This article was printed in booklet form in 1979 by Loyn Blacker. His granddaughter, Kelsey Levanger Nunnery transcribed it into a word processor as part of her Young Womens Personal Progress program.
Miracles, Near Miracles and Other Faith Promoting Incidents in My Life
Each of us has but to look back over his life to see wherein the hand of the Lord has protected us from danger or, otherwise, has played an important part in bringing us to the present. At the time of the event we pay little or no attention to its full significance nor to the fact that there might be an influence attending or directing us. It usually is only after events happen that we see meaning to the way the event turned out.
Many of such remarkable instances which have occurred to me have been of a faith promoting nature and I am impressed to record a few of them which come to mind in the hope that the good that I see in them may be shared by my children and grandchildren. After all, these are they whom I love most of all and whom I desire to be of help. My loving companion and I have no other goal than to be faithful to our Father in Heaven and to have our descendants be superior to us in this regard. To assist them to be aware that this is the whole purpose of life and that, along with one's personal efforts, there are actually outside influences provided each of us which will assist us if we are willing to recognize them. This is the purpose of my relating my own experiences.
Among the experiences which I will share are some which will appear as miracles, or near miracles, which have occurred in the preservation of my life or which have pointed the ways which would be to my good if I would heed the prompting.
Despite the fact that it has always been my general nature to be desirous of being close to the Lord and to be faithful in what He would have me do I am the first to admit that I am, and have always been, all too human throughout my life. I have, too often, succumbed to the humanness, which is such a part of me. Certainly, repentance has been of second nature to me and, of all the principles of the Gospel, I have appreciated it most for without it none of us would have hope.
Despite unworthiness to the contrary, I have been exceedingly blessed and have had my faith strengthened by multiple experiences. In enumerating them they will be, for the most part, in the sequence of their happening rather than in my estimation of their importance to me. In an instance or two I shall include experiences of others who have been very close such as my parents or other members of my family.
What I here record will be very much of a personal nature and I do it without any intent of boasting. I am extremely humble in relating them for they are personal experiences some of which are sacred to me and because they have been helpful to me I share them in the hopes they will be helpful to others.
“Lightning Strikes-A Near Miss”
One of the first faith promoting experiences I had occurred on a hot summer afternoon in August of 1910 at our farm home two miles north of Afton, Wyoming. My father was binding grain some two miles away near the town of Afton and Mother was at home with her three boys, LeRoy five months past six years of age, our baby brother, Fred, four months old and me, their only red head who was four months from being three years of age. A brother, Theodore, between Roy and me, had passed away four and one half months prior to my birth.
Mother had just put Fred, the baby, on one of the beds in the only bedroom of the two-room log house for his afternoon nap. To keep the house as quiet as possible in assisting her in getting the baby to sleep she sent Roy and me to the barns and stables to gather a few eggs which she needed for mixing a cake for the next day which was Sunday. In our home preparations, for the Sabbath were made on the day before and such was the case in this instance.
Back in 1910 every farm had a few chickens which, during the summer months, were
not confined to a chicken pen but which were left to saunter wherever they wished
to go in the barnyard and corrals and even into the nearby fields. It was not
unusual for the hens to lay their eggs in and around the hay stacks, the barns
where there may have been dry leaves or straw, particularly under the mangers
and oft times hens would steal their way out among the weeds and tall grass.
This occurred, particularly, with hens when they became inclined to hide their
eggs until a nest was full with eight, ten, or a dozen eggs and then the hen
broodyand start sitting on the eggs which, after twenty-one days would produce
a batch of little chickens.
One of the challenges of those who lived on a farm was to outguess where the hens would lay each day and gather the eggs for table use. It was to the barns and haystacks that Roy and I sauntered that warm Saturday afternoon and after spending the time sufficient to gather a few eggs in the small lard bucket which was carried by Roy, with me at his side, we walked back up the path toward the house. In the meantime Mother, having gotten Fred to sleep was in the process of scrubbing the kitchen floor while on her knees with a pail of water at her side and a scrubbing brush in her hand. At the moment she was finishing the floor in the open doorway when, from a dark cloud which was crossing the hot afternoon sky, a bolt of lightning streaked directly toward the earth. There was a deafening clap of thunder which literally shook the place and, almost instantly, there was fire shooting from the gable end of the log house which was our home.
Mother was momentarily stunned by the lightning but soon realize what had happened. She stood to her feet and, from the doorway, motioned to Roy and me to stay back for, by now, we were approaching near to the doorway. Mother reached into the bedroom where the baby lay sleeping and found, to her great concern, that the fire from the ceiling of the room had already lighted the sawdust which was used above the ceiling as insulation and the burning sawdust was falling onto the bed where the baby was sleeping. A burning ember had already fallen onto his forehead and burned him sufficiently that the scar has remained in the center of his forehead to this day some sixty-five years later.
As Roy and I were walking side by side to the house our family dog was between us. The dog was instantly killed but neither Roy nor I were hurt. For Roy and me to have been within arm's length of the dog and for us not to be harmed while the dog was killed has been a testimony to us that we had a mission ahead and that we were preserved for a future purpose. Also, the fact that Mother and Fred were spared from a burning death was not by chance.
A Nail Thru My Hand
During the summer of 1911, a year following the burning of our log home, Dad and Mother were having their new home built near the site of the old house. Undoubtedly there yet remained debris from the old house and, which is more likely, there were boards and clutter left by the carpenters piled in the back yard and in some of these boards there were nails which were becoming rusty.
One day, as children do-I was then four years of age, going onto five-I was walking about the yard, probably on the pile of boards and I fell onto one in which a nail had been left. I accidentally tripped and fell directly onto a board with a nail. Though I was yet small the weight of my body caused the fall to be of such force that the nail entered the palm of my hand and protruded thru the flesh of the hand, and between the bones, until its point was visible on the back of my hand. While this was but a childlike accident, I have always felt that the healing of such a wound caused by a rusty nail-and with no ill effects-was a blessing.
A Pan of Scalding Water
Another childhood accident occurred after the family moved into the new house which, while the exact date is not recalled, must have occurred when I was about five years of age.
This was long before homes were modernized with hot and cold water and, whenever hot water was needed it had to be heated on the wood cook stove. On one occasion when Mother was heating water in a pan and after it had 'come to a boil' as we used to term water which had reached the boiling point, I curiously wished to see what was 'cooking'. Being small due to my years I could not readily see and rather than push a chair to the stove and climb upon it in order to gain height, I reached up to pull the pan down for a view of what was going on in the pan.
Naturally, I badly burned my hand but, in the process, pulled the pan of boiling water onto me. The brunt of damage came to my face for it was my face which made first contact with the boiling water. My face was quite badly burned, especially in and about my left eye. For many years my eyelid over my left eye carried a quite noticeable scar and even today, more than sixty years later there is a discernible trace of the scar. There was a great possibility that the eye could have been badly burned even under or thru the thin protection of the eyelid. I have always been grateful the accident did not prove to be more serious.
An Audible Voice - Where's The Boy?
The faith-promoting incident did not deal directly with me other than that I may have been an example to what was being attempted, but the incident had to do with my father and brother, Fred.
As normal kids, we were always on the lookout for thrills and excitement and often, when around a regular four wheeled buggy or wagon had learned of a certain excitement resulting from standing between the spokes of the back wheels-they were safer than the front wheels-and to take hold of the spokes toward the top of the wheel and place our heads on the opposite side of the wheel from where the feet were placed. It was necessary to keep the head between the spokes and not so far into the wheel that there would be danger of the head being crushed by the standard just inward of the spokes. Unless one was of the right height there was danger of the head slipping too far between the spokes and being crushed as the wheel turned around. It was great sport to turn head over feet and feet over head as the horses would pull the wagon.
At this late date so many years since we did such a foolish prank, I do not recall whether our parents knew we were doing it. I can't help but think they must have caught us at it at one time or another. If they did, I'm sure we must have been warned against doing such a thing for it was extremely dangerous unless it was done right and the head kept from protruding too far between the spokes.
On this particular occasion, Dad was hauling hay by the only method we had at the time. After the hay was mowed it was raked into the windrows by the hand dump-rake and then the windrow of hay was formed into separate small piles of hay each of which would be pitched onto the hay wagon by hand and to be hauled to the barn or stack.
On this occasion Dad was near the house pitching the piles of hay on either side of the wagon and as he finished the hay that was to the side of the wagon, he would have the horses pull the wagon ahead to additional hay shocks. Under these conditions it was quite ideal for us kids to ride around on the wheels in the fashion described for the wheels would only make a revolution or two before they came to a stop for pitching more hay onto the wagon.
As Dad finished pitching the hay near the wagon-none of us kids were then large enough to handle the hay from the ground to the rack, however, it is more likely on this particular occasion that Roy and, possible I, were on the load of hay 'tromping' the hay. This much I well remember that were any of us large enough to work we would be doing it. Dad saw we were at work if we were large enough to do it.
The following story has always been related by Dad. Personally, I do not remember the incident but there is no question of its reality.
Dad spoke to the horses to move ahead. As they tightened the tugs and the wheels
started to turn Dad reports:
When I heard a voice as plainly as though it were spoken by someone standing
by my side, 'Where's the boy?'Dad looked about to the horses and they stopped.
Dad walked to the other side of the wagon and sure enough, there was Fred with
his feet on either side of a spoke on the felly of the wheel but due to his
lack of height his head could not reach the felly on the top of the wheel but,
instead, his head was far enough thru the wheel that had it turned another two
or three inches his head would have been crushed. His life was saved by Dad
hearing and heeding the warning of the voice which was audible to him.
Kicked By Whitie
During the summer of about 1912 or 1913 the entire family, in our white-top buggy pulled by Prince and Whitie our team of white horses, took a trip to St. Charles, Idaho to visit Mother's Aunt Sarah Allred. One day while there I was kicked in my stomach or abdomen and apparently had the wind knocked out of me. There were no ill affects that I remember, however, I don't remember it nor how I got into the house excepting I well remember waking up in the middle of the afternoon on Aunt Sarah's bed.
A Fall From My Pony
When I was about seven or eight years of age which would have been about 1914 or 1915 the old horse driven threshing machine arrived at our place to thresh our grain which had been hauled in and stacked. It arrived somewhere around the middle of the afternoon for when we arrived home from school it hadn't been completely set up for threshing.
Upon arriving home Father asked me to jump on our pony and ride a mile and a quarter to Uncle Hyrum's home to get as many grain sacks as I could bring back. They were needed for the men to carry the grain to the granary where they would empty the sack and return for another sack full. I remember leaving home and remember the horse, less than a quarter mile from home, stumbling and I recall starting to fall from her back.
I did not remember another thing until I awoke in our bedroom an hour or more later. How I returned home I do not know nor can I figure an answer to the situation unless I was knocked out completely. The folk said I returned on my own power and tied the horse to the fence at the house. They often questioned me about it but I was, and am to this day, serious in my claim that I never remembered a thing as to what transpired after I started falling from the back of the pony.
Their Last Dollar and It to the Church
The following incident was witnessed by me although it had mainly to do with my parents. I bear witness of its truthfulness for I was then thirteen years of age and sufficiently old to have recognized what transpired.
We had moved to Rupert, Idaho from Afton, Wyoming after the folk had sold our farm in Wyoming and had purchased a forty-acre farm south of Rupert in the fall of 1919. The move had been finalized by New Year's Day of 1920 on which day Dad and my brother, Roy, arrived by rail with the family's belongs. After farming for a year farm prices dropped to where crops were hardly worth their digging and it became impossible for the payment on the farm to be made. The farm was purchased for $17,000 with six thousand of it having been paid down at time of purchase. Within two years it was seen that the farm was not then worth the remaining $11,000 owed and the folk concluded that there was no choice other than to turn the farm back to its former owner.
With a family of eight children at the time it became necessary for Dad to find employment to provide additional means to keep the family. During the winter months he was employed by a Potato Cooperative organization locally formed in order to assist the farmers to dispose of their previous summer's potato crop for which there was little or no market. He was employed as a foreman of a potato sorting crew.
As the summer came on in 1922 there was no work for him. Naturally the forty acres were taken care of for the owner of the farm had leased the farm to us for the crop year of the summer of 1922. Occasionally, when a neighbor needed help Dad would go thus picking up a day's work here and a day's work there but most neighbors were in somewhat the same situation and little money changed hands for people were getting along the best they could without hiring.
It so happened that the Rupert 1st ward to which we belonged had been formed the year previous before the deepest of the depression which followed World War I had been reached and a church building was under construction. By the summer of 1922 it was nearing completion but had become a real hardship to the members of the ward. Money, by way of donations from the members, was hard to come by. It became a period of extreme sacrifice and it remained for the few to give all they could spare and more.
My folk had been as liberal as possible with the building assessment and they paid and then paid again and often went without in order to assist. It must have been the last of August or early in September of 1922 while attending sacrament meeting in the new building, but before it was completely furnished that a final drive was made by the ward authorities to raise money for additional chairs which were needed to seat members as they attended meetings. There was a segment of the ward membership felt that heads of families with larger families should contribute more than small families and while this sentiment was, by no means the majority, the very fact that the feeling existed made sensitive people with larger family groups to become the more determined that they would find some way to contribute their proportionate share. Such was the feeling of our parents.
Conditions at home were about at their worst so far as money was concerned. The crops had not had time to be ready for harvesting. Mother was making butter from the two or three cows we owned. This was traded to Bishop Astle of the Rupert 2nd ward who owned a little grocery store about where the J.C. Penney store is now located (on the south side of the square). I remember Dad and Mother talking following their return home after the sacrament meeting mentioned above where the call for additional money was made. They had given to the bishop the last dollar they had.
The next morning, as the family kneeled at the breakfast table Dad offered the prayer and humbly called the Lord's attention that help was needed, that we were in dire circumstances and pleaded that some way would be opened up that he would be able to earn a dollar or two for the needs of his family. The folk had been faithful in their Church assignments and in their membership obligations and were confident help would come.
Following the prayer, we ate breakfast consisting of things from the garden and milk from the cows and eggs from the chickens. There had been no danger of hunger for we were on some land and the folk were industrious and food was available. Clothing and some supplies had to be purchased and bills, such as the utilities had to be paid. There wasn't money enough to go around. A year before the family car had been driven into the garage in the back yard and had been jacked up to keep the tires from rotting. Our only transportation was by foot or else hitching the team to the big beet wagon when something had to be brought home from town, too heavy to carry, or when the family of little ones and Mother went places such as to Church on Sundays.
The family's trust was in the Lord. Before we got up from the table that Monday morning the telephone rang. Our neighbor about a mile away, Mr. Doud, was needing a man to assist in putting corn ensilage into his silo. Either he had been disappointed in some help or hadn't anticipated in advance, the need for a man. He was most happy to find that Dad was able to assist him. The work lasted for a few days and gave our family relief.
The depression of 1921, '22 and '23, following World War I was far worse than the Depression of the 1930s so far as our family was concerned.
However, so far as our parents were concerned their poverty of those years never hindered their faithfulness to their Church responsibilities.
My First Experience in the Temple
In the spring of 1924 we moved from the forty- acre farm, which we were subsequently renting, to an eighty- acre farm three miles west of Rupert which was owned by the Amalgamated Sugar Company. Thus we moved from the Rupert 1st ward into the Rupert 2nd ward.
Either in the summer of 1924 or 1925-I prefer to think it was the latter-the two Rupert wards sponsored a baptismal excursion to the Logan temple to which approximately 20 young people went for baptismal work for the dead. It was my privilege to participate.
Brother Joseph S. Bailey owned and operated a large 'White' truck-the make rather than the color-which he used to deliver mail from the Rupert post office to Malta and other towns some thirty to thirty- five miles south of Rupert. The truck, while having a top over its entirety, had rolled-down curtains such as the white top buggies of the day. The curtains could be rolled up to make a relatively open-air conveyance and it was used that way on this particular trip for the weather was good. Along with Brother Bailey carrying the mail he, also, carried passengers for there were five or six portable seats which could be clasped into position or they could be removed at will. Each seat was wide enough to hold four passengers.
With the bus full of us boys and girls we left Rupert under the supervision of Brother Bailey who also was the driver. We were all teenagers but even with kids of that age we were living in a day when discipline was not a problem. I do no recall a single incident of unruliness during the entire trip. This was before the present day of group recommends and each had his individual recommend such as we oldsters use today for endowment work. The recommends did specify baptismal work only.
I don't know that I was aware as to how a recommend affected others of the group
but I shall never forget the value I placed on that piece of paper. It was sacred
to me. I guarded it with every care I could possibly give it and handled it
and delivered it to the brother at the temple without it ever having a fold
or crease in it. It was regular certificate-size-about
5 by 8. I treated it as though it were my passport to the Celestial Kingdom.
The highways of those days were gravel only and, for the most part, were what
washboardy. Highway grading equipment was not plentiful enough to keep smooth
the long distances. The trip was a two-day trip each way and the first day took
us from Rupert to the public park in McCammon south of Pocatello. The highway
thru Strevell and Snowille had not been made thus it was necessary to go thru
Pocatello. Each of us, boys and girls, had a blanket or two for sleeping on
the ground. The girls were assigned one area in the park and the boys another.
The second day took us to Logan where we camped on the grounds of the tabernacle
in the center of town. Our appointment at the temple was relatively early in
the morning, perhaps about 8 o'clock.
So long as I live, I shall never forget my excitement of the morning we were to be at the temple. In our home and in my church experience I had been taught of the sacredness of the temple. To me I had visualized it as a place next to heaven-a place where the Lord's spirit is in abundance and actually a place where the Lord sometimes visits in person. In the excitement of the morning I forgot to take my recommend with me and the group got part way up the hill toward the temple when I thought of my recommend back in my suitcase in the truck by the tabernacle. I ran back as fast as I could and did catch the group just as they were finishing turning their recommends to the brother at the door of the temple. As stated earlier, I kept the recommend flat without a crease in it and was somewhat surprised, and disappointed a little, when I noticed that most of the others of the group had folded their recommends. When I presented mine without a crease it brought forth a congratulatory comment from the brother at the desk.
The time had come-I stepped into the temple. I shall never be able to fully express my feelings. I was in a holy temple-the first such experience in my life. We were led by some brethren and sisters, dressed in white, to the room known as the chapel where we were asked to be seated. At the time the benches were all painted white and the furnishings, otherwise, such as draperies and the pulpit and upholstered chairs at the front were rich looking and beautiful. Certainly, in my experience I had never been in a place so richly adorned. Our humble home conditions were as the telestial kingdom as compared to the celestial. I did not question the simple elaborateness-this was the Lord's house and so it should be.
President Joseph Shepard welcomed us to the temple. Prayer was offered following
a song by all present which, because of its effect on me at that time, has been
one of my favorite hymn ever since,
Ere You Left Your Room This Morning, Did You Think To Pray. Never have I
been nearer to heaven-the service was beautiful. President Shepard spoke relative
to the importance of the work we were about to do and what a privilege it was
for us to be able to do, vicariously, that which was so important for others
who could not do it for themselves.
I didn't want to leave when the service was completed. I remember so well how, as we stood to walk out of the room, I looked at and felt the wood in the seats and the doors and actually thought to myself how I envied the pieces of furniture-the very wood of which they were made-for such inanimate objects never had to leave that sacred place but would be there should, perchance, the Savior make a personal appearance in His house. I think of all my mortal experiences I have never felt so exalted as that morning in the Logan Temple. I have been to the temple hundreds of times since that morning and have been impressed each time I have attended but my first temple experience has never been equaled as to the closeness of the Spirit.
We were each baptized for twenty individuals and whether our effort were ever accepted by those for whom we represented we do not know but the good that came to each of us far more repaid us for our efforts than one can imagine.
At What Period in You Life Were You Closest to Heaven?
One morning in a priesthood class the instructor asked a pointed question. He
At what period in your life were you closest to heaven?An answer to the
question was with me by the time his question had been spoken. My answer, so
some stated was unusual but it was true. I felt I was most worth when I was
in my mid teens-sixteen, seventeen and eighteen years of age. Most other of
the group could hardly feature a kid of that age being as prepared as later
in one's life. I have thought much about the question and my answer but I still
feel those years to be the golden years of my life so far as being close to
the Lord. The temple experience in Logan was but one example.
Another example is one I have rarely mentioned but which has been sacred to me all the years following. Regardless what others may think the experiences were as real as anything can be.
I often had my thoughts on the Church and the gospel and what the Savior did for us through His atonement. I have always had a burning testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. It has appealed to me and I have been always grateful for it. During the teen years of which I have mentioned I was close to the Lord and my mind was often thinking of my position. I never mentioned my feelings to others, even those of my family, but kept them to myself. I prayed often in my heart and sincerely in my private prayers and felt the Spirit close to me. At periods during these years, particularly when about seventeen, I had the upstairs' bedroom on the southeast and I often went to bed early to pray and then lay in bed, awake, to listen to the music of heavenly choirs. I am aware this does not sound realistic to you to whom I am relating these experiences but it is true. Whether it was real or in my imagination I don't know but it sounded real and the music was beautiful. Time and time again I lay in bed with my eyes closed but very much awake and listened to angels singing.
Yes, again to the class instructor of that priesthood class. As I look back on my life, I feel my Judgement Day would have been far better for me had I been called to answer for myself when I was yet a teenager.
A Narrow Escape from A Horse Kick
On one occasion I took the team of horses and the old heavy beet rack to the sugar factory to get a load of beet pulp for the cows. As usual I drove down into the pulp silo at the factory and loaded the wet pulp onto the wagon by scoop shovel. For some reason, while shoveling near our horse, Star, he kicked at me. Apparently I must have unintentionally touched him with the handle of the scoop shovel. Most fortunate for me he missed me but his left hind foot caught the bib of my blue denim overalls and ripped the suspender buttons off and actually tore the overall almost completely off my body. The leg fabric was torn open almost to the bottom of the overall. Had his foot been but a fraction of an inch closer to my chest I would have been hurt seriously. I have always considered my guardian angel was close by that day.
Mother Conquering the Tea Habit
As experience which has been sacred and very dear to me actually transpired, not to me personally but, to my mother at the time of leaving for my mission and while serving it to the British Mission in 1928 and 1929. Mother has long since been gone-28 years ago-but I am sure she will not mind if I relate the experience.Mother's parents were members of the Church but her father was not active. So far as I know, tea was a household beverage in their home. In defense of their position I might state that Grandma Wilkes ran a boarding house which was much like a hotel. Other than rooms for rent they also served meals for those staying at their home and this called for tea and coffee to be available to those who wished them. They were catering to the public.
While I was a child Mother always had her teapot on the stove and she regularly used it, particularly a cup of tea for breakfast. She often stated that she didn't think she could live without it but knew in her heart that she shouldn't and that the Church taught not to use it.
At the time I received my call to my mission she became very much worried. For some reason or another she feared the oceans. Why, I do not know but she had real concern for me for having to cross the Atlantic Ocean on ship. She didn't want one of her family to do it but she recognized the fact that in order to serve my mission a crossing was necessary. At the time I left for my mission I, perhaps, did not fully realize her struggle in this regard. It was not until after my return that she told me of the following experience.
She explained to me that the morning I left home-Dad went with me to Salt Lake City but Mother remained at home with the family-she went into her bedroom weeping because of my leaving and kneeled at her bed-side and pleaded with the Lord to protect me and, she said, she openly confessed to the Lord of her habit as a tea drinker and she offered a covenant with the Lord that should He watch over her son across the ocean and back that she would never use tea again.
As she related this experience to me, she proudly said that she kept her promise and that from that moment on she never took tea to her lips. Perhaps, even now, I do not realize the full extent of her craving for it but she was determined and by the time I had safely returned her yearning for it had ceased. Since I returned home, I lived in her home for three or four years and was often in her home after that and I am sure she never used it again. I feel most humble and, certainly, appreciative for the love that Mother had for us, her children. She was a good woman, a noble soul, and no one has ever had a better mother.
A Healing Experience in Belfast, Ireland
While serving as a missionary in Ireland in the summer of 1928 my companion and I returned to the home of Sister McCaughrin who lived on York Street where we were temporarily staying. We were late returning from the home of Brother James Chambers who was preparing to leave Ireland for Canada and the branch was having a farewell party for him.
After arriving at Sister McCaughrin's home we went upstairs to her living quarters. There were shops on the lower floor level. I was impressed to return downstairs to see if, perhaps, there may be some mail in the mailbox. I found a note from one of the branch members, Brother Joseph Ditty, who stated that a sister of the branch, Sister Hagan, was seriously ill at her home and they wondered if we would go to administer to her as soon as possible.
It was then after midnight and the trams had stopped running for the night. The Haggans lived a considerable distance, as I remember the streets, on Shankhill Road probably a couple miles by country measurements but, of course, all within a crowded city. We had no choice but to walk. We were tempted to wait until morning but were not at ease with that decision so we walked.
When we finally got to the Hagan home there was still a light in the little upstairs window of their bedroom. We knocked on the door and Brother Hagan came downstairs and let us in.
Elder Brough anointed her with oil we had with us and I sealed the anointing. This is probably the one outstanding instance in my experience of administering to people when I fully knew of the seriousness of the illness and was tempted to refrain from making a promise to recovery but I could not restrain myself. I promised her that she would recover. I worried greatly after making the promise, not only at the time but also for days and weeks after.
While we knew she was extremely sick we didn't know fully her problem nor did they. Two or three days later we visited her at the hospital where they had later taken her-what they called a fever hospital. I stated that we visited her but actually such was our intention but no one was permitted to her room. We remained very much concerned and we remembered her in our prayers for many days.
Sister Hagan eventually recovered and after I returned home from my mission in 1930 I received a letter from Brother Hagan and he bore his testimony that his wife was then alive and quite well and that they had attributed her recovery to the faith and blessing given to her the night we were called to administer to her.
Mormon Missionaries Not Welcomed to Ballymena
The first three months of my mission were served in the district office of the Ulster District in Belfast, Ireland. Due to the advisability to have a missionary have some actual missionary work I was assigned as senior companion to Elder Brough who left the Mission Home in Salt Lake City the same time as I. We were called to leave Belfast and go to a city of eight to ten thousand people some forty to fifty miles north of Belfast to a place called Ballymena.On Monday morning, May 7, as was customary we went to the Belfast police station to check out of Belfast. Foreigners were obliged to report every move. That morning we each purchased a bicycle from a shop in downtown Belfast and rode them to a Greyhound bus station from where we shipped them to Ballymena. We purchased a ticket and left at 1:30 in the afternoon. Arriving in Ballymena at about 3 o'clock we left our bicycles and luggage at the bus station and went out in search of lodging - a home where we could get meals and have a room for temporary headquarters from which to work. We were quite fortunate in locating a place which, by a sign placed in the front window of the home, stated the owners were looking for roomers. As we had been instructed as mission rules, we advised the lady we were Mormons and were coming to the town for an indefinite period, maybe for the entire summer. The fact that we were Mormons made no difference to her and so we returned to the bus depot and took our bags and bicycles to our new place which was to be our abode.
It was, by then, about four o'clock in the afternoon of a clear spring day and we concluded we would go for a walk to get acquainted with the layout of the town. We walked for quite a distance going into the beautiful surrounding countryside. We had arranged with our new landlady to be back by about six o'clock for 'tea', a light evening meal.
When we returned, we received the disappointing surprise that the occupants of the house had talked the matter over of Mormons staying in their home and they decided not to accept us.
We were on the street again looking for another place to stay. As we had taken the long walk, we noticed a number of cards in windows soliciting boarders so we went on to some of these. We stopped at three or four places but due to the fact that we were Mormons we were refused. At one place we again got in and moved to the room but were not there long enough to even get settled when again, we were told the homeowners had changed their mind.
It was now beginning to get late in the evening and we were becoming very much concerned. All the time we were praying in our minds and hearts for a place to stay. At nine o'clock in the evening, and it was now getting dark, we concluded that the best thing for us to do would now go to a hotel located downtown and stay for the night and start over again the next morning looking for a lodge.
Perhaps we had taken too literally the instruction to inform people that we were Mormon missionaries. We soon learned that our hindsight was better than our foresight and that 'what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve'. After registering in-we didn't know whether we would be at the hotel room more than the one night and it was customary to pay when leaving the hotel-we passed the good new on to the proprietor that we were Mormon missionaries and he didn't hesitate to inform us there would be no room for us at his hotel.
Into the dark twilight of the night we left with no place to go and, believe me, this time we had a feeling of great dependency on the Lord. There was no place to kneel and pray but we paused and each said a silent prayer for help.
We remembered seeing a sign of a boarding house down the street which was not in the best environment. It was off the main street from where the hotel was located-somewhat in an environment one would call 'skid row.' We had no choice. This time we broke mission rules and didn't tell who we were and found, upon inquiry there was a room available to us. The lady, a Mrs. Adams, led us up a quite steep unventilated stairway into a room which had appeared to have been closed for some time. The place was dusty and otherwise quite uninviting but we were able to get off the street for the night. We had had a big day and were very tired and as Mrs. Adams left the room we dropped to our knees at the side of the bed and thanked the Lord for the place to stay. We were a couple very grateful missionaries that night.
After we had aired the room out things looked and smelled much better and we stayed at that place for about a week. When we started tracting the next morning we found that Mormons were not welcomed by most of the people. On several instances, doors were slammed in our faces. One lady, not using the best language she could select, said we would be driven out of the town before night. She threatened that if she had a gun, she would not hesitate shooting us. An older man with a cane threatened to strike me with it and actually raised it but he stopped before doing so.Within two or three days, across the little river that runs thru town, we found a place on Railway Terrace in which a family by the name of Richmond lived. They were a younger couple with two little children. The fact that we were Mormons didn't make any difference to them and they welcomed us to a room in their home where we lived until it was necessary to leave Ballymena.
Taken To Police Barracks For Protection
My companion, Elder Brough, and I labored in Ballymena for approximately a month and on Saturday, June 30th, 1928 at about five o'clock in the afternoon we went downtown to hold our third street meeting. We had held two preciously on Saturday afternoons and so, because they were quite successful, suspected another one would be also.
We had secured permission from the police and again held this meeting in the
same location-a junction where four or five streets joined. Elder Brough and
I went to a grocery store and asked to again borrow an orange crate. This we
used to stand on so we would be a little higher than the listeners about us.
We always sang a song to attract attention at the commencement of the meeting.
Neither of us were singers but we sang
Beautiful Zion Built Aboveon this particular occasion.
We were pleased with the attendance-so many more than the previous meetings.
I don't recall the subject Elder Brough used but remember well my subject, The
Book of Mormon. In concluding my talk, I read from Nephi wherein Nephi predicted
what people of the future would say relative to having more than one Bible.
A Bible, a Bible, we have a Bibleetc. I was speaking very plainly to the
group and detected a restlessness among some which started as though someone
had given a signal to disrupt us. The people started to crowd us and then rushed
us trampling over our brief cases and literature until they crowded me off the
box. They grabbed us and started pushing and hitting us as though they were
intending to take us somewhere.
Scuffling as we did to get our brief cases and literature, our hats were knocked off and went under feet and were trampled upon. About this time four or five police pushed their way to us forcing our attackers back by raising their billy clubs as though they intended to use them against the angry crowd indicating they were there to protect us. The police, after gaining control, warned the crowd to disburse which was quite reluctantly done.
Under the protection of the police we gathered our belongings and returned the orange crate to the store from where we had borrowed it. The crowd still remained yelling and warning us and continued to threaten us. We estimated there were three to four hundred people in the group. The police recommended that we go with them to the police station until the crowd dissipated and it would be safe for us to return home.
As was customary, the police were large, well proportioned men and had to be six feet in height to serve as a policeman.
We were asked to follow two of them and two others followed us, the six of us walking up the sidewalk two by two. As we were proceeding up the walk a lady slipped between the two rear policemen and hit me over the head with her umbrella again crushing my bowler. This delighted the crowd and there was laughing and screaming at us for her deed.
We went a couple blocks to the police barracks where we went in and visited with the police for an hour or two. They apologized for their townspeople and could see no reason why missionaries had to be treated that way. We actually remained at the barracks until dusk when they felt it would be safe for us to return to our lodge across town some five or six blocks. They advised, for our own safety that it might be wise for us to leave the area as soon as we could arrange to do so.
We concluded to take their advice and, at least, return to Belfast to our district headquarters, report the incident and ask for advice. So, the next morning early we walked with part of our luggage to a bus stop where we planned to board a bus headed to Belfast from Portrush. While standing there a car drove up and asked if we wished a ride and that he was heading for Belfast and was alone. We found him to be a government man of some type and he took us the twenty-five to thirty miles to Belfast.
Sundays were always very quiet in Ireland but we arrived in time to attend Sunday
School and, of course, other meetings of the Belfast branch. Monday morning
as we went down the street past the building which housed the city's largest
The Telegraphwe noticed behind the glass display window a placard announcing
an article in the paper and it read:
Mormons Mobbed in Ballymena. Taken To Barracks for Safety
. As we went further downtown, we noticed the newsmen selling papers had
a like copy of the placard-20by 30-on their sandwich board. They were crying aloud the words,
Mormons Mobbed in Ballymena. That afternoon I went to the news office and
secured a copy of the placard which I still have, though, from handling and
by age it is becoming extremely badly worn after these nearly 47 years.
When our District President reported the incident to President Widtsoe, our mission president, President Widtsoe asked by letter that I write up a complete account of it for the Church Historian's office which I subsequently did. President Widtsoe advised that we not return to Ballymena for regular missionary work.
It was necessary, however, for us to return to get our belongings for we had our bicycles and books and some of our clothing at the Richmond home in Ballymena. We were assigned, some two or three weeks later, to open up the Ballymony area some twenty miles beyond Ballymena and so we took the bus to Ballymena to get our belongings and from thence we rode our bicycles to Ballymony.
In visiting with the Richmond family in whose home we stayed in Ballymena they reported that they had learned, since our leaving, that the mobbing had been planned and that its planning was instigated by a minister in his church the Sunday previous to its happening.
I have always felt very grateful to our Father in Heaven for His protecting care over us. We had worked hard the month we had labored there. We, in spite of the opposition, distributed a number of Books of Mormon and considerable other literature. Perhaps the ministers had occasion to worry. We had no converts, however but did have a number of friends. There were no members of the Church in the area.
As stated, we worked hard and, perhaps, here in the Ballymena area as no other
place in my missionary service did my patriarchal blessing find fulfillment
more wherein my blessing states,
You will go forth in your calling by the same spirit and faith as the sons of
Helaman, putting your trust in your Heavenly Father whose protecting care will
be over you to shield you from evil and from dangers upon land or waters
A Guiding Hand In Meeting My Life's Companion
Probably no other event in my life appeared to have had the hand of the Lord
in leading and directing my life more than that which led to the meeting and
selecting of my life's companion. Literally I consider it a miracle. I think
here I can do no better than quote verbatim that which I wrote in
A Letter to Our Childrenin August of 1970:
Just a comment on your mother's and my life before we ever met: It seems singularly strange that our lives had paralleled each other so closely as they did. Could it have been destiny? By that I mean, is it possible that there had been a type of pre-arrangement such as was suggested earlier? Your mother was born five months and nearly a week following the time of my birth. My birthplace was on our farm home two miles north of Afton while hers was approximately one hundred miles almost directly to the south at Almy, Wyoming. Her mother was born in Derbyshire, England-my father, tho of English ancestry, was born in Wales some fewer than one hundred miles away. Her father was born in Almy, Wyoming-my mother in St. Charles, Idaho some forty miles away.
Your mother and I, as we compare our lives of
pre-meetingyears were most similar in that we went thru grade schools and
graduated from high school on the same night, she from the Kemmerer High School
and I from the Rupert High School- the 26th of May 1926. It seems that we both
were of the home type kids and learned to work on the farms on which we were
raised. Both our homes were unpretentious and our families were home loving
people and we each grew up with religious training and each possessed a deep
desire to be faithful in the Church. In 1928-January-I was called on a mission
and before I returned your mother received her call to go on a two-year mission.
Please keep in mind that neither of us knew of the other.
Upon our return each of us remained at our respective home and lived, before our missions as well as following, as any normal young girl or fellow would. By that I mean that each of us had as a goal to someday settle down with a good companion and have a home of our own. Each of us went with others of our age groups, boys and girls, and naturally, as we became mature, particularly following our missions, became more serious in our search for companions. Knowing my story better than your mothers I can more nearly express my feeling than hers. I never kept company with anyone but good L.D.S. girls and I learned to think a lot of three or four different girls at different times. Following my return from my mission we were in the depression of the early 1930's and it was evident that I did not have the means to be able to settle down, however, I met a fine girl whom I felt was the one for me. Our feelings were mutual and we became engaged with no date set. At about this time I had a physical breakdown due, according to the doctor, to overwork on the farm I was operating pretty much alone. Following the breakdown, I was advised by the doctor that I should think seriously of finding something as an occupation which would be easier than farming. During these years much of the farm work was by hand labor and by horses. At the conclusion of the farm year of 1933, with only a couple hundred dollars to show for the year's effort, I concluded that I should go on to college. Previously to this time I had not thought seriously of going on for a higher education due to our financial situation. Too, during these years there were yet a small percentage of high school graduates who went on to college or university work. My girl friend was very much saddened by my decision but I felt impressed that I must go and she was consoled by my argument that it would be but a couple years until I would be able to get a job teaching school. I had a Model A Ford coupe and with just a few dollars-I purchased the car from the two hundred dollars I mentioned earlier-I had little more than enough to enroll for the winter quarter at Ricks College in December of 1933.Not to be outdone, my girl friend concluded that she would attend the Albion Normal at Albion, Idaho, just some twenty miles south of Rupert. Naturally, we kept in close contact with each other by letters and I drove to Rupert every three or four weeks every weekend to see her and to gather food supplies from home such as vegetables. In order to remain in school it was necessary to obtain work at the school which I did on the PWA government project working for 25 cents an hour. All students, during these years, lived 'off campus' where we batched to save expenses. To make a long story short, but sufficient for this letter, my girl friend and I concluded that it would be cheaper for me to transfer to Albion where I would be able to live at home each weekend. This was much better for my brother Fred had also decided to go on to school following his return from his mission and he, as I now recall, had started at Albion one quarter of schooling prior to my transfer and he and I batched together and then later with another student.
I had seen no girl that I found any interest in while away to Ricks so it was good to be in the same school with the girl I thought very much of. We graduated from Albion in the spring of 1935 and had hopes that we could find a school in which the both of us could teach. Schools were extremely hard to find that year, in fact, but a small percent of the graduating class found a school. We each decided to take a school, if we could get one, wherever we could. She was hired during the early summer but I had far more difficulty and it was not until the first part of September that one was offered me in Hilliard, Wyoming some twenty miles south of Evanston. I didn't hesitate to accept it when it was offered but things weren't working out like we had planned nor as we wanted. Yes, we agreed that it wouldn't be too long. Each of us could teach for a year and then we would be together. School teaching wages were not high enough to start a home on. $810 per year which was but $90 per month for nine months only was my beginning earnings and this was somewhat higher that many were offered from the same graduating class. Our plans were that I was to go on and get more schooling such as summer school and correspondence work for additional credits in order to get a better position as soon as possible.
We were separated again but, as stated, it was not to be for long-just the nine months of the school year. After all I was getting older each day-nearly 28 by this time-and it was normal for most folk to have settled down long before this advanced age.
I was grateful for the support I got from home to assist keeping me in school during the two years of school. A goodly share of the food used during these two years came from the home vegetable bins and Mother's breadbox and from the fruit cellar from bottles she had prepared. It had been my concern from the beginning to not be a financial burden to my folk so far as my higher education was concerned above that of high school and, therefore, saw to it that I was nearly self-supporting as far as finance was concerned. I don't recall that I received anything from them throughout the two years so far as finance was concerned.
The first Sunday, following the first week of school teaching, I attended church in the Hilliard ward and was introduced to the members of the ward by Mr. Mylreie, the school principal. He led me from one to another who were in the small congregation. Among them, sitting on the organ stool, was a Sister Brown whom I suspected was a married lady. I wasn't in the market for a new girl friend so was not looking for anyone to fit in such a category. Oft times one is taken aback at the first meeting and it becomes love at first sight. This was not the case, certainly, due to the fact I was not made aware that anyone of my age was present. It was not for two or three weeks later that I knew that sister Brown was yet single.
The weeks passed and, I learned that Sister Brown was very faithful in the Church and was not the organist in the ward but that she was M. I. A. president of the Young Ladies and that she had a teaching position both in the primary as well as the Relief Society of the ward and, also, other than her ward activities she was a member of the Primary Stake Board of the Woodruff Stake. She was interested in outside interests as well for she was a Republican precinct committeeman. I also learned that she had served for two years on a mission to the Northern States Mission. I couldn't help but admire her for her accomplishments and, particularly, for the fact that she was one of the most faithful persons I had met. While she was always dressed nicely, she was not pretentious in her dress and one thing which I appreciated in her was the fact that her hair was yet long. She wore her hair in such a way that it was most becoming. She was, what I thought, an outstanding lady speaker and was most enthusiastic in her counsel to ward members to live the life the Church taught.
Before now, in this story, you certainly have deducted that this Sister Brown is and was none other than she whom you call your mother. She was not what one would classify as an old maid-as you know she was somewhat my age, this I knew, but I do not remember when I learned that she was so near my age. There were a couple fellows in the ward with whom she had gone out with and either of who would have given anything if she had become serious with them. I learned of others outside the ward who had their eyes on her some of whom were active in the Church and others who were not. She had standards and one of which, she later has repeated time and time again, and that is that she had said to herself as a girl that she would never marry a man who was unable to bless his babies in church. This, while not an insignificant act, I am sure was used only as indicative that she was not interested in anyone who was not a faithful member of the Church and, otherwise, respectable in the community. The fact that she lived in a small community offered but a limited number of contacts whom would be likely to seek her hand. It had been my constant prayer ever since I had become old enough to be observing for a companion that the Lord would lead me to the right choice. This was also her constant prayer that she had confessed subsequently.
Naturally, I continued to write to my girl friend, who, as stated earlier, was a member of the Church and, during the years I was closely acquainted with her, she was active in the Church, however, she did not have the extensive experience in the church such as your mother had. She was capable and had good to excellent grades in college. She often wrote and told me of the good times she was having in her social life-the community dances etc. for she was also in a rural school.
For some reason, when I returned to Rupert for Thanksgiving holidays and, especially for Christmas holidays things were not quite the same. Despite the fact that we were engaged it was agreed between us that we should each take the liberty to date others while we were away and we discussed the advisability of her returning my ring which I had given her a year or more before. This was a mutual agreement and with this arrangement I went back from Christmas holidays with the thought that I would attempt to see if your mother would accompany me to any community event which would be appropriate to have a companion escort.
Very little social activity was available in that snowed-in area other than a few church activities but there was nothing keeping me from asking if I could ride in their sleigh to MIA for we were both living in the upper part of the Hilliard Flat and I had no way, with the car having been put up for the winter, of getting around other than by skis across the fields or walking around the road. Going with them in their sleigh required my getting to their place on skis which was about a mile away but this was far closer than walking the three miles to the church house. This was the beginning.
Our courtship was simple. She was considerate of me, perhaps, solely because she may have been lonely-I because I could appreciate the type gal she was. During the winter months I visited her home reasonably often, perhaps once a week, and spent the evenings by their kerosene or gas lamps playing checkers, dominoes, rook etc. and the more I was around her the more I appreciated her until friendship blossomed into a real feeling of love for her. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part but I was simple enough to suspect that she had a like feeling toward me.
This limited type of 'seeing each other' went on during the winter months and, without opportunity of being alone excepting for brief periods only, but our love for each other continued to deepen.
It was the usual practice in the Hilliard ward that when the Woodruff stake conferences came around a group from the ward would join together to fill a sleigh to travel the twenty miles to Evanston leaving on a Saturday in time to be in Evanston for the regular Saturday evening session of conference which was, at that time, held for the leadership of the stake and wards and they would stay with relative or a hotel until Sunday evening for the return trip to Hilliard. The particular conference to which I am referring was very late in March or very early in April, the exact date I do not recall. In as much as there was an open invitation for any of the ward to go, I accepted of the invitation. Your mother was among the group.
We arrived in Evanston early in the afternoon and I was invited to go with your mother to meet her two sisters and families who lived in Evanston. The two sisters, Alice and Dorothy, at their separate homes, entertained us for an hour or two and it soon came time for us to leave for the evening meeting. Prior to our leaving, however, one little incident occurred at your Aunt Dorothy's home which endeared your mother to me and which, probably, made up my mind more than any one incident that she was the girl I wanted as my life's companion and that was thru an expression which came into her face as we stood looking at the baby, Jack, who was but a few months old and who was lying in his crib. I do not recall whether he was asleep or awake but I think he was asleep. As we were looking at him, she stood as if only the two, she and Jack, were in a world of their own and her countenance told me the story that she loved little babies and I could imagine that, perhaps, she wondered to herself if the time would ever come when she would be privileged to have a baby of her own. Keep in mind that she was nearly twenty-eight years of age, an age when most girls have settled down and are with a little family. She had been waiting and though she had had chances to marry no one met her standards so she had elected to remain single until such time that she did meet someone with the same standards.
We attended the meeting, as indicated above. John and Dorothy's home was across the tracks in North Evanston so we walked to and from for, certainly, we had no means other than walk. Snow was on the ground and the temperature was definitely to the cool for this particular winter was one of much snow, more so than the average winter in that area. Following the meeting which let out probably between nine-thirty and ten we walked the five or six blocks back to your Uncle John's and Aunt Dorothy's home for there was nothing else to do nor nowhere else to go. The lights were out in their house so we could see they had all gone to bed so it was a matter of visiting on the open porch at the door before saying good night and it was too cold to stay long.
I hardly know how to tell the story of this paragraph for it is the story of the most important decision that your mother and I have made in our lives. As we stood at the door of that old house in both the dark and the cold, and I am not about to minimize the temperature, I felt an answer had come to a prayer which had been almost continuous for weeks on end. I had been sincere in my plea to the Lord for him to assist me in finding a companion for life and eternity. I had prayed before but, perhaps, I had been too prone to do the thing I wanted to do for the Lord seemed to have had other plans and brought about situations in my life which didn't materialize as I had originally hoped. This time I was impressed beyond question that my companion had been revealed to me and in the cold of that early spring but late evening your mother gave an affirmative answer but expressed an uncertainty of concern due to the fact that she was such an integral part of the operation of her mother's ranch. Her question was to the welfare of her widowed mother. Should she plan to remain at home for another year or so in order to give her younger single brother time to settle down so as to be able to take over the ranch and its responsibilities which, for the past two or three years, had been her concern. This decision did not have to be made that evening for no time was intimated as to when we might be married. The major decision had been made by the both of us.
Earlier in the afternoon, Brother William Cook, who went to Evanston with us, and I had made a reservation for a room for the night at the hotel. Probably before midnight on that night, I think in late March, I walked back to the hotel for the night feeling that we had made proper decisions and sincerely prayed that if such were not the case that our plans would not materialize further but that if our decision was correct that ways would be opened for us to proceed with our plans.
The next morning before ten o'clock, as agreed the previous evening, I walked over to Aunt Dorothy's home and 'picked up' your mother and we walked to the morning session of conference which was in the old Evanston ward building on Main Street. We, likewise, attended the afternoon session and, as agreed, neither of us was to make any announcement of our plans for the time being.
About ten o'clock that evening the sleigh drove up to Aunt Alice's door where it was previously agreed that I was to board the sleigh for our return trip back to Hilliard. Your mother had made previous plans to remain in Evanston for a few days and then continue on to Salt Lake to attend the General Conference, which was to be held the next weekend.
Following the school term in Hilliard I returned to Rupert for a week or two and then went on to Provo to summer school. One of the weeks-ends, somewhere about midway thru summer school I went to Evanston and picked up your mother and we drove to Rupert to introduce to my folk their new to-be daughter-in-law. Just when a tentative date was set for us to be married, I don't now recall, however, one thing I can say with certainty is that it couldn't have been until after I started receiving my checks of my second year of teaching. In those days we were paid on a nine- month basis so, during the three summer months, there was no income. In fact, it had been necessary, in order to go to summer school, for me to borrow from the Rupert Bank $50 so a wedding day couldn't be held until a check came. I might add here, in order for you to not think I was a spendthrift that considerable of my pay checks for the first year went to pay off school loans to the Albion Normal which I had to incur in order to keep in school to get my teaching certificate. During the depression years the state schools provided this option to students who would have had to quit had assistance not been provided. When a student got a job, it was required that he pay his indebtedness off from the checks of his first year of teaching.
At noon to be exact of Friday, October 9th, 1936 I left the school house after having made arrangements to be off one-half day, and picked your mother up at her sister Alice's home in Evanston where she had gone to make last minute arrangements as to clothes etc. and off to the temple in Salt Lake the two of us started. Had the temple been open on Saturdays we would not have missed even the half-day, however, we had to get a Utah license and be at the temple by six o'clock that evening. As we traveled, we found that we would not have time to get to Salt Lake before office closing time to secure the license so we stopped in Farmington and took care of this matter.
Your grandpa and grandma Blacker met us at the temple gate and we walked into the annex of the Salt Lake Temple about six o'clock on that evening of October 9th to culminate the most sacred and serious plans and decision we had ever made in our lives. A little more than two months more I would have reached my 29th birthday and five months plus more than that your mother would have reached her 29th birthday. There is no question the Lord had a hand in our plans, even to changing my plans as mentioned earlier. Whether the great depression of the thirties came purposely in order to delay my getting married earlier, I question, but nevertheless it did and certainly it proved a blessing to me.
Our wedding was most simple. There was no big elaborate show. No crowds gathered to witness our marriage. Your mother had borrowed her mother's regular temple clothes and I rented a complete suit of temple clothes including the temple robes. We both had been to the temple and had our own endowments years before so we took a name each and served as proxy to someone else. After I took your mother thru the veil we were instructed to go into a nearby sealing room and in the presence of my father and mother and Sister Mary Moncur and Sister George Hobbs, the two ladies just happening to be in the session and Rupert acquaintances, your mother and I kneeled at the sacred altar and your mother was sealed to me as my wife for time and eternity.
Now, you may ask, why tell us the story of your courtship and wedding? In answer to that I might give two or three reasons. First, I have always thought it would have been interesting to me had my parents related the story of their courtship and marriage. For this reason, I thought it might be of interest to you children and, perhaps, assist you to become a little better acquainted with your parents seeing that you only lived with us from your birth until the time of you marrying and leaving home and, believe me, that was not long. Secondly, the story of our courtship and marriage may be of assistance to the decisions our grandchildren--- have to make in years to come and, thirdly, to attempt to instill within each of you the importance of maintaining high ideals and sacrificing for them if need be. Your mother nor especially I will never become noted for anything which will bring notoriety: For this we haven't clamored nor have any desire. Just to be plain home folk in the hope for an earned respect by others has been our goal. To gain this remains a challenge always but should that come to us it will well be worth the effort.
I'll Stir Them Up - And She Did
For many years Mabel's family had been diligently searching to extend their Hames line of ancestry.
Mabel's mother's mother died when Grandma Brown was but 4 years old and little information was left relative to family genealogy on that line. After Grandma Brown grew up, she joined the Church and had the urge to do temple work for her ancestry.
She knew of none of her family and from the little information she had she started to do research work. After doing all she could she hired professional help but it seemed they were up against the proverbial 'brick' wall. No success was achieved. She tried again and again with the same result and literally spent hundreds of dollars to no avail.
Grandma Brown would often say she wondered why the people on the other side
didn't' come to her aid. She said,
When I get to the other side, I'll bet I'll stir them up.
Suddenly Grandma Brown passed away of a heart attack and sure enough-she must have done just what she said she would do for within five or six months, researchers discovered the records for which they had searched many years.
A Promise Fulfilled
Because of its nature and the fact that, to many, it will sound incredible I have rehearsed this miracle and faith promoting incident but a time or two since it happening so many years ago. On the other hand, I have often been prompted that it should be related in order for the experience to have value in strengthening the testimonies of others in the power of the Priesthood and the validity of prayer.
While there were no other witnesses to it than myself, I bear witness to it having actually happened, my Father in Heaven being my witness. I would not dare relate it were it not just as I represent it. The fact that there was no human life involved and that the monetary value of the substance involved was of but a few hundred dollars at most I have been led to think many others would accept it only as my imagination. Be what it will to others I bear witness that it is true.
The incident occurred in the early spring of the year 1944. My brother Roy and I had leased the eighty-acre farm belonging to Mr. Henry Keck who lived a mile and one-half north of Paul, Idaho. I was also leasing Dad's and Mother's home place three miles west of Rupert. Roy was living, with his family, in the little house one-eighth mile east of the folk's home place and he was farming his eighty acres still a mile and a quarter further to the east but which, at that time did not have a house on it. We were using the John Deere Model A tractor and, of course, horses for machinery power.
One particular area of the Keck place had had a heavy crop of grain on it the previous year-an area of perhaps ten acres. Mr. Keck, the owner requested that the stubble be plowed under as a mulch to its heavy soil to which we agreed. Also, on the east side of this particular area was a large straw stack which he requested be not disturbed for he wanted to sell it or, otherwise use it. Agreement was, likewise, made to his wishes.
The irrigation system of the farm was, as all farms of those years, by ditch with the main private ditch from the government canal entering the property on the west side of the farm. From this entry branch ditches went to the south as well as to the north along the west fence line. Early in the spring ditch cleaning was necessary for the grass of the previous summer, along with rolling tumble weeds, and other debris filled the ditches and burning had to precede all else.
On a particular day it fell my lot to go to the farm to burn the ditches which I did and I made the start at the point of the main ditch entering the farm. There was a light breeze from the west which, in and of itself, was helpful to the burning of the dry grass and weeds. The fire reached a conglomeration of dry tumbleweeds and the flames heightened and crossed the bank of the ditch spreading into the dry stubble to the east. At about this time a strong westerly gust of wind whipped the flames into the stubble quite rapidly. Even while beating the fire I offered up a prayer vocally that I might be able to contain the flames that were so rapidly spreading. I remembered the agreement with Mr. Keck that the stubble was to be plowed under and the stack was to be preserved. The flames had already gotten into the field fifty feet or more and were moving directly toward the stack a few hundred yards away. I needed help and I needed help badly. I continued to pray aloud on my feet while furiously working-there was not time to kneel. I knew Heavenly Father could hear regardless as to whether I was kneeling or not and I knew the Lord answered prayers with the aid of the one offering the prayer so my full efforts were against the flames.
Without hesitating, the thought of a promise was brought to mind which was contained in my patriarchal blessing:
Tho the elements may rage and the winds may bellow yet you may command thru the power of the Priesthood and they shall obey. Without further consideration I said aloud,
By the power of the Holy Melchizedek I hold I command the wind to stop and the flames to cease burning.
I almost feared for what I had said. I was not a person of great faith and too, there was not a great value gone even if the stubble field with the straw stack went up in flames-but yet, there was a promise involved.
I realized I would be able to beat out the flames were it not for the driving power of a strong wind-if the wind would but cease, I would be able to handle the flames but to stop the wind--?
I was surprised at what I witnessed. Were I not there and witnessed it with my own eyes I would have reason to question the result but almost the very second of my utterance the wind stopped coming from the west but what's more, and this is just as true as what led up to it, the wind started coming from the east with enough intensity that had I never touched a flame they would have died out by being driven in the opposite direction. Before realizing to the fullest what was happening, I used the fork to beat the few flames. The fire was out-my pleas had been heard and I was so grateful that I kneeled and thanked my Father in Heaven for his goodness to me. I again bear witness that this incident actually occurred as I have described.
A Name From Far Off Australia
We owned and operated a furniture and appliance store which was located on the main street of downtown Ontario, Oregon. It was summer time in the year of 1950.
One warm afternoon there came into the store a young lady who, as I recall, may have been about 24 or 25 years of age. As I approached her, I could see that she appeared already to have sensed the fact that she might be in the wrong store. I inquired of her wishes following my welcoming her to the store and she inquired for something in the live of cosmetics such as hand lotion or some such item which certainly was not in the lives of merchandise we had in our store. I called her attention to a drug store across the street where she would most likely find what she was looking for.
As she spoke, I readily recognized her English accent. Having served a mission over twenty years prior to that date in England my first thought upon hearing her was that she must have been from England and asked her from what part of England she had come. She advised that she was from Australia and in our resulting conversation she related how she had met a young U.S. soldier who was stationed in Australia following World War II and that they were to be married and that she was then on her way to his home somewhere in Idaho.
Ontario was on her route and she stated her bus had stopped at the bus depot just a block and a half away where the bus passengers were eating. She felt she had time to visit a nearby store for some lotion and still get back before the bus left. We visited for just a very few minutes near the front of the store. As she walked out the door, I wished her the best of luck in her travels and her future and I returned to the back of the store to the office area where I had work to do. I never asked the lady her name. Of course, I had never seen her before nor have I seen her since nor can I now picture her identity in my mind-she was but a normal person like one meets most any day.
I spent another couple of hours in the store before closing for the evening during which time I would have had several other customers come and go.
The next morning, as was customary for me to do each morning, I took the oil-mop and proceeded to dust the hardwood floor starting from the front of the store and worked toward the rear. Small items of soil, paper, or any other foreign item was pushed ahead of the mop. As I mopped past the spot where the lady of the previous day and I had visited I noticed I was pushing a small piece of paper that was folded but not crumpled as the other bits of paper which were already rolling along with the mop. For a stroke or two this flat piece of paper-blank from the top-stubbornly clung to the floor letting the mop pass over it, thus bringing it more clearly to my attention. I stooped to pick it up and noticed that it was a double page of a small ruled notebook.
As I unfolded it, I noticed there were a few names and addresses of people, all of whom lived in Australia. Also, from the handwriting I detected it had to belong to the Australian lady of the previous day. I was literally astonished to find that the middle name of the three that was on the side of the double sheet opened to me was Mrs. J.E. Blacker, Avalon, Peden St., Bega. I opened the double sheet and found on both sides of the remaining sheet were additional names and addresses. The name of Mrs. Blacker was of special interest for I had spent many years searching for genealogy and had understood from a record in the old family Bible which I saw when visiting my great-uncle, William Blacker in Wales in 1930 that some Blackers left Clutton, Somersetshire, England, the old home base of the Blacker family. I have been able to gather many family group sheets of these relatives which I never would have been able to do had it not have been that the Australian girl left the little piece of paper where I could find it.
Some people may say that it was just coincidental that the girl came into the
store but I ask:
Why of all places between Australia and her intended destination did she have
to lose that little paper in Ontario?Why did she go into an appliance
store for hand lotion? When the piece of paper fluttered to the floor, which
it must have done, why didn't either she or I notice it fall. Had we noticed
it I would have picked it up and returned it to her. Why was the little piece
of paper so stubborn to move along the floor when I was cleaning the floor?
Had it gone along like most of the other clutter I would have swept it onto
a dustpan and thrown it into the waste paper basket.
I can't believe that it was all an accident for there were too many alternatives. The Lord knew that I had, for years, been searching for my kinfolk and praying for information which would lead me to them. To me this was nothing more nor less than an answer to a prayer-to many prayers--. This was a natural way for the Lord to answer a prayer, nevertheless it was done in a miraculous way.
I suspect I shall never know this girl from Australia who came all that way to unknowingly give me a clue to further my genealogical research work. She was, literally, as an angel from heaven bringing aid to a genealogical researcher.
A Marvelous Missionary Experience
About the year 1952, having served on the high council of the Weiser and Nyssa stakes for a number of years, President Arvel Child of the Nyssa stake, reported at a high council meeting that he had been advised by a General Authority at the last stake conference that the missionary work of the stake needed strengthening and after considering the matter carefully concluded that about five of the high council members should be called to accept a stake mission.
In announcing the names my name was included. I was surprised and, frankly, I was disappointed for my assignment had been with genealogy and temple work and we had been unusually successful in creating interest in these two fields of activity which normally go quite unnoticed in such stakes due to distance from the Salt Lake Genealogical Library and the Idaho Falls Temple in which district we were located. A few months before we had sponsored a research excursion to the Salt Lake Library and had, probably, fifty people make the trip to go with a guide thru the library and the balance of the day to do research work and the evening and the next day to the Salt Lake Temple.
We had sponsored monthly visits to the Idaho Falls temple by using chartered Greyhound bus facilities and on one occasion by chartering two airplanes each with a capacity of forty-eight. We were using the 'paid endowment' program to supplement regular attendance and for the previous year the stake was rated in the temple district up among the top five or six stakes in the entire district for total endowments performed. Within myself I felt that work would suffer were I released and so I was disappointed with the new call. I had done stake missionary work before and felt I would never be able to serve as well in the new assignment as in the old but I accepted the new call because, in the Church we serve where we are called to serve. Also, I thought President Child was entitled to a few mistakes even in his calling as a stake president.
I was assigned to serve as the Ontario District president with fourteen or fifteen missionaries under my jurisdiction. We all went to work and we worked hard. In relating these experiences, I shall mention but two of many experiences which were of a faith promoting nature to me.
Among the missionaries were some lady missionaries and after serving for about six months I submitted my wife, Mabel's, name to the stake to serve and for about eighteen months she and I served often as companions.
In searching for prospective homes for missionary activity we got from the ward records the name of Ferrin Woll, a senior member of the Aaronic priesthood, as they were then known, who lived east of the church house about a half mile. We did not know him and the ward authorities knew very little about him other than he was totally inactive. He and his wife - no children-lived in a basement home and, not knowing what to expect, we knocked on their door one cold winter night.
Mrs. Woll came to the door and, probably due to the cold night, we were invited in. The room was full of cigarette smoke which usually speaks of indifference to the Church. After being invited to take a chair we introduced ourselves as missionaries from the church and made inquiry as to the possibility of holding a series of six to eight classes. Mrs. Woll was the first to speak up and her reaction was that they were not interested. She claimed membership in a Pentecostal church and, while she didn't attend regularly, she said it was all she wanted so far as a church was concerned. We bid our time for pressing further for classes but wanted to become better acquainted with them. Brother Woll verified the fact that he was a member but totally inactive. In our conversation, we asked him to tell us his story.
His story was most interesting and it was because of our interest in this that we gained a friendship which developed into one of the finest we have ever had. He related that he was born in a good L.D.S. family in LeGrand, Oregon and that, as a boy he was active in the Aaronic Priesthood. It had been so long ago that he had actually forgot the names of some of the quorums of the lower, as well as the Melchizedek priesthood, but he said, he remembered that he used to administer the sacrament in the ward sacrament meetings.
He said that he and his friend went to a dance on Saturday night in their town and in the process of having a good time got hold of a bottle and got drunk. He reported that he and his friend were about the only two boys of that age at the time who were active in the ward and when Sunday came, sensing that they had done something they shouldn't have done the night before, nor were they proud of what they had done, purposefully stayed away from sacrament meeting the next day because they knew if they went they would be called upon to participate with the administering the sacrament and he said they both knew they were not worthy under the conditions of the night before. He related that they waited downtown for about thirty minutes until they were sure they would be sufficiently late that they would not be called to serve at the sacrament table. Feeling they had delayed their appearance sufficiently long they sauntered back toward the church which was but a block or two away. As they turned the corner who were they to see but the bishop who was standing on the front steps and called to them to hurry because they were holding up the entire meeting.
Brother Woll said, under the conditions, being quite reserved kids, they did
not say a word but did as the bishop asked them to do. He related how, as
he was breaking the bread and blessing it and the water, he realized his unworthiness
and said to himself,
Never again will I be such a hypocrite as to administer the sacrament unworthily.
And he said he kept his promise and that, from that day to the day were
visiting with him had he ever darkened a meetinghouse door unless it was an
We could feel that he was a good man. He was an unusually good- looking man with a pleasant smile and one would never be able to resist being a friend. He had picked up the smoking habit and his wife was a chain smoker hardly being about without a cigarette.
We expressed appreciation for being invited in and for him telling us his story
and by some means or another made them feel we were their friends and we told
them we were not there to push something onto them which they didn't want
but that we would love to come back for another social evening within the
next week or two if they would consent. We didn't mean to leave them in an
embarrassing situation where they had to come out and blankly tell us
nobut we had them, almost in that situation. She said we were welcome
but that it would do us no good so far as the Church was concerned. This story
could be made much longer but let it suffice that we did return and we returned
again and again and after the second visit we did get permission to present
Brother Woll was a livestock brand inspector for the state of Oregon and occasionally she was alone when we called. One time, when she was alone for a few days, she so later reported to us, she sat up all night reading the Book of Mormon and was so engrossed with it she didn't want to put it down. She was an avid reader and, when alone, often read well into the night.
We presented the discussion having to do with the Word of Wisdom and on our next visit she told us the both of them had determined to quit the tobacco habit and that they hadn't touched their cigarettes for days. No more, so long as we went to their home, was the air filled with smoke as we found it on the first few visits.
They accompanied us to church and within eight or ten weeks from the night we first knocked on their door she was baptized. They were the salt of the earth and never realized it. Eventually we moved from the stake, as did they also, and we lost track of them.
A few years ago, we received a letter from Sister Woll advising us they were
still in LeGrand to where they had moved from Ontario. They had returned there,
as we were aware at the time, and in our last letter she wrote that she had
been Relief Society president and he was then in the Bishopric. She thanked
us for our part in doing what we did and stated,
You know who started us this way.
A year ago, we met a lady from LeGrand, Oregon while down at the B.Y.U. Priesthood
Genealogical seminar and when Mabel found she was from LeGrand asked her if
she knew Ferrin and Edith Woll. Looking at Mabel's name tag she embraced her
So you are the people the Wolls have told all of us about.
I am embarrassed to even confess that I felt President Child made a mistake by calling us to a stake mission. It is true that we have recently been told that the Nyssa stake has missed us and that it never regained the interest in, particularly, genealogical work. The Lord had another assignment for us and we shall be everlastingly grateful for our experience with the Wolls. Our faith has been strengthened by them.
A Choice Experience.
One day while serving on our stake mission the custodian of the Ontario meetinghouse
approached me with an opportunity. He was Brother Balt Naultanious who, within
the past four or five years had immigrated to the United States from Holland.
A returned missionary whose home was in Nyssa, made arrangements to
sponsorthe Dutch family to this country where Brother Naultaneous later
secured the custodian job - - he with his wife and two little daughters.
In broken English, Brother Naultaneous said his wife's sister had just arrived from Holland for a visit with her sister and that she did not belong to the church but that he wanted to manipulate a situation in such a manner that the missionary discussions would be given in his home with her as a 'captive' audience. He asked if I could arrange it. At that time Mabel was doing part of her missionary work with Sister Alice Hepworth so I invited these two sister missionaries to go along with me as a three-some to present the discussions. Brother Naultaneous had said nothing to his foreign visitor.
On the scheduled evening we knocked on the door of the Naultaneous home and were invited in. As we became seated Brother Naultaneous, addressing his sister-in-law - - this after an introduction of us to her - - that the missionaries were wanting to present some discussions in their home and asked if she would join with us. Her married sur-name was Hoffman and while she was somewhat past middle age her hair had grayed considerably. She proved to be of strong character but was willing to consider all topics with an open mind. She certainly was not below average in her mental acumen, in fact, she was quick to grasp the meaning of our discussions. She was a wonderful lady in every respect.
Sister Hoffman could not speak a word of English - - naturally we missionaries knew no Dutch, so, in order for her to understand us Brother Naultaneous had to interpret for her as he did for us when she spoke in Dutch. We gathered, as early as the first lesson, that it was quite presumptive on her part that the lessons were being given for her benefit, in fact, she early told Brother Naultaneous it was not necessary to have the discussions presented for her benefit because she was not interested in espousing their religious tenets. She reminded them that she had witnessed the persecutions and ridicule they had received while in Holland and that she did not want a part of it. She said she would prefer to stay as she was. Her deep conviction was that the Mormon Church was wrong and that there was nothing to its claim.
Each week we three missionaries took turns presenting a new lesson. We all
sat around a solid rectangular table. Sister Hoffman, with her Dutch Bible,
and, of course, we with our English version. Interestingly, Sister Naultaneous
was observing her sister very closely throughout the discussions and, to the
side following the discussions, would whisper to us,
Her castles are beginning to tumble.During the first lesson or two Sister
Hoffman didn't answer a great deal or comment overly on the discussion, however,
as the lessons progressed, she spoke much more, probably because we were becoming
To make this account shorter I will here state that by the time we reached the sixth or seventh lesson she asked to be baptized for she had received a witness of the truth of what we had been teaching her. In the meantime, the Naultaneous's supplied her with reading material sufficient that she was converted.
Upon her asking to be baptized it became necessary, this was most difficult
to do, to tell her that it was the policy of the Church that no married woman
could be baptized without the written consent of her husband. When appraised
of this she shook her head negatively and said,
He won't let me. All this time interpreting was needed for both her and
us. We suggested she write at once to see if he would grant permission. She
consented to do so but she felt that such would never occur.
Her visa allowed her to stay in the United States only six months and these months were passing. In the days of which we were referring there were no daily crossings of the Atlantic by plane and the mail had to go by boat which took about two weeks to go one way. We continued to visit and present additional discussions on occasions but not so regular as previously, however, her testimony strengthened from day to day and she became the more convinced she should be baptized.
After about a month Sister Hoffman received a letter from her husband but, while he answered other questions of the same letter she had written, not a word was said relative to her joining the Mormon Church. Again, she wrote and insisted that he make a reply to that particular question. Time was running out for she only had another several weeks and here was not sufficient time for many more questions to be asked which would require a month to get an answer.
One day as I was working in the store (in Ontario) I saw Brother Naultaneous
hurriedly walking up and across the street directly to our door. He was a
tall man with a tendency to lean forward a little as he walked. He came thru
the door and up toward the counter where I was standing and before he reached
me, he called out,
Brother Blacker, she got permission to be baptized.There was rejoicing
amongst us that day.
The next Sunday was Fast Day and Sister Hoffman asked me to baptize her at the baptismal on Saturday evening. I confirmed her during the Fast Day sacrament meeting and after the time arrived for testimony bearing, she stood up to bear her testimony - - naturally it was in Dutch. We were sitting on the stand and I asked her to go to the microphone and for Brother Naultaneous to interpret. As she spoke, she wept and tears ran down most cheeks in the meeting. She had reasonably good control, however, and spoke for, perhaps, five to ten minutes. There was no question in the mind of Sister Hoffman as to which Church was correct. She knew even as we knew and the Spirit confirmed and assured us that we were right. There was a spiritual outpouring of the Lord's Spirit and we all rejoiced.
As mentioned in an earlier account, at the time of my assignment to serve a stake mission I felt confident President Child, our stake president, had made a mistake but long before my mission was completed, I thanked our Heavenly Father for President Child's 'mistake' for it proved a marvelous blessing to me.
There were others than the two experiences I have here related which proved to be other choice experiences such as the William Knold family - - two adults and their two sons - - unusually capable folk. Dr. Knold's father was a member of the governing board of the Union Pacific Railroad with President Heber J. Grant whom the Knolds knew. Sister Nadine Jackson and her two sons whom I also had the privilege of teaching and baptizing. Another choice experience was with the conversion and baptizing Brother Bert Ivie who, himself, was selected as a stake missionary within months of his baptism. Brother Ivie arranged for him and me to present discussions to his brother-in-law, Harmon Killebrew, already a famous baseball player and who later became even better known nationally. We presented Harmon two lessons and he had to leave for his baseball assignment but, before he left, we had him in our home two different times assisting him with his genealogy. He later joined the Church. However, it was probably thru the efforts of others. We felt it a distinction to have assisted with such a national hero.
Other successes in our missionary effort could be listed but let it suffice to have me say the more than two years we served on this particular stake mission were inspirational and rewarding - - exceedingly so.
Unanswered Prayers --- Or Were They?
So often we, seemingly, fail to get an answer to our prayers in the way we
would like them to be answered. Perhaps in leaving the Lord the option most
of us desire to leave,
Thy will be done, our prayers are answered to our good. Such an experience
happened in our lives. Personally, I meant for the best but things didn't
materialize as I had planned.
In 1945, with my brother, Fred, we purchased a furniture business in Ontario, Oregon and this partnership lasted for about five or six years when we chose to incorporate with the G & B Furniture Store of Vale, Oregon and, with additional capital purchased the C. C. Anderson Furniture Store of Ontario, a large business - - this in about 1951.
As a stock holder and the manager of the floorcovering department of the new G & B Furniture Company I became discontented with the way the business was operating and wished to dispose of my interest and get into some other business of my own.
With this in mind I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities. In The Salt Lake Tribune I saw an advertisement for prospective investors to get into a proposed national organization of motels in which the investor would eventually have private ownership but would yet belong to the chain of motels.
I made inquiry and found that a fifty-unit motel was being planned for Riverside, California. Prospects looked exceedingly bright but money was required. I mentioned it to Milton and Melvina Nelson, close friends, he being a counselor in the Nyssa Stake presidency, and we decided to make it a joint venture. By him selling his farm and we selling our interest in the G & B Furniture Company we invested after making two or three trips to Los Angeles where the sponsor's office was located.
We sold our home, along with our interest in the business - - this in the summer of 1956 - - put our household goods on a railroad box car, made a small down payment on a home in Riverside, California and made the move.
Even at the time of our moving things were not progressing with the new proposed motel as we had liked but promises were made that the delay was for the moment. We were to find employment in the construction until such time that the motel was to be turned to our management. Each day new delays were reported to us and we became concerned until it was necessary for me to find employment in a furniture and carpet store since we had to have income to live. We had invested in the neighborhood of $30,000 and had no surplus.
Within three or four months we found we were out in the cruel cold world without
a penny. The proposed motel chain,
Great Western Motels, Incorporatedwas new and had built but one motel
and that in San Jose, California. It seemed the promoter was a shyster for
we discovered he had already served a term in the penitentiary in California
and, due to previous illegal transactions, but subsequent to his previous
term in prison, he was again being sued and this eventually resulted in a
new conviction which returned him to the State Penitentiary. Naturally we
turned to the courts of California, ourselves, but were given no hopes of
ever being successful in retrieving what we had invested.
These days of the last half of the year 1956 and the first three months of 1957 were dark days, indeed. Our children were at the age where money was essential and my small income would not begin to meet our requirements. Paul was in his first year at BYU. Ruth was a junior in high school and Lois a freshman. Mary was in junior high and Beth, yet in the grades, with John too young to have entered school.
Higher education and missions had been our goal for our children and one of the reasons I wished to get into the new business was that prospects was for an income which would permit us to do what we wanted in these regards.
I, personally, was to blame for the change in our life's occupation. My companion,
Mabel, never became enthused in our new transaction, in fact, opposed it but,
bless her, consented to go because, as she has always said,
You are the head of our family and I'll go if you think it is best
. I honestly thought the move was to be for our best good. We had made
it a matter of prayer. I have never been more fervent in my prayers than then.
I had discussed the matter with our bishop and he could see nothing but good
to come of it. I visited with our stake president for his counsel and he concurred
that it looked like a good thing and, of course, the Nelsons had done likewise.
We felt confident in the new venture when we entered into the agreement.
By March of 1957 we could see we had lost everything. We were in California with a small down payment on our house but with heavier monthly payments than my four hundred dollar a month salary would take care of and still provide a living, let alone fulfill our goals for our children's missions and higher education.
In addition to the problems listed, my father, in Mesa, was seriously ill in the hospital which called for three or four trips from Riverside to assist others of the family - - brothers and sisters - - to be with him until his passing away on the 28th of March.
It was while visiting my brothers in Mesa that I was informed that the Home Furniture Company of Rupert was for sale. President Charles M. Campbell, the owner was ready to retire. My brother, Roy and Alma, suggested that we might work out something with President Campbell to buy the business so, with their help, this was eventually done.
In this matter there was a lot of sincere praying. I have ever since been grateful to Alma and Roy and their wives for the assistance they offered. A partnership was first set up and later a corporation was formed in which each of us owned stock and our investment could be taken from or added to as we wished or could afford. Over the years, without not drawing all our salary, as well as leaving all our business earnings in the business, our stock was increased to where it is today. It hasn't been easy for us but we can now see blessings having resulted from our misfortune in California.
We have been able to keep Paul, Ruth, Lois and John on their two- year missions. We have assisted each of our children with their regular college or their business college education and training and are not unmindful of the fact that each of them participated in these expenses both by being as frugal as they could have been in keeping the cost down as well as working while attending school to assist with the expenses or teaching school, such as Ruth did, to save for part of her mission. This applied, also with Lois, Mary and Beth for they found employment and assisted greatly. Paul's later years of education have been his responsibility almost entirely, even with the fact that he has been raising his family.
Our regret is that we have not made it easier for them but, bless each of them, they have been grateful for what little we have been able to do for them and they have understood.
Our lives have been different due to our financial reverses. Undoubtedly the Lord saw ahead and directed us, even though it was not the way we would have selected. Never have we been bitter with our reverses but have accepted them as the way the Lord wished it to be - - and all for our good.
Mabel At Death's Door
During the middle part of October, 1972 it was necessary for Mabel to undergo an operation for gall stones. She had been troubled with them for several weeks and we concluded the problem had to be corrected. It was not an easy ordeal for her, however, she got along as well as we could expect and she returned home on about the 29th. John was the only one of the children not married. He had finished high school the spring before and was attending the fall semester at Ricks College and Mabel and I were, therefore, alone at home.
Two days later, this on the evening of October 31 - - Halloween night - -the trick or treaters were coming regularly at the door as was customary on that night each year, and I was answering the doorbell while Mabel rested on the loveseat in the family room in the back part of the house. The trickers had mainly come and gone and the evening was beginning to quiet down. As I returned to the family room Mabel, being yet in a weak condition from her operation, wasn't feeling too well at the moment and put out her hand and asked that I help her up and to the bathroom.
As I did it, and got her to her feet, I could sense that she was unusually unsteady and got under her arm to be of more support. She took about two steps and slumped to the floor. I was not fully braced so as to hold her entire weight and so it was necessary for me to let her down as easily as I could. I attempted to lift her to either get her back on the loveseat or to continue our way to the bathroom but she could give no assistance. I could see she was too weak to help.
Sensing the need for help I went to the telephone to call Dr. G. Hayden Ellingsham, the surgeon who operated on her some ten days before. Not being able to locate him I telephoned for our family doctor, Dr. A. F. Dalley, but got a recording which stated Dr. Don C. Pates was his relief doctor at the time. Upon Dr. Pates receiving my call, when advised of the sharp pain which had been experienced by Mabel in the groin of her left leg, advised me to go to the hospital for some pain killing pills which he would phone to have ready for me. He also suggested placing a hot pad on the spot.
I returned to Mabel and saw her condition had worsened so I immediately returned
the call and informed Dr. Pates that we needed immediate help. Normally a
doctor would say
Take her to the hospital and I'll meet you there, but he didn't. He asked
for our house and street numbers and, believe me, within minutes he had traveled
the mile and a half from his home and was at the door. In the meantime, I
called our friend, Sister Modenia Barnard, a nurse who lived but a couple
blocks away and arrived about a minute before the doctor.
In the meantime, I had returned to see if I could help Mabel. She was still lying on the floor but I put a pillow under her head and covered her with a blanket. I became concerned for, by now, she could but whisper and that not very audibly. Her arms and hands and face had gone as cold as a corpse. I kneeled and prayed aloud - we were still alone in the house. I pleaded to my Father in Heaven to spare her life and to bring help. I was never more earnest.
Sister Barnard had just arrived when the doctor came. He immediately took out
his blood pressure instrument and we watched. He pumped on it and the hand
turned quickly back to zero. He said,
She has no pressure. I could see he became concerned as he asked for the
His first call was for the ambulance and within minutes Mr. Bob Walk was at the door with his stretcher and following him came City Patrolman Smith to offer and give assistance. The hospital was alerted to make ready for an emergency and Mrs. Dottie Burton was called for Blood Bank help. Dr. Pates called for Dr. Ellingham whom I was unable to locate but he was located this time: It seems doctors have a way of locating each other when needed. The hospital was aware from its records that Mabel's blood was a rare type - - AB Negative - - and thru Mrs. Burton four homes were disturbed this Halloween night for Robert Kidlou, William Nichols, Al Whiting and Mrs. Mardenne Nield all rushed to the hospital to give blood of the type needed which was done under the direction of Mrs. Jane Richardson who was also called in.
Later Dr. Ellingham reported he traveled from Burley to the Rupert hospital at speeds up to 110 miles an hour to give his assistance. The first thought of all concerned was that the previous operation was the basis for the problem.
It seemed everything that was being done was falling smoothly into place and, as can be seen, there developed quite an extensive emergency organization. The floor nurses after the ambulance got Mabel to the hospital, Elaine Pates, Caroline Thaete and Karen Taylor were ready. The whole hospital was geared to saving a life. There was an air of excitement as these three floor nurses hurried and scurried back and forth from the room into which they had taken Mabel to the supply rooms up and down the hall. For several minutes the were actually running from place to place. No one was ever more dedicated.
For what seemed an eternity, tho only about thirty minutes, I personally used the corridors to pace back and forth to relieve tension and suspense and, believe me, all the time fervently praying of my dear companion to live.
After arriving at the hospital, I telephoned our daughter, Mary. Within minutes she was with me and, to our surprise, in rushed our bishop, Bishop Del Thompson. I had not had time to telephone him to this time but he said his neighbor, Larry Larson, had contacted him after Larry had seen the ambulance at our house and had sensed something was wrong and thought he should report to the bishop.
Prior to blood becoming available the doctors administered a fluid the name of which I do not know - -probably glucose - and then came the life- giving blood of the first donor. The doctors could find no relationship between her problem and the previous operation. Dr. Ellingham came from the room to visit with me and frankly said they could not determine the trouble without performing an operation. He asked that I sign a waiver giving consent, which I did.
Mabel was immediately taken to the operating room. The night was wearing on by this time - - it must have been getting on to midnight. The doctors and nurses were still rushing and Bishop Thompson, Mary and I were obliged to wait and it seemed a long time. Occasionally the nurses, one at a time, would come by for an item and would assure us things were going along all right. Of course, we were not sure they were at liberty to say anything else, even if they knew otherwise.
After what seemed an eternity to me, they finally returned Mabel to the room she first was in. Naturally, she was not aware of what was going on. Following the operation and the doctors removing their surgical gowns and washing up Dr. Ellingham told us what they had discovered. They realized that whatever the trouble was that it was in her lower abdomen so an incision was cut below the incision of the previous operation which was still but a few days old. They found that the main blood vein which feeds the left leg had ruptured and the blood freely flowed into her abdomen thus, she was bleeding to death and would have done so within a few minutes had not attention been given as it was. Dr. Pates later told me that had any one single event - - my telephoning to him, his coming to the house when he did, the ambulance not coming when it did, the four blood donors not coming, Dr. Ellingham not coming when he did - - had any one been delayed as much as five minutes it would have been too late.
Our prayers were answered. There is no question in my mind but that the Lord touched every person involved. Everything appeared to work like clockwork, the one involved at the time having depended on the proceeding person on and on thru the evening. I have nothing but gratitude for the preservation of the life of my loving companion. Our work together had not been completed. Both Mabel and I love every soul who was involved in the experience including the Lord for his kindness to us.
A New Mission Call - - My Physical Examination
Upon our son, John's return in mid January, 1975 and being quite assured that he would become married shortly, Mabel and I concluded to volunteer to serve a full-time mission. We discovered no reluctance on the part of the stake president or our bishop about our becoming missionaries. Therefore, we secured the various forms from Bishop Garner as would be required to make application.
Among the earlier items to take care of was to have a physical examination so the doctor could recommend that we were physically able to qualify. We secured an appointment and took such an examination. Mabel passed satisfactorily. However, Dr. Nicholes called attention to the fact that I had a hernia developing and he would not clear me but advised that I go to an expert in that field, Dr. Deciere. I went to his office and upon being examined received the same word. He wanted me to be assured and had me feel it myself. He suggested that we wait thirty days, lose at least fifteen pounds, and exercise.
On the 27th of February I returned to his office and was asked to go into
his examination room. Rather than Dr. Deciere it was his partner, Dr. Ellingham,
who stepped into the room. He took the notes from the file of the previous
examination and proceeded to examine me but despite his carefulness and thoroughness
he could find nothing wrong with me. Knowing that two doctors, a little more
than a month before had had no difficulty discovering the problem, he worked
the harder to locate it even with my showing where the protrusion had been.
I knew it had been there but there was none this time. Dr. Ellingham said,
There is no evidence of anything being wrong with you. I have no choice but
to give you a clean bill of health.
Naturally, I was elated and I knew the Lord was again on my side. I asked Dr. Ellingham if he would telephone Dr. Nicholes, who had my papers, and report to him that all was well with me. He invited me to go with him into his main office where he phoned Dr. Nicholes to advise him that the papers could now be processed.
With the first of the conversation - - and I heard only the one side - Dr. Ellingham told Dr. Nicholes who was an LDS doctor but Dr. Ellingham was not - that there was nothing wrong with Mr. Blacker but that 30 days over at the Presbyterian church would not cure. They both laughed over the light talk and then Dr. Ellingham said that my trouble had cleared up and that I deserved a clean bill of health. Apparently, Dr. Nicholes questioned him on the matter for he asked Dr. Ellingham if he would make a written affidavit to that effect and personally put his signature to the statement indicating that he. Dr. Ellingham, was willing to assume the full responsibility. To this Dr. Ellingham consented and did.
When Dr. Deciero sent me home for a thirty- day waiting period to lose weight and exercise I became determined to do what I was asked. In addition, we made the problem a matter of prayer. Particularly in my private pleadings with the Lord I asked, if possible, that the extra expense would be spared. I confessed that we were aware of the additional expense an operation would entail. Mabel had the two major operations and I, my prostrate gland operation, all within the year and even beyond the insurance we had, it was necessary for us to borrow five thousand dollars to pay the doctors and hospitals and other expenses connected with the operations. To have the expense of another operation before going on a mission would, indeed, cramp our finances. We asked the Lord to spare another operation if at all possible. We gave no thought to canceling the mission. If it were the Lord's will that we could go without the operation it would be so helpful. By no means in a demanding way but we did remind the Lord what a blessing it would be to us.
The Lord does hear and answer prayers. In this instance we have received another witness to the many we have already received during our lifetimes - - - Mabel's and mine and we are so grateful.
Our Hopes For A Mission Call To England
At the time we volunteered to go on a full time mission our inner hopes were that we would be called to serve in England. Both Mabel's and my ancestry stem from England. Mabel's mother was born in Derbyshire and her grandparents on her father's side were both born in or near the same place. My father was born in Wales and his ancestry originally from Somersetshire and my mother's father was born in Gloucestershire so we both are very near to England.
For the past two or three summers we had hoped to take a trip to England, in fact, had joined the British Missionary Association in Salt Lake City which sponsors flights to England each summer and/or go with a BYU sponsored trip but we were forced to delay such a trip due to other expenses involved in at home plus the fact that our son John was on his mission which also entailed expense.
We had silently concluded when John returned, that such a trip would be made.
When President Kimball made a call for more missionaries at the October semi-annual
conference of the Church, we felt the urge to support him and the idea developed,
Why not do both the mission and the visit?This, of course, would mean
a call to England and would such a coincidence be possible?
On our application to the Church Missionary Committee we advised them that we would go where we were needed and made no mention of England other than, in the space of 'Past Experiences' we mentioned that for the past twelve years both of us had served in the Burley Branch Genealogical library as English research consultants. This may have proven a clue to the Missionary Committee and could have had a bearing on our missionary assignment.
We had visited with our stake president who sends missionary applications to Salt Lake and in our conversations with him told him our silent desires. While we do not know just what he added in the space on the application for comments by the stake president we feel he probably mentioned something about it.
Be that as it may, we are well aware of our prayers and whether they were answered thru a stake president or by some other prompting to the Church Missionary Committee is more or less immaterial to the fact that our prayers were answered.
The first time we saw President Eames following our receiving our call he
laughingly said, after we had informed him the call was to England,
Some people must be living right
and I answered,
It isn't a fact of living right, it's the people one knows that is important
. I feel quite confident President Eames offered a suggestion.
My Hesitation In Being Willing To Share Our Mission
In our planning for our mission which, we anticipate, will cost us in the neighborhood of $400 per month, we have had concern as to our being able to afford it. Our finances are limited - - more limited than we should like, however, we have felt we could get along if we were careful. We have always wanted to be as independent as possible and have had full intention that we would need no financial help from anyone. We have been cognizant of the fact that blessings come by sacrifice and by our personal effort. Covenants to the Lord indicate we should be willing to give all that we have, if necessary, to the up building of the Lord's kingdom here in the earth and we personally wanted to keep our commitments so far as we possibly could.
One day Brother and Sister William Hepworth, old time friends from our Ontario, Oregon period came to our home. Brother Hepworth's health is not good and he left his wheel chair at home and came in on his crutches.
After visiting for a few minutes, he informed us he wanted us to consider
a proposition they had to make. They have been faithful members all their
lives and he said that it would be obvious to us that they would not be able
to serve a mission due to health reasons but that they wanted to share with
us our mission. He asked a direct question.
We want to contribute $100 per month toward your mission. Will you let us?
As stated above, we had wanted this to be our contribution to the Church and we wanted to stand the expense of the mission ourselves and, perhaps, from the standpoint of selfishness on my part with the desire of taking care of the expenses ourselves we readily answered in the negative and told them our need for all the credits we could get from our personal efforts.
Their offer touched our hearts and I extended our appreciation for their willingness to share their means to assist and we wept - - the four of us. In order not to offend I suggested that perhaps we should consider it further and that we would let them know within a few days. I suggested this from the standpoint that it might be easier for them to accept a refusal on our part rather than I might change my opinion of the matter.
For the next few days I held fast to my first notion of declining their offer. Mabel felt that it was very unkind of me to not share our mission with them and in my mind I began to reconsider. The days passed and we didn't find the time to go to the Hepworth home when one day, some ten days following their first visit they came to the store again for our final decision.
We seated ourselves and before they had a chance to repeat their offer I advised them that I had reconsidered and that I had come to realize more than ever before that the spirit of the gospel is the spirit of sharing and that if they were of the opinion still to share with us that we would make our mission a partnership affair with them and that it would be their mission as well as ours. The four of us again shed tears - - real tears - - and they thanked us for letting them assist us. They will deposit to our checking account in our bank their check to us each month and offered to do so as long as we wish to remain on our mission be it eighteen months or twice that.
To me this has been a lesson in sharing. As never before I have been led to realize that sharing is the message of the gospel. One should not attempt to live alone. When the Lord, thru his children, provides assistance we should not deny them the blessing.
Saved From Skin Grafting
On Saturday morning, July 31st, 1976, the Bolton Branch Elder's quorum presidency was in the branch presidency office holding its regular weekly meeting. I had been called to serve as president of the quorum, among my other callings, a few months previous to this date and with me were my counselors, Tony Wiseman and Arthur Robinson.
The telephone rang which I answered and on the other end of the line was Sister Meryl Liptrott, a young widowed member of the branch. She reported that she had just received a call from Sister Shannon Howells, a Salt Lake genealogical visitor to the Bolton area who was staying at Sister Marion Fenney's home. Sister Fenney was a faithful member of the branch but was going thru divorce proceedings due to her husband having deserted her for another girl friend. The word was that Sister Fenney's year old boy had just received serious scalding burns. He was just learning to walk and was with his mother who had just set a bucket of scalding hot water on the floor. Momentarily her attention had been drawn the other way and the little toddler backed and sat in the bucket immersed in the water from the back of his neck to the underside of his knees.
The Bolton infirmary was called and they rushed an ambulance to pick Sister Fenney and Christopher up. Upon examining him the hospital recommended that the seriousness of his burns called for more professional expertise to be sought and they immediately rushed the ambulance to the Booth Hall hospital some thirty miles away and on the east skirts of the city limits of Manchester. This hospital takes no other cases than burns and it specializes particularly in severe burns.
As Sister Fenney was preparing to continue her ambulance journey from the Bolton infirmary to Booth Hall she telephoned Sister Liptrott and asked that she get a couple Priesthood brethren to administer to Christopher as soon as possible. This was the telephone call mentioned above.
It so happened that that morning Brother Stuart Glen-Humphreys who had had a toe operation in the Townley hospital - - another hospital in Bolton - - was having problems and wished to have someone administer to him. The arrangement we made were that Brother Robinson, who had a car at the meeting house, would pick up Brother Vic Harrison and go to Townleys to Stuart. Mabel and I with Brother Wiseman would go with Sister Liptrott to Manchester to administer to Christopher.
Within minutes we were on our way and after arriving at Booth Hall had to wait for a brief while before we could be admitted into isolation where Christopher had been put in a special crib and by this time had been attended to by doctors and nurses. In such cases as Christopher's, the parents of patients can invite spiritual leaders into their isolation rooms providing the visitors first wash their hands in the ante-room and put on hospital gowns and masks which we did.
I should add here before proceeding further that Sister Fenney is a registered nurse and when she picked Christopher up from the bucket of hot water, she rushed him to her kitchen sink and put him in cold water until the ambulance got there. The baby had diapers on over which was his plastic pants which, fortunately assisted in protecting that part of his body from the maximum heat of the water so, actually, his burns were more confined to his back above the plastic pants and below on his legs which were out of the protection of the plastic. The area which was most severely burned was all of his back from his neck down and the back of both legs as well as around to the side of his legs. The skin was peeled away and the burns were deep into the flesh constituting what the doctors termed third degree burns.
Brother Wiseman was a convert to the Church of but a few months and had never had the experience of assisting with an administration but with directions he was mouth for the anointing. I was asked by Sister Fenney to seal the anointing and in so doing I asked the Lord to aid the doctors and nurses and I blessed him that he would recover and that he would be able to rest reasonably comfortably and that he would eventually be alright. The prayer included that the doctors would be guided and those who cared for him would prescribe what would be best for him.
Mabel was later permitted to go into the room when we came out - - only two were permitted in at a time and this with cap and gown and a mask as explained earlier. She concurred that none of us had ever witnessed such a severe burn.
We kept in touch with Sister Fenney who had to return home to her work during the following days to come but who returned every evening for visits with Christopher.
Two weeks later at a Sacrament meeting of which I had charge as part of my assignment in the branch presidency, and due to the fact that the district councilman - - the equivalent of a high councilman in a stake for we were yet in a mission - - did not make his assigned appearance. I called members from the audience to fill in his time. Sister Fenney was called and she reported that Christopher was making splendid progress and that from the time he received his blessing he never appeared to have pain. This was on Sunday.
Wednesday evening Sister Fenney who was a counselor in the Relief Society, came to Mabel and me and reported that while Christopher had made good progress, upon the doctor's last examination he found three or four spots on his back and a couple on one of his upper parts of his legs which didn't seem to be healing but that he would wait for a few days until he checked him again and, if at that time they hadn't improved considerably he would resort to grafting skin on the spots.
I know he won't have to graft skin if you will come over tomorrow and give
him another blessing
What a challenge! I was frightened but what could one say to that? What faith? But I must confess she had more than I. We had seen the burns and this was but two weeks following the accident. When the doctors said it looked like grafting was necessary who were we to dispute him?
I worried most of the night and told Mabel of my concern. I sincerely wished
it hadn't been me whom she asked and yet, on the other hand I felt honored.
Believe me, it was a night of prayer. The next morning, I told Mabel that
I had to fast and she insisted that she would join with me. I reviewed in
my mind my patriarchal blessing which promised
You shall heal the sick and those that are lame shall walk
. But I sincerely felt that I had not yet qualified myself to be worthy
of performing such blessings. There was a prayer for help in my heart continuously.
The next day Mabel and I took the bus and after an hour we had to transfer to another bus and, again, after another thirty minutes we arrived to the hospital.
Through the lack of faith on my part I ended the blessing that Sister Fenney would understand and take solace if it was the will of our Father in Heaven, that he felt that the skills of man were to be used to graft skin that she would be aware the Lord was with her and her baby and that the final result would be a perfect body for her Christopher.
This was Thursday. Three days later she came to us and said the doctor had taken the bandages off for examination and his back was liberally healed over and with the exception of a pink colored skin one would not detect a fault and that certainly no grafting would be needed. He concluded that it was amazing.
She reported it was possible he would be home by the end of the week. This was but to the end of two weeks and another week would be three of an estimated doctor's appraisal that it would require at least six weeks in the hospital of not more. At the end of the third week he was home and attending church without a blemish on his entire body.
At the time of the accident Sister Fenney and a newly converted branch member, Brother Ray Unsworth had plans to be married within two to three months - - as soon as Sister Fenney's divorce had been granted - - and following their wedding their plans were to visit Salt Lake City and returned missionaries whom they were acquainted.
Things worked out as they had planned even though for a time, because of Christopher's burn it looked doubtful that they would be able to come to the States for they wanted to bring the baby with them. They had left Bolton on the U.S. visit a couple weeks before we were released and were able to be with us in Rupert at the time of our welcome home testimonial about the middle of October 1976.
Examining Christopher's back when they were in our home one could never detect he had been burned. His skin was perfectly normal. Sister Fenney, now Unsworth, is a woman of great faith and it was a wonderful experience for us to have been a part of it.
An Unusual Coincidence
Sister Susan Brewer Purves, and her husband Lyle, had been married for a period of years - - perhaps five or six. They had been visited by the missionaries and she had converted to the Church and was baptized and proved to be a faithful member of the Bolton Branch having held several positions. When we arrived she was a successful president of the Primary organization as well as holding teaching positions in the Sunday School and Institute teacher which class was designed for young people eighteen years of age and over. The course was a class held once each week with the subject material from the regular manual taught in Institute classes throughout the Church on college level.
Her husband saw fit to join the church but half-heartedly permitted her to attend meetings providing she spent only a reasonable amount of time. He was somewhat jealous of her time and wanted her to be home when mealtime came around and often, otherwise, when he was home.
Rather than becoming more lenient with her he became more demanding. She desired, for example, to have the blessing on the food as they sat to eat their meals and, at first consented so long as she was spokesman. She always kneeled at her bedside before retiring to say her prayers but he got to the point where he started to make light of her doing so. She sensed the sacredness of these occasions and was very much saddened by his attitude. She would often openly weep in testimony meetings when she related her problems in these matters.
She was twenty-five years of age by the branch records and she had been a member of the Church but one year prior to our going to Bolton in 1975. Her husband may have been slightly older than she but not much. He seemed a likable young man when we visited him on occasions, however, he told her that he preferred no missionaries or members would go to their home. He was not interested in the Church, however, he was a fellow who liked to be with his friends at the pub or at sport events, etc., so her Church attendance often had to fit in a schedule when he was not at home.
Both Susan and Lyle had wanted a baby since their marriage but it seemed they were unable to have this blessing. Sue felt that if they had a baby he would become more interested in staying at home and hopefully take a greater interest in the Church.
Due to the fact that we were assigned to serve our mission basically with the Bolton Branch members - - active and inactive and of the latter there were many - - it was our privilege to attend the London temple when the district and branch had a temple assignment. The assignment came each three months and on most of these occasions President Willington, branch president at the time, took those of us who were able and willing to the temple in either his car or a rented twelve- seater van.
On one such occasion Mabel and a faithful young widow of the branch, Sister Meryl Liptrott concluded that they would include Sister Purves' name on the temple Prayer Roll. This was in later January or early February of 1976.
A couple months later Sister Perves let it be known to Sister Liptrott and, perhaps another one or two that she was with child and as the sisters listened with delight it was concluded that the conception started about the very week her name was placed on the temple prayer roll. Everybody was happy and, especially Sister Purves.
As the time passed - - and Sister Purves was not without health problems with her expected child - - she anticipated its birth to be the first of November 1976, right about the date of our mission release. She had approached me and said that she wanted me to bless the baby but was somewhat concerned because of the nearness of dates of the anticipated Baby's arrival and our release. She said she was praying that things would work out as she hoped.
It so happened that due to our son John was having store problems at home. John and Ray Condie, our public accountant who was handling the technical bookwork and tax reports, had kept in touch with us by phone and it was concluded, if we could get permission to return home a month earlier than planned that it may be advisable so far as the business was concerned. We contacted our mission president and he suggested that we conclude our mission and return home as of October 1st, one month early. This was but a week from our visit with President Alder in Manchester.
This decision was a great disappointment to Sister Purves as we met her on Sunday. She cried and asked if I would, at least, give her a blessing which I did in the branch president's office. This was the last Sunday we were to be in Bolton and the arrival of her baby was not for another month.
As we departed that evening, not knowing whether or not we would again see each other, we parted with heavy hearts as only dear friends do when they see each other for the last time - - very probably, as in this case, not again in this life.
The next day was Monday. There were many things we had to take care of before we left Bolton for a whole month of the normal conclusion of a mission had to be done with less than a week remaining. Throughout our entire mission we had planned on spending two or three days visiting the ancestral areas of Mabel's people in Derbyshire but that had to be forfeited, however, President Alder suggested we take at least one day of the few remaining days to make that visit. Sister Liptrott had volunteered to drive us the 150 to 200 miles whenever we planned to make the visit so the next Wednesday was agreed upon.
Monday morning Sister Liptrott telephoned us with a surprise we had never dreamed of. During the Sunday night or early Monday morning following our parting with Sister Purves - - literally within hours - - Sister Purves had to be taken to the maternity ward of the hospital where she had given birth to a small premature baby boy who was immediately placed in an incubator. The word was that mother and baby were doing nicely and that she expected me to bless the baby and give him a name as was originally planned.
On Thursday, the day following our visit to Derbyshire, and the afternoon before our departure for home we went to the hospital again with Sister Liptrott's help, where we saw Sister Purves all smiles and as happy as we had ever seen her.
In as much as the ordinance had to be performed with the knowledge and invitation of the branch president, this time President Len Boydell, he met us at the hospital. Permission had been obtained by Sister Purves of the nurses in attendance that President Boydell and I, by the hospital's term 'spiritual advisors' were permitted to put on hospital gowns and masks and, after washing our hands with a disinfectant, go into the new-born babies' section and to the incubator which held the tiny boy. The nurse opened the door of the incubator for President Boydell and myself to reach our hands in on the head of the new arrival and, as requested, I named the baby Glen Lyle Purves. He was promised to live and become a comfort to his parents and, particularly, to his mother. At the time the ordinance was performed without the knowledge of the father for Sister Purves was fearful he would not consent to have his son become a child of record in the Mormon Church. We never learned whether or not Susan ever divulged the information subsequent to that time.
Whether the events were coincidental is not ours to say but Sister Purves said it was an answer to her prayers.
The Baby Makes Immediate Recovery
On Saturday evening August 14, 1976 in Bolton, Lancashire, England Brother James Stokes telephoned us and asked if we would drive over to where we lived if we would accompany him back to his home to assist in administering to their little ten- month old grandson who had been quite sick for two or three days.
Michael William was the son of David and Eilene Stokes, the mother a non-member and the father a totally inactive member neither of whom were present. The child, for a day or two, had been with his grandparents and had been almost continually in his grandmother's arms and for the past hour or two was vomiting. He had been visited by the doctor an hour before our visit.
Upon arriving at the Stokes' home the baby was, as stated, in his grandmother's arms fussing a little but with quite a high fever which he had had for some time. Brother Stokes anointed and asked me to seal the anointing and give him a blessing which I did.
Within minutes following the blessing Sister Stokes said his fever was going down and in another five minutes he was sitting up and climbed down to the floor and Mabel picked him up. He was contented to go to her and he played, first with her beads and buttons on her dress and sweater and then he wanted to stand on the sofa and he began climbing up the back of the sofa into the window to play with items in the window. We stayed still another fifteen minutes or so and all the time he played as though he were normal.
The next day we inquired as to the baby's welfare and his grandmother said he had been normal ever since the administration.
A Different Approach To Activation
We had visited the Birch family at 39 Netherfield Road a number of times encouraging them to become again active in the Church. Peter, a 27- year old unmarried son, was living with his widowed mother. He promised time and time again that he would someday return to the Church but invariably we were disappointed.
Peter had a deep interest in gardening and seemed one of those born
green thumbers. One day as we were visiting with him in May 1976 we found
ourselves conversing about gardening and he invited us to go into their back
yard to see his garden. During the earlier spring months, he had purchased
and installed a 'green house' perhaps a six by nine feet - - just a small
one - - with a height that a six foot man which he was could walk comfortably
if he stayed in the center of the structure.
He already had pots of tomatoes and a few other plants started. In the garden proper his potatoes were just coming thru the ground and his cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, peas etc., were up and looking strong and healthy. His entire back yard, excepting for a new pathway he was preparing down the center, had been planted to various garden plants.
He had made arrangements, he proudly told us, to use parts of both his neighbor's yards on either side of him. He slowed us a dugout-hole about three by four feet into which he was putting his neighbor's lawn grass and some type of waste from the kitchen. This compost was a preparing fertilizer for the next year. Also, a 40 to 50-gallon metal drum at another spot in the yard was partially filled with water into which he emptied store-boughten barnyard manure to manufacture liquid fertilizer to, later in the season, be sprinkled thru a water can onto the ground where plants need booster-shots.
Peter was interesting to visit with and certainly indicated that he had a knowledge of gardening.
An inspirational thought, came to me and, without conferring with other members
of the branch presidency - -I was serving as second counselor - - I said,
Peter, you have a gift and a knowledge and a love of gardening that I am
sure others in Bolton would appreciate your sharing that knowledge and know-how
with them. The branch presidency needs such a man as you to assist them
to teach members the principle in the Church Welfare Program of raising
foodstuffs to supplement the year's supply program. Would you serve as the
Bolton Branch Home Garden Advisor?
Frankly I had never heard of such a Church position but the need for
one in England was very evident. Some members had back yards not being used.
Others were needing counseling as was evident by the looks of their gardens.
Peter said he would be willing to show people how to raise gardens. I assured him he had a calling in the branch and that we would help him whenever he needed help.
I had the concern of reporting back to my branch president that he had an office in his branch which he never knew he had and, what was more, that the office was now filled by a man who was ready to go to work.
I actually wasn't worried because President Millington, I felt, would go along with the idea - - which he did - - when I reported it to him. I felt quite secure in thinking that I wasn't becoming an apostate in the Church by adding or taking from the organization set up by the Lord thru his prophets.
Two or three weeks later we attended a missionary Zone Conference at which President Derrick of the England-Leeds Mission interviewed each of us missionaries. I asked him for his opinion of the forming a new office in the Church and explained that it was. He assured us there was no reason why the talents of a member couldn't be shared with others and that he thought it was a good idea.
Mabel and I had volunteered to edit a monthly branch bulletin the first of each month so in the next bulletin we wrote an article telling of the new assignment and that Brother Peter Birch had been appointed as the Bolton Branch Home Garden Adviser and that we recommend all members to contact Brother Birch. We gave his address for many of the branch were not acquainted with Peter for the family had been inactive for several years.
Actually, we were a little late in the season for the gardening season was getting well along and most, if not all, who planted gardens had then started but he would have suggestions for them and certainly he could advise them in preparing for another year.
In the next bulletin mention was again made of Brother Birch and that, perhaps, Brother Birch might be helpful if, later in the fall, he would write an article in the bulletin suggesting steps which might be taken for members to follow. This interested Peter.
On the 24th of July at the Missionary Fireside at the chapel for which missionaries had done considerable advertising Peter made his first appearance to the branch since we had been in Bolton some 14 months. In visiting with him he mainly had his garden assignment in mind and said he thought it would be about time for him to get an article to us for the next bulletin. We told him it was being prepared and I suggested he get an article prepared and bring it to Priesthood meeting the next Sunday morning for the fireside was on the following Saturday evening. He told me he had planned to come to Priesthood meeting the next morning and that during the next week he would prepare his article.
The next morning Peter was to Priesthood meeting as he said he would be. He was a priest and, of course, due to his age was in the category known as Prospective Elders.
I, at this time, was also serving as president of the Elder's quorum. The
following Sunday morning he was again to Priesthood meeting with his article
for the bulletin and he proudly turned it to me and said,
I think you should know that your asking me to help with gardens and writing
about the subject in the bulletin is the thing that got me started to thinking
that I should be active.
He bore testimony that he was converted to President Kimball's request
that food should be raised and stored and that he was going to do all he
could to help convince members of the branch of its importance.
So long as we remained on our mission Peter not only attended Priesthood meetings, one of which he was given an entire class period near the last of August to instruct the brethren on garden plans for next year and how to store certain foods, but he also attended sacrament meetings regularly and within a few weeks, as a priest, participated at the Sacrament table. By the time we were released from our mission his name was planned by the branch president to be submitted to the Stake President to be ordained an Elder. A few months before President Kimball came to England and created the Preston stake from the mission district.
Thru his becoming active he has encouraged his younger sister, now about 14 to hear the lessons of the missionaries and she is planning on being baptized.
Peter brought a closely acquainted boy friend, Chris Whitehead, about 22, to Church and the missionaries taught him and he joined the Church by being baptized on August 20th. He is a choice young man thoroughly converted to the Church. The second time Chris came to Church he, in turn, brought a friend, a middle- aged man who has committed to join the church.
Now that we have returned home, we have deep concern as to the dedication of the branch leaders and quorum leaders in staying close to such men as Peter and his friends. Such missionary work as we were called to do with members of the branch can best be done by missionary couples. No wonder President Derrick told us that 'you older couples are worth your weight in gold' to the members of the Church in the mission field.
There were many such members as Peter with whom we had the privilege of working closely and it was for these reasons we wished we could have stayed longer and provided, in our weak way, encouragement and strength. The soul of a member is as valuable as a new convert. Such was our mission.
A Near Total Sacrifice
Perhaps not so much in our modern day with its sanitary conditions of hospitals
and the knowledge of modern doctors, as was the case in days of many yesteryears,
is the statement factual that with the birth of every new baby the mother
actually enters into the
valley of the shadows of death
to bring forth her newborn. Yet, even under the best of modern conditions
there remains that willingness and ofttimes, the necessity for a to-be mother
to have to undergo the reality of such a sacrifice.
This, certainly was not to be discounted at the time in which our daughter, Mary, was awaiting the arrival of her fourth little girl, Sara, who was born on the 30th day of March 1979.
For 15 years prior to this date Mary had been a victim of a rare disease the results of which was the deterioration of her muscles. At the time of the disease's first appearance it looked very much as though Mary would not survive for local doctors soon realized a successful diagnosis, let alone a successful treatment, was beyond their ability and, even the experts at the University of Utah hospital experimented for weeks to determine what the disease was. During much of this time she was so seriously ill that she was kept in intensive care.
The disease had intensified itself to the regions of the throat and lungs where those muscles were not physically able to properly function.
To bring us to the time of the event of which we are relating it may be reported that eventually doctors had discovered the disease was known as myacian gravis (my spelling as the term sounds despite the fact that I fail to locate it in a dictionary by that or any other spelling)(myasthenia gravis note by Beth Levanger). The doctors later, thru considerable experimentation, stabilized the problem by medication upon which undoubtedly, Mary will have to depend during the balance of her lifetime.
Mary had married subsequently, and had given birth, thru the years to Victoria, Tamara and lastly, Melissa, who, at the time of the new baby's arrival, was three years of age. With the previous children the birth process in each instance was not unnormal.
For some reason or another the anticipated new arrival was causing a little concern, however, no serious problem was anticipated. The doctor reported that toward the last the baby was too quiet and had not made its final turn in preparation for birth.
On a Wednesday preceding the Friday's birth Mary felt the time had come for her to go to the hospital. Prior to Bryce taking her on that day they came to the store where Mom and I were working and Mary asked that Bryce and I administer to her for all of us, long ago, had learned that a blessing at such a time was a part of the program.
We retired to the back room of the store where we would not be interrupted should a customer come in. Both Mary and Bryce suggested that Bryce would anoint with the oil and that I was to seal the anointing and pronounce the blessing which is a part of the ordinance of administering to the sick.
I had full confidence that Mary would get along all right with the delivery of the baby and so promised her in the blessing - that she would have the strength to return to her home with her new baby. There was no question in my mind as to the prompting which I received and so offered it as a promise.
It so happened that when Mary got to the doctor, he recommended that the time had not fully come and for her to return home and return Friday afternoon. As I remember the time was set for 2 or perhaps 3 o'clock.
Prior to this time a Leeds and Manchester Mission reunion of missionaries who served under President and Sister Royden B. Derrick, our mission president, was scheduled in Salt Lake and we had planned on attending. With Mary's new appointment being made for the afternoon of the evening of the reunion we seriously debated as to the wisdom of going to Salt Lake. Mary was the first to suggest that we go. Even after she got to the doctor on Friday, we telephoned her at the doctor's office and Mary asked him of the wisdom of our going. He advised us not to change our plans for everything looked good for Mary.
It was with mixed feelings that we left about four o'clock of that afternoon. We anticipated it would take three hours to make the trip one way - that we would spend a couple hours between seven and nine at the reunion and then return to Rupert that same evening. Too, one never knows of the timing of the new arrival and we hoped we would be back -midnight-perhaps, even in time for the delivery. The doctor said that we would be of no particular assistance at the time of delivery even if we stayed.
We made our hurried trip with a prayer in our hearts that all would be well at the hospital and it was not until we returned and entered the Burley hospital somewhat after midnight - but before 1 a.m. - that all had not been alright.
When we announced ourselves at the emergency entrance - the only door of the hospital which was open at that time of the night - and that we were Mary's parents, the attendant immediately led us to an intensive care room. The story of Mary's delivery was known by hospital personnel throughout the hospital and while the nurse didn't' tell us anything it could be seen that she knew right where Mary was, even though she was not serving in that part of the hospital at the time nor, very likely she would have been on duty at the time of the delivery.
As we entered the door with a guilt complex Mary was on her bed with the bed
raised part way up at the head so she was in a half reclining position. Her
first words were,
Don't worry, I'm alright now.
This was all that was needed to have been said to assure us our going
to Salt Lake was a mistake.
Her words were the first indication that, a few hours before, Mary was not all right. She told us the baby was born six hours before - at about 6:30 p.m. We felt badly that we had not been with her but she assured us that we could have done nothing had we been there. She told us they had problems and that they all had - and still had - real concern for the baby and that the doctors and nurses were doing all they could to keep her alive and that, even if she did live, that she would probably have residual challenges.
Mary had been given anesthetics and was ready for sleep which we did not want to hinder so we left the hospital with a promise to Mary that we would be back early in the morning.
We did not learn the whole story of the evening before until we talked with Ruth who had been in the hospital lounge room during the hours of Mary's delivery. This was the morning after and was by phone. Ruth's account was confirmed and added to by Bryce and his mother, Sister Beatrice Chugg, who was on duty as a nurse at the hospital and was in the delivery room with Mary.
Ruth related that the delivery started about six o'clock on the evening of March 30 with everyone confident all would be well. Naturally with Ruth being on the outside of the delivery room she did not know all the details of what transpired until after when she was told by those who were at the bedside, however, she soon sensed that all was not going well within.From thru the door Ruth could hear excited talking and moving about and the door opened and nurses began running hither and thither with apparent much concern. Sister Chugg, so Ruth reported, hurriedly rushed out after something and as she passed Ruth, with tears in her eyes, said,
Ruth, if you have ever prayed pray now. It looks like we have lost the both of them, speaking of Mary and the baby.
Ruth prayed. She was not aware of the blessing Mary received two or three days before with a promise that Mary would return home with her baby and that all would be well. They all, and who knows but that, perhaps, we would have questioned the promise had we been there at the time.
The story from those who were there was about as follows. In the process of birth, the flexing and contraction of the muscles is essential on the part of the mother which, in turn, required muscular activity by the lungs wherein Mary was particularly affected by the disease which seemed to have centered in those now essential regions of Mary's body. It became beyond Mary's ability to cope and her lungs literally collapsed. As her breathing was being seriously affected the doctor instinctively saw problems looming. To make matters all the worse the baby was a 'breech' baby and was entering the world feet first rather than headfirst. The doctor was reported to have said that he would be unable to save both baby and mother so for a time an element of disregard was shown the baby and by her heels the doctor literally pulled the baby from her mother and placed the baby on a paper-covered table nearby. The baby had not started breathing but was instinctively gasping for air which she could not get because of the mucous in her throat. Both the doctor and nurses momentarily, turned their attention to Mary who had literally 'passed out' for she, too, lacked air. Her breathing stopped. With his finger Doctor Peterson pushed Mary's eyelid open and reportedly said, 'She's gone' or words to that effect.
During the above activity the doctor asked an aid to ring a buzzer for Doctor Sutton, a baby specialist whom he knew was in the hospital. The intent was for Dr. Sutton to assist with the baby.
For some unexplained reason, in her haste, the aid pushed the wrong button and, instead of a signal for Doctor Sutton only, the button actually pushed was an all-out alarm. Not only did it bring the doctor intended but from all over the hospital nurses and other help came rushing up and down the halls.
Dr. Sutton started working with the baby taking her into the special baby's room where he got the baby breathing. It was during these minutes of concern, which were sufficiently long that the doctor and nurses thought the baby had been without oxygen sufficiently long to cause them to question and even suspect that the baby would have suffered brain damage but they continued to work with her.
In the mean-time, back with Mary, they worked feverishly. It so happened that the hospital anesthesiologist was not on duty. She had left for the day but she was still in her car somewhere on the streets of Burley and her car was set up to accept emergency signals from the button at the hospital and so she hurriedly returned to the hospital in time to get the necessary lung gear on Mary to restore her lung breathing motion until the lung muscles were sufficiently resuscitated to function on their own. A life was saved, probably, entirely due to the fact that the aid pressed the wrong button. It is reported that when the doctor's aid was asked why she pressed the wrong button her only response was her shrugging and looking upward toward the ceiling. There had been no willful intent but we all recognize a High Power was intervening. To Him we offer our gratitude.
Mary responded quickly as had been indicated previously in this story that six hours later when we entered her room, she was able to visit with us.
The doctor and nurses gave constant attention to the baby in her incubator. Her throat needed almost continuous attention to keep the mucous from stopping her breathing. Her head was mis-shaped which the doctors felt was caused by her lack of movement while in the womb as was previously noted. It was most probably that the problem stemmed from her head laying heavily on her knee or arm which position hindered natural development. From the very beginning the doctors and nurses held out very little hope for the baby to have no problems, even if she lived which was a big question from the beginning. What an entry into this beautiful world and to parents and family who had anticipated the arrival of a newly born babe. If she lived and was fortunate enough to be physically and mentally sound - or if she were to have challenges - she would be welcomed and loved. Certainly, it is unnecessary to state here that there was much concern.
The hours of Saturday morning and afternoon passed. In the mean time the doctor had sent word to the Twin Falls hospital for assistance for the baby. At that hospital there was a specialist -Dr. Wright -- who would be able to do more for the baby than anyone at the Burley hospital.
An ambulance with a driver and two skilled nurses arrived during the latter part of the afternoon and the nurses were introduced to the situation. The baby had had little success in nursing due to the lack of strength of mouth muscles and congestion. It seemed she had inherited the disease her mother had and so was seemingly unable to cope with the problem of taking nourishment. The new nurses immediately set to work to feed the baby intravenously which required skill on their part. They shaved the hair from a sizable spot on the baby's head and inserted a needle into the soft spot just forward from the crown of her head and attached a tube leading from a bottle of some such liquid as glucose. Regrettably my use of medical terms is altogether inadequate to give proper explanation. I hope from my description the reader will be able to get a picture in his or her mind of what I am attempting to describe.
The baby, naturally, remained in the incubator - actually it had been transferred to a special incubator for ambulance use for on the trip to the Twin Falls hospital she needed constant attention and all the aids that could be made available.
Mom and I had been with Mary from early morning but returned home at about noon to take care of some matters but we returned shortly after the Twin Falls nurses had arrived. Bishop and Sister Floyd Merrill, Mary and Bryce's bishop and wife were waiting in the lounge room when we arrived.
After the nurses had prepared the baby and her 'harness' which was attached to equipment or jars - a supply of oxygen was and had been essential to keeping her alive - the little incubator was rolled into Mary's room with its little charge of 6 1/2 pounds.
The new head nurse from Twin Falls asked the family to go into Mary's room in order for her to assess the situation. She appeared to us as being very knowledgeable and otherwise qualified. It seems the purpose was for her to report the seriousness of the baby's general condition, particularly with her head and lungs.
The nurse very candidly counseled that we not have too high hope of, first,
the baby being able to survive and, secondly, if she did survive, of her ever
being able to live normally.
She has too many things against her for me to give you much hope
were her words to us. She then showed how they had actually measured the
comparable parts of the two sides of her head. One ear was higher than the
other from the corner of each of her respective eyes. She said that indicated
that, in all likelihood, one kidney would be offset from the other for, --
interestingly, the relationship being from the eye and ear on one side of
the baby's head to the kidney on the opposite side of the body. What she was
trying to tell us what that, in all probability where there were problems
with the head there, very likely, could be internal problems of which no one
was yet aware. One side of the head was somewhat enlarged while the other
side, including the left eye was considerably concaved. There was a swelling
of a gland on the left side which would be a serious handicap to normal appearance
and, perhaps, manipulation. While one could hardly call the shape of the head
and its position grotesque it would be very noticeable.
The nurse said there were numerous other problems with which the baby would have to contend, however, she promised they, the nurses, and the doctor to whom they were taking her, would do everything possible to assist the baby. She mentioned that it would take time for her true condition to be known. If the baby were to be developmentally delayed, the full extent of such a problem would not fully be recognized until sufficient time had passed for the baby's motor reactions be studied some of which would not be discernible until she became of the age to start crawling and then walking and even later.
The nurse spent considerable time with us which was appreciated, and she left
the impression that her major purpose of such a meeting was for us, as a family,
to not be disappointed overly should the baby not develop normally. She repeated,
The baby has many things against her.
Mary had invited the bishop and me to administer to the baby prior to their taking her in the ambulance. This we did following the nurses visiting with us and which was done in the presence of both nurses whom we suspect were not LDS.
Bishop Merrill was invited to anoint the little baby's head with oil and I was asked to seal the anointing and pronounce a blessing.
As I look back on the event, especially, immediately following what the nurse had been telling us I wonder of what I must have been thinking as I was giving the blessing. As of now - some six months later - it seems her remarks must not have 'hit home' so to speak for what she said seemed not to affect my thinking in the least.
With our hands on the head of the baby - inserted thru the holes in the side of the incubator, I was led - and when I say led, I truly believe it for there seemed no desire for hesitation on my part - to promise the little girl that she would respond to the treatment of the doctors and nurses and others who would take care of her and that it would not be long before she would be able to be taken to her parents and sisters to a happy home life and that all would be well for her.
Since then I have wondered why I so promised her a normal life when we had just been told that the odds were against her even if she lived.
The report came back to us that when the doctor started working with the baby on the evening the ambulance took her to Twin Falls. He was stymied. First, the medical history of Mary was studied but he knew little or nothing of her disease. Not only was the baby physically handicapped but he felt she had inherited the disease her mother had just as a baby who is born of a smoking or alcoholic mother inherits its mother's weaknesses. He asked the nurses to spend time with his medical books researching information on the disease and enlighten him when they learned something about it. They reported that Dr. Wright spent the entire night working with the baby and that he was intensely interested in her welfare.
Mary subsequently returned home from the Burley hospital and regained her strength quite readily. She and Bryce visited the baby in Twin Falls a couple times. On one occasion Mom and I went with them.
After about ten days Mary and Bryce brought the little one home - they had not yet decided what her name was to be - and with loving care and thanksgiving on the part of all of us she was welcomed. She has since been named Sara May and she has won a special place in all our hearts.
At this writing, 10 October 1979, she is just past six months old and she continues to grow and develop. She is our miracle baby and shows excellent indications that she will yet live a normal life. She is very active and while all her problems may not have fully disappeared, she certainly is headed in the right direction. We have never been around a happier and more pleasant baby - she is unusually so.
One amusing anecdote already in her short life happened over a month ago when, in church on her mother's lap, she was entertaining herself by watching her sisters who were sitting next to her and she started laughing which developed into a giggle. She became so amused that she couldn't stop her giggling and it became necessary for her mother to take her from the meeting.
The little girl who, seemingly, was not meant to have a normal life ahead of her is headed for more than was ever hoped for her - actually, at times as we watch her movements we wonder if she is not developing even faster than other children. By the time she was four and a half to five months old she was able to sit on the floor alone and reach and play with items exceptionally steadily. She loves to be on her feet and it is amusing to see her strut along when one holds her by both hands and leads her about.
According to the nurse, developmental delays would be noticeable by the time of crawling age and while she has not yet started to crawl there is no evidence of a forthcoming problem. A stranger, looking at her for the first time, would never suspect her past history even now.
The Lord has been merciful and, seemingly, has heard our prayer in Sara's behalf. To us who have seen her from the beginning she is a miracle baby and we are most grateful.
A Bout With Pneumonia
It was about March of 1979 that my brother, LeRoy, started nursing a bad cold which kept him confined to his home. It was a persistent case and he seemed not to be able to overcome it. After about a week he asked that my brother-in-law, Carl Garner, and I administer to him and rebuke the cold.
We went to his home - Mabel and I - and, separately, Carl and Merintha. Carl anointed with oil and I was asked to seal the anointing and pronounce a blessing. I remember well the feeling which came over me while pronouncing the blessing that I could not refrain from promising him that he would have the strength to overcome the cold and that he would become well.
During the next day or two he showed no signs of overcoming his problem, in fact, he worsened and, with Hilda, a day or two later he went to the doctor who, immediately, sent him to the hospital for pneumonia had set in and he became heavily congested.
Even after he went to the hospital he seemed to worsen. He was given intravenous feeding and had, almost from the beginning, a continuous direct supply of oxygen day and night.
Roy became so ill that even he wondered if this sickness would prove fatal. As Mabel, Hilda and I left him one evening we wondered of the possibility of receiving a call from the hospital during the night announcing the fatality.
Here again, as has happened on certain other occasions, I worried about my promise in the administration. I realized how easy it is to make promises in the way one personally hopes to come to pass. I couldn't think I promised more than I should have done for I was so impressed to say what I did.
I went to the hospital early the next morning before going to work to visit Roy and found that he was somewhat improved. However, he told me that during the night he thought his final summons was nearing. He told me that whether by dream or not he was not fully sure, but he saw a casket with his body in it being wheeled into the church house. The chapel was full with those who were attending his funeral service. Pallbearers were there, as also even to the honorary pallbearers. He reported his recent mission president, M. Russell Ballard, a general authority and member of the First Quorum of Seventy was in attendance to be the speaker. He, Roy, related that the picture of it all was very clear to him.
During these days, as related earlier, I continued to have concern. Probably in such situations one is led to pray just a little more fervently than normally and such was the case in this instance. The prompting had been so vivid in this administration that I would have been surprised, indeed, had this sickness proven final to Roy.
From that morning on Roy made gradual improvement and within a few days' time he recovered sufficiently to return home.
In the Fast and Testimony meeting a month later he bore testimony and reported the experience just as I have related it.
A Miracle Of An Eye Injury
A few days, probably a week, before Christmas of 1978 a small five-year old boy, Ryan, a son of Laron and Ruth Waite and our grandson was eagerly awaiting dinner which was being prepared by his mother and sisters on a Saturday at noontime.
As a hungry little five-year old will often do in anticipation of the scheduled meal, Ryan took his place at the table a little sooner than need be and while waiting the placing of the food on the table he started to play with part of the tableware already placed before him, a knife, fork and spoon. At this particular dinner steak knives were to be used.
Apparently with an extra bit of pressure from his fingers applied in some manner to the handle of the knife it flipped into the air with the sharp edge of the blade flying directly across the eyeball not even leaving time for the eyelid to close. As a result, the sharp blade actually cut his eyeball.
The pain didn't seem to be extreme but the clean cut affected the little fellow as though there were something in his eye. It became so annoying and it hurt sufficiently that Ruth concluded that she should take him to a doctor.
The day being a Saturday she found that the office of the optometrist was closed so she took Ryan directly to the emergency room of the Burley hospital.
Most doctors who serve at the hospital are not on duty on a Saturday afternoon, however, it has been the practice in both the Rupert and Burley hospitals, and perhaps others, to have an intern or student doctor who is finalizing his training at the University of Utah to replace local doctors over the weekend.
As Ryan was examined by the nurses when he first went in an intern luckily
was present. As he looked at Ryan's eye he said,
You are a very, very lucky little boy.
He then went on to explain to Ruth and Ryan that there are three layers
of membrane tissue in the make-up of the eye and he compared this membrane
tissue to the layers of onionskin of an onion. His close examination with
his instrument which magnified was that two of the three layers had been cut
through with the bottom of the cut right against the third and last layer
of membrane. He said that had it been ever so slightly deeper as to have cut
into the next thin skin-like layer his eye would have lost its vision.
The cut was so serious that it concerned the intern to the extent that he said it was advisable to call for a professional eye doctor. Such a doctor was not staffed in the hospital so a nurse placed a telephone call for Dr. Cutler, a local optometrist. It proved that he was difficult to locate and it was only after tracing him to the Burley high school gym that he was located. He was watching a basketball game being played at that time.
Dr. Cutler examined the eye and confirmed the seriousness of the cut and that Ryan was a very lucky boy that it was not worse. He said the only thing he could do at that time was to put an antiseptic solution in the eye to ward off infection and bandage it over tightly so there would be no eyelid movement.
Not only did the intern see the cut but he also showed Ruth and two nurses who were present. Dr. Cutler said he wanted to see the eye the next morning which was somewhat unusual for it was a Sunday morning on which, normally, the doctor does not make appointments.
Laron was not at home at the time of the accident but the entire family was very much relieved that, despite the seriousness of the accident, it was not worse than it was. Dr. Cutler warned Ruth that, in all probability, as the cut would heal, a degree of scar tissue would result which would very likely affect the clearness of his vision following its healing and, at that later time, an eye operation may have to be considered to clear the blur.
We, Ruth's parents, were out of town to Paul and Lynn's daughter Cindy's wedding. Our granddaughter was being married to Ken Hansen in the Salt Lake Temple. The wedding occurred on December 15, 1978. We returned that evening to Rupert not long after which the phone rang and Ruth advised us of their accident and asked that we go to their home and assist in administering to Ryan.
I was invited to anoint with oil in the priesthood ordinance and Laron sealed the anointing and gave Ryan a blessing promising Ryan that his eye would heal and that all would turn out all right.
The next morning Ruth, Laron and Ryan missed their Sunday School and kept the
appointment at the doctor's office. When Dr. Cutler took the bandage from
the eye, he examined it closely and then again repeated his examination. He
asked himself and Ruth if that could have been the eye he worked on the afternoon
before and seemed to wonder if he had the right boy. He could not believe
what he saw. It was as if he was convincing himself by saying,
I know I saw it and that others saw it, too.
Ruth assured him that she had seen the cut and that Ryan was the same
boy, but this Sunday morning the doctor could not find the slightest evidence
that the eye had been cut. In its quick healing no scar tissue resulted. It
was a miracle, not only to the family but also to the doctor.
The doctor could find no reason for him to replace the bandage but asked that Ryan again be brought back Tuesday morning for another examination. The new appointment was kept with still no evidence that anything was wrong with the eye. This was confirmed by the doctor again carefully making an examination.
Arlene Blacker Koyl, Ruth's cousin, who works at the hospital reported in the next Fast and Testimony meeting - she being a member of the same Heyburn ward - bore testimony that Dr. Cutler reported his experience with Ryan's eye and voluntarily brought the experience up to the nurses and others at the hospital the next day or so following his examining the eye and as if to question his own seeing the cut asked the nurses who were in attendance of the first day's examination if they had actually seen the cut. They agreed that they had each, personally, seen the cut as did also the intern when he made his next visit to the Burley hospital. They could hardly believe Dr. Cutler when he told them that the very next morning there was no indication of any damage whatsoever.
There were too many witnesses to this miraculous healing for there to have been a question of its reality. There remains but one answer. The eye was healed by the power of the priesthood. There is no room for another explanation.
Ryan, to this day - some three or four months later - has never shown the slightest indication since the accident of any problem with his eye. He is a living witness to a true principle of the gospel.
A Family Letter -- 14 July 1978
To Our Dear Children - - Sons and Daughters - - and Grandchildren:
We are sure you are aware that you who married into the family are included in our term, sons and daughters.
As you recall we accepted the assignment of a Family letter. Mom will have to remind me whether it was to be a monthly or quarterly letter. She is now writing the letter on this very warm Friday afternoon out in the shade in the back yard. I shall type it and duplicate it so each of you will get an identical copy. Otherwise, favorites might be claimed. You kids know as well as we that there are no such in our family.
In planning this letter, I, for some time have thought it might be our responsibility to share with you two or three experiences we have had which may be included in the little folder we prepared for you relative to faith-promoting experiences. It might be possible that most of you kept that folder. If so, would you add a few additional pages which we are sending along with the letter. These incidents happened while on our mission to England from the 10th of May 1975 to the 1st of October 1976.
If you have a day when you weaken and wonder if the gospel is true and if the Church was actually restored take time out and review these experiences and let us, your parents, in this manner tell you that your parents have no question in their minds.
I shall not take more of this valuable space but shall reserve it for your mother's letter. I don't think she will contradict what I have said. We love each of you.
Your Dad and Grandfather
July 4, 1978 is over. The Loyn Blacker family reunion of the same date has passed into history and only cherished and dear memories remain.
It was a wonderful few days, days never to be forgotten as we mingled together - - the first time in over three years. During those three years 7 more had been added to the family. Little David came and went so swiftly leaving a sweet influence in our lives.
Now it is silent in the old home - - Just Dad and me as we look at each other and wonder what happened to those babies we once had. Did we dream those years when we had six beautiful and wonderful children? We couldn't have dreamed it all for at the beginning we were young. Now we aren't so it must have been a real experience. We really had a family but one by one you left and each has a family of your own.
Paul, our first child was also the first to arrive for the reunion - - he, Lynn, Cindy and Ken, Laura, Julie, Jeffrey and Jimmy - - came Saturday afternoon and from then until a few minutes ago - - about ten days - - when Mary (John's Mary) returned from Camp and took Ian and John. During the entire intervening time the home has had some of our family in it.
Family Home Evening on Monday night. What a meal we had - - not only fresh caught fish, salads, casseroles, chips and home- made root beer made on the spot and our ending with cup cakes upon each of which floated a proud tiny American flag (did Mom forget hamburgers and hot dogs or did we have them?) but that food which we seldom have (family all together food). As I watched I was so thankful to my Heavenly Father for answering my prayers of over 40 years before when I prayed for just such a family. I had prayed for so long and I almost felt that the blessing of a good husband and family in this life would not be mine. I was so full of gratitude that night of our get together that I could hardly eat the physical food.
How each of you, in your coming into our home has blessed your father and me and our lives you no doubt realize now that you have children of your own. I t has been a great source of real joy to us as we have gone to the temples with each of you to see you receive those great blessings of our Heavenly Father. It is also pleasing to us and to our Heavenly Parents to see you as you teach your children to do the same.
That 4th of July breakfast and the flipper game was something - - Laron is just recovering - - for another game. What could have been better than as a family to salute the flag as it hung from the tree that early morning of the 4th? Beautiful stars and stripes - - emblems of our liberty.
Sausage, bacon, pancakes and hot chocolate after the flipper game. The children all always remember that drizzly morning as they went on the Treasure Hunt ending up where they started with a sucker for a half hour hunt.
Parades are thrilling if for no other reason than to stand erect with many others, hand over heart, as the flag passes by. We sat as a family - - some on the curb, others on theirs or chairs or blankets watching the parade pass by.
Back to our old home where we ate again - - fried chicken, salads and more casseroles, some new some left over from the night before, hot rolls, and on and on.
Rodeo, carnival and fireworks ended the 4th - - all memories to cherish during the coming years and love and appreciation for each other ended the reunion. This reunion will surely pass the way for others here and in the Beyond.
Now the red swing hangs quietly from the big tree limb, the other swing is
also empty. The house is quiet. No one sleeps in the upstair's beds nor in
the sleeping bags on the patio-family room floor or the sofas. Grandpa and
I can sit and nod in our chairs recalling with thanks the Loyn Blacker reunion
and as we do, perhaps a tear or two will trickle down our cheeks and we'll
May the Lord bless our children and grandchildren.
Dad and Mom
Grandpa and Grandma
15 July 1978
Yesterday's letter, written hurriedly while rocking in the rocker under the shade of the big tree in the back yard didn't get all written that should have been written.