The time was June 1976. The place was a few miles west of Rexburg, Idaho. I stepped out of the car and looked around at the farm where I had been sent as a volunteer clean-up worker to the Teton Dam disaster area.
Farm? I was looking at what had been a farm and what probably might be a farm again sometime in the future, but what I saw that day had little resemblance to the comfortable, prosperous Idaho farms I had always known.
The house was stripped to the two-by-fours; the roof was sagging, the floor warped and bulging. The windows and doors were missing. In front of the house was a great pile of debris—a mud-caked overstuffed chair, a crushed refrigerator, a child’s rocking horse, a sodden mattress, a mangled typewriter, the family T.V., a set of water-soaked encyclopedias, broken bottles of home canned fruit—all these along with hundreds of other items were heaped together along with the plaster from the walls, broken boards, and mud, mud, mud. They had been piled there to be hauled away to some designated “land fill.”
The farm buildings were strewn about, some of them just an unsightly heap of broken boards, others with the roof or a side missing. In a broken down corral a bull and two tired-looking horses chewed listlessly on a sun-bleached bale of hay. There were no other animals left on the farm. The machinery, so costly and hard-to-come-by, lay mangled and useless in the field. At the end of the pasture was what looked like a fairly new frame house. This was not part of the farm. It had been deposited there by the raging torrents after the dam broke.
The land—if only the land could have been saved, all of this would not have seemed quite so despairing, but great swales were where a potato field once was. A few yellowed stalks of wheat tried feebly to push their heads through the hard-crusted mud. Where fences had been now were only stacks of foul smelling rubbish and silt. If this land were ever to be restored to productive use, it would take careful planning, heavy equipment, and years of back-breaking work.
I thought of the pioneers of the early days of the Church and how they had been required to give up so many of their earthly possessions and start anew in the West, but all the time maintaining their standards and spreading the gospel. I wondered if today the members of the Church would have such great faith. As I was pondering these things, I heard the neighbor who had directed us to the farm ask the owner, “Where is your son going on his mission?”
The farmer looked up from a mass of various rubble from which he was trying to salvage a few rusty, twisted tools and parts of machinery. His voice did not falter as he answered, “He’s going to Argentina. He will leave in about two weeks.”
Idaho Falls, Idaho
The Ensign magazine is probably the best way in which thanks from the people who were victims of the recent Teton Dam disaster can reach the many Church members who gave so freely of their time and their means to give aid. Their help came at a time when spirits and hopes had sunk very low.
On Sunday, June 13, 1976, our beloved prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, put into words what everyone had begun to feel in their hearts: that it was going to be a long road to complete recovery. The first burst of energy and enthusiasm, to get to work and make things normal again soon, had not produced the expected results: the mud and silt and wreckage seemed endless. But already volunteer help was arriving and stories were being circulated how strong shoulders and the increased numbers of persons had moved the mountains of debris which seemed to be smothering our homes and communities.
Each day, the sight of buses filled with brothers and sisters coming from far and near places have filled our eyes with tears and hearts with gratitude. As we’ve encountered them on the streets and elsewhere, our emotions have sometimes made us seem dumb as words refused to come with which to express ourselves.
From all of us—THANKS! THANKS VERY MUCH!
Elmo R. and Iris H. Hathaway
Recently, I attended a wonderful Relief Society lesson in which we studied about the Saints in a certain land. It was pointed out that people who join the Church there are often ostracized by family and friends. After the discussion, a lovely sister said, “Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but the lesson made me think of it.” She recounted how she had joined the Church recently and that her daughter who moved to a community of members of the Church felt ostracized there because she is not a member of the Church. She feels that her neighbors were friendly at first, then dropped her when they learned that she was not a member, and not eagerly interested in coming out to Church. She feels that she even has trouble getting baby-sitters because she is not a member. Her daughter was invited to Primary, but felt such little friendship that she did not want to go again. I thought this matter, perhaps not too uncommon with some members of the Church, might be of value. Our prayers go out that all of us will respond with love to all our brothers and sisters—all the children of our Father in heaven.
Norma B. Williams
Redwood City, California
From my vantage point of a rather new convert member of five years, may I offer some thoughts on the family?
We converts do understand that “the family” is stressed in Church doctrine—and we enjoy the beauty of it. But—there seems to be prevalent in some an attitude that “families” only consist of two parents making a home for their children—it thus tends to sometimes make affiliation with other Church members miserable for single-parent families.
To a single-parent and children, this is salt being rubbed into a wound, because many of the fortunate members (who have responsible and kind mates) tend to shun the single-parent families, and their children do likewise. Why cannot some members put more stress on our Heavenly Father’s family which means we are all equally brother and sister—thus eliminating the mortal fault of discrimination.
My initial shock came the day after I was baptized. A smiling male member greeted me and wanted to meet my husband. When I said I was divorced, he stepped back and walked off.
That Sunday morning I was dumbfounded, but I didn’t let it dim my joy at attending services to learn of the gospel from some excellent teachers. But as months and years have passed, there has been a steady building of incidents that have dimmed that once new joy at attending. I do understand why some members have dropped away.
Rarely have I heard any consoling and encouraging expressions to us single-parent families. Little is said to ease the loneliness.
Thank heaven for the home teachers!!! We would have drowned in desolation if it hadn’t been for our magnificent home teachers. Once a month seems too little to us who are alone—but we do appreciate the time they sacrifice from their families to kindly give to us.
As Elder Marvin J. Ashton has said, “There are those among us … who are hungry for fellowship and activity in the Church today. They need us and we need them. Today is the time to let them know we care. …” (May 1975 issue)
Mrs. R. Kaye Hubbard