Sacrament Meeting talk by daughter Ileen, July 29, 2012
My passion, as most of you know, is family history. All eight of my great-grandparents joined the Church in its early days and made their way from England, Ireland, Australia, New England and Canada to Utah. Many of these great-grandparents performed temple ordinances for themselves and their ancestors. Consequently, there wasn’t much research left to be done, so I turned my efforts to collecting and publishing details about their lives. When I consider their lives, one thing stands out–they kept going in spite of the hardships, they were committed to the Gospel and answered the call of their leaders to move again and again to help settle the West. I have come to love and appreciate my ancestors. I feel that I know them personally and look forward to meeting them in the next life.
Occasionally, when we come across a “colorful” individual in our family history, we have a tendency to label them as “rascals” or the “black sheep of the family.” One thing I have learned from my family history efforts is to refrain from judging others.
President Monson talked about this in a recent General Conference address. You will remember that he told of a sister judging a neighbor because her laundry hanging on the line was not clean. Her husband rose early one morning and washed the kitchen window. It wasn’t the laundry that was dirty, it was the kitchen window. President Monson quoted the Savior when he said, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye.” Or, as he paraphrased, “Why beholdest thou what you think is dirty laundry at your neighbor’s house but considerest not the soiled window in your own house?”
Learning more about my father and the conditions under which he lived has helped me to understand him better. From my limited view as a child, it was tempting to pass judgment.
- Most of the time he wore striped bib overalls, a faded-blue long-sleeved shirt and high-top shoes.
- He was in bed by 9 in the evening and up with the chickens at 5 in the morning. He prepared his coffee and cooked our mush.
- By 9 o’clock, after working on our 1 3/4-acre lot, he would go to his work as a carpenter.
- After work he sat in his rocking chair and listened to Gabriel Heator give the news.
- He rolled his own cigarettes which he smoked–always outside, never in the house–one in the morning and one in the evening.
- Much to Mother’s dismay, he would not pray with the family nor attend church.
- I knew my father to always be doing something.
- I remember him regularly keeping our push lawn mower sharpened and in top working order.
- He repaired the kitchen chairs and other household items almost before they needed it.
- More than once, I saw him take his dollar pocket watch apart on the kitchen table and soak it in kerosene to clean it.
- The clippers Mom used to cut his hair he frequently took apart and sharpened the blades. These were hand clippers, not the electric clippers we have today.
Now I would like to share with you some things I learned about my father through my family history efforts.
Dad’s parents were married in 1886, close to the time when there was much opposition to plural marriage. The manifesto was issued in November 1890, so Grandma, who was the second wife, and her first born, then about 9 months old, were sent to live with Grandpa’s uncle and used an assumed name. Later she moved back to Arizona where she lived in a one-room log cabin, about 14 feet x 12 feet. There was one bed for their parents with a trundle bed underneath. Beds for the rest of the seven children were made on the floor each night and the bedding put away again in the morning.
Dad attended school in the winter when he wasn’t needed on the ranch. Because he couldn’t go all the time, he was behind in the class and older than most of the other students.
He couldn’t find work that was steady, so he raised sheep and cattle on the farm. He tried to save his money so he could go to school, but when he found that his younger sisters and brothers needed shoes and the family had to have flour, he would turn over his earnings to his father and go back to herding sheep.
Even though he could not go to school, he always had a desire for learning. When he was 18 years of age he came back from the mountains and went to the Board of Trustees of the school and asked for special permission to attend school. He was granted this privilege and attended school for six months one winter so he could finish the 6th grade.
My oldest sister Hilga writes, “Reading was his favorite pastime. He read whenever he could, and all subjects available. He seldom read novels or cheap literature; he read on all the political issues and current events, history and church works. He was always on a quest for the knowledge he had been unable to attain as a child and a young man. He was eager to learn from anyone, and although he may not have agreed with your views, he always listened.”
He enlisted in the Army during World War I, but was sent home after three months because of a bad heart due to rheumatic fever as a child. Another sister, Helen, told me that she used to go to work with Dad after school and on Saturdays to help him. Growing up I was never aware of his heart condition. After having had some heart problems of my own, I can understand why he went to bed at 9 pm. He was tired!
As a child, his family was much too poor to pay for a doctor, and instead used home remedies. His maternal grandfather was an herb doctor. At that time tobacco and coffee were used for medicinal purposes. Dad’s morning coffee and twice-daily cigarettes were, I believe, the stimulant he needed to get through the day.
At his funeral a coworker said of him:
“Perhaps you think he didn’t come to church much to know whether he had a testimony of the Gospel or not, but I have been with him when the Church has been challenged, and I have just enjoyed being quiet and listening to what he had to say about it. He could hold his own, perhaps not from a scholarly standpoint. I didn’t find him arguing with anybody, but in no uncertain terms, he gave several people that I knew of the occasion to understand that as far as he was concerned the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was worth while and those that didn’t have it were lacking.”
“I have seen him put a floor down in a home I was building, and by the time he’d get through with all the scraps he didn’t waste anything. If you have ever put a hardwood floor down, you know how easy it is to go across the floor til you get to the other side. The last six inches there is no place to pry against the wood, you have a plastered wall. It’s hard to get the nails in, and in some homes next to the wall you’ll see cracks left because it was too hard to put it down right. Just little things like that, Brother Ray Judd took just as much interest in getting the last three boards in the floor just right as he did the first ones. I think that that is the place where you find out what kind of an individual we are. Long as everything is going easy, it’s not too much trouble to do it right, but when it comes to the tight places in life, some people give up.”
Once we become better acquainted with someone we have criticized and can see things from their point of view, our judgment is more forgiving. Through my efforts to learn about my ancestors I have come to appreciate my father more. He worked as hard as he could and was good to us kids, even when I put my foot through the kitchen ceiling while stepping around on the rafters upstairs as he was laying the flooring.
Again, as President Monson said, “There is really no way we can know the heart, intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize.”
Eliza R. Snow wrote the text of Hymn No. 273, “Truth Reflects upon Our Senses.” This hymn addresses the topic of judging others. I particularly like verses 2 and 5:
Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.
Charity and love are healing,
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.