Shining Moment: A Memorable Christmas
Contributed By Rey Johnson, Church News contributor
“I pray every day that I will have strength to endure to the end.” —President J. Reuben Clark (1871–1961)
As a University of Utah student from 1956 to 1961, I was associated with the LDS institute and the LDS social organization, Lambda Delta Sigma. Among our many memorable activities was the annual Christmas caroling outing. This wasn’t just your ordinary neighborhood group. Lambda Delta Sigma was a large organization, and we typically had a hundred students participating in those caroling sessions.
The highlight of the evening was always the visit to President David O. McKay’s home on East South Temple in Salt Lake City. Their home featured a large front porch, and each year we would assemble in the front yard and sing while President and Sister McKay would stand on the porch and listen and then graciously thank us for our visit.
Christmas 1960, however, was a bit different. As a consequence of advancing years, the McKays moved into a suite in what was then the Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. You don’t take a hundred bundled-up carolers into the limited confines of their suite. Instead, we went to the home of President J. Reuben Clark, then a counselor to President McKay. President Clark’s home, located in the “avenues” in Salt Lake City, was a modest home with a front yard just large enough to accommodate a hundred carolers. At this time President Clark was bedridden and his bed was adjacent to an upstairs window overlooking the front yard.
His window was opened, and we sang. Then he spoke to us from his upstairs window. I don’t remember all that was said, but one line hit me powerfully. He said, “I pray every day that I will have strength to endure to the end.”
Here was a man who was a distinguished attorney, author, former U.S. ambassador, former assistant secretary of state, an Apostle for over 26 years, and a counselor to the President of the Church! And his prayer was that he would stay true to the course. And of course President Clark stayed true. He passed away the following October, having touched my life in a very personal way. He left me with a challenge that I too may have strength to endure to the end.
This experience has caused me to reflect on the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his “A Psalm of Life”:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.