MORE GRATITUDE

Yep… I’m sharing a LONG post about GRATITUDE. And yes, it’s the day AFTER Thanksgiving. It occurred to me that I need a reminder to be grateful ALWAYS – every single day of my life – and not just on a certain day, or during a certain season. So as you enjoy your turkey sandwich, return with mee to many thoughts on GRATITUDE. I hope I can share some ideas which will be thought-provoking – which will cause us to have a desire to THINK – to PONDER our need for GRATITUDE, for giving THANKS. You might be interested to know that I looked up every single verse of scripture which dealt with gratitude … and I think you’ll be grateful to know that I’m NOT going to list them all (do I hear a “WHEW” ??). Interestingly, the word GRATITUDE does not appear anywhere in scripture.  It was a short search… the word used is THANKS. But YOU already knew that, didn’t you. I’m not going to share everything I found (more WHEW!).  There are so many times in scripture where an altar was built and a sacrifice offered to GIVE THANKS. Lehi and his family have just left Jerusalem and the good life they had there (they apparently didn’t bring a lot of “precious stuff” with them, because later the sons went back to Jerusalem and tried to purchase the Brass Plates with the wealth that was still in their home)  So here they are in the wilderness, living in tents rather than in their nice home, and here is what the Prophet Lehi did: And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God. (1 Nephi 2:7) He had a wonderful perspective, didn’t he. PERSPECTIVE and AWARENESS can bring deep, deep feelings of gratitude. We no longer build alters of stone to offer sacrifices as a way of expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father. OUR sacrifice is a BROKEN HEART and a CONTRITE SPIRIT. Consider these as ways to offer gratitude as we go back to Lehi and family for a moment: Lehi did send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates, and it took them longer than their Mother thought it should, and she began to get upset with Lehi. But the boys returned, with the plates, and both parents were joyful. And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel. (1 Nephi 5:9). Rejoicing is a great way to give thanks.

One of the best ways to show gratitude to our Heavenly Father is through service. King Benjamin taught this so powerfully: Mosiah 2:17-19: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, o how you ought to thank your Heavenly King!  When Alma Senior had baptized all the believers in the Waters of Mormon, he taught them what it meant to be members of Christ’s Church, including this: And he commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God. (Mosiah 18:23)  Jacob taught the importance of gratitude in the amazing message about the Atonement:  (2 Nephi 9:52) . . .  remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice. After Alma and his people had received Heavenly Help in escaping from the bondage of the Lamanites and Amulonites (by causing a deep sleep to come upon those who were guarding them):  . . . they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage . . . . . . And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God. (Mosiah 24:21-22) And “listen” to this, which the Lord gave to us through the Prophet Joseph Smith: And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious: and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, YEA, more.(Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). I love it so much when I read YEA in the scriptures!

I consider gratitude one of the highest forms of Christ-like behavior. It is the ESSENCE of WORSHIP! Gratitude is what happens when our hearts remember. It turns what we have into enough. It is the primary factor in achieving contentment.(One of my favorite definitions contentment is: “tranquil happiness.” Love it!! The Apostle Paul shared something which has had me pondering since I first really thought about it as I read it (I Timothy 6:6-8: 6- But GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT is great gain.7- For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8- And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. There can be NO contentment without gratitude! No way!  Gratitude is one of the most important desires of our heart. And Cicero called gratitude the Mother of ALL virtues! I’ve become more conscious of the fact that I need an increased awareness of all the tender mercies and blessings and miracles which have surrounded me unnoticed … and for which I have not expressed thanks. I want to become much more AWARE. I am convinced it will increase and deepen my gratitude.

Ingratitude is a sin! Plain and simple! And it happens mostly because we don’t take time to remember. (That’s a very important word, isn’t it!). Ingratitude is one of the weapons used by whnf (what’s-his-no-face) to thwart the purposes of God. Ingratitude is self‑centeredness and is a form of pride. Selfishness, greed, and indifference are all by-products of ingratitude. Elder W. Eugene Hansen shared this: It has been said that the sin of ingratitude is more serious than the sin of revenge.  With revenge, we return evil for evil, but with ingratitude, we return evil for good.  (Ensign, Nov 1989, p. 24) President N. Eldon Tanner said that ingratitude is stronger than traitors’ arms. (Conference Report, October 1967, p.54). The Prophet Joseph Smith said that one of the greatest sins for which the Latter-day Saints are guilty is the sin of ingratitude. (Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1948, p.98). And this from President Joseph Fielding Smith: How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude. I believe that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today is the sin of ingratitude, the want of acknowledgment, on their part, of the Lord and his right to govern and control. (Conference Report, October 1969, p.110). Selfishness and ingratitude are destructive!

Here are two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants (59:7, 21) worth thinking about:  7- Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. (In ALL THINGS!… not just those which are pleasant, easy, enjoyable and so forth). 21-  And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. As President Marion G. Romney taught: It is perfectly evident… that to thank the Lord in all things is not merely a courtesy, it is a commandment as binding upon us as any other commandment. (Ensign, November 1982, p. 50)  Sir Izaak Waltong (an English author who lived 1593-1683… it makes me happy that things were recorded “back then”): God has two dwelling places: one in heaven, and the other in a thankful heart – which, O Lord, grant to me. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. said this: Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them – they are here. Yours is the part of cherishing them. (Church News, 14 June 1969, p. 2)  From President David O. McKay: Gratitude is the heart’s recognition of kindness that the lips cannot repay.” (Conference Report, October 1955, p. 4)  And from President Gordon B. Hinckley: … get on your knees and thank the Lord for his bounties. Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges you enjoy. The Lord has said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. (Conference Report, October 1964, p. 117)

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It has occurred to me that I might have neglected to thank Heavenly Father for FIVE pennies if I’m constantly complaining because I don’t have TEN! And they ALL belong to HIM anyway! In General Conference in April of 1990, President James E. Faust shared a message entitled “Gratitude is a Binding Commandment.” He emphasized that gratitude is not only an expression of faith, but is a saving principle (and a binding commandment). He reminded us that we are blessed in many ways, and that when we express gratitude we are involved in the essence of worship. Quoting him: A grateful heart is a beginning for greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues and prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being. [WOW!!]  The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. He said that “One of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy.” And he closed his remarks with: I hope that we can cultivate grateful hearts so that we may cherish the multitude of blessings that God has so graciously bestowed. May we openly express such gratitude to our Father in Heaven and our fellowmen. (“Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, May 1990).  I noticed that he reminded us to thank others as well as our Heavenly Father. In re-reading this, I have thought of many things for which I haven’t expressed thanks in a long, long time…. Maybe you can think of some things too. Here’s a hymn which can reminds us of some of these things: NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD  (Hymn #95)  Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done,  In whom his earth rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms,  Hath blessed us on our way  With countless gifts of love,  And still is ours today.  Oh, may our bounteous God  Through all our life be near us,  With ever-joyful hearts  And blessed peace to cheer us.  And keep us in his love, And guide us day and night,  And free us from all ills, Protect us by his might.

Harold S. Kushner is a favorite writer and speaker of mine. He is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts. He spoke at BYU several years ago, and I’d already read some of his books and oh how I loved his message!  He has shared some wonderful thoughts about gratitude: Once we have learned to see our lives as the accumulation of gifts that God has given us, gifts we could not have acquired by our own efforts, once we have learned to appreciate what we have, rather than complain that we don’t have more, because we could have had nothing, we can respond in several ways. First, we can reciprocate God’s generosity by giving Him our thanks and our trust….   Second, if we have benefited from God’s generosity, it becomes our obligation to let others benefit from our generosity, or more accurately from God’s generosity flowing through us to those to whom we reach out.  The remarkable thing about gratitude is that, like forgiveness, it is a favor we do ourselves more than it is something we do for the recipient of our thanks. God would have us develop the habit of gratitude for all the blessings of our lives, not because He needs our thanks, but because when we acknowledge those blessings we come to feel differently about His world and live happier lives as a result. Learn to see more of the “givens” of your life as gifts. Learn to respond to the sun’s coming up every morning as a miracle. Our ability to receive God’s blessings with thanksgiving will never outstrip God’s ability to bless us! If gratitude is so basic and so beneficial, if it makes us happier about our lives, why is it hard for so many people to cultivate the habit of feeling grateful? I can think of [some] reasons. One is a sense of entitlement. If we have grown up believing that we deserve only the best, we will respond to every gift, whether from God or from friends, like the petulant child who examines a new toy and complains, “I want the newer model.” For people who feel entitled, it is not enough to be alive and well; they resent every blemish, every limitation on their physical grace and athletic skill. It is not enough for them to have a loving partner and healthy children; they envy the glamorous romances of celebrities and the honor roll achievements of the children next door. They are never satisfied because they measure their wealth not by what they have but by what they lack.

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Here is a thought I found which is similar to the message of Hymn # 219 (“Because I Have Been Given Much”). It’s from Janie Alford, The Treasure Chest, p. 216 – THANKS BE TO GOD

I do not thank thee, Lord, That I have bread to eat while others starve;  Nor yet for work to do  While empty hands solicit heaven;  Nor for a body strong  While other bodies flatten beds of pain.  No, not for these do I give thanks!  But I am grateful, Lord, Because my meager loaf I may divide;  For that my busy hands May move to meet another’s need;  Because my doubled strength I may expend to steady one who faints.  Yes, for all these do I give thanks!  For heart to share, desire to bear  And will to lift,  Flamed into one by deathless Love –  Thanks be to God for this! Unspeakable!  His Gift!

PSALMS 136:1 – O give thanks unto the LORD; for [he is] good: for his mercy [endureth] for ever. 

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MORE GRATITUDE

In the stake religion class which I have the joy and blessing of teaching, we shared feelings and experiences this past Wednesday (our last class of this “semester”) about a phrase from Hymn # 131, “More Holiness Give Me.” We’ve been taking phrases from this beautiful, meaningful hymn and discussing things like more holiness, more purpose in prayer, more joy in His service, more meekness in trials and patience in suffering, and then: more gratitude. It was a wonderful discussion just a week before Thanksgiving (THANKS giving is the way we practiced saying it). Sometimes I have thought of it as “more AWARENESS give me,” because I am completely convinced that I am blessed MUCH more than I’m ever aware of. And so I pray to be much more AWARE of the blessings which surround me. I admit that I tend to lean towards spending more time thinking about what I DON’T HAVE than in being GRATEFUL for what I DO HAVE… I am consciously working on changing that. I recognize that when I’m focused on what I DON’T have, I tend to be grumpy and dissatisfied and discontent… not NEARLY grateful enough. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a long, LONG ways from being as grateful as I should be… I am woefully unaware of ALL that I’m blessed with (and have been my whole life).

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I shared a story on Wednesday which I’ve shared many times through the years as I’ve had chances to speak, to share. It goes like this: Two little children were put early to bed on a winter’s night, for the fire had gone out, and the cold was pouring in at the many cracks of their frail shanty.  The Mother strove to eke out the scantiness of the bed-covering by placing clean boards over the children.  A pair of bright eyes shone out from under a board, and just before it was hushed in slumber, a sweet voice said, “Mother, how nice this is!  How I pity the poor people who don’t have any boards to cover their children with this cold night.” I don’t remember where I first heard or found that sweet, powerful story, but it is an incredible reminder of my lack of gratitude (when I think of HER gratitude for clean boards….) She was looking at everything from the perspective of what she HAD, not what she DIDN’T have, wasn’t she. Oh my – she expressed concerns for those who didn’t have clean boards to cover their children with on that cold night! Her deep GRATITUDE was so obvious, and so sweet.

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I admit that in my experiences serving in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Nigeria, I have had MANY teachers who have been examples of the very same thing I found when I first heard the story of this little girl covered with clean boards…. I have found sweet, genuine GRATITUDE for so little (but that’s just MY perspective, and I hope you understand what I mean). Wonderful people (dear friends and neighbors) who were (and ARE) so GRATEFUL for their “clean boards.” One story which I shared in class came from my first mission in the Philippines. A sweet soul named Pilarica (we called her Rica) helped us in our home. She was a widow with 2 children and lived as a “squatter” near some railroad tracks. During her days of helping us she began to read some of the pamphlets and other materials, and she eventually asked to learn more and was baptized. Not long after that the Taal Volcano erupted, killing many and leaving so many homeless and hurting. Rica had heard this news and came to our place feeling that – as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – she (and all of us) should be doing something to help. She brought a pair of Johnny’s pants: “He has 2 pair, and he only needs one,” and a little bucket: “Someone could sit on it, or they could use it to haul water.” It struck me that this was a beautiful, important example of “the widow’s mite.” I found myself wondering if I had EVER (or WOULD ever) give the equivalent . . . . Probably not (but I have tried).

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How is it that so many are so grateful and content with what I consider so LITTLE?? How is it that my dear friends and neighbors in Africa did so much singing and dancing, even in what I felt was their poverty and their lack . . . .  I’m thinking as I’m writing this down that I was judging! Wow… I had/have never thought of it that way. In order that I not be TOO hard on myself, I will admit that while I wondered how they (and my dear ones in Asia) could be so HAPPY and so CONTENT with so little . . . I wanted to LEARN from their pure examples.

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Another thing I’ll admit is that it wasn’t easy to teach about Tithing and the Law of the Fast (including fast offerings) … but how could I NOT do so, when I have known since I was a little child of the incredible BLESSING that are promised from keeping these commandments?? I’m weeping as I’m writing these things down… so many specific faces and memories are flooding my soul…. I wish I could more adequately share what I’m feeling on this Sabbath morning. Some of you may have read what I put on the Blog a few days ago about my experience in a REFUGEE CAMP in THAILAND (in 1981), and YES, it ties in to what I’m trying to share this morning.

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Several years ago a friend told me that her stake president had invited members of the stake to find time in the coming days to have a thank-you prayer… to take time to count their many blessings, naming them one-by-one, and being SURPRISED by how generous Heavenly Father had been. Well, I decided to give it a try. It took me about an hour, and I don’t know that I’d ever taken time to name blessings one-by-one… but I WAS surprised! And amazed and deeply thankful. The stake president had also asked that AFTER this experience it would be interesting (I can’t think of a better word right now) to consider all the things they had FORGOTTEN, and try to imagine life without them. Oh my! One thing I forgot (which shocked me!) was WATER!! I hadn’t thanked Him for WATER! And it’s one of the things I’ve been most thankful for after each of my experiences. I’ve lived in places where we didn’t have running water (let alone CLEAN/SAFE water), and I forgot to thank Him for being able to just turn a handle and get clean, safe water… either cold or hot . . . . I didn’t need to imagine what my life would be without it . . . . But it was a powerful learning experience. I was reminded of something I’ve shared so often: You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need NEVER satisfies….

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This morning I’m thinking about so many more specific experiences, but it’s time to finish and post this Blog. So I close by asking: What are YOU thankful for? Can you think of something you’ve not thanked Heavenly Father for in a long time (or ever)? We don’t have to wait for THANKSgiving each year to do that, do we? I hope not. I want to be thankful ALWAYS. I want to avoid letting thoughts of what I WANT crowd out thanks for what I HAVE. I want to be a grateful person. I want to live “in THANKS-giving” daily! I want to be increasingly satisfied and content. Increasingly aware. I want to want less – this is something I’ve shared in lots of talks, and I want it to be a reality for me personally: WANTING LESS is likely a better blessing than HAVING MORE. Again: What are you thankful for? (I’m asking myself that very question)

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PHANATNIKOM

THE EXPERIENCE IN A REFUGEE CAMP IN THAILAND – JULY OF 1981 – MEE

It was 1981, and I was in a place called Phanatnikom, a refugee camp located in Thailand not far from Bangkok. I was visiting a group of missionaries who were serving the people of the camp. We had celebrated the 4th of July the day before by going to a nearby park and playing all kinds of games with little children. We couldn’t speak words to each other, but we did communicate, and had a very happy time. We then returned to the places where the sisters were living – the pig farm and the duck farm, about two miles apart. We had an “American lunch” of chicken, fruit salad, potato salad, and some cookies with genuine chocolate chips which had recently arrived through the mail.

And then we began our fast. And my first experience in the camp was on that Fast Sunday, July 5th. I recognized that in a miniscule way I was experiencing something most of these people had gone through day after day – the feeling of being hungry and thirsty. Another feeling that came to me was that it was still the 4th of July in America, and I was surrounded by people who had been through so much terror and sacrifice in their search for freedom, for refuge, for safety. As we got close to the camp I felt a deep, tangible feeling of anticipation inside of me. It’s hard to describe, but I knew that I would only be there once for the first time – there would only once be that first impression of this refugee camp. I also knew that once I visited the camp, I would never feel or be the same. That happened.

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This was another permanent, powerful lesson. I think I had anticipated that the people would be restless and anxious. They were peaceful. I watched them closely, wondering about what they had learned from their terrible experiences. I know I shall probably never be called on to go through anything even close to what they’ve been through, and I wonder if I’ll ever then learn even a small part of what they’ve learned.

There were two camps. One was a holding camp – a huge area full of many, many buildings where the refugees were stashed, having no idea of when they would be able to go to a third country and begin to make a home and life again. They lived their days trying to keep up their hope (trying not to hope too much), working to be patient in their difficult circumstances. On the other side of the road was a transit camp, and those people were just waiting for their sponsorship or their name to be called to go to their third country. I was told that some of them would go to a camp in Bataan in the Philippines to wait to go to their fourth country. Some wonderful LDS sister missionaries were serving there as well.

Our first stop as we entered the camp was the office of WSURT: Welfare Services Unit for Refugees in Thailand. That’s what the Latter-day Saint group was called. The office was not very big, but it was extremely important. It was originally built as a place for guards to sleep, but the commander of the camp allowed the Church to use it for their office. Inside was a kind of “cage” where all the video units were kept along with other equipment and materials. In the rest of the office there was a desk where the director of the program worked. There were files with all the lessons and visual aids which the missionaries used to teach the people. They helped them get ready for life in another culture, another land. As most of the refugees seemed to go to the United States, many of the lessons were based on the culture and living conditions there.

One of the first people I met, besides the remarkable women and one couple who were there as missionaries, was Trach Khuong, one of the translators for the sisters. He held a book which had printed on the outside “This book belongs to Trach Khuong, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” As I remember, he was baptized about 10 years earlier in the United States, but had returned to Viet Nam and hadn’t had much contact with the Church until he ended up in the camp in Thailand and met the lady missionaries. He spoke Vietnamese and also English and Khmer. He was a great help to the work of the WSURT team. I was told that without him there would be no way to hold Church services in the camp, because the refugees had to be the ones to lead any religious services which were held.

Children gathered around us at every point and seemed very interested in trying to speak a little English to us. I loved watching the way they ran to the sisters, whom they saw every day. I was so impressed with the bond of love which had developed even though the sisters didn’t know many words of the languages of the camp, and the majority of the people didn’t know much if any English. I loved watching the smiles and enthusiasm which greeted these great women as they mingled with the people. These remarkable, unique women who were accomplishing such great miracles each day. I listened as they shared what they’d been experiencing and became increasingly aware of their devotion, their love for the refugees, their personal sacrifices, their willingness to give and give and give day after day.

In sharing some of my experiences I must say that any one of these missionaries could share much more detail and many more poignant, meaningful experiences than I.  I watched them with the people and with each other, serving with a marvelous unity in their diversity. I observed many unselfish, spontaneous acts of service and kindness in my time with them. I came away with a deep respect and admiration for them and what they had accomplished. In no way do I pretend to have experienced even a small part of what they went through in the months they served and worked in the camps. But what I experienced personally has been permanently changing to me, and I have felt I wanted to share something about it.

At one point I was standing beside a young boy, and he looked up at me and said “You beautiful.” I smiled and said “You’re beautiful too.” He said “How are you?” “Fine, how are you?” He responded with “I fine.” He grinned, then said “I Viet Nam.” I said “I America.” He asked “Are you teacher?” I said “Yes.” Then he said “You teacher, me student” and smiled. Oh no, I thought, you are my teacher. I recognized even before I arrived in the camp that I had much to learn, and that I was surrounded by thousands of teachers.

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During the time I was there I had the chance to read many of the stories the missionaries had collected while in the camps, and then in some instances I went to meet the people who had had those experiences. As I began to read and hear some of their stories I realized that they had been through things I would never ever experience, and I wanted to know something of what they had learned and what they were feeling. I felt a sense of respect which is hard to express in just the right way. How was it, I wondered, that they could have so much peace when they had been treated with such terrible iniquity?

We had our Church service in what was called “the model home.”  This was a dream come true for the sisters, who had wanted to fix up a place where they could show the people what a home was like in other places. They had done things in the camp, too, to give it more of a feel of community. All the buildings and areas were numbered, but they recommended that there be street names, and there were. I saw many signs, like the one which said “Main Street.”

They were told they could fix up the “model home” as long as they didn’t use any of the money from the program. So they began to “scrounge around” and find whatever they could. One day they received a donation of $25 from a lady in Provo who said she had extra and wanted to share it. She had sent the check to the camp through Elder Marion D. Hanks, a true saint and humanitarian (as well as General Authority) who was responsible for getting this wonderful work started in Southeast Asia.

The sisters cashed the check and used it for paint for the walls in the three or four sections they had designated as different rooms in this one building. The couple –, the Andersons – had delivered an old wrecked refrigerator, and the sisters had found an old stove and counter. They had a sink propped up on some boards, and a toilet. None of the appliances were “hooked up,” but with the things they were able to find and borrow they were able to show the people what different rooms in a home might look like. They had pictures hanging on the walls.

And this, then, is where we had our Sacrament meeting – in “the model home” sitting in a circle on little stools.  22 people attended, including the missionaries, the Andersons, Khuong, and several refugees who were not members of the Church.  There was no piano or organ or pulpit or anything, but OH!… there was such a spirit of peace and a closeness to each other. We hummed and sang the prelude music. “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” The words were so powerful and meaningful in that setting.  For our opening hymn we sang “Dearest Children, God is Near You,” and as I observed the MANY who were outside looking in I felt the words were certainly for them.  God is near you. He knows what you’ve been through, little boy with a Pizza Hut hat on.  He knows where you are. Please know that, somehow.

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We sang a Sacrament hymn and then Khuong blessed the bread and Elder Anderson passed it.  Then Elder Anderson blessed the water and Khuong passed it.  We sang “How Firm a Foundation,” and the words were still “You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled” [I know the words changed to “Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled”] and I was deeply touched as we sang that in such unusual circumstances. All the words from that hymn seemed to have a greater meaning in such a setting. “In every condition, in sickness, in health… In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth.” And on and on. When I sing that hymn now (#85) I often think of Phanatnikom.

It seemed to me that we were all refugees together – all of us trying to flee from the “world” – from Babylon – to the gospel of Jesus Christ … from error to truth. I felt it so powerfully – this unity in our need to “Come Unto Jesus.” I guess that’s part of the “turn, turn” process from the beautiful Quaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” – repenting, changing, becoming more God-like and Christ-like.

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Khuong began the testimony meeting by sharing his own testimony. He began with “We have a lot in common.” What a good shepherd this group leader was. He spoke in English but then switched to Vietnamese so others could understand what he was saying. Some of the sisters shared their testimonies, including Rita, the director of the program in the camp, who had been there in the beginning and had served for close to 10 months. This was her last Sunday. Elder Anderson shared his feelings, including mentioning that many of the Southeast Asians who had joined the Church in other lands had done so because of the influence of these welfare missionaries who had to teach by who they were – by their example – because they were not allowed to “preach.”

For our closing hymn we sang “Come Unto Jesus.” I was very emotional about this. Not only was it one of my favorite hymns, but it seemed such a perfect song to sing at that particular time in that particular place. Here we were from several different lands, joining our hearts and our voices and our feelings about coming to Christ. “From every land and aisle of the sea, unto the high and lowly in station, ever He calls ‘Come to me.'” And thoughts such as “His love will find you and gently lead you from darkest night unto day.” Another perfect hymn with deeper meaning than I think I had ever felt before.

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I went and sat by Khanh, the WSURT secretary, and began to talk to her. As soon as we began to share I started to cry, and I did so throughout our whole conversation, which lasted about half an hour. I felt sure the same would happen with every single person in the camp if I could speak to them and know their story and think about who they really are as well as what they had been through. I found myself asking a question in my heart as I watched everyone and tried to look into their faces – “Who are you?” You are a child of God, and the Good Shepherd knows and loves you SO much….

The Good Shepherd

On Monday we returned to the camp and I was once again immersed in feelings of hope, ingenuity and patience which surrounded me. I think I had anticipated that the people in the camps would be angry and bitter, restless, anxious to get out and get going with their lives. Instead they were peaceful, respectful of each other, disciplined and helpful. It was as if they were so close to freedom that they didn’t want to do anything which might delay that, to destroy or even postpone their dream. There were so many thousands of them, with no privacy or personal space (things which seemed so important to me).

The homes were built in quad fashion, with four buildings facing each other.  Each building had three sections, and each family had a section about 8 by 16 feet (if that big). None of the sections, then, had “four walls.”

There were loudspeakers in the camp, with announcements and information being blasted almost constantly.  When the sisters taught, they had to teach above that noise. There was a water truck which came around every few days and pumped water into receptacles which the people would then come to with containers for their water supply. Water was a precious commodity, as it is in most of the world. The people would use buckets or whatever they had to haul the amount they were allowed back to their home. With this small amount of water they would cook, bathe, wash their clothing, and so on. No wonder they ran to bathe and wash their hair when the rain came and poured off the roofs!

They fixed up their homes in wonderful ways. Since there were only three walls in each place, people were given 20 pieces of bamboo to “finish off” the other side of their home in any way they wanted. One family we visited had used the bamboo to build one bed off the floor so some things could be stored underneath, and then the rest had been used to build a wall to try to help keep the rain out and give the family a little privacy from the family right next to them. Many had hung some kind of paper or other material to make the other “wall.” They had taken pictures and pages from magazines and put them on the walls.

We took our shoes off and sat on the floor to visit with one particular family. I noticed the father had built a small book shelf, and there was one old copy of the National Geographic on it. As we were visiting, I a little girl bumped into a small bag of rice. It spilled “all over.” Immediately, without any anger, the adults AND children stopped what they were doing and helped to pick up every single piece of rice. I watched, and I felt so much so deeply about that simple act of knowing the value of a single kernel of rice.  I thought of how much I must have wasted during my life which likely would have been of great value to someone else.  I thought of the little “cycle,” and remembered that THOSE WHO HAVE GIVE, not waste or horde.

I walked around the camp watching the sisters teach the people. One of them let me take a few minutes in her class, and it was a group of people who spoke Mandarin.  I remembered a few words of that language and had a happy experience.

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During the time we were there I noticed a little girl watching me. She had an over-sized pink shirt on. I have no idea how old she was nor who she was. Every time I’d try to look directly at her to smile or communicate in some way she’d run away. She began to represent “everyone” – especially all the little children – and what they’d been through. I wondered a lot about her – who she was, and what she’d had to experience at her tender age. Maybe she lived in the “home for unaccompanied children.” This was a place for so many of the children who had been separated from their families. It wasn’t an “orphanage,” because it was often impossible to know if they had family members in other places, in other camps.

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Toward the end of the day we had gone back to the place where the missionaries had their office, and I was sitting leaning on the window with my back to the outside.  I had my arms stretched out, and my hand was on the edge of the window. After a while I noticed the little girl in the pink shirt approaching me, walking very quietly, watching to see if I’d turn around. I didn’t. I decided just to sit quietly and see what happened. She got closer and closer. When she was right next to me she stopped, and we were both very quiet. I didn’t turn. Then she reached up and touched me, and ran.

It was like electricity – that quick touch from a tiny finger. I felt it deep in my soul and was moved to tears. I sat there thinking and feeling when I noticed that she was coming back. I still didn’t turn, but waited to see what would happen. Again she approached carefully and quietly, and again she stood waiting. And once again she touched me and ran, and I felt a deep and powerful response. She did this another time and I still didn’t turn, so I think she decided I was dead or something. The last time she came she stood as before, but then reached up and put her whole small hand on top of mine and kept it there, pressing hard. I wept. I felt so much love for that child and kept thinking “Oh little child, who are you? Where are you from? Are your parents alive? Do you have any brothers and sisters? Are there people who care about you and are helping you? Where will you go? Where will you live? Will you be treated kindly? Will you be loved? Will you be OK?”  (A film was made of this experience for a General Relief Society meeting, and the little girl who took the part of the one in the pink shirt was “Ch’uum,” a little refugee girl from Cambodia. It was filmed at Camp Williams in Utah. They made it SO realistic that I cried all day!!!)

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I found myself thinking about “relativity,” and times when I had been frustrated about “something or other,” which seemed rather insignificant and minimal in this setting, and recognizing that I had been blessed constantly and abundantly in my life, and there was so much good I could do if I would be willing. Every single soul on the earth has needs, but also has that which can be shared. It is likely different at different times and on different days. I like the way it is phrased in “How Firm a Foundation,” “As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.” And it is. I have felt that so strongly in my own life. God knows me, and He knows you. Every single day. He knows our needs. He comes to our rescue. He sends Heavenly Help, often through other “earthlings.” I’d like to be more that way with others…. Much, much more….

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THE LAST FEW DAYS

Today is the anniversary of my dear Daddy, Paul K Edmunds. He would have been 114! I don’t know if they have celebrations in Heaven, or if they even keep track of “age,” but I’m thinking of him this morning. He lived several weeks past 95, so I had a lot of time with him before he went HOME.  Yesterday my youngest brother, Richard, turned 60. On his 4th birthday I went to the Temple for the first time. So yesterday I went to the Temple again – I try to do that on the “anniversary.” I was 20 years old on 23 October 1960. We were in the Manti Temple district, so that’s where I went. And I was HAPPY with that – my Daddy was born in Wales, and I had people who helped build the Manti Temple. I’m excited to have some “Sanpete County blood!”

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On Friday the 21st I had a speaking assignment which turned into a great blessing for me – not the giving of the talk so much as the preparing for it. I was asked several weeks ago to return to the MTC – to Room B-101 – to share my missionary experiences. While I’ve shared experiences “here and there” before, I’ve never put the whole thing together chronologically. I had an hour and 15 minutes, so I had to do some major “condensing.” Now I’m going to take the “skeleton” and fill it in. This will be a great addition to my personal history. I’m so glad I was asked to do this.

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It was an amazing feeling returning to where I had spent so many years. I drove down early and “looked around” outside the place, and WOW!!! The new buildings are AWESOME, and apparently they are almost finished. They’re classroom buildings, and my friend Travis (who met and “hosted” me) said the classrooms are so large and wonderful. He said they’re going to “take down” 7, 8, 9, and 10… and 7 is where I spent a couple of months when I was preparing to go to Indonesia on the 4th mission. I told Travis I want a brick when they take 7M down – the Heber C. Kimball building (he’s one of my FAVORITES!!! I love Heber C. Kimball stories!).

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Interestingly, it took me almost 15 minutes to get through Security. Those who invited me assured me they would give the info so I could “get in” … but that didn’t happen. It was so WEIRD being blocked from going in after I had done so for so many years (before the fences, before the walls, before Security). “Well who invited you?” “Do you have his phone number?” “What’s your first name?” “What are you supposed to do here?” ETC. I was calm, but it wasn’t a good way to start what I had looked forward to with such happy anticipation….

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It was especially sweet to be in that room: B-101. I spent hundreds of hours in there (maybe thousands) – it’s where most of the welfare missionary training took place. We called it “BE ONE – OH ONE!” (Like “if ye are not one ye are not mine”)… that helped us celebrate and remember that the goal of the gospel principles emphasized in welfare services is the establishing of ZION.

One hilarious thing happened at the end. I received a large, beautifully-wrapped gift at the end of the presentation, and I asked Travis “chocolates??” But no… it was THE SPANISH LADY!!!… I screamed and ran across the stage with it! OK… many years ago, probably starting in the late 1970’s, our LTM (then MTC) team was relatively small. At first only language-learning missionaries came to the new LTM. Then, in the Fall of 1978, the English joined the “family.” Our small group would have fun gatherings throughout the year, including a Christmas party. We’d share “white elephant gifts,” and I wish I had some of those events on DVDs….  One year someone had two framed pictures of “Spanish ladies” as their gifts, and one “survived” and got handed from person to person for several years. One of the surprise gifts I remember best is when I took the Spanish Lady to Joe and Barbara Christensen at Ricks College in Rexburg (he was the president there and had been President of the MTC when the Spanish Lady was “born”). I had it wrapped beautifully, of course, and it was SO MUCH FUN seeing their response! I think it was Nancy Ostergar who added lace so that the lady (the “picture” is not a painting… it’s kind of a “sculpting” in a frame) would be more modest. (Nancy and Allen are at the Provo City Center Temple now; Allen is the president and Nancy is matron).  It was always hilarious and a bunch of fun when someone got surprised!  And now… at least 35 years later… she’s with MEE!!!  I’ll be “plotting” how to hand her off to someone when they least expect it….

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One of the highlights of the past few weeks was the blessing of visiting the Sacred Grove and other Church history sites with some of the TOFW presenters (we had a “Time Out for Women” in Rochester that week-end). We went a day early so we could spend Friday, 07 October, with Michael Wilcox as our teacher. UNFORGETTABLE…. One of the MANY things I’ll remember and cherish forever is when Michael reminded us of 5 WORDS Joseph said after the First Vision. Michael said they are some of the most important words Joseph ever uttered, and I agree! He came back to the log home after his incredible experience and his Mother asked if he was alright. He said he was and then came the 5 words [along with others]: “I HAVE LEARNED FOR MYSELF….” That is an INVITATION, isn’t it. Each of us must know that: that we have LEARNED FOR OURSELF what is true. I could share a LOT more, but this is getting long, and I need to work on a lesson for Wednesday (for our stake religion class). But I wanted to share a few things this morning. I know I haven’t posted anything on the Blog for quite a while… but I’ve been busy (BUSY!!). And so have YOU. So let’s keep DOING GOOD and BEING GOOD. May this be a beautiful Sabbath Day for all of us, especially when we have the blessing and privilege of partaking of the Sacrament. LOVE, MEE

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OH ROCHESTER!!

The “Time Out for Women” event in Rochester this past week-end was incredible! The “prelude” – Friday and the chance to visit Church History sites with other team members and with Michael Wilcox as our teacher… Unforgettable. One of those opportunities in life that you can hardly believe you were able to experience. Oh my . . . . The Sacred Grove, the log home, the frame home, seeing the beautiful Palmyra Temple (which Leanne and I had the privilege of going through several years ago), the Hill Cumorah, and the Peter Whitmer farm . . . ALL that Michael shared with us was so deeply moving, and so sacred. And then: TOFW! Fantastic! Such enthusiastic, kind women from “all over the area!” I wish I could remember the names of all whom I talked to, including a nurse who was converted as she was helping with a delivery!… and she’s from Wales – from the same area where my Grandpa and other relatives were born!! I met returned missionaries who were in the MTC when I was serving and teaching there (that is always such a happifying thing!!). I got to dance with Zandra again, accompanied by Mercy River! And yes… I had the worst allergies I’ve had in months… and everyone was SO forgiving and understanding as I went through the Kleenex as I shared my message (it almost felt wrong to say, at the end: “I am well if you are well,” feeling as miserable as I did, ha ha). THANK YOU for your kindness and warm welcome!!

I have to add that this was the “final act” of the MEE and Alan SOCK SHOW… Alan has received a new opportunity at Southern Virginia University, so he won’t be coming to more TOFW events. SORROW! But Alan: I’ll keep wearing crazy socks on Saturdays at TOFW, and I’ll be missing you!!

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BE BELIEVING

This morning I was reading in the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and came again upon this verse: “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:49)  Yes – this is the verse that has been quoted in so many talks that we almost skip over it. We KNOW what these stripling warriors are going to say when Helaman asks them if they are willing to go into battle.

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When I read that verse this morning I almost “skimmed it” instead of thinking about it and pondering the message. (It’s almost as if part of my mind is saying something like “how many zillions of times have I read this and heard this!”) And then it “hit me” in a way that it never has before. Many (maybe even MOST) of those who are doubters today could honestly say that they know their mothers knew it. Did that “grab you” the way it grabbed me? It should give any who are doubting cause to ponder…  “My Mother knew it … WHY AM I DOUBTING??”

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Doubt is one cause of (and contributor to) FEAR. (It’s like part of the soul is crying out “It’s getting sandy!!!… The foundation is feeling less and less FIRM!!….”  DOUBT NOT … FEAR NOT ….

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I know it’s hard to put thoughts into words (to reduce feelings to words), but I hope you follow what I found this morning to think deeply about. I’ll add something I posted just on Facebook a while ago – it helps me express what I feel. We could add to it just a bit – “Don’t dig up in doubt what your Mother helped you plant in faith!”

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From OZ

I TRIED TO POST THIS ON FACEBOOK, BUT THE PICTURE WAS TOO LARGE?? (Or something) … My thought was: MAYBE THIS REFERS TO MEE . . . ???  (But I laughed anyway)

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ANNIVERSARY!!

I CAN HARDLY BELIEVE IT!  THIS BLOG HAS BEEN “ALIVE” FOR A WHOLE YEAR!!!

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So today you’re invited to celebrate (in whatever way you choose). It’s been a very fun and interesting year, thinking of things to share, and trying to figure out how to make the pictures last more than 12 hours (still don’t have that one solved).

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I thank all of you who have come to visit this Blog. I know I don’t respond to every comment, and that when I DO respond it’s usually several days or longer since you commented… Well, I’m not sure I can do a whole lot better than I’ve been doing. There are several other things going on in my life (other than just this Blog)… HA HA…. And Fei has not come through with the enthusiasm she had when we first talked about doing the Blog together . . . . SNORT!!!

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But here we are, celebrating our ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY, and I just wanted to let you know I’m going to have some ICE CREAM to celebrate!! YES!!! I tried to find Tillamook MUDSLIDE… but someone got there first. Oh well.

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Thursday 02 May 1996

Vicki Reynolds wrote on this blog that they’re showing “Mothers and Daughters” for a Relief Society activity. I’m not sure which one she means. It sounds like the one with the wives of the First Presidency where each had one daughter with her. Sister Hinckley had her eldest daughter, Kathleen (Kathy).

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This one is on YouTube (1999). It’s great! My favorite was the one where it was Sister Hinckley with her 3 daughters (Kathy, Virginia, and Jane) on a Thursday evening (02 May, 1996) at the BYU Women’s Conference. 20 years ago this month. It was like a FAMILY HOME EVENING. Thousands were there, but it felt like we were all right in the “living room,” getting a very honest, “real” look at one of the incredible women on earth.

President Hinckley was there, along with his two counselors (on either side of him), and I happened to end up sitting almost directly behind (was on the women’s conference committee that year). I laughed as much at HIM laughing as I did at the hilarious things which happened with Sister Hinckley and her daughters. It was like Sister Hinckley kept going “off script,” and it was SO delightful. Sister Hinckley at one point was fumbling with her note cards – they seemed to be mixed up – and she put her head on her hand and said something like “This is how it is with us… nothing ever works out!” There were times when President Hinckley pretty much “doubled over” he was laughing so hard, and his counselors were helping him survive the evening (HA).

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OK… I’ve decided to quote from my journal. This might be long. Go get a snack and glass of water to “tide you over,” OK?  And remember: This is NOT “required reading!” There will be NO QUIZ on this! Just skip it if you’re busy or if there are too many details. I’m a compulsive note-taker, and I admit I’m so HAPPY I took notes on this particular evening!

There were security people all over.  President Hinckley was sitting on the stand and then was joined by S. Hinckley.  I loved seeing them sitting there together.  One security man sat right behind the Prophet, continually surveying things.  Very alert most of the time.  We stayed close to our seats, anticipating what was to come.  They had us stay seated while all those on the stand went to the hospitality room.  A woman came up to me after Elder Hales finished.  She had been talking to E. Holland and said he told her to come and talk to me.  She was very concerned about one of the presentations she had attended.  She said the woman told only of tragedies – terrible tragedies – and that it was shocking and depressing and even frightening to her.  Her son had been killed or had taken his life, and she even showed pictures of him in his casket.  The woman said she just was not prepared for all of that – that it happened just a few months ago, and she thinks the woman was still grieving and was not ready to share. 

Pretty soon it was time for the BIG EVENT – the one we had been looking forward to for such a long time.  And oh was it worth every minute of waiting!  How am I going to be able to record this in my journal??….  I’ll do the best I can.  They asked us to sit down, and they made a row right in front of us.  I wondered what was happening but soon realized it was for the Brethren.  Wow.  We were right behind them!  S. Hinckley went up to the table and sat down between Virginia (closest to the podium) and Kathy, and then Jane was next to Kathy.  Each had their own microphone.  And they each had a wonderful spray of flowers.  It was fun watching P&S Hinckley smiling and communicating without words.  Sometimes they’d laugh.  Oh I loved watching that happy, eternal connection between the two of them. 

As P. Hinckley came in and sat down, the huge crowd began to sing “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.”  It was beautiful.  Seated right on front of me, starting at my left: Brad Farnsworth and his wife, the Batemans, Chieko, Elaine, P. Faust, P. Hinckley, P&S Monson, S&E Maxwell, E&S Hales, S&E Holland. Aileen (Clyde) conducted this session.  I was sitting there thinking how marvelous it was to have been a small part of the planning for all of this that was happening.  There was a musical number by a Mother and daughter – Allison and Yoshie Akimoto Eldredge.  Allison plays the cello and Yoshie the piano.  Magnificent.  They’ve played in Carnegie Hall and many other places.  She played 3 numbers.  Really exquisite.  Ave Maria, then a long very classical one, and then “The Swan.” 

I was thinking so many things.  Like I wondered if all three in the First Presidency have the same barber.  I was thinking how different it was to have them all sitting in the audience.  I wondered if there will ever again be a women’s conference where the First Presidency and three members of the Twelve will be in attendance.  I felt sad that P. Faust’s head shakes as it does.  I was thinking how much P&S Hinckley have come to look alike through the years. 

And then the magic began.  Aileen introduced those who would be participating.  She spoke of having talked to some family members (probably mostly Virginia) and of learning of things which have happened in their lives “because of, and sometimes in spite of” everything.  President Hinckley laughed at that.  She said they were married on the 29th of April, 1937.  (Just 1 months before Mom and Dad).  She said there are some things they (the girls, at least) don’t like – they don’t like to be quoted, for example. 

Virginia got up and began what happened next.  She looked down at P. Hinckley and said he could always jump up and bring the whole evening to a close if he didn’t like what was about to happen.  There was such good humor.  She expressed gratitude to the men who serve “with our Father.”  But said tonight was for their Mother.  “Thanks for coming anyway, Dad.”  It was so sweet to hear her call him “Dad.”  That’s exactly who and what he is…besides all else he is. 

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Virginia said they wanted to help people get to know their Mother better – “we didn’t just want her to give a long speech on something else” (some topic other than herself).  Virginia mentioned “60 Minutes” and there was a lot of clapping.  They had several video clips throughout, and all of that was narrated by P. Hinckley.  So tender and wonderful.  I’m not even beginning to capture what happened… I guess it’s impossible.  But I’ll keep trying.  It was too magical – you’d have to have been there.  I already knew that.  But I want to put as much as I can in my journal. 

The girls began asking their Mother questions.  She was asked about what her home was like – how she got to have such faith and all.  She said they prayed a lot and prayed about everything.  “We prayed we wouldn’t burn the soup.”  She said “My Mother was so cheerful.”  Father was the youngest of 13 children.  “They tried desperately to make something of me.”  She spoke of piano lessons.  I loved watching P. Hinckley laughing with delight and love.  I wrote in my notes that “Oh she’s so precious I can hardly stand it!!”  People kept laughing and clapping.  She was real.  She was so easy to love.  They asked about her ring.  “This ring is 18-carat gold.”  She said it’s 100 years old.  Once it was lost in the straw, and her Grandmother (I think) knelt and prayed and then found it.  She spoke of “the old First Ward” in Salt Lake where both she and P. Hinckley attended.  They had the same Bishop for 25 years.  She said that was remarkable but then “I don’t know how remarkable it was for him.”  Oh she was so wonderful! 

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She said (about the Bishop) that having him released would have been “like trading our Father in for a new one.”  She’d get off the script and have to ask “Where are we?”  Virginia kept saying to Kathy things like “Mother’s a page ahead – she’s trying to hurry us along.”  Oh it was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever witnessed and been part of.  She said “We’ll skip a few years.”  Ha.  She talked about when Gordon Hinckley moved across the street (we always think of them with their middle initial, but you don’t call them that when they’re little).  “I knew there were 2 sexes and I noticed him.”  That about brought the house down!  “It was the bottom of the Depression.”  And then she looked down at P. Hinckley and said “My husband likes me to say it was the bottom of the Depression.”  MUCH laughter and happy feelings.  Every so often P. Faust or P. Monson or both would laugh and kind of pat P. Hinckley on the back. 

“It seemed that everything wonderful happened in the bottom of the Depression.”  In one of the clips right after that P. Hinckley in his narration had said something about “it was the bottom of the Depression,” and we all about lost it.  Way, way funny and good.  Just a good feeling all over.  In the whole place.  Such a feeling of love and unity!  She said “I desperately wanted him to go on a mission,” and expressed how lonely she felt when his train pulled out of the station.  “I wanted to go to the university… but, like I said, it was the bottom of the Depression.”  Oh she was so sweet – so real – so spontaneous and quick.  The girls were too.  There was no way I could write fast enough or capture things good enough to make this even a small part of what happened in the Marriott Center for an hour plus a few minutes.  I feel helpless but am still trying. 

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“He wrote wonderful letters.  I’ve saved them all.  I keep them in a very secure place, lest he should find them and think them not worth saving.”  There was just so much she shared which made it possible for virtually everyone there to identify with her.  She said the letters were – are – masterpieces.  Little masterpieces of literature.  She said he came home and they talked of getting married, but he explained to her that he only had $165 in the bank and didn’t know if he wanted to start out a marriage with only that much.  She said “We’re rich!”  They were married in the Salt Lake Temple by Stephen L. Richards.  They started out on a honeymoon.  They got “all the way to Fillmore” and turned around and went home.  “We were so anxious to set up housekeeping.”  They lived in a small place in East Millcreek.  P. Hinckley put in a new furnace.  One day she brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  It turned out to be poison ivy!  Then she added: “Some mistakes you make only once….” 

There were so many little “one-liners” like that.  I was laughing and clapping and enjoying it so much that it was hard to take notes.  And I was watching P. Hinckley all the time – he was in front of me and just a few to the right.  He’d laugh so hard sometimes that he’d be leaning forward with tears coming out his eyes.  It was so marvelous to see his love for her and his delight in not just what she was sharing but the wonderful way in which she was sharing it.  It was as if I had to pinch myself and ask “Is this really happening??”  It was that good.  YES.  She said it was a hard adjustment for her.  She was used to her family, and now “we were down to just 2.”  That “summer house” in East Millcreek.  It belonged to P. Hinckley’s parents, I think.  She said they were kind to her.  She knew she was “in” when her Father-in-law asked her to go to some lecture at the UofU with him. 

I loved each of the short video clips in between the questions and answers.  I loved hearing the Prophet’s voice talking about his sweetheart, his wife.  Between the video clips the daughters would take turn asking questions, bring out what they had felt would help us get to know their Mother best.  They got her talking about raising the children (3 girls, 2 boys).  She said she tried to keep the summers from being too structured.  She wanted them to have a childhood and she wanted them to learn.  She talked about working in YW and Primary, Relief Society, and being a visiting teacher.  She said “I always had callings.  Always and forever!”  She said “I felt so fulfilled!”  I think you have to trust children.  I tried to say yes as much as I could.  That was impressive to me – that with her children she tried as much as possible to say yes.  And she said one thing which came out over and over: “We tried not to take ourselves too seriously.” 

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At one point in talking about good humor she said she had baked a wonderful casserole, and as she was taking it out of the oven one of the boys asked “Mom, how come you baked garbage?”  I watched Pres Hinckley laugh so hard on that one.  We all did too.  It was such a happy feeling in that huge Marriott Center – it is one of the most intimate feelings I’ve ever had in there.  We were all together, invited to be very close to the Prophet and his wife and daughters for a little while – a precious, unforgettable, magical little while.  She told of a time when one of her sons (I think she said Dickie?) had been kept after school.  She was not pleased about this and went right over there to get him.  She announced to the teacher that “He’s yours ‘til 3:30 (and you can do whatever you think is best during those hours), but then he’s mine!”  And home they went.  Oh she is so wonderful – so practical and real and unpretentious. 

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They were asking her about how she managed to put up with and keep up with P. Hinckley’s amazingly unpredictable schedule, like the times when he’d travel and be gone so much.  “How did you manage?”  “I dunno.”  So precious!  She talked about one of her first long trips with him to Switzerland, I think for the dedication of the Temple but can’t remember for sure.  She said she sobbed to be so far away from her children.  She really missed them.  Sometimes she would share things and I could tell P. Hinckley was touched – that it was a very tender thing.  Other times he would laugh right out loud and just shake hard.  I loved it!  I loved being close enough to watch and feel and hear and enjoy.  Once she was talking about the traveling and said she knew he had to go to South America the next morning.  And she looked down at him and said “This is typical” in a somewhat pointed way, and they were both laughing at each other and we knew something very funny and “usual” was about to be shared.  She said as they were going to bed she quite casually but with great interest asked him if she was to travel to South America with him the next morning.  “Are you planning for me to go with you?”  “Well, we don’t need to decide that until morning.”  And they both laughed hard, and the daughters laughed hard, and we all laughed and clapped so hard.  The laughter and clapping went on all through the presentation.  It was completely spontaneous and very joyful.  And the women weren’t laughing so much because things were funny (but many things were) as they were just captivated and delighted that S. Hinckley (and P. Hinckley and the whole family) could be – that they were – so real and so wonderful.  It was as if E. Hales had talked for one hour about family and the Proclamation, and then here was a “visual aid.”  A demonstration.  An example. 

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She spoke about a trip to Hong Kong many years ago and about tracting with the lady miss’s.  She spoke of working in the “walk-ups” and of one restroom for 75 people.  I could guess that it might have happened when I was in the Philippines on my first mission – that’s a time when she came with P. Hinckley sometimes.  She spoke of being in one of the tiny little dwellings on one of those floors amongst thousands of others, and up on some shelf was a little glass vase with a plastic flower in it.  This seemed to have touched her deeply, and she spoke of how women will work to make their surroundings beautiful and give a “feminine touch” no matter what or where those surroundings might be.  No matter how humble or simple.  She remembered being in a Sunday School class where the teacher was talking about the Pioneers and said that people don’t make sacrifices anymore.  “I could hardly keep still!” 

And she spoke of the wives of mission presidents as an example of sacrifice.  She spoke of someone she knew who went with her husband to a place where she could neither understand nor speak the language (“and she was a talker” – and P. Hinckley laughed so hard on that one, as did all of us).  She mentioned talking to missionaries.  “I didn’t interview them! – I just talked to them while they were waiting to be interviewed, and I found out a lot.” 

One of the daughters asked her about how it felt to have met some of the most important people in the world – she’d met some of the most humble, but she’d also met some of the most powerful and famous.  With a very comfortable tone she said something like “Oh, I learned a long time ago that everybody puts their shoes on one at a time.”  Everyone was so delighted with that response. 

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On the video clip at about that time P. Hinckley’s voice was very tender and sweet as he spoke of a time recently when he was sitting with S. Hinckley in their living room watching the sunset.  He said he looked over at her hands, and they were wrinkled, and he could see the veins.  He said he realized that “we’re getting older.  We don’t move as quickly or as easily as we once did.”  He said they’re “settling” a bit, and are not as tall as they once were.  Oh it was so tender and beautiful and such a priceless thing to be able to hear and feel.  And see.  S. Hinckley then told us (in response to a question by one of the daughters) that she’d accompanied him to 40 dedications of temples, all over the world.  She chose to talk about the one in Peru where she watched the natives coming down the hills with a white hankie in one hand and a recommend in the other.  I was so touched by this, and by what she shared next.  “When I can’t sleep I don’t count sheep – I think of beautiful experiences like this and I count people coming out of the hills with white hankies.”  Something like that.  I can’t remember exactly. 

She told a story of her Grandmother who was at the dedication of the Manti Temple and heard angels singing.  “I’ve heard angels sing too.”  And she said it’s been 59 years of heaven on earth to be married to P. Hinckley.  And then she was finished and Kathy stood up to bring it to a close.  She said something like “We’re not a perfect family, but we’re a happy family.”  She thanked all those of the GA’s and wives who had surrounded their Mother and their Father and helped them in such significant ways.  P. Hinckley left and went around and up behind the table where they were sitting and hugged and kissed S. Hinckley and then each of his girls.  And we all stood and wept and clapped and tried to let every single word we’d heard and every single feeling we’d felt sink deep into our souls, never to be lost or forgotten.  Oh what a glorious, heavenly, happy, sweet, precious, indescribably evening and experience…. 

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After the closing prayer we all sat while P&S Hinckley and the other GA’s and wives left.  No one seemed in a hurry to leave even after that.  Women came up and “mobbed” the daughters to thank them and say what was in their hearts.  Many women said to me that it was worth the whole trip and all the sacrifice and effort just to have been present at what happened on this magical, incredible evening.  Eventually I went down the hall and stood in line to take the elevator up.  Talking to everyone.  There was a real traffic jam in trying to get out of the parking lot.  Still, it took me only about half an hour to get home.  I was thinking deeply, praying and expressing thanks to Heavenly Father. I wanted it very, very peaceful….

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SISTER HINCKLEY

I’ve been fascinated by the amount of response to a quote I posted on Facebook on “Friday the 13th” (of May). It’s a picture of Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley with her quote about preferring to laugh instead of cry (she said crying gives her a headache). There have been almost 30,000 views! I’m so excited about that!!  I’m giving her a SHOUT-OUT today!

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I love this incredibly bright, wonderful soul. I remember right where I was when I heard that she had passed away.  I was in the Jordan River Temple with a group of missionaries who had served in Indonesia along with some Indonesian Saints. We were waiting in a hallway to go into a room where, for the first time anywhere in any Temple, we would have everything in Bahasa Indonesia – the Indonesian language (using headsets). It was Tuesday, 06 April, 2004 (has it really been 12 years?). Someone had heard of Sister Hinckley’s passing and shared the news with the rest of us….  Memories flooded back into my mind and heart.

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I was sent to the Southern Far East Mission in 1962. Our mission had 3 zones at the time, and I had the blessing of serving in all 3 during my 2 years. I spent my first 4 months in Taiwan, then 5 months in Hong Kong, and my last 17 months as one of the first sister missionaries in the Philippine Islands.  Not long after my companion and I arrived in the Philippines, we received word that our mission president, Jay A. Quealy, had been critically injured in an accident in Hong Kong.  In all three zones we fasted and prayed for him. At first it was determined that he would be released – he was going to be hospitalized for a long time.  Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who had been an Apostle just since October of 1961 (he’d been an assistant to the Twelve for 3 years), was supervising the Asia area at the time. President Quealy pleaded to remain as mission president. In my journal I wrote “in my opinion President Quealy can do more lying down than ten presidents could do on their feet.”  A decision was made to honor that request. This meant that Elder Hinckley would come to visit us several times.

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What a blessing for us missionaries and the members!  I really enjoyed him, including his wonderful sense of humor. Sometimes he brought Sister Hinckley with him, and oh what a treasure she was! I was young and pretty naïve, so with no thought that it might be inappropriate to write to a General Authority, I wrote some letters to him and his family. One time I had what I thought was a very clever idea.  We had an abundance of tiny little bugs and critters in the Philippines (ants, fleas, bed bugs, termites, mosquitoes, flies, baby cockroaches…).  I got an idea to make my own “letter-head stationery, using a collection of these “critters!”  I got some clear tape, and I’d put a variety of critters on the tape and make what I thought was a very unusual, attractive stationery. I began sending these letters to “everyone,” knowing they’d be impressed, and that the little critters would be cheered and cherished. One of these letter-head pieces of home-made stationery was sent to Elder and Sister Hinckley far away in Utah. Yes – I really did do this.

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The next time Sister Hinckley came (with Elder Hinckley and their youngest daughter, Jane) was in October of 1963. Sister Hinckley told me that she had a surprise for me! Wow! I was SO surprised and excited!!  In Hong Kong we often had a treat called “Smarties,” kind of like “M and M’s,” which came in long cardboard tubes, similar to something which would hold pens and pencils.  She gave me one of these “Smartie tubes” with a very happy smile.

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Oh! I loved Smarties! I opened the tube … and out came a lively little GEKKO!! That was more of a surprise than I’d anticipated!!  She let me know – with kindness and good humor – that the gecko would help cut down on the critter population in our little home in the Philippines . . . in other words, her message was that by the time my letter crossed oceans and mountains, taking MANY days, the “letter-head” did NOT have a pleasant smell….  She let me know that ONE of those letters was even more than enough!

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Oh, we laughed and laughed. She had the best laugh!!  Infectious!  I loved her SO much! I’m glad our paths crossed several more times before she was called Home.   She was REAL! And to her, WE were real too!!

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So I’m more than thrilled at the response to her quote which I posted on Facebook on “Friday the 13th.”  I want to share a few more of her quotes and hope you’ll enjoy them!

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