted of copper and the precious metal forms the apparent surface.

          Tumbaga is the name given to the most important alloy of gold and copper or gold, copper and silver used in depletion gilding. If only gold and copper are used in the alloy, the final product looks like pure gold even with minimum annealing. If silver is in the alloy, it , too, must be removed from the surface to give the appearance of gold. The technique for doing this is also described.

          Of interest, too, is the observation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists who are reporting their work, that the emphasis on metal production in the new world centered on “the domain of life associated with political power, the display of social status and the communication of religious beliefs” . By contrast, the metallurgy of the Near East and Europe, they report, centered on warfare , transportation and agriculture.

          The largest artifact with a “dazzling” gold surface described by the M.I.T. scientists was found to be made of tumbaga alloy that is forty percent (40%) gold, forty-eight percent (48%) silver and twelve percent (12%) copper. Some of the tumbaga alloys that appear as “gleaming gold sheet metal” contain only twelve percent (12%) gold.

          The use of a combination of metals in Pre-Columbian metallurgy to give the appearance of gold to objects stronger, lighter and more rigid than gold is of interest in our exploration of the possible weight of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

          Gold weighs nineteen and three tenths (19.3) times as much as water, the reference substance in determining specific gravities . Silver, however, weighs only ten and five tenths (10.5) times as much as water. That is just a little over half as much as gold weighs. Copper weighs eight and ninety-two hundredths (8.92) times as much as water, and is, therefore, less than half as heavy as gold. Both silver and copper are more rigid than gold and would provide a lighter, firmer core for the softer gold surface on which inscriptions could be carved.

          Plates made of one of these alloys would have the appearance of gold and might well be referred to as “gold” just as I refer to a necklace of mine as “gold” when I am well aware that it has little, if any , gold in it.

          When I test my necklace to see if it is pure gold, I place it in a measured amount of water. It displaces about  ten milliliters (two teaspoons) of water weighing approximately nine and five tenths(9.5) grams. Gold weighs nineteen and three tenths (19.3) times as much as water. If the necklace was made of pure gold, it would weigh about one hundred eighty three and thirty five hundredths (183. 35) grams. Actually it weighs only sixty two (62) grams. So I know it is not made of pure gold, but I call it “gold” in contrast to the silver, glass, enamelled wire and plastic jewelry that I sometimes wear.

          There is a concurrence of information that makes it apparent that the plates of the Book of Mormon were not made of pure gold. Nephi, as we have already noted, says he had gold, silver and copper when he made his plates of ore. Mormon says simply that he made plates on which he abridged the record of his people with his own hands. ( See III Nephi 2:94-95) Moroni says he did not have enough room on the plates his father had made to write all that he would have liked to have written and had no ore with which to make more. ( see Mormon 4:6) This was at the time of the destruction of the Nephites about four hundred years after Christ’s birth.

          Apparently Moroni found either more ore or more plates, for he later abridged the accound which the prophet Ether had written on plates that Mosiah described as “Pure gold” ( Mosiah 5:64), and he added more of his won counsel and history. However, he spoke only of needing ore fo plates, not necessarily gold.

          It is interesting to note that Mormon and Moroni worked with the records during the period in which depletion gilding was chiefly developed. To make plates by this method required principally ore, fire and a strong arm with a hammer.

          If , then , these Book of Mormon prophets used tumbaga with depletion gilding or used other methods found to have been used by early artisans to make the plates on which they inscribed their records, those plates would have weighed much less than the two hundred pounds that a solid block of gold the size that Joseph Smith, Jr. estimated the plates to be would have weighed.

          Heather Lechtman and her associates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Research on Archaeological Materials reported that some of the Pre-Columbian copper-gold alloys they analyzed contained “as little as twelve percent(12%) gold by weight.’ (See the Scientific American, June 1984, Page 60) In that proportion, a solid block of metal the size of the plates would weigh approximately ninety-eight and nine tenths (98.9) pounds.

          The largest proportion of gold reported by Lechtman and her associates in their article was forty percent (40%)  gold combined with forty eight percent (48%) silver and twelve percent (12%)  copper . In these proportions,such a solid block of metal would weigh about one hundred twenty nine and eight tenths (129.8) pounds.

          The plates, however, were not a solid block of metal. They were separate sheets held together with rings . Joseph Smith, Jr. described the leaves as “not quite as thick as common tin” in the previously cited Wentworth letter . Martin Harris thought they were a little thicker than tin. ( See RLDS Church History,Vol. 1, Pg 52.)David Whitmer said they were as thick as parchment. ( see  RLDS Church History, Vol 4, Pg. 362.) Emma Smith recalled that they were like thick paper.(RLDS Church History, Vol. 3, Pg. 356). Whatever their thickness, being separate leaves with carved inscriptions on them would further reduce their density.

          To illustrate, one may take a specific number of sheets of metal, eg. aluminum foil. Divide them into equal piles. Leave one set tightly pressed together, but separate the other sheets and write on them. Now compare the volume of the two piles.

          Although it is not possible for us to know exactly how much space there was between the engraved sheets, we know that the space between the leaves and around the characters would have reduced the weight significantly. Read H. Putnam, whom Mr. John W. Welch of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies , characterized as a metallurgist-blacksmith in a private communication, addressed the subject in an article printed in the Improvement Era, Vol. 69, Sept. 1966, Pg. 788-799. Under the  title, “Were the Golden Plates Made of Tumbaga?”Mr. Putnam actually experimented with inscriptions on metal plates and estimates that the space would “reduce the weight to probably less than 50% of the solid block.” His estimate of the total weight considering the possible alloys that he described is between fifty three ( 53)  and eight- six (86) pounds.

          If we assume that the space reduced the weight by only one third using the alloys described by the M.I.T. scientists, the weight of the plates would have been approximately sixty-six (66)  pounds if tumbaga carrying twelve percent (12%) gold was used, eight-six (86) pounds if the proportion of gold was forty percent (40%) . If, however, Mr. Putnam’s estimate of fifty percent (50%) reduction is applied to the alloys, the approximate weight of the plates would be forty nine and a half (49.5)  pounds for tumbaga  carrying twelve percent (12%) gold, sixty four and nine tenths (64.9) pounds if the alloy was forty percent (40%) gold.

          As we were discussing these possible weights of the plates, our son Steven again offered a suggestion . He directed me to a sermon that William Smith, brother of the  prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. , preached at Beloit, Iowa in 1884. The sermon was reported by C.F. Butterworth in the Saint’s Herald, Vol. 31, Pg. 644.

          Although William was never permitted to see the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated as the eleven witnesses saw them, he, like those witnesses, did helf ( lift) them and he felt of them through their covering. He, like the witnesses, declared that they were not a solid block of wood or stone, as some had charged, but were separate leaves weighing more than a stone of their size, and much more than wood would have weighed. He even ventured to suppose that they were made of gold and copper. When asked directly how much they weighed, William is reported to have replied, “As near as I could tell , , about sixty (60) pounds. “

          Martin Harris is reported to have estimated the weight of the plates between forty (40) and fifty (50) pounds according to the Foundation For Ancient Research and Mormon Studies Update, Oct. 1984, revised February 1985. The title of the article is “The Golden Plates” and it references Tiffany’s Monthly, Vol, 2, 1859, Pg. 165-166.

          Although at this late date we have no way of knowing the exact weight of the pla