“No Other Name”

Much of the work done in this world is meant to save and enrich. First responders enter fiery buildings, administer first aid, and search for and rescue those who are lost. Doctors help us regain and maintain physical health. Psychologists teach us to understand and heal the ways we see and think about the world. Educators make the world more lively and interesting and give us skills to join the world of work.

But, all these are nothing!

There is only one who really saves and enriches—Jesus Christ. Beside him there is “no saviour” (Isa. 43:11). His is the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17). Under His head we “are made free” (Mosiah 5:8). There is simply “none other name given whereby man can be saved” (D&C 18:23).

Carl Block, “Christ in Gethsemane”

Without Christ, without the wonderful plan of happiness—which He makes operative—without his great and atoning sacrifice, nothing—nothing—else would be possible. All the many ways we find help in this world are made possible only through Christ. Technology, psychology, education, medicine, art, literature, music, service—all these and many others—could not enrich and bless us if it were not for Christ. He makes these blessings efficacious and purposeful in our lives. His is the only name! His is the operative name.

In the temple last week I was struck again by the depiction of the creation of the world. I thought of things I enjoy creating—pieces of writing, blankets for my grandchildren, good food (seldom), curriculum for people I love—and compared them to the creation of the world. They don’t come close. God and Christ created the world with complete dedication to us. They created it to fulfill our natural needs and to delight us. They spent much time doing so. They made it better than we needed it to be—simply because they love us. My creations are not that beautiful—nor that selfless. But they remind me of Him—who created a plan for my salvation, my happiness, and my redemption. (See Alma 42:5, 8, 11.)

Given all that He has made possible for me, how can I not give Him all I do, all I think, all I say, all I am, all I become through Him? “Carole M. Stephens, former First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, said: ‘Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God.’

“We are changed. We look different, and we act different. The things we listen to and read and say are different, and what we wear is different because we become daughters [and sons] of God bound to Him by covenant” (Visiting Teaching Message, “Living a Consecrated Life,” Ensign, August 2017).

Making and keeping covenants allows Christ to create us anew. We are not then only made in His image but in His character. We are not defined by money, fitness, housing, achievements, popularity, clothing, intelligence, competition, or status but by the love we know Christ has for us. We feel secure in that love, and we want to do anything—anything—that He asks of us. Our grateful hearts eagerly give up activities, clothing, ideas, media, fear, and negativity that are not compatible with being near Him and with Him. Our hearts naturally turn to others as He makes us a fit instrument in His hands to heal, lift, save, and preserve others with whatever gifts He has given us. Those gifts will become instruments of His grace. And once again, His name will save!

How I love Him! How He loves me!  I “love him, because he first loved” me (1 John 4:19).

Reading

I don’t remember ever not loving reading. Reading has always been one of my favorite activities. I may even be a compulsive reader. I once saw an advertisement for a tote bag. On the front it read,” A day without reading is like a day without . . . . Oh, never mind. I wouldn’t know.” That’s me exactly.

I once had a dream. I dreamed about a mermaid who fell in love with a human. She gave up her voice in order to become one. Every time she took a step, her legs burned like fire. The human fell in love with someone else, so she gave him up and became a spirit. I knew all the details of the dream. It was such a wonderful story. I always meant to write it and sell it. It wasn’t until many years later that I read “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen and realized it was my dream. I must have heard the story somewhere and either dreamed about it or thought I had dreamed it. I was so disappointed. (My love of that story partially accounts for my dislike of the Disney movie. My other reason for disliking the movie comes from the awful thematic content!)

My fourth grade teacher—Mr. Nelson—triggered a huge growth spurt in my love of reading. He gave each of us a file folder with a number of challenges for the year—memorize all the state capitals and the presidents of the United States; pass off certain math facts in a limited time; complete mental math goals; read an issue of the National Geographic; do 5 oral book reports; memorize poetry; do oral reports on a country, president, science subject, and 40 news reports; get 115 100% scores on spelling tests; and finally, make a list of all the books we read during the year. I was on fire. I read and read and read. I could read two of the Childhood of Famous Americans series in a night—200 pages a piece. I read Little Women, The Boxcar Children, Schoolhouse Mystery, Dolly Madison, The Velvet Room, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Jane Addams, Miss Hickory, Miracles on Maple Hill, Follow My Leader, Pocahontas, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Homer Price, Call It Courage, etc. To “graduate” from 4th grade summa cum laude, we had to read 7000 pages. I was determined to make that goal. But once I met the goal, I couldn’t stop reading. By the end of the year I had read 23,683 pages!

Miss Buss, my sixth-grade teacher, knew of my love of reading. She kept suggesting to me that I read Little Britches by Ralph Moody. Little Britches!—didn’t sound very interesting. I didn’t read it. Finally, Miss Buss tricked me. She started reading it aloud to our class. I was hooked. I checked the book out of the library and finished it ahead of the class. Then I read the rest of the series. Ralph Moody is still one of my favorites.

We had a bookmobile that stopped in our neighborhood. It was a library on wheels—a big truck-like vehicle that you could walk around inside. It was lined with books. I met the bookmobile every week with my library card and checked out enough books to last me the week.

Later I discovered the classics. I read them voraciously. In school my teachers assigned us books to read. I read them, then during the summer I read everything else the authors of those books had written—all of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck, and much of Theodore Dostoyevsky and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

When I went to college, my parents thought I would major in math. But I knew I couldn’t give up books. I majored in English.  I still read–almost every day. I have started recording my books on Goodreads. I wish I had a list of everything I’ve read.

One of my favorite activities was reading books to my children. We had story time every day after lunch. We read for at least an hour. When the children were young, I often fell asleep while I was reading to them. We read many books, including many of my fourth-grade favorites. Books line our walls and there are bookshelves in every bedroom. Books are my favorite gift—to give and to receive. I think I’ll go read a book.

Jump Ropes and the Hope of America

Every year my elementary school—Ridgecrest Elementary—awarded one sixth grade girl and one sixth grade boy a Hope of America Award. I wanted this award, but there was really nothing I could do to earn it. It was given by the Kiwanis club, and the sixth-grade teachers and the principal nominated the winners. You just had to be good kid and do well in school. Still I thought it would be neat to get this award.

During that year one of my favorite recess activities was jump rope. A group of my friends loved to play doubleDutch jump rope with two long ropes. The people on the ends held both ropes and twirled them in opposite directions.

Double Dutch Jump Rope

The “jumper” ran in between the ropes and jumped them as they alternately came around. As soon as we were dismissed for recess, my friends and I ran to the playground equipment bin to get the ropes. Unfortunately, the sixth grade had only two long ropes, so sometimes other people beat us to the bin and we didn’t get the ropes.

One day we had the brilliant idea of hiding the ropes. In our school we hung up our coats on hooks outside our rooms in the hall—a perfect hiding class. After recess I took both ropes and hid them underneath my coat. We did this for several days.

But then, one day, the unthinkable happened. The two sixth-grade teachers decided to inventory the playground equipment. They took out all the equipment and counted it. They were two long jump ropes short. I felt terrible. I knew I had done something wrong. And, remember, I had to be a good girl to even be considered for the Hope of America award. I wanted to just sneak out at recess and bring the ropes back in without letting anyone know what we had done. But I knew that was wrong too. So, I went to my beloved teacher, Miss Buss, and told her that I had hidden the jump ropes and where they were. She let me go get them and put them back in the playground bin. I didn’t jump rope at recess again for weeks. And I gave up on the Hope of America award. Still, my teacher was kind to me, and I was glad I didn’t have to keep feeling so guilty.

The Hope of America award was given at a special assembly at the end of the year. I walked into our large gymnasium, where hundreds of chairs had been set up, and sat down with my class. To my surprise, I saw my parents in the room and wondered why they were there. Moments later, I heard my name called as the girl who would be awarded the Hope of America. The award read “Presented with honor to Karen Thomas who has demonstrated during this school year the capacity for leadership, the ethical and moral character and the outstanding academic accomplishment which represent Hope of America.”

I still have the award. It. At the beginning of the year, I wanted the award just because it was an award, but at the end of the year, when I actually received the award, it represented to me the importance of courage and of doing what is right. It showed me that weaknesses did not signal failure and that character was more important than other measures of “success.”

 

She Was Praying for Me

It was Christmas of 1979. I was a senior at BYU. I had almost no money, so I decided to type up my great grandmother’s—Grandma Creagh’s—personal history for my family. I had not really liked this grandmother while she was alive. I was only a little girl and she didn’t like me to be noisy. I always thought she was kind of grouchy. But as I began to type up her history, I learned about a different woman. I met someone who loved to pretend and had a wonderful imagination. She loved to write poetry and to sing. She sang in the Mormon Tabernacle choir and at the old Saltair—a theater near the Great Salt Lake where light operas were performed. She worked in the temple and loved it. And she had an interesting love life. She married a man from a good family but who was not good himself. After the birth of her three sons (one of whom was stillborn—a twin to the oldest son), her husband became an alcoholic, and she divorced him. As I wrote her history I felt very strongly that she wanted me to be careful about who I married. She was telling me not to make a mistake. Well, I didn’t get married very soon after that. I did my student teaching, graduated, and taught eighth grade for three years. During that time I met and became engaged to a man named Mark Mills. I thought I was in love with him, but as our engagement progressed, I became very nervous and uncomfortable. Some of his standards I really struggled with. People told me I was too picky. They said I was just nervous by nature and should ignore my feelings. I would go to the temple and feel peace, but I’d come out and feel awful again. Finally, two weeks before we were to get married, I called it off. It was very difficult, but that night as I was driving back to my home (I lived with my mom and dad at the time) I felt very strongly that Grandma Creagh had been praying for me, praying that I wouldn’t marry this wrong person. It was a very sacred experience, one that brought me closer to my great grandmother and to the Lord. I felt a connection to my great grandmother that continues to this day. I look forward to being with her again.

Sisters

My sister Kathryn is 19 months younger than I am. My mom tells me that when I saw her, I said, “Put her back inside your tummy!” I wasn’t exactly thrilled. One day I rocked her so hard in her little cradle that she spilled out of it.

In spite of that inauspicious beginning, I love my sister. Kathryn and I are different in many ways. Kathryn was always a tomboy, and I loved baby dolls and playing house. I wasn’t always happy to have to do active things, but I wanted to be with my sister, so I often gave in. (She gave in sometimes too.) When we lived on our home on 16th east, our road ended in a dead end. At that dead end was a wonderful apple tree. We loved to climb the tree—and to eat the apples. Unfortunately, they were very green, and we became pretty sick. We knew they would make us sick, but we ate them anyway.

Later, we moved to our last family home at 1394 E 7340 So. We were in a brand-new part of our subdivision. At first, not even the roads were finished. We lived on a dirt road. Soon other homes started appearing. And for each new house a deep hole was dug, and all that dirt from the hole was piled into what appeared to us to be mountains. Kathryn and I and Jim and Joanne loved those hills. We climbed them and played on them. We dug holes in them. We got on opposite sides near the top and dug into the hill until our hands met. It was always so exciting when we could grab each other’s hand.

A few lots away behind our home was a small grove of scrub oak. Kathryn and I pretended it was our secret forest. We found little glass bottles, wrote messages to each other, put them in the bottles, and hid them in the forest. We spent hours finding new places to hide the bottles and just playing in our forest.

Further behind our house the land dropped off into a valley. At the bottom of the hill leading to the valley was a stagnant pond. We loved that place. The four older children would ask Mom if we could go “over the hill” (a mile or more away) then we’d head down into the valley. We never worried about getting lost or drowning in the pool. People didn’t worry about those things then. The pond held magic—dragonflies and pollywogs or tadpoles. We took quart canning jars to the pond. scooped up the little tadpoles, and took them home with us. Once home, we got a box, put a shallow dish of water in the box and built a dirt floor around the water. Then we waited and watched—for weeks. Soon little back legs appeared, then little front legs. As the body and legs grew bigger, the tail grew shorter until it finally disappeared and a finger-sized toad appeared and made its way out of the water. We kept them a bit longer until they were about half the size of an adult toad. Then we released them into the garden. (Our yard had lots of toads. None of us were afraid of them. We loved to catch them and hold them.) Watching these toads grow is one of my favorite childhood memories. I always wanted my children to have the same opportunity, but it never happened.

As Kathryn and I grew older and got into junior high and high school, we didn’t do as much together. We were interested in different things. I loved academics and she did well in school but really loved gymnastics. She was good at it. People were often surprised to find out we were sisters. We shared a room in the basement. My half was messy and her half was clean. I think I drove her crazy. Sometimes at night we stayed up late playing Monopoly. We were the only ones in the basement, so if we heard someone on the stairs, we pushed the game under one of our beds, turned the light off, and hopped in bed. Our games would go on forever, because neither of us could stand for the other person to lose. We kept loaning each other money.

Finally. I went to BYU and the next year she went to Ricks College. I sent her “care packages” with fun little things and candy so she wouldn’t be lonely. After she graduated from Ricks she came to BYU. We didn’t see each other much, but at Christmas we got together and made sugar cookies to give to friends. I was living in the German house at the time, and we had a nice kitchen in the basement (two kitchens in the house) and we had a fun time with the cookies.

We both graduated that next April—I with my bachelor’s degree in English and Kathryn with an associate’s in family history. She got married that summer to David Carlton Moon and soon had Kelsey. I loved babysitting Kelsey and letting Kathryn and Dave take a break from their little apartment in Wymount at BYU.

Kathryn has become one of my heroes. She is compassionate, generous, industrious, humble, and diligent. The Lord richly blessed my when He gave me such a sister.

 

 

 

“You Already Know”

During my seminary years I participated in Seminary Bowl. Seminary Bowl was a quiz game that consisted of four quarters including questions about the subject of study during that year. The moderator asked a question and the first one to hit the buzzer got to answer. Each questions was followed up by a bonus questions that the team consulted about and then answered. Each quarter also included finding scripture mastery scriptures. The moderator gave a hint about the scripture. The first team to have all four members lift their scriptures with their finger in the correct scripture won the points for that scripture. A team could consist of any number of people, but only four played at a time. We competed against other schools of the same or similar size as ours.

I loved Seminary Bowl. My team met three times a week after school in the seminary building to study, practice scripture mastery and to simulate games. I loved my teammates, and I loved studying the gospel. My team traveled to other schools and other teams traveled to ours. My team was usually either first or second in our region. (There were lots more guys on the team than girls.)

One day in the middle of our Church History/Doctrine and Covenants year, I thought, “I ought to find out if all this is true.” I had never really asked before. I just lived the gospel and obeyed the commandments, but I didn’t think to ask if the Church was true or if Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon true.

I thought about this for some time and decided I would just ask the Lord. I knelt by my bed that night and prayed to know if everything I had been taught and had been living was true. I didn’t get a light or a warm feeling, but I heard the words in my mind, “You already know it is true.” I realized then that I did know. I didn’t need an overwhelming answer. I’d had my answer for a long time. I still have my answer.

The Furry, White Coat

In my 4th or 5th grade year, my parents bought me a new winter coat. I walked a mile or so to school every day and needed something to wear to keep me warm and dry. My Mom and I went to the Cottonwood Mall and searched through store after store. Finally I found the perfect coat. It was knee length, made from off-white faux fur with darker, thicker fur around the cuffs and hood. It buttoned down the front. I loved the coat. During the fall (when it wasn’t cold enough to wear it to school) I took it out of my closet almost every day and tried it on.

Finally, the great day came! It was cold—and snowing. I could even wear the hood! I donned my beautiful coat and walked to school. I felt like a princess!

My euphoria lasted about a week. Every day I loved wearing my coat. But the next week, the unthinkable happened. A girl in my ward, just four houses away from my home, showed up at school with the exact same coat. I was devastated—and very mad! How could she buy my coat? It was my coat. I refused to walk with her to school and spent the day in a dark mood. I soon made up with my friend, but after that, the coat was never quite the same. It was the same coat, but I was not the same.

Looking back on this experience, I can see that I was full of pride. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: ‘Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.’ (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989).

I was pitting my coat against my friend’s coat. If she had the same coat I had, then my coat was no longer “better.” It saw just the “same.” I could not be superior! At least part of my “joy” in the coat had been that no one else had it, not in the coat itself—a classic example of pride.

Thoughts on Eve

Have you ever been asked to do something that you know nothing about? Imagine that you have been living in a beautiful garden, after having come straight from the presence of God, but also having forgotten everything you learned while you were with Him. Now you have made a decision to leave the garden so that you can know good from evil and have children. You find yourself in a lone and dreary world.

We are all familiar with this story of our mother Eve, but we don’t often think about what the rest of her life was like. There was so much she didn’t know and hadn’t experienced. She was the first woman to have a baby. She was the first woman to experience colic, sleepless nights, and long days. She was the first woman to deal with hormones and morning sickness. She was the first woman to see death. So many firsts—of joy and sorrow.

Her husband Adam lived to be 930 years old; as far as we know her years were comparable. How many children did she have during those years? How tired did she get? How many problems did she face?

And she and Adam did all this alone. She had no peers; no other women of her generation, and more importantly, no earthly mother. She had no one to walk along the canal with, no one to trade babysitting with, no one to bring her a sodalicious when she was exhausted (and surely she was).

She had no mother to call when her baby had an ear infection or she wasn’t sure how to handle a particular child or she forgot how to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving. I’m sure her daughters eventually became her friends. But mothers never forget that they are mothers.

Imagine how she felt when one of her sons killed another of her sons. Did this act bring her close to her grave as Laman and Lemuel’s did to Sariah? Was this the first time she had seen death or had she seen children die of disease or accidents? How did she feel when she saw many of her children turn away from the truths she so diligently taught them? Scripture records that many of her children loved Satan more than God. Many of us know the pain of a rebellious child, and she saw generations of it.

But Eve remained faithful. She did not give up. She did not give up on herself, the Lord, or her children. We know she has been exalted. Joseph F. Smith saw Jesus minister in the spirit world to “our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God” (D&C 138:39).

How did this happen? How did Eve face and overcome all these trials for so many years? How did she remain faithful in the face of such adversity? Why didn’t she turn away from God? Before we explore the answer to these questions, I want to look at another woman I admire. Her name is Bonnie.

Bonnie was 6 years old when she heard her mother telling her dad that she was carrying another man’s child. That Christmas Eve her mother left. Bonnie was raised by her father and her grandmother. Her father was not interested in the Church and didn’t promote activity among his children. He was a train engineer; often away from home. The home was dirty. If Bonnie got up during the night, she stepped on bugs with every step. And her home was full of contention. Two of her sisters chased each other with knives and threatened to kill each other. Her older sister had two illegitimate children who lived in their home. Her sister did not take care of the children. Bonnie would come home after school and change diapers which had not been changed all day and feed children who were crying with hunger.

Her grandmother was a saving grace. She worked in the Salt Lake temple and taught Bonnie the gospel. And she introduced her to the piano, giving her music that even today comforts her. Somehow, she stumbled through these early years, maintaining some activity in the Church. At age 17 she married her sweetheart Gordon in the temple. Gordon’s father had died when he was 6 years old. Bonnie had not been reared by a mother and Gordon had not been reared by a father. Statistically, the odds were stacked against them. They should have failed.

And indeed, things at first were a little rocky as far as their commitment to the gospel. Every Sunday they went to church, but after church they went to Lagoon and tried to win dishes for their home.

Gordon had a hard time finding good work, so when he finally found a job in Wyoming, they were overjoyed and excited to learn about their new home. Every Sunday after Sunday school (not block system) they’d take off and go driving to see the area. One Sunday, Bonnie asked a life-changing question: “Do you know how many weeks it’s been since we went to sacrament meeting?” When she told him it had been six weeks, he was shocked. The two decided that they would not miss sacrament meeting again. As far as I know, they didn’t.

They went on to have 7 children. The youngest one is intellectually handicapped. The other six married in the temple, and although they have had their share of life’s challenges—some of them very serious—they are all true to the covenants they have made. So far 24 of their 29 grandchildren have been endowed. Gordon and Bonnie had daily family scripture study and family prayer, and weekly home evening. They accepted callings and served two missions. Their handicapped son still lives with them. Gordon is now in his 80s and suffers from Alzheimers. Bonnie carries on, taking care of her handicapped son and her ailing husband. It is tiring work, but she does it with grace and often gratitude. She regularly sends letters to her children bearing her testimony of God’s goodness and of her love for them. Bonnie reminds me of a scripture in Isaiah 58. It describes the blessings of those who are faithful: “thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Bonnie laid the foundation for many generations, and restored the paths of the gospel for her posterity to walk in.

Bonnie is my mother. I’ll be forever grateful to her for the blessing she gave me and now my children and grandchildren. How did she, a girl from such a dysfunctional family become a woman so committed to the Lord? How did she change the path of her family so dramatically?

One of the qualities I admire in both these women is their relationship with the Lord. Both of them turned often to Him in prayer. Scripture tell us that “Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord.” They prayed—often and fervently—and He answered. Prayer was their lifeline and their comfort. Prayer brought them to God and prayer helped them become like Him.

I’m sure Eve felt deeply this call to pray. Remember all that she suffered? All that she did not know?  I can imagine her on her knees pleading with the Lord—often, continually. I’m sure she often sought the Lord’s guidance. Think of how much she had to learn! And no one to teach her but the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” My mother often felt like this. As she struggled to teach her family in a gospel tradition that was new to her, as she struggled to overcome habits and feelings that were part of her early years, she always sought the Lord in prayer. I often found her on her knees, pleading with the Lord.

Where would we be without prayer? Prayer strengthens our faith. It gives us answers and comfort. It connects us to the love of our Father.  It makes us one with Him and His desires for us. Elder Uceda said in the last conference: At the very moment we say, “Father in Heaven,” He hears our prayers and is sensitive to us and our needs. . . . Love and mercy are with Him the very moment you say, “Father in Heaven.”

One day last July, my husband and I were driving to BYU to receive a call from a stake presidency in a YSA stake there. We felt excited and more than a little nervous. On the way I received a phone call from my son who lives in Texas. His wife was miscarrying the little child she was carrying. They were alone with no family nearby and they were heartbroken. I was heartbroken with them—and very helpless. On the way home from the interview my daughter called from Las Vegas. She had gone there with a group of friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday and had attended a concert. The concert was so bad that she could not bear to stay. She left and called me. Her friends had stayed in the concert. I tried to keep her on the phone with me but her phone was dying. She was alone—a single woman—in Las Vegas. I felt grateful for her courage and scared to death for her safety. And again, I felt helpless. So many different emotions. I thought there was nothing I could do. But I was wrong. I could pray. I could plead with my father, who is also the father of my son, daughter-in-law, and daughter. I could ask him to send angels to bless and comfort my children. He gave me—and my family—His love and mercy the moment I said, “Heavenly Father.”

Just a few weeks ago I was listening to one of my daughter’s musical videos on YouTube. As often happens, the next video started before I caught it to stop it. I heard the voice of a young woman, a member of the Church who is gay. She told of her denial, her struggle, and finally her thoughts of suicide. Surely, she thought, the Lord would rather have me die than sin, wouldn’t He?  Her therapist, with tears in his eyes, told her to ask the Lord what he thought about her attraction to women. She agreed and went home to ask what she said was the most heartfelt prayer of her life. She did not receive an overwhelming answer, but she did feel peace. She felt that God loved her and that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t choose this situation. These feelings prompted her to ask, “How am I going to be able to do this?” The answer came simply and clearly: “Just stay with me.”

What a powerful message. “Just stay with me.” We mustn’t let busyness or fear or indifference or anger or sin or discouragement keep us from the Lord. Everything is better when we are with Him. Our whole purpose is to come unto Him. I testify that prayer is one powerful way to come to Him. Testimony.

(Talk given at Stake Conference–January 22, 2017)

Umbrellas and Elevens (Not Elevenses)

When I began to go to school, kindergarten was held for six weeks in the summer before your 1st grade year. Because my birthday is in October, I started kindergarten a mere four months before I turned 7.* My dad at that time had just started working for General Mills. They often had contests or promotions and the employees got prizes. One of the promotions was a large, long umbrella. My dad got several of them, and I loved carrying one of them to school (in the middle of summer in Utah. I rarely needed it. I just took it anyway).

My school, Mountain View Elementary, was at the bottom of a big hill. The kindergarten class was on the east side of the building. While kindergarten was in session no other grades attended school. Outside our rooms was a playground with a large slide and swingset. One day I arrived at school and began to play on the slide. (We wore dresses to school, so I had to hold my skirt down while I went down the slide.)

I was soon distracted from this pursuit by a bunch of boys in my class. I don’t remember if they started teasing me or I started teasing them, but pretty soon I was poking them with the pointy tip of my big umbrella. The boys were mad. They ran into the school and told the teacher. I was terrified. I was—I thought—a good girl, and I didn’t want to get in trouble. It seemed an inauspicious beginning to a long educational career. (Of course, I didn’t think about it that way then. I just didn’t like being in trouble.) To avoid any unpleasantries back in the classroom, I left my umbrella outside, hanging on the door handle.

At recess I rushed outside to rescue my umbrella. It had disappeared! I was devastated. I loved my umbrella, and I didn’t want to have to tell my mom and dad what happened. I spent the rest of my short half-day class worrying about my umbrella. As soon as school let out, I went outside. I saw some older boys on a nearby street. They had my umbrella. I don’t remember if I talked to the boys, or my friends or teacher did, but I got my umbrella back. I was so relieved!

About that same time I made a marvelous discovery about numbers. I don’t remember if I was at school or if my mom taught me this wonderful property. I could count quite high, but this particular day I learned that 11 came not after 10 just as some arbitrary next number. Instead 11 was part of a marvelous design. It was starting over again with a “1”. Twenty-one and 22 did the same thing. So did 101. I could count as high as I wanted if I just kept starting over. I still remember this property of numbers clicking in my mind. I still see that day as a bright one, full of light. That day symbolizes me the joy of learning and discovery. It was a precursor of much joy to come.

*I attribute this late start to much of my success in life. As a young school teacher I read a book called School Can Wait, published by BYU Press. It was a report of a meta-study about early school. The book presented many conclusions, but one of the ones I remember most was this one: the later a child is exposed to a peer group, the less likely they are to be influenced by that peer group when they are in their teen years.

 

 

Knitting a Sweater

I have always liked learning how to do new things—crafts, cooking, games, reading, types of math. My first year of teaching 8th grade (1980-1981) I decided I wanted to learn how to knit a sweater. I had knit slippers before and simple things like that, but I’d never tackled something as complicated as a sweater. At that time there was no google and no YouTube, so I couldn’t just look up how to make one. I bought a book and pattern with the explanation on how to do each kind of stitch, several skeins of pink yarn, and the right sized knitting needles. And I began. I made several false starts—stitches too large or too small and trying to figure out how to add and subtract stitches so they looked nice. But finally, the sweater started to look like a sweater. It had ribbed neck, cuffs, and bottom, and a cable pattern down the front.

Some days I took the sweater to school to work on after school. One day one of my coworkers was in my room. She said, “You are the type of person who will do anything once just to prove to yourself that you can do it.” Her comment rang true to me. I could think of many things I’d done just to be able to see if I could. The sweater was a project like that. I finished the sweater and wore it frequently. But I never made another one. (Although I have kept on knitting and every now and then get in a binge knitting mode.)