Plain City Cemetery Incident

I wanted to share this interesting little incident that happened on Friday.

Amanda and the rest of the kids went to Utah for the weekend.  Aliza stayed because she had school and rode down with me on Friday.

As we neared Plain City I asked if she remembered Great Grandpa Milo.  She said that she did.  She then asked if we could drive past his house.  (She often asks to drive past places.)

We drove past and I asked if she wanted to stop at the Plain City Cemetery.  She said yes.

We stopped and walked over to Grandpa and Grandma Ross’ grave stone.

Aliza with Milo & Gladys Ross tombstone

Aliza with Milo & Gladys Ross tombstone

I asked if she wanted to see Grandpa Milo’s mother’s grave.  She agreed and we walked over to the grave of Ethel Sharp Ross.

I also took her to the grave of Paul Ross, 1922-1932, and I explained my relationship to him.

We then walked to the grave of Ethel Sharp Ross’ parents, Milo Riley and Mary Ann “Lillie” Stoker Sharp.

Aliza with Milo and Mary Ann "Lillie" Sharp, also Mary Ann Stoker.

Aliza with Milo and Mary Ann “Lillie” Sharp, also Mary Ann Sharp’s tombstone.

Aliza recognized the Lillie, although Lillian was only loosely named after this Lillie.  We use the Lillie spelling for her nickname based on this Lillie though.  I explained the Milo name, the relationships, and how Mary Ann on this stone is Mary Ann Bailey Sharp, Milo Riley’s mother.

We then walked over to Lillie’s father, William Edward Stoker.  In this picture below, you can see Mary Ann or Lillie Sharp’s proximity to her father’s grave.  Her mother died in England before the family could immigrate to Utah.

Aliza with William Edward Stoker

Aliza with William Edward Stoker’s grave stone

Needless to say, being related to some of the older graves in the cemetery, we are related to a number of the other families in the graveyard.  We walked around for quite a while talking about names and how they are related.

I started walking back toward the car and Aliza wanted to go back over by William Stoker.  I told her we did not have any more family graves over in that part of the cemetery.  She insisted, “we didn’t stop at the other family tombstone for a picture.”  Knowing there was no other family over there, I followed her so she could see for herself.

She then stopped at another grave.  She wanted to take a picture of it.  I told her we were not related to them and she said, “Yes we are, I want a picture.”  Rather than have a battle in the cemetery over it, I took her picture.

Aliza with William and Martha Wayment tomb stone

Aliza with William and Martha Wayment tombstone

If you look closely, you can see William Stoker’s grave behind William Wayment’s grave marker, and the Sharp tombstone right above Aliza.  I took the picture and it dawned on me, Amanda’s Great Grandfather’s middle name was Wayment and his mother had been a Wayment.  I was not sure if these Wayments were related to Amanda’s Wayments or not.

Sure enough, Aliza was right.  While not related to me, these were her relatives!  These are her 5th Great Grandparents through Amanda’s line.

I was a bit struck by the determination she had that we had another family grave I had not taken her.  Dumbfounded that they were in fact her family, and not mine!  It inspired and spooked at the same time.

Amanda’s Great Grandfather is Walter Wayment Hansen, 1904 -1995.  His mother is Martha Ann Wayment Hansen, 1877-1908.  Her father is Joseph Wayment, 1844 – 1931.  His parents are William Wayment, 1822 – 1883, and Martha Brown, 1823 – 1905, the individuals whose graves Aliza wanted a picture.  My father-in-law, Bryan Hemsley, did not remember they were buried in Plain City.

Martha Brown and William Wayment's tombestone

Martha Brown and William Wayment’s tombestone

A quick internet search located this brief history of William and Martha Wayment.  In reading, the Stokers and Wayments came to America both on the same ship, the Amazon!  Multiple linkages in history between the two families.  I corrected a couple of spellings in the biography.

Martha Brown was born May 26, 1823 in Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England to William Brown and Mary Wade. Cambridge is a flat coastal plain located in the southeast part of England. The climate is moderate with much rainfall which produces much vegetation. Martha met and married William Wayment on Christmas Day December 25, 1841 in the Bassingbourne Parrish in Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, England. They both signed the certificate which seemed an unusual procedure to the clerk. William signed his name Whayment. He gave his age as 20 and was listed as a laborer. Martha gave her age as 19 and was listed as a s spinster. William and Mary made their home with h is widowed mother, Mary Rook Wayment. Several members of her family have told of this incident – “as a bride living in her mother-in-laws home”, Martha found that circumstances and conditions were not always pleasant. One stressful day Martha threatened to leave the home and her husband. She went into a small room (or a clothes closet) to get some of her things, her mother-in-law quickly closed and locked the door. There Martha was kept until she promised not to leave. Satisfactory adjustments were made and she kept her promise. Martha’s grandfather, William Brown of Whaddon has been described as a wealthy farmer. His son, Samuel, Martha’s father was disinherited after he married a servant girl, Mary Wade, who worked for his parents. He was a butcher by trade. He extended his business and it is said he became a well to do merchant. Martha had seven brothers and 1 sister all born in Bassingbourne. It is said the Browns were a family of large men, all of them being over 6 ft tall, and long lived. Martha was the only one to live to be over 80, however. Though a hard worker William, Martha father, never accumulated much wealth. Their modest home and limited circumstances was a source of embarrassment at times for Martha in England. William earning being sometimes about 8 shillings a week (about $2 in US dollars). But through careful management they were able to take care of their children as they came into the family. William and Martha had 6 boys and 2 girls, all born in Whaddon. Aaron, Joseph, Samuel, William Emily John Brown William Thomas, Martha. Seems as though it was necessary for them to come to America to develop their potential. The children hired out at an early age, working for farmers of the area. work included keeping birds out of the cherry trees and pulling poppies out of the grain fields. Often the children would leave home at 5:00 in the morning and work for 3 or 4 hours then they would be called in for breakfast. Some meals were very meager. The first missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints arrived in Liverpool, England July 20, 1837. Having sailed on the ship “Garrick” under the leadership of Heber C Kimball. Later working their way to the Whaddon, Bassingbourne area. after William and Martha heard their messages they opened their home to the missionaries. Many people of the community stirred up others to try to stop the spread of the gospel. This made it necessary to hold meetings and baptisms services at night to avoid the mobs that were a continually threat to them. The Brown family were especially bitter against the church. This caused William and Martha to delay joining the church although they were convince of the truth. Finally in 1850 William and Martha decided to disregard the threats of the Brown family. William was baptized May 1850 a few months later Williams mother, Mary Rook Wayment was baptized in 1851. The three of them continued to support the missionaries. Martha was baptized 1 May 1857 in spite of her families wishes. When her father learned of her actions he disinherited her except for the benefit o f a few schillings. All the children were each baptized into the church eventually. Joseph the oldest living son worked with his father fossil digging and earned enough money for his transportation to America. Joseph aged 19, 1863 booked passage on the “Amazon”. After Joseph left the family continued working together to meet their needs and maybe to emigrate? It took many years to reach their goal. by the spring of 1878 they were making final preparations to emigrate to Zion. They booked passage on the ship “Nevada” and sailed from Liverpool May 25, 1878. Travel was long and much seasickness. After arriving on the shores they rode west on Pullman cars to Philadelphia then changed here to “immigrant cars” which were very uncomfortable. The east was beautiful but the farther west they came the habitation vanished and scenes about them were dry and barren. They arrived in Ogden, Utah Territory June 1878 the family was met by son, Joseph and Samuel and taken to Samuel’s home in Plain City, After living here a few months they settled in the Salt Creek area close to Joseph on land he had purchased in 1872. Their home was a log house. William applied for homestead rights to a quarter section of land. They planted cotton wood trees, yellow roses, tea vines and other fast growing plants. They all continued being active in the church and received their endowments in the Salt Lake Temple. Martha was not idle as she received her citizenship papers November 16, 1885. In 1886 Martha received the property deed William had applied for Signed by President Grover C Cleveland, President of the United States of America Oct 18,1886 Martha cared for most of her needs but over the years became very overweight. The story is told: April 12, 1905 at age 82, she saw the traveling grocer coming & hastened to arrive home before him. Arriving about the same time, she told him she would have to gather her eggs for his pay. The grocer said he would go to other places and come back later. When he returned he could not find her, over exertion had brought on a stroke and she died. Her survivors were, Joseph, Samuel, John, William Thomas, Emily and Martha, 46 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren. Her service held in the Warren church was overflowing with family & friends. She is buried in the Plain City Cemetery next to her loving husband April 14, 1905


Edith Maude Gudmundson Andra

Edith Gudmunson

Edith Maude Gudmundson Andra, 91, passed away on Monday, 18 July 2016 at her home in Stockton, Missouri, from natural causes related to age.  She was born the first of two children on 21 September 1924 in Logan, Utah, to Melvin Peter and Maude Victoria Wollaston Gudmundson.  She married William Fredrick Andra Jr 13 June 1947 in the Logan Utah LDS Temple.  Together they had six children.  William passed away in 1992.  Edith married Leland Fred Williams 10 March 1999 in Arnica, Missouri.  He predeceased her in 2011.

Edith grew up in Logan at 253 East 3rd South.  She had one sister, Shirley, born in 1928, with who she grew up.

Shirley, Melvin, and Edith

Shirley, Melvin, and Edith


Shirley and Edith Gudmundson

Shirley and Edith Gudmundson

Her mother passed away in 1931 and the family had to work through those difficult years with just the three of them.  She attended Wilson School and Logan Junior and Senior Schools where she graduated. She played the violin.

Edith Maude Gudmunson 005

Logan HS Yearbook

Logan HS Yearbook


Logan HS Yearbook

Logan HS Yearbook


Edith Maude Gudmunson 012 Edith Maude Gudmunson 014 Edith Maude Gudmunson 008 Edith Maude Gudmunson 010

She enlisted in the Navy in Salt Lake City, Utah, 21 September 1944 and served until discharge in San Francisco, California, 1 May 1946.  She trained and served as a switchboard operator for the majority of the time of her service.

Edith Maude Gudmunson 015 Edith Maude Gudmunson 016

After her military service, she attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Edith in the BYU yearbook

Edith in the BYU yearbook

Edith 002

During this time she met William Andra, who discharged from the Marines 20 June 1946.  I am not aware that he attended Brigham Young University, but I know he was living in Orem and it was likely there that William and Edith met culminating in their marriage in 1947.

Edith and William Andra Marriage Portrait

Edith and William Andra Marriage Portrait

Greg William was born in Preston, Idaho in 1948.  Chad Fredrick was born in Preston in 1949.


Bill and Edith andra with Greg and Chad

By 1950, the family was living in Boise for a short time.

Edith in 1951

Edith in 1951

The family then moved back to Logan where Kent Melvin was born in 1954.

Bill and Edith with Marc, chad, and Kent

Edith Maude Gudmunson

The family was living in Midvale by 1955 where Marc David was born.  Then to Salt Lake City in 1956.  Troy Norman was born in Providence in 1960.

Bill and Edith andra with Greg and Chad and Kent, marc

Bill & Edith in Richmond for an Andra Reunion

Bill & Edith in Richmond for an Andra Reunion

A few years later the family moved to Smithfield.  Todd Nathan was born in Smithfield in 1968.

Greg,Kent and Marc, Chad, Edith, Bill

Greg and Chad and Kent 001

It is in Smithfield that my mother came to know the family, since she was living in Richmond.  Kent and my Mom were close in age and played together.

Larry and Mom both told me stories about William and Edith being very particular about being healthy eaters.  Larry remembers Edith washing every leaf of a head of lettuce before it could be eaten.  William tried to convince Larry of the unhealthy nature of bacon and milk.  Nobody else seemed to care, but it would really get William and Edith upset when people would not come to their way of thinking.  William was also particular about when you ate, not mixing the various parts of your food with other parts.  Larry found much of this amusing.

The Andra family was a fairly tight knit family and held reunions together yearly.  Relationships started to strain in 1965 when William and Edith learned and accepted polygamy leading to their excommunication from the LDS church.  The Andra family relationships started to strain further after attempts to convert William’s parents and some of the siblings to polygamy.  Even while William’s parents were in a nursing home late in life, there were attempts to convert them to polygamy which led to final severing ties.

Bill and Edith with 5 boys

William Andra Jr FamilyBill Edith Children 1981

I don’t know when, but the family after converting to polygamy moved to Santa Clara.  Nobody in the immediate family knows when due to the severance.  After many years in Santa Clara, they then moved to Cedar County, Missouri.

Bill Edith 1981

Bill and Edith Family 1981

Bill and Edith in SLC (2)Todd, Troy, Marc, Kent, Chad, Greg 004

Todd, Edith, and Kent Andra

My first visit to Edith was in 2001.  I was moving to Branson, Missouri for work and before I left Uncle Ross Andra told me Edith lived in Missouri somewhere.  I do not have any memories with William and Edith and did not even know she was still alive.  Ross told me I should stop and visit.  I knew nothing of the divide that had come into the family.

When I stayed the night before entering Missouri in Florence, Kansas, I looked to see what I could find in the phone book.  With a last name like Andra, it wasn’t hard to find who I thought was the right name in Stockton, Missouri.  I called the number and it was Mary Andra, wife of Kent Andra who answered.  She told me I was welcome to stop by and since their shop was a bit off the beaten path, gave me directions.

I arrived later that day and found a long lost number of cousins I never knew existed.  I saw the shop, I met a number of Kent’s children, and then I was taken down to the home to meet more of the family.  When I was introduced to his wife, Tammy, I thought I had already met his wife, Mary, but I assumed I must have misunderstood.  I met more and more children.

Kent sent one of his daughters with me to help me find Edith’s home.  I sat with Edith meeting her for the first time in my memory and chatted for quite a while.  She showed me some family history, told me some sweet stories of my Grandmother Colleen, and various conversations.  Edith did not know Colleen had passed away.  She told me of her new marriage to Leland Williams.  We parted on great terms and went back to Kent’s home, enjoyed some carrot juice, and visited.

In a funny situation, I was enjoying my carrot juice trying to keep the children’s names straight when Mary came into the house.  I sat there talking with Kent, Tammy, and Mary having a good laugh.  I kept wondering how I misunderstood and was unclear on who was Kent’s wife, so I asked.  They stated that both were.  I sat there not comprehending.  I must have looked confused because they just looked at me.  It then dawned on me and I made some comment like, “Well, we are family right?”  I laughed, they laughed, and I think any tension or misunderstanding that may have been there melted away.  That was not something I was expecting that day!

We said our goodbyes knowing that we were still family.  I quite enjoyed my visit.

It was later that week I got a phone call from Edith asking me to not share names, circumstances, or anything else regarding the family because it had caused so much trouble with the rest of the family.  I told her that we were family and it did not bother me and I really did not think it bothered anyone else.

I visited again in 2002.  When Kent passed away in 2003, I thought they were very kind to let me know.

Amanda and I stopped in 2006 on our move from Utah to Virginia.  As we drove to the boonies where they lived, she joked with me that I was going to drop her off out in the middle of nowhere.  We again had a very pleasant visit with Mary, Tammy, and Edith.  Amanda was prepped with the information and quickly found out nobody had multiple heads or horns.  I think it was the boonies that gave her more concern than the polygamy.

I visited again in 2008 driving from Virginia through to Washington for work.  That time Edith had moved to a home nearer to her son Marc.  I stopped to visit Marc and Cheryl and met them for the first time.  Edith also came over to the house and we visited with her.  Here is a photo from that visit.

Paul Ross, Cheryl & Marc Andra, and Edith.

Paul Ross, Cheryl & Marc Andra, and Edith.

I tried to call Edith every other year or so.  Sometimes it was hard to track her down, but I typically found her and was able to call.  The last time I visited with her was when Donald was sick and dying with cancer in the spring of 2016.  I asked Donald if I could let some of the extended family know.  He said yes.  With that, I called Edith and visited with her about Sergene’s passing and Donald’s cancer.  She talked about how the family was distant and she appreciated the updates.  She also indicated that life continues to pass and we all end up dealing with death at some point.  She reminded me of her age and she did not know where she would be next week either.

Now she is gone.

While I know there was quite a bit of angst in the family over the beliefs and separation, but despite all that I am glad I did not know of the polygamy issues and got to know the family as just that, family.  Their position, beliefs, and practices at no point directly affected me in any way.  I am glad I know them!

Aunt Edith, until we meet again.



In Memory of Lowell Hansen, Bryce Sanderson, and Garrett Smith

With the suicide of a dear young man, Bryce Allen Sanderson, I thought I would share these thoughts and this talk once again.  In memory of Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?  I hope this talk will help address some of these questions as we all ponder once again this unthinkable act, that brings upon a person their own death.

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I attempted to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.  I have gained my own testimony of the talk and testify openly of its principles and truth.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think it always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home in 2000 and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.


My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst and am your advocate with the Father.  And it is His good will to give you the kingdom.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auschwitz during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

First published 5 Jun 2011.


With my brother-in-law entering the Missionary Training Center (and now already left for his Carlsbad California Mission) I looked through some of the photos I have from the MTC.

That morning we met with the Stake President to finalize everything before driving out to Provo, Utah, Utah.

The morning to go to the MTC with Milo Ross, Colleen Lloyd, and Jackie Melycher (aunt)

The morning to go to the MTC with Milo Ross, Colleen Lloyd, and Jackie Melycher (aunt).  My Grandma particularly liked this photo because it also gives a side profile of me as well as the front.

One final blessing and setting apart before leaving.

Gene Hansen, Paul Ross, Milo Ross, setting apart (again)

Gene Hansen, Paul Ross, Milo Ross, setting apart (again)

The first picture is at the front doors before going in.

Arriving at the MTC

Arriving at the MTC

My first companion Elder Kody Young from St. George, Washington, Utah.

Kody Young and Paul Ross, companions at MTC

Kody Young and Paul Ross, companions at MTC (the camera is incorrect, this was December 1998)

Our first snow while at the MTC.

Snow at the MTC

Snow at the MTC

One of my most distinct memories from the MTC was the heating.  I don’t know what it was, but I ended up with a bloody nose at least once a day.  I was not the only one.  Apparently it had something to do with the dryness of the air and the ventilation systems.  It made for long days where my head was not always in the lessons but often worrying about the next nosebleed and whether I had tissues nearby.  If I had to go to the bathroom, the paper towels only seemed to make the problem worse.

Elder Holland came and spoke to the MTC while we were there.  He insisted on the opening hymn as “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”  After we sang it, he wanted us to sing it again with the silly extra phrases we all know.  It was quite a bit of fun hearing an organ play the introduction and then for us to sing along.  It was also in this talk that he told us that if we had to come home before our time was up, we better come home on a stretcher.  Even at the end, we should have worn out our days as missionaries.  We were so close the the Christmas holidays that we regularly sang Christmas music.

Our MTC District attending the Provo Temple.  Four of us were going to England, the remaining ones were headed to Peoria, Illinois.  The thing I remember most about the Provo Temple were the white escalators.  Years later when I went back, they were gone!  I was a bit disappointed not to see the white escalators again.

Our MTC District, I only know four of the 11.  From l-r, #5 is Elder Olson, #9 Elder Scow, #10 Elder Young, #11 Elder Ross.  The rest were going to Peoria, Illinois if I remember correctly.

Our MTC District, I only know four of the 11. From l-r, #5 is Elder Olson, #9 Elder Scow, #10 Elder Young, #11 Elder Ross.

There were a few things in the MTC that disgusted and horrified me but I will not relate them here.  They were not becoming of missionaries and I let them know.  There were also plenty of fun and enjoyable times.

Then the five of us were flying off to Manchester, England just in time for Christmas.

Elder Olson, Elder Scow, Sister Dunn, Elder Young, and Elder Ross at Salt Lake City airport flying out

Elder Olson, Elder Scow, Sister Dunn, Elder Young, and Elder Ross at Salt Lake City airport flying out

Some good friends and family came to see us off.

Elder Scow, Elder Young, Bryan Jensen, Elder Ross

Elder Scow, Elder Young, Bryan Jensen, Elder Ross

More friends and family.  My Sister, Dad, and Great Aunt Andra and cousin Denise, all came to share.  Sadly, my Grandma was told I was leaving from the wrong gate and was not present so I did not get to see her one last time.  She made it to the concourse just as the plane was about to leave and they let her send a package on the plane to me.  Very good friends to come say goodbye!

Andra Ross, Elena McBride, Milo Ross, Elder Ross, Denise Andra, Brenna Barnes, Adelaide Andra

Andra Ross, Elena McBride, Milo Ross, Elder Ross, Denise Andra, Brenna Barnes, Adelaide Andra

Maybe I can start sharing some more photos of the mission as time goes on.  I should get out my journals to add some more flavor to these entries than just photos.



I had to share this picture.  I saw it in a restroom in Hansen, Twin Falls, Idaho.  Enjoy!

1952, 1957 Utah American Legion State Champions

1957 Utah State Baseball Champions

1957 Utah American Legion Baseball Champions. Back(l-r): Ellis Jonas, Lionel Benson, Jed Pitcher, Ken Chambers, Larry Federico, Bruce Pitcher, R.L. Pitcher, Joe Watts, Richard Lamb, George “Dutch” Reese. Front: John Hale, Glade Mather, Robert Eliason, Jim Mack, Doug Brinley, Vernon Rice, Brian Thornley, Lee Burke.

This is a photo that was handed out at Uncle Ellis Jonas‘ funeral.  I thought I would make it available.  The photo is of the 1957 Smithfield American Legion Team.  This photo was taken at the Regional Tournament in Winslow, Arizona. The 1957 Smithfield American Legion Team had won the Utah State Championship.

Ellis Jonas is listed as the manager and George Reese is the American Legion Representative.

Absent from the photo are Terry Griffen, Brian Toolson, Todd Peterson, Ferris Groll, Charles Wood, Mark McCraken, Ned Gylenskog, and Claire Nielsen.

The following photo is of the 1952 Smithfield American Legion Team.  This photo was taken at the National Tournament in Wichita, Kansas.  The 1952 Smithfield American Legion Team had won the Utah State Championship as well as the Regional Tournament.


1952 Utah American Legion Baseball Champions.  Back(l-r): DeVon Britenbeeker, Royce Lumberg, Jon Hyde, Erle Reese, Reese Naegle, Jerry Hansen, Richard Hodges, Hal Jensen, Ellis Jonas.  Front: Darold Whatcott, Ralph Tresedor, Cleon Hodges, Ross Godderidge, Jerry Coleman, Ferrell Karren, Ralph Roylance, Kay Inglet, Jack Reese.

Ellis Jonas is listed as the manager and Jerry Coleman as the bat boy.

Lastly, here is a little insert regarding Ellis as the coach.  I think it speaks for itself and his regard in Smithfield.

Ellis Commendation

Mrs. Matthews’ Class

Back(l-r): Bret Sever, Steven McDaniels, Becky Kolman, Kim Maier, Gina Richardson, Leslie Easton, Keith Barns, Jeff Holland, Rodney Hansen.  Third Row: Mrs. Matthews, Steven Devers, John Matthews, Trudy Mills, Rachell Harris, Lisa Thompson, Jenny Ford, Toye Kopkins, David Lynn, Val Paterson.  Second Row: Mark Bonner, Greg Morten, Katherine Ringell, Debbie Hatt, Wendy Muir, Cory Parish, Robert Miller.  Front: Jackie Jonas, Mike Larson, Kathy Larson, Douglas Brown.

Here is another class picture of my Aunt Jackie.  As the sign tells, this picture is from Southwest School in Burley, Cassia, Idaho taken in March 1971.  The names were written on a piece of paper inside.  If they are incorrect, please let me know.  I would be happy to update the information.

Bret Sever

Steven McDaniels

Becky Kolman

Kim Maier

Gina Richardson

Leslie Easton

Keith Barns

Jeff Holland

Rodney Hansen

Mrs. Matthews

Steven Devers

John Matthews

Trudy Mills

Rachell Harris

Lisa Thompson

Jenny Ford

Toye Kopkins

David Lynn

Val Paterson

Mark Bonner

Greg Morten

Katherine Ringell

Debbie Hatt

Wendy Muir

Cory Parish

Robert Miller

Jackie Jonas

Mike Larson

Kathy Larson

Douglas Brown