86-Year-Old Grandmother Completes Personal Progress with Granddaughter

Contributed By Amber Clayson, Church News contributor

  • 20 October 2014

Phyllis Slade, 86, and her granddaughter Aubree Slade, 14, stand in a ward building’s hallway after Sister Slade received her Personal Progress recognition. Sister Slade completed the program three months after Aubree challenged her to begin.  Photos by Donna Jeppson.

Article Highlights

  • Aubree Slade’s 86-year-old grandmother accepted the challenge to do Personal Progress with her granddaughter.
  • She had to use a magnifying glass to read the Personal Progress book and scriptures.
  • While difficult, it took only three months to complete.

“The message it sends not to just the young women but to leaders and people of all ages is that you never retire from the gospel. It was hard for her, hard for her to read, and I knew it would be, but she just plugged away and kept diligent.” —Gordon Whitehead, Pleasant Grove Utah Fourth Ward

Aubree Slade handed her 86-year-old grandmother a brand-new Personal Progress book. “I want you to do it with me,” she said.

“I can’t do it, I can’t do it,” were Phyllis Slade’s, Aubree’s grandmother’s, first thoughts. “I’m 86 years old; don’t get me into something like this.”

Aubree, 14, a member of the Mountainville 1st Ward in Alpine, Utah, had been challenged with the other young women in her ward to invite a friend or family member to join them in completing the Personal Progress program. Aubrey knew she wanted to ask her grandmother, who had never done the program before, to participate.

“[Grandma was] a little confused because she didn’t really know what it was,” Aubree said. “She was a little overwhelmed and said, ‘There’s a lot of stuff in there to do. I don’t know if I want to do it.’”

After pondering on it a week, Sister Slade of the Pleasant Grove (Utah) 4th Ward accepted Aubree’s invitation to complete the program.

It was harder than she thought.

Sister Slade had to use a magnifying glass to read the Personal Progress book and scriptures. Her unsteady hands also made it difficult to write in her journal. Her husband died two years ago and she didn’t have someone around to help, so Sister Slade’s daughter, Donna Jeppson from Cedar Hills, Utah, came over to help her read, write, and mark scriptures for her Personal Progress.

Sister Jeppson said helping her mother complete her Personal Progress was a tender mercy. She was able to witness the “prayers and the tears and the sweat” that Sister Slade put into the program.

“It was really hard for her,” Sister Jeppson said. “We’ve taken little bits at a time, and she’s finally finished it.”

Sister Slade completed the program three months after accepting the challenge from Aubree.

There were many times Sister Slade felt like giving up, but encouragement from her daughter and the thought of her granddaughter kept her going.

Aubree would visit her grandmother once or twice a week, and the two would talk about the experiences they were working on or had recently finished and would encourage each other to keep going.

“We talked a lot about faith and prayer,” Aubree said, “and praying to have faith and knowing things will be OK and asking Heavenly Father for help.”

Aubree was surprised at how fast her grandmother was moving through the program and said her hard work was inspiring.

Aubree Slade, 14, admires the Young Women medallion her grandmother, Phyllis Slade, 86, received for completing the Personal Progress program. Aubree invited her grandmother to join her in working on the program. Photo by Donna Jeppson.

“It’s super cool that Grandma, who can’t really see—and it’s hard for her to do everyday stuff—accomplished something that young girls are accomplishing in such a short amount of time. She worked super hard on it; it was the main thing she was doing every day.”

Sister Slade said she learned that hard work and determination were keys to be able to push through the program. Young women need to take the program seriously, she said.

“You’ve got to be very prayerful about it, and you will really learn. … Those girls can learn so much. It should make them a lot stronger in the gospel and to want to help people and not be selfish and think it’s just them that matter.”

Completing the program strengthened Sister Slade’s testimony of the gospel and increased her love for the young women and her desire for them to do the program for themselves.

“It gave me a great feeling when I got that done, and now all I could think of was, ‘OK, you girls, get this done,’” Sister Slade said. “It sure made me feel closer to the girls, and I don’t know them, but I want to know them.”

When Sister Slade told Aubree she had completed the program, Aubree was beyond excited for her grandmother.

“I was really shocked that she got it done that fast because it takes most people a few years,” Aubree said. “I was super happy for her and grateful that she did it.”

Aubree hasn’t completed her Personal Progress yet but plans to finish by the end of October.

On Sunday, September 28, Aubree attended her grandmother’s ward and accompanied her on the stand when the bishop presented Sister Slade with her Personal Progress medallion.

Aubree said it was a very spiritual experience and she was overcome with a sense of realization, thinking, “Wow, this is actually happening. I didn’t think I would be with my grandma when she got her Young Women’s award.”

Aubrey is looking forward to receiving her own medallion and having her grandmother be present.

“I’m super excited, and I got to get this done because [Grandma] already got it, and I need to hurry so she can come to church with me and see me get it,” she said.

Bishop Gordon Whitehead, who presented Sister Slade with the award, has known her for six years and said she is a hard-working, giving, and dynamic woman with a strong testimony of the gospel.

Bishop Whitehead was pleased when he first learned that Sister Slade was working on her Personal Progress because of the example she would set for the women of the ward.

“The message it sends not to just the young women but to leaders and people of all ages is that you never retire from the gospel,” Bishop Whitehead said. “It was hard for her, hard for her to read, and I knew it would be, but she just plugged away and kept diligent.”

Sister Slade said completing the Personal Progress program is an experience she will never forget.

“I don’t know of any one thing [about the program] I can tell you that I enjoyed more than the other,” Sister Slade said. “But boy, it really strengthened my testimony. … The more I was in it and the more I read, I thought, ‘You know, this is pretty awesome.’”