Parley & Eliza Wagstaff

This is a bit of a peripheral line for me, but since a cousin made the information available, I am happy to share it here.  All the credit goes to Julee Hicks for this post.  Nearly everything in this post will be from the biographies and photos she forwarded.

Eliza and Parley Wagstaff

From the Autobiography of Parley:

“I, Parley LeRoy Wagstaff was born April 9, 1903, in Glendale, Oneida (now Franklin) County, Idaho, to William Addison and Mary Magdalina Wanner Wagstaff.  The fifth child to join this union, I was blessed May 10, 1903.

“My earliest recollection was when I went to the Logan Temple to be baptized on April 18, 199 by Joseph M. Smith and confirmed April 18, 1911 by Thomas Morgan.  At the age of six I started school which was in a one-room building which served as a church and school with a black stove to keep it warm.  Father, being the custodial, it fell my lot and my brother Bill’s to go and build the fire in the mornings and at night we had to sweep and dust so it would be ready for school the next day.

“The school house being two and a half miles away we had to walk or ride a horse.  A horse fell on my leg and my Dad put a splint on it and I stayed in bed while it healed.

“At the age of 12, I was ordained a Deacon, May 3, 1914 by Joseph M. Smith.  I served as president for awhile.

“In the summers I worked for neighbors for very little money and my board.  In September 1919, we moved to West Weber; I and Bill drove a team of horses with our belongings from Idaho to West Weber.  In October or November, we were quarantined with a disease and didn’t start school until the first of 1920, then we went to Wilson, I graduated on May 29, 1920.

“I was ordained a priest March 1, 1925 by David Hancock.  I spent my time helping on the farm in the summer and running a grain binder all over Weber County.  In the winter I helped feed cattle for Lu Keller and helped Dad milk cows.

“On January 17, 1928, I was ordained an Elder by Francis F. Stratford Sr.

“On March 14, 1929, I was married to Eliza Blanch in the Salt Lake Temple.  We have been blessed with five children, two boys and three girls.  One passed away at birth.

“We have lived all our lives in West Weber, running a diary farm.  On January 5, 1964, I was ordained a Seventy by Spencer W. Kimball, and on August 9, 1970, I was ordained a High Priest by Francis E. Stratford Jr.”

This is all I have of Parley’s autobiography.  Here is his funeral program.

Here is the biography of Eliza:

“Eliza Dorthea Blanch Wagstaff was born August 2, 1908 in West Weber, Weber County, Utah.  She was one of nine children born to Joseph and Laura May Etherington Blanch.

“Like most young girls she attended school, participated in church activities and helped her parents on the farm.

“Eliza considered it a privilege to work in various homes before her marriage.  She says to know people is to love them.

“Her marriage to Parley L. Wagstaff took place in the Salt Lake Temple, March 14, 1929.  They moved several times; the last time into the old family home where she was born and reared.  They were the parents of five children, Duane LeRoy, Elelyn  W. (Purdy), LaNea W. (Rawson), Brent William and an infant daughter who died at birth.

“Before her marriage Eliza taught a Sunday School Class with Mary Penman for five years.  For 25 years she has been an ardent worker in the Primary; starting in 1933 as a teacher.  She was appointed second counselor to President Isabell Wagstaff in 1943.  Two years later she was released.  She held this same position twice under President Una C Greenwell; first, from March 1957 to August 1958 and from 1962 to 1964.  From 1949 to 1957 she helped the 11 year old Guide boys become second class scouts and graduate from Primary before they were ordained Deacons.  She was appointed by President Thomas O. Smith to work in the North Weber Stake Primary Board, February 3, 1958 and was assigned tot he Guide Patrol Department.  She was released August 20, 1962.

“Sister ELiza had the privilege of teaching Evelyn during her three years as Mother Bee Keeper, daughter Beehive girl.

“Sister Wagstaff was appointed second counselor to President Leila C. Heslop in the Ward Relief Socity January 3, 1965.  She was changed to first counselor September 12, 1965, and is currently working in this capacity.  She has been a visiting teacher for several years.

“Parley and Eliza were called to work on the Old Folks Committee in May 1955 and are still working on this assignment (1968).

“Eliza has been a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers since 1947 and has held the following positions in the organizations: Captain from 1953 to 1955 and Historial from 1961 to the present time (1968).

“The following quotation is from Sister Wagstaff:  “The crowning glory of my life came with motherhood.  Children of angels of God in disguise; they are idols of hearts and households.”

This photo was taken at a birthday party for Sarah Judkins in 1941.

Back (l-r): Eve Baxter Blanch(1904-1992), Voletta Belnap Blanch(1905-2000), Lee Stoker(1910-1998), Laura Blanch Hancock(1903-1963), Wilford Newell Judkins(1881-1956).  5th Row: Alta Bailey, Albert Bailey(1919-2009), Parley Wagstaff(1903-1996).  4th Row: Nina Judkins(1924-2010), Laura Mae Blanch(1873-1942), Eliza Blanch Wagstaff(1908-1992).  3rd Row: Lynn Judkins, Ruth Hancock(1922-1998), Ethel Blanch Stoker(1910-1987), Don Blanch(1913-1997), Heber Hancock(1902-1960).  2nd Row: Newell Judkins(1917-1979), Myreta Judkins, MaryBell Judkins(1919-2000), Sarah Judkins(1899-1974), Keith Stoker(1930-1990), Val Hancock(1929-2010), Gene Hancock.  Front: Bobbie Blanch, Jesse Stoker(1932-1997), Joyce Judkins, LaNae Wagstaff, Evelyn Wagstaff, Duane Wagstaff, Reed Hancock, Jerri Blanch.

Eliza died 12 March 1992 in West Weber.  She was buried 15 March 1992 in the West Weber Cemetery.  Parley died 18 January 1996 in Bountiful, Davis, Utah.  He was buried 22 January 1996 beside his wife.

Mrs. Rue’s Class

Back (l-r): Larry Weitzstein, Becky Kuhlman, Jane Garcia, Donald Bodily, Allen Llewellyn, Kim Maier, Kirk Carpenter, David Hill.  Middle: Mrs. Rue, Val Patterson, Randy Harris, Jenny Ford, Kim Barlow, Trudy Mills, Todd Anderson, Robert Fairbrother.  Front: Faye Smith, Jeanette Bellafullin, Bruce Harper, DeeLon Jones, Mark Bonner, Pam Draper, Kathy Larson, Jackie Jonas.

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 April 1970.  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.  First, a copy of letter from Ms. Rue.

Larry Weitzstein

Becky Kuhlman

Jane Garcia

Donald Bodily

Allen Llewellyn

Kim Maier

Kirk Carpenter

David Hill

Margaret Jane Daven Rue (1914-1985)

Val Paterson

Randy Harris

Jenny Ford

Kim Barlow

Trudy Mills

Todd Anderson

Robert Fairbrother

Faye Smith

Jeanette Bellafullin

Bruce Harper (1959-1975)

DeeLon Jones

Mark Bonner

Pam Draper

Kathy Larson

Jackie Jonas

Glacus Merrill’s Class

Back(l-r): Ira Hillyard, Unknown, Bob Johnson, Junior Petterborg, Irwin Jonas, Unknown, Unknown.  2nd from Back: Unknown, Ruth Rich, Kaye Funk, Anna Lawrence, Joyce Larsen, Ruth Hutchinson, Nadine Johnson, Darrel Smith.  Middle Row: Unknown, Unknown, Eva Kershaw, Lyle Wilding, Unknown, Afton Sorensen, Dorothy Nielson, Unknown, Norwood Jonas.  2nd from Front: Alvin Spackman, Bernice Frandsen, Unknown, Glacus Merrill, Joy Erickson, Unknown, Allen Spackman.  Front: Garr Christensen, Oral Ballam Jr, LaMar Carlson, Unknown, Gail Spackman, Ivan Anderson, Warren Hamp.

This is Glacus Merrill’s class from what I believe is 1936.  He taught class at Park School in Richmond, Cache, Utah.  Several individuals have assisted me to name the individuals I have so far.  There are too many unknowns that I hope to clarify in the future.  If anyone can help, I would certainly appreciate it.  My Grandfather, Norwood, and his brother, Irwin, are both in the photo.  Irwin died in World War II, and I assume some of the rest did as well.

I have listed all the individuals below with some limited information I could find on them.  At the very bottom is Glacus’ obituary.

Ira William Hillyard (1924-2009)

Unknown

Robert “Bob” Jay Johnson (1924-2009)

Junior “Pete” Lee Petterborg (1923-1990)

Irwin John Jonas (1921-1944)

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Ruth Rich

Norma Kaye Funk (1924-2002)

Anna May Lawrence (1924-1988)

Joyce Larsen

Ruth Hutchinson

Nadine Johnson (1924-2005)

Darrel Wilmot Smith (1924-2008)

Unknown

Unknown

Eva Kershaw

Lyle Wilding (1924-2002)

Unknown

Mary Afton Sorensen (1923-2008)

Dorothy Nielson

Unknown

Wilburn Norwood Jonas (1924-1975)

Alvin Chester Spackman (1923-1994)

Bernice Frandsen (1924-2002)

Unknown

Glacus Godfrey Merrill (1905-2002)

Joy Erickson (1924-2002)

Unknown

Allen Elijah Spackman (1923-1997)

Garr Dee Christensen (1923-2002)

Oral Ballam

Victor LaMar Carlson (1923-2008)

Unknown

Harold Gail Spackman (1924-1991)

Ivan Anderson

Warren Thomas Hamp (1924-2009)

Here is a copy of the obituary I found for Glacus.  Wow, I wish my school teachers had been this amazing.

LOGAN – Glacus G. Merrill, 96, died of causes incident to age in Logan, Utah on Saturday, February 9, 2002.  He was born May 27, 1905 in Richmond, Utah to Hyrum Willard and Bessie Cluff Merrill.  He is a grandson of Marriner W. Merrill, a pioneer prominent in the settling of Cache Valley, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the first president of the Logan LDS Temple.  He married Constance B. Bernhisel in 1925, and they were later divorced.  He married Marie B. Bailey, March 24, 1945 in Washington D.C.  Their marriage was later solemnized in the Logan LDS Temple.

While attending school, he participated in track and football at North Cache and Brigham Young College, where he graduated in 1925.  Glacus graduated from Utah State University in 1935 and also attended the University of Utah and Chico State College in California.  He is a graduate of the REI Radio Engineering School in Sarasota, Florida.  He was the principal of the Richmond Park School for 11 years and served in the U.S. Navy for four years during World War II.  He served an LDS mission to California from 1954-1955.  While living in the East, he served as President of the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the State Black Angus Association.  He is an honorary Kentucky Colonel.  He also served as President and District Governor of Lions Clubs in Utah and West Virginia, and was a member of the Lions Club for 42 years.  Glacus was Vice President of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association, and is a member of the USU Old Main Society.  He established a Scholarship Fund in the Communications Department at USU.  The Montpelier, Idaho Jaycees presented him with their outstanding Citizen’s Award.  He was also a member of the Montpelier Rotary Club, Utah Farm Bureau, VFW and American Legion.  He is a member of the “Around the World Club” having traveled around the world with his son, Gregory.  He and his wife, Marie traveled extensively.  Merrill was a popular Rodeo announcer in his early days.  He authored the book “Up From the Hills” which was finished in 1988 and is available in area libraries.

Honored by the Utah Broadcasters as a pioneer in Radio Broadcasting, Merrill started his broadcasting career in 1938 as part owner and Program Director at KVNU Radio in Logan.  After serving four years in the Navy, he built his first radio station Clarksburg, West Virginia.  He owned and operated 11 other stations in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Idaho and Utah, including stations in Montpelier, Idaho and Logan, Utah.  He was well known for his frank and outspoken editorials, news and comments on KBLW in Logan.  He has given over 7,000 newscasts and editorials always ending them with the saying, “Have Good Day Neighbor.”  In 56 years of radio broadcasting, he trained several young broadcasters who are now making good.

As a hobby, wherever he lived, he operated a cattle ranch and farm.  He served in many civic and church activities including counselor in the LDS Stake MIA, counselor in the East Central Stake Mission Presidency, 5 years as a Branch President and 11 years as District President in West Virginia.  He also served as Deputy Scout Commissioner in Idaho and for 12 years taught the High Priest Class in the Logan 3rd Ward and served for several years as the High Priest Group Leader.  He was an avid supporter of many missionaries in the area.

His wife, Marie preceded him in death on April 22, 1993, as well as six brothers and one sister.  He is survived by his two daughters, Darla D. (Mrs. Dennis Clark) of Logan; Madge (Mrs. Melvin Meyer) of Smithfield; one son, G. Gregory (Joan) Merrill of Logan; nine grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.  Funeral services will be held at 12 Noon on Thursday, February 14, 2002, at the Logan 3rd Ward Chapel, 250 North 400 West, with Bishop Grant Carling conducting.  Friends and family may call Wednesday evening, February 13th, at the Nelson Funeral Home, 162 East 400 Norther, Logan from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Thursday at the church from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.  Interment will be in the Richmond City Cemetery.

Oral Ballam’s Class

Back (l-r): Gerald Larson, Claine Skidmore, Richard Thompson, Lowell Andersen, Lenard Christofferson, Dale Andrus, Dallin Bell, LeVar Spackman, Richard Lewis. Third: Renee Murray, Lillian Jonas, Afton Bright, Ludean Burbank, Shirley Spackman, Tess Carlson, Phyllis Christensen, Elaine Thompson, Nancy Traveller.  Second: Joan Atkinson, Beverly Thompson, Norma Hunt, Oral Ballam, Shirley Albiston, Joyce Whittle, Edith Smith.  Front: Edward Johnson, Dick Skidmore, Monte Merrill, Burt Erickson, Melvin Hodges, Robert Anderson, Earl Egan.

Here is a photograph from Park Elementary in Richmond, Cache, Utah.  These names were given to me by one person with some clarification and correction from a couple of more.  I believe the list is overall correct, I hope the spelling of the names are all right.  I presume this photo was taken about 1944.  I do not know anything more about the teacher, Oral Lynn Ballam, either.  I could not find anything on the rest of the individuals so I assume they are still all living.  If I have it, I provide more information after the names.

Gerald “Jerry” Larson

Claine Bullen Skidmore (1931-2012) married Beth Stoddard.

Richard Thompson

Lowell Andersen (1930-Alive) married LeRita Mary Jonas (1932-Alive).

Lenard Christofferson

Dale Andrus

Dallin Ray Bell (1931-1988) married Elaine Blanche Tew (1930-2005).

LaVar Hadley Spackman (1930-2011) married Kathryn Bell and Theola Newman Buttars.

Richard Lewis

Renee Murray (1931-1996) married Harry Lawrence Holloway (1929-1996).

Lillian Jonas (1930-2009) married Ray Laurence Talbot (1926-1980).

Afton May Bright (1931-1994) married  John Cleve Olson (?-Alive).

Ludean Burbank married Christensen.

Shirley Ann Spackman (1931-1976) married Darwin Rawlings (1919-2011).

Tess Carlson married Wade Christensen.

Phyllis Christensen

Elaine Thompson

Nancy Traveller

Joan Atkinson

Beverly Thompson (1930-1970)

Norma Hunt

Oral Lynn Ballam (1901-1993) married Delis Lamb (1901-1981).

Shirley Albiston married Gary H Larsen (1931-2005).

Joyce Whittle

Edith Smith

Edward Johnson

Dick Skidmore

Monte O Merrill  married Eunice Tidwell.

Burt Erickson married Ardell.

Melvin “Dell” Abraham Hodges (1930-1979)

Robert Henry Anderson (1931-1990) married Julia Corinne Cowger (1924-2004).

Earl Delbert Egan (1931-1990)

The Last Wagon

"To Them of the Last Wagon" by Lynn Fausett

In honor of Pioneer Day, here is a talk given in 1947 by J. Reuben Clark that has always touched me.  I think of it fairly regularly, especially when I find myself in a position of following others whose opinions or ideas just do not seem to make much sense to me.  I am reminded of my duty not to murmur and to do what I can and have the faith that the rest will just work out.  I just need to do the very best I can in the realm I life.  The caravan/wagon train moves on.

“At the near close of this one hundredth year of the entering into these valleys of your fathers and your mothers, some of yours and mine, I wish to speak a few further words of humble tribute and thanksgiving to them, and especially to the meekest and lowliest of them, those great souls, majestic in the simplicity of their faith and in their living testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, to those souls in name unknown, unremembered, unhonored in the pages of history, but lovingly revered round the hearthstones of their children and their children’s children who pass down from generation to generation the story of their faith and their mighty works, and the righteousness of their lives and living, those souls who worked and worked, and prayed and followed, and wrought so gloriously.

“I would not take away one word of praise or gratitude, honor or reverence from the great men who led these humble ones of ours. They were mighty men in brain and brawn, in courage and valor, in honesty and in love of truth, living near the Lord—Brothers Brigham and Heber and Wilford and Willard and Charles, the two Orsons and Parley, and John and George and Erastus and Lorenzo and Daniel and Joseph and Jedediah, and a host of other giants, each and all richly blessed with the Lord’s divine love and with that gift of the Holy Ghost that made them leaders truly like unto Moses of old. I yield, we yield, to no one in our gratitude for them and for their work of directing the conquest of the wilderness and of saving men’s souls. Their names shine lustrously on those pages of history which record only the doings of the makers of epochs—those choice spirits, chosen before the foundation of the world, to be the leaders and builders of dispensations of God’s dealings with men; and these leaders of ours to be the builders of that dispensation which of old was named the Dispensation of the Fulness of Time. Unnumbered eternities will remember and honor them.

“But I should like now and here to say a few words about those who trod after where those giants led, some in the same companies that the Brethren piloted, some in later companies following that year and the years after, some in the fateful handcarts with their unexcelled devotion, heroism, and faith, all trickling forward in a never-failing, tiny stream, till they filled the valley they entered and then flowed out at the sides and ends, peopling this whole wilderness-waste which they fructified, making it to fulfil the ancient prophecy that the desert should blossom as the rose.

I would like to say something about the last wagon in each of the long wagon trains that toiled slowly over the plains, up mountain defiles, down steep, narrow canyons, and out into the valley floor that was to be home—this last wagon: last, because the ox team that pulled it was the smallest and leanest and weakest, and had the tenderest feet of any in the train; it was slow starting, and slow moving; last, because worn and creaking, it took more time to fix and to grease, for young Jimmy generally had trouble in getting the wagon jack under the “ex”; last, because its wind-rent cover was old and patched and took hours to mend and tie up to keep out the storm; last, because the wife, heavy with child, must rest till the very moment of starting; last, because sickly little Bill, the last born, poorly nourished, must be washed and coaxed to eat the rough food, all they had; last, because with all his tasks—helping little Bill, cooking and cleaning up the breaksfast,—Mother was not able to help much—Father took a little longer to yoke his cattle and to gird himself for the day’s labor; last, because his morning prayers took a few more minutes than the others spent—he had so many blessings to thank the Lord for and some special blessings to ask the Lord to grant, blessings of health and strength, especially for his wife, and for little Bill, and for the rest, and then the blessings for himself that his own courage would not fail, but most of all for the blessing of faith, faith in God and in the Brethren who sometimes seemed so far away. For they were out in front where the air was clear and clean and where they had unbroken vision of the blue vault of heaven. The Brethren had really visioned the glory of the Lord, who walked near them, put his thoughts into their minds; his spirit guided and directed them, petitioned thereto by the thousands of Saints who were back in Winter Quarters, back in Iowa, back in the States, and beyond, even across the waters, for the faithful poured out their souls in fervent prayer to Almighty God that the Brethren should be inspired. The Saints buoyed up the Brethren out in front with encouragement, with praise, and sometimes even with adulation. Knowing the Brethren were prophets of God, the Saints gave them full confidence, daily, almost hourly, expressed. The Brethren lived in a world of commendation from friends and the tried and true Saints. Rarely was their word or their act questioned by the faithful Saints. This was as it should be and had to be to carry out the Lord’s purposes.

“But back in the last wagon, not always could they see the Brethren way out in front, and the blue heaven was often shut out from their sight by heavy, dense clouds of the dust of the earth. Yet day after day, they of the last wagon pressed forward, worn and tired, footsore, sometimes almost disheartened, borne up by their faith that God loved them, that the restored gospel was true, and that the Lord led and directed the Brethren out in front. Sometimes, they in the last wagon glimpsed, for an instant, when faith surged strongest, the glories of a celestial world, but it seemed so far away, and the vision so quickly vanished, because want and weariness and heartache and sometimes discouragement were always pressing so near. When the vision faded, their hearts sank. But they prayed again and pushed on, with little praise, with not too much encouragement, and never with adulation. For there was nearly always something wrong with the last wagon or with its team—the off ox was a little lame in the right front shoulder; the hub of the left front wheel was often hot; the tire of the hind wheel on the same side was loose. So corrective counsel, sometimes strong reproof, was the rule, because the wagon must not delay the whole train.

“But yet in the last wagon there was devotion and loyalty and integrity, and above and beyond everything else, faith in the Brethren and in God’s power and goodness. For had not the Lord said that “not even a sparrow falleth unnoticed by the Father, and were they not of more value than sparrows?” And then they had their testimony burning always like an eternal fire on a holy altar, that the restored gospel was true, and that Joseph was a prophet of God, and that Brigham was Joseph’s chosen successor.

“When the train moved forward in the early morning sun and the oxen with a swinging pull that almost broke the tongue got that last wagon on the move, the dust in the still morning air hung heavy over the road. Each wagon from the first stirred up its own cloud, till when the last wagon swung into line, that dust was dense and suffocating. It covered the last wagon and all that was in it; it clung to clothes; it blackened faces; it filled eyes already sore, and ears. The wife, soon to be a mother, could hardly catch her breath in the heavy, choking dust, for even in the pure air she breathed hard from her burden. Each jolt of the wagon, for those ahead had made wagon ruts almost “ex” deep, wrung from her clenched lips a half-groan she did her best to keep from the ears of the anxious, solicitous husband plodding slowly along, guiding and goading the poor dumb cattle, themselves weary from the long trek. So through the long day of jolting and discomfort and sometimes pain, sometimes panting for breath, the mother, anxious only that the unborn babe should not be injured, rode, for she could not walk; and the children walked, for the load was too heavy and big for them to ride; and the father walked sturdily alongside and prayed.

“When in the evening the last wagon creaked slowly into its place in the circle corral, and the Brethren came to inquire how the day had gone with the mother, then joy leaped in their hearts, for had not the Brethren remembered them? New hope was born, weariness fled, fresh will to do was enkindled; gratitude to God was poured out for their knowledge of the truth, for their testimony that God lived, that Jesus was the Christ, that Joseph was a prophet, that Brigham was his ordained successor, and that for the righteous a crown of glory awaited that should be theirs during the eternities of the life to come. Then they would join in the songs and dancing in the camp, making the camp’s gaiety their own, as much as Mother’s condition would permit.

“Then the morning came when from out that last wagon floated the la-la of the newborn babe, and mother love made a shrine, and Father bowed in reverence before it. But the train must move on. So out into the dust and dirt the last wagon moved again, swaying and jolting, while Mother eased as best she could each pain-giving jolt so no harm might be done her, that she might be strong to feed the little one, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh. Who will dare to say that angels did not cluster round and guard her and ease her rude bed, for she had given another choice spirit its mortal body that it might work out its God-given destiny?

“My mother was one of those babes so born in 1848, ninety-nine years ago.

Another morning came, when courageous little Bill, who, with a hero’s heart, had trudged through long days of hot sun and through miles of soggy mud in the rain, his little body drenched, little Bill, weak and wan, must be crowded in to ride with Mother, for he was sick from a heavy cold. Months before, on that cold winter’s night when they had fled Nauvoo for their lives to escape the fiendish wrath of a wild mob, Bill became dangerously ill with pneumonia, which left him with weak lungs. This old illness now returned. He grew worse and worse. The elders came and prayed he might get well. But the Lord wanted little Bill with him. So a few mornings later a weeping mother and a grief-stricken father and that last wagon swung into place in the line, leaving beside the road, under some scrub brush a little mound, unmarked save for heaped-up rocks to keep out the wolves, a mound that covered another martyr to the cause of truth.

“So through dust and dirt, dirt and dust, during the long hours, the longer days—that grew into weeks and then into months, they crept along till, passing down through its portals, the valley welcomed them to rest and home. The cattle dropped to their sides, wearied almost to death; nor moved they without goading, for they too sensed they had come to the journey’s end.

“That evening was the last of the great trek, the mightiest trek that history records since Israel’s flight from Egypt, and as the sun sank below the mountain peaks of the west and the eastern crags were bathed in an amethyst glow that was a living light, while the western mountainsides were clothed in shadows of the rich blue of the deep sea, they of the last wagon, and of the wagon before them, and of the one before that, and so to the very front wagon of the train, these all sank to their knees in the joy of their souls, thanking God that at last they were in Zion. “Zion, Zion, lovely Zion, beautiful Zion, Zion, City of our God.” They knew there was a God, for only he could have brought them triumphant, militant, through all the scorn, the ridicule, the slander, the tarrings and featherings, the whippings, the burnings, the plunderings, the murderings, the ravishings of wives and daughters, that had been their lot, the lot of their people since Joseph visioned the Father and the Son.

“But hundreds of these stalwart souls of undoubting faith and great prowess, were not yet at their journey’s end.

“Brother Brigham again called them to the colors of the kingdom of God, and sent them to settle the valleys, near and remote, in these vast mountains of refuge. So again they yoked their oxen and hitched up their teams, and putting their all in the covered wagon, this time willingly, unwhipped by the threat of mob cruelty and outrage, they wended their slow way to new valleys, again trusting with implicit faith in the wisdom and divine guidance of their Moses. The very elements obeyed their faith, faith close kin to that which made the world.

“These tens of thousands who so moved and so built were the warp and the woof of Brother Brigham’s great commonwealth. Without them Brother Brigham had failed his mission. These were the instruments—the shovelers, the plowers, and sowers and reapers, the machinists, the architects, the masons, the wood-workers, the organ builders, the artisans, the mathematicians, the men of letters, all gathered from the four corners of the earth, furnished by the Lord to Brother Brigham and the prophet leaders who came after, that he and they might direct the working out of His purposes. These wrought as God inspired Brother Brigham and the other prophets to plan, all to the glory of God and the upbuilding of his kingdom.

“Upright men they were, and fearless, unmindful of what men thought or said of them, if they were in their line of duty. Calumny, slander, derision, scorn left them unmoved, if they were treading the straight and narrow way. Uncaring they were of men’s blame and censure, if the Lord approved them. Unswayed they were by the praise of men, to wander from the path of truth. Endowed by the spirit of discernment, they knew when kind words were mere courtesy, and when they betokened honest interest. They moved neither to the right nor to the left from the path of truth to court the good favor of men.

“So for a full hundred years, urged by the spirit of gathering and led by a burning testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, thousands upon tens of thousands of these humble souls, one from a city, two from a family, have bidden farewell to friends and homes and loved ones, and with sundered heartstrings, companioned with privation and with sacrifice even to life itself, these multitudes have made their way to Zion, to join those who were privileged to come earlier, that all might build up the kingdom of God on earth—all welded together by common hardship and suffering, neverending work and deep privation, tragic woes and heart-eating griefs, abiding faith and exalting joy, firm testimony and living spiritual knowledge—a mighty people, missioned with the salvation, not only of the living, but of the dead also, saviors not worshipers of their ancestors, their hearts aglow with the divine fire of the spirit of Elijah, who turns the hearts of the fathers to the children and of the children to the fathers.

“And thousands upon thousands of these tens of thousands, from the first till now, all the elect of God, measured to their humble calling and to their destiny as fully as Brother Brigham and the others measured to theirs, and God will so reward them. They were pioneers in word and thought and act and faith, even as were they of more exalted station. The building of this intermountain empire was not done in a corner by a select few but by this vast multitude flowing in from many nations, who came and labored and wrought, faithfully following their divinely called leaders.

“In living our lives let us never forget that the deeds of our fathers and mothers are theirs, not ours; that their works cannot be counted to our glory; that we can claim no excellence and no place, because of what they did, that we must rise by our own labor, and that labor failing we shall fail. We may claim no honor, no reward, no respect, nor special position or recognition, no credit because of what our fathers were or what they wrought. We stand upon our own feet in our own shoes. There is no aristocracy of birth in this Church; it belongs equally to the highest and the lowliest; for as Peter said to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, seeking him:

“… Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

“So to these humble but great souls, our fathers and mothers, the tools of the Lord, who have, for this great people, hewed the stones and laid the foundations of God’s kingdom, solid as the granite mountains from which they carved the rocks for their temple, to these humble souls, great in faith, great in work, great in righteous living, great in fashioning our priceless heritage, I humbly render my love, my respect, my reverent homage. God keep their memories ever fresh among us, their children, to help us meet our duties even as they met theirs, that God’s work may grow and prosper till the restored gospel of Jesus Christ rules all nations and all peoples, till peace, Christ’s peace, shall fill the whole earth, till “righteousness shall cover the earth even as the waters cover the mighty deep.” Let us here and now dedicate all that we have and all that we are to this divine work.

How to write an Obituary

I have done genealogy long enough that I have read thousands of obituaries.  Let me give you an idea about a few things you should include in an obituary and some things you should not.  This is my idea on how to write a proper obituary.

First and foremost, an obituary is a public service announcement.  You will say good-bye, or bid farewell, to your loved one at a funeral or grave-side service.  But an obituary is not just for you, it is an opportunity to put the public and creditors on notice about the death of an individual.  Next, it is an opportunity to invite friends, community, and distant family to grieve with you.  This is not just for people to come to the funeral, but for the community and others to rally around and give some service, emotional or pecuniary, to the deceased’s estate and to the family.  I have noticed the western United States tends to do better at their obituary writing where the east skimps on this important information.  Additionally, the more famous, the less vital information that is shared (I am unconvinced by their reasoning, but may be for good reasons).

Each week I roll through the obituaries of a half-dozen newspapers looking for names that catch my eye.  I am fortunate enough to have some fairly rare family names.  But I do have some family who marry into more common names so I often will look at an obituary to see if the individual is related or not.  Then I scan to see if they really are related, or just a similar name to an individual I know.

I also worked for a law firm at one time that had me keep an eye on obituaries to see if a client with a will had passed away.  Another firm dealing with public relations had me search the obituaries for family members of clients and we would send cards to the client if one appeared.  Lastly, in a service position, I often tried to track members of an organization who had disappeared and I looked first for the older people in the obituaries of the state in which they last lived before attempting other means.

I am just indicating that obituaries have a valid purpose beyond some sweet, potentially selfish, family reason to share their love of the decedent with others.

Therefore, here are a few items to include in every obituary.  These are the items the disinterested public wants to learn in an obituary.  I have included a copy of a good obituary below.

  • What is the individual’s full name?

Please include the full name, spell out the middle name.  You do not need to put the maiden name as the name will be listed with the parents.

  • What is the individual’s parent’s names?

Please include the full name of both parents.  This is where you do want to include the maiden name of the mother.  Usually, I will write the mother’s name first as a maiden name, and then the father’s name to not worry about determining what the real last name is.  Hence, something like, “Richard was the second son born to the marriage of Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith.”  Mention the marriage if it exists.  If one of the parents are dead, put ‘late’ in front of the parents name (if both are dead, you will mention that farther down and can drop the late).  If the deceased was adopted, please state this in the obituary.  You do not have to give the biological parents, if you know them, but just show, “Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith adopted Richard when he was 17 months old.”

  • What is the individual’s birth date?

Please include the entire birth date of the deceased.  This is especially important if it is a common name like John Henry Smith.  Even if it is not a common name, include it because uncommon names tend to repeat names in their families which could still muddy the waters.

  • Where was the individual born?

It is not uncommon for individuals to move in our society.  This is even more true of couples who retire to Florida or Arizona.  An obituary is published in Queen Creek, Arizona and not in their home in Montana, and the next thing we know we are searching for an obituary for someone and an apparent match appears in Arizona but we having nothing to confirm the connection.

  • Who did the individual marry?

I completely understand if you want to maintain some privacy to the spouse of an individual, especially if they are still living.  If so, just list the first name.  No matter how much you might hate that first wife, list them.  If you really want to spite them, put their whole name.  Just make a reference to their divorce and put the next marriage.  But please list it, some states still leave property to a spouse after death, even after divorce.  Do not cut yourself short.  If there are other children from such a marriage, list them.  This is a common courtesy if you are not on speaking terms to let them know of the death.  If a spouse has predeceased, just write something like, “Jim married Belinda Carlisle on 4 February 1920, she predeceased him on 23 March 1984.”

  • When and where did the individual marry?

These items too can be useful for genealogy and legal research.  If married in a community property state, or even a state where family does not know of additional property, there can be implications.  An obituary may be one of the only ways this information will be out in the world on a free basis.  Working from obituaries, if a marriage date or location is not given, then a presumption arises that they were not or the family does not even know this information.

  • When did the individual die?

You would think an obituary might make this obvious.  However, let me tell you where this can become a problem.  Imagine you cut out an obituary and place it in a book somewhere.  20, 30, or even 100 years later someone is looking for that death date.  They do not want to walk down to the local library in another part of the world where the newspaper was published to spend a long time to find the exact page on which the obituary was located to figure out when exactly “last Friday” was on the calendar.  In our day and age with government records, it is much easier to ascertain the day that someone died.  But if you have John Henry Smith, with a hundred or so born in the US in a given year, that obituary with a date will be much more pleasing.

  • Where did the individual die?

This one might sound odd, but it also applies.  Let’s say I am a 2nd cousin who has not been in contact with Uncle George since 1978.  The last mailing address I have is in one town but I do not know if they still live there and I would like to search for their current address or a phone number.  Well, if they moved over just a few towns I will not find them, if they have a common name.  Most people die at a location fairly close to their home.  This will make it easier for the lawyer, governmental entity, or family member to contact you should they want to.  They will find you, but not listing it will just delay the inevitable.  Also, government entities often will list the location of last benefit, but that is not the same as death location for genealogical purposes.

  • When and where is the funeral?

This is one that many obituaries do not forget.  After all, we want people to come bearing love, condolences, and love.  Some even measure how great a person was by the number of individuals at a funeral.  However, I make mention because a few obituaries do not list this information.  I have read an obituary or two that I am left wondering where the funeral is at to send flowers or a card.  I only find out on the day of the service when the newspaper publishes it.  By that point it is too late to send flowers.  While cheaper for me, some people probably would not have minded attending the funeral.

Lastly, I do not mean to indicate that other things should not be included.  Military service, favorite hobbies, and special thanks should probably be included.  If a person has dedicated their lives to the Masons, a community, a church, or employment, that should probably be listed.  Please do not spend too much time on it though.  Some newspapers charge over a certain amount of lines too.

One last item that I would highly recommend, but understand for privacy reasons if you do not wish to do this.  List all the children of the decedent.  A little hint about the daughters, list them with the husband (if still alive) and married name.  Hence, “Jim is survived by 2 children, Molly (Kevin) Jenkins of Sacramento and Richard (Karen) Schmidt of San Francisco.  Jim was also predeceased by his daughter, Diane (Gary) Warner”

It is also common to list out the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Please do not name them.  Usually it takes space and the usual reader cannot tell which child belongs to whom, so it is just type we skim over.  Close family know who they are, the less-interested public will skim.  I read an obituary once that had like 11 children and they listed out all 42 grandchildren!!  They did not even give the last name of the grandchildren so even a person who does family history would have found the list useless (and if all the same last name, still just as useless).  List them in the funeral program, not the obituary.

Here I have to put in a note regarding our current society and identity theft.  The theft of a decedent’s information is somewhat limited in use.  First and foremost, report to the government immediately the death so that the Social Security Number and other relevant identification routes are stopped and that the government will be put on notice if someone attempts to use it later.  The probate court should take care of the rest.  Even if the hospital or funeral home is supposed to take care of it, make sure you check it out and report it yourself to both the state and federal government offices.  The information is not often independently valuable unless the government benefits are available.  Too often the family does not report it in time and the next thing they know someone else is using the information and even filing taxes under the decedent’s name and government identification numbers.  If you want closure with your loved one, do what you can to keep others from perpetuating their identity!  It will save you loads of heart ache to do a little effort immediately, like when you are writing the obituary!

I hope this helps some on how to write an obituary.  Keep it simple and do not put too much affection in.  After all, most of the public just wants the facts to determine if we know the person.  If we want sappy, we will come to the family, or send a card/flowers.  Or, if we have business, we now know we need to watch out for the probate notice.

In Memory of Lowell Hansen and Garrett Smith

With a recent bout of suicides, I thought I would pay a bit of a tribute to 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?

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 was called upon 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.

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 I always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other though.  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 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 in the ground 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 Auswich 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.

Procrastination??

One of the greatest defects of all mankind is that of procrastination.  Our propensity to give into it has been a struggle down through the ages.  Our day is no different, in fact, our comfortable and easy life probably makes it more likely.  There is the classic quote by Spencer W. Kimball about procrastination, but I am too lazy to look it up now.  I will do it later.
Fortunately, I have not been afflicted much with the dreaded disease.  I get a bit antsy if something needs to be done.  In fact, I would be one of those who would border on the workoholic side more.  Always something more to be done and just not enough time to do them all.
All I know is if I have the mentality that it doesn’t need to be done now, then I delay it.  If I can switch it in my mind to be done soon, then it will fall into a queue and I continue working until the queue is finished.  Somehow, I generally don’t tend to see things as being a ways off.  Which I think makes a marked difference between me and the next man.  I believe I can have a state now, and will work towards it.
The same applies for me in the gospel.  Many, many talk about when the Savior returns.  Then we will have to live the law of consecration.  Then we will get the temple work in full gear.  Then we will live all the celestial laws.  Then we will be more proactive in missionary work.  Then I will repent.  Then I will believe.  Then we will work on learning the scriptures more fully.  Then we will do this, then we will do that, then we whatever it is we will do.  In reality, it is a bunch of hokum.  The scriptures tell us so.
“And now, as I have said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed.”  (Alma 34:33)
Those who procrastinate will find themselves not knowing what they need to do.  Not having experienced what they will have need to experience.  They will be in darkness.  As Joseph Smith said, “Hell is not knowing.”  Don’t say you will change.  Why will you change then?  Why not now?  Remember Lazarus, even if one should come back from the dead, they will not believe.  Jesus already came back from the dead and yet we still don’t act, we still don’t live our faith, we still don’t believe.  Nothing will change then.
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God (or start coming closer to my God), Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”  (Alma 34:34).  Why would the millennium be any different?  If not doing it now, why then?
“But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain (Pleasure?  Comfort?  Relaxation?  Work is an eternal principle.  Rest is in the after life.  Joy is for this life.); and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity (Sin is waste.  Waste of time – killing time especially.  Waste of learning.  Waste of work.  Waste of intelligence.  Waste of eternity), which is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Helaman 13:38)
Is it any wonder why the Lord makes the following statement?  “Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts.”  (D&C 45:6).  Today is the day of salvation.  Not tomorrow.  “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day of the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.  For after today cometh the burning – this is speaking after the manner of the Lord – for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.  Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.”  (D&C 64:23-25).
Wow, if that is not harsh and clear enough, we are certainly beyond feeling.  Very clearly the Lord states tomorrow is for the wicked.  Today, if we believe, we will labor.  There are no tomorrows in the Gospel.  Today we work.  Today we sacrifice.  Today we repent.  Today we build.  Today we lift.  Today we teach.  Today we convert.  Do not ever allow yourself to fall to the belief in tomorrow.  Those who look to tomorrow will be burned.
The probationary games goes forward.  Working today, with a hope in the mansions of the Father.  Tomorrow for all intents does not exist.  What we are going to do tomorrow doesn’t matter really.  Tomorrow may not arrive and today has been wasted.
Here is the verses that triggered this little soapbox.  I think it applies just as fully.
“Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, (let’s include the deacons, the children, the Relief Society, the Apostles, the Seventies, the High Priests, and even those not in the church) did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given;  persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.  And after this manner did they teach them.”  (Jarom 1:11)
“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.”  (Mosiah 3:13)
We are to be acting as if he is already among us.  He has come, more than once.  Although not to the whole world in the big wrapping up scene yet, ye will.  But to us, he has already come and that is how we are to be acting.  We are to be keeping his commandments now.  We are to be living a Christian life now.  We are to be building Zion now.  As the scripture above stated, we are supposed to be coming out of Babylon now.  Not at some future time.  I made covenants in the temple to live the law of consecration now.  I have covenanted to live the laws of the celestial kingdom now.  Not at some future time when we imagine they will be dictated to us.  They already have.
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.”  (D&C 105:5)
We have to live the celestial laws to have Zion.  We have to have Zion for the King to take his throne to rule forever.  Zion will not be raised up and then we will try to live accordingly.  We have to be living accordingly to receive Zion.  Even the Lord said so.
“Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.”  (D&C 105:2)
We may have already been redeemed if we were not procrastinating.  If were were living as if he were already here.  Let’s get to work.  Today.  With President Kimball, let’s DO IT!