A Missionary’s Legacy
Contributed By Ruth Whidden Yates, Vernon British Columbia Stake & David Whidden, Abbotsford British Columbia Stake
In the spring of 1951, missionaries stopped to talk to a man as he worked in his garden on a hilly property in an out-of-the-way place near Timmins, Ontario. That man worked the graveyard shift at a nearby gold mine and cherished the daylight hours when he could garden. He put the young men off, telling them to come back next week – or some other time when he wasn’t so busy trying to get his seeds in the ground. They did come back the next week and caught him resting in a lawn chair. They gave him a Book or Mormon and promised to return to talk with him more about it. He didn’t have time to read the book, but his wife did.
Late one night, she began to read the Book or Mormon and what she read struck her profoundly. She told her children many times after that evening with the Book of Mormon open on her lap as she rested her eyes from reading that she heard a voice plainly say that what she was reading was true. From that moment, she never wavered in her faith that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. As she continued to read, she persuaded her husband that he needed to read it too. The Mormon missionaries came often after that; they taught the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and when the ice melted off the lake, the family was ready for baptism. Truly important seeds were sown that spring.
One of the missionaries who so faithfully visited that family throughout their first six months in the Gospel was Elder Ken Garner from Raymond, Alberta. This spring in 2012, a young Elder Garner introduced himself during a visit to the Brookswood Ward in Langley, B.C.
A member later approached him and asked, “Do you know an Elder Garner who was a missionary in Timmins, Ontario?”
“That would be my grandfather,” Elder Garner replied.
“Well, you need to come to dinner and I’ll tell you about your grandfather,” Brother Dave Whidden responded, “He taught my parents the Gospel. He brought four generations of Whiddens into the Church.”
Elder Garner had to wipe tears from his eyes. “My grandpa died two years ago - he was my best friend. He always talked about his mission and gave me his mission diary, so I can tell you some things about your family and that summer in northern Ontario.”
Elder Blake Garner, now serving in Smithers, BC, wrote home asking his parents to send a copy of his grandfather’s journal. It came complete with many photos and was a great delight for the Whidden children to read the recorded events leading to the conversion of their parents.
It was hard work being a missionary back then and especially in rural Ontario. There were long unpopulated miles between northern towns, members and investigators. The climate was difficult with its freezing temperatures or hoards of black flies. The missionaries travelled without cars or even bikes, instead walking the ten-mile trek between South Porcupine where they lived and Timmins where members of the small branch met. Even though the Whidden family lived half way between those towns, the elders came faithfully to teach them the gospel.
The Whiddens honour those missionaries for their conviction and sacrifice of more than sixty years ago.
The legacy of missionary work is truly eternal.