Temptation in a Punch Bowl
The only two people I knew at the reception were the groom and his mother. She and I had become good friends at the hospital where we worked. Her son Brian looked so manly and handsome in his tails, with his lovely bride, Belle, by his side. How proud his father would have been if he had lived to see this day!
“Sign here, please,” the young lady in pink and cranberry said to me as she passed me the quilled pen. After signing the guest book, I looked around, and, of course, joined the line to greet the newlyweds.
After wishing them well and meeting all the members of the bridal party, I spied a vacant chair across the room and hurriedly claimed it as my own.
“Would you like some punch now?” a young girl asked.
“No, thank you,” I replied, “not now.”
The reception center was exquisitely decorated, with pink and cranberry crysanthemums highlighting the decor. At the south end of the hall was a large table displaying the wedding cake, and to the right of that a large round table featured a cut glass punch bowl and large goblet-type glasses. Many people were lined up there.
But near the orchestra, in a corner, was a small round table with a hobnail milk-glass punch bowl and cups with balloons tied to the handles. The balloons were cartoon characters: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and others. “Why is the unspiked punch always so far away from the rest of the proceedings?” I wondered.
How thirsty I was! But how could I go to the unspiked punch table and get a glass of punch with a cartoon character balloon attached? A whole group of little people—flower girls, the ring bearer and his companions—were lined up. I wondered if, just this once, I could hold a regular punch glass. I wouldn’t drink the spiked punch. I stood up.
“Here is your punch, lady,” I heard someone say.
“Oh, no thank you,” I said again, “not now.”
I sat down again. What would be so wrong about one drink? But I knew it was wrong, so the “why” didn’t matter. I remembered my visiting teacher saying just last week that we must not make little compromises because we do not always know what may trap and ensnare us. Well, I’d have to decide soon or have the feeling of choking to death on the dry cake I’d taken off a tray.
Standing up, I hesitatingly started toward the spiked punch bowl. Then I went back and sat down again.
The inward battle raged on. Think what I almost did!
As I sat there, I began to hum the hymn tune, “Choose the Right.” Now what made me recall that tune at this time? Finally, feeling like a giant among elves, I took my place in the kiddies’ punch line.
I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and a teenager rhetorically asked, “Sister Rempp, is this the kiddies’ punch bowl?”
“Why Neil, how nice to see you! Yes, of course, this is the kiddies’ punch bowl.” His shy grin lit up his whole face and his brown eyes twinkled. We talked and laughed and enjoyed our punch out of our unusual cups. I had a Pluto balloon tied to mine and Neil had Minnie Mouse tied to his. After we had visited a few minutes, some of his friends came up to us, and one of the fellows said, “When we came in and Neil saw you, he told us that you were the Gospel Doctrine teacher in his ward. Then, when we talked about having some of the spiked punch, he really put us in our place. He said we were to follow your good example and remember who we were. Besides, you might tell his mom.”
I felt weak in the knees. How close I had come to stumbling, and taking many with me. I could hardly wait to get home and give proper thanks to my Heavenly Father for the special help that he had given me. Never again would I be hesitant in my choices.
Just a week earlier Neil had accepted a call to go on a mission. And two days after the wedding reception he passed on to a very special mission, being the victim of a fatal, untimely accident. His mission came through, only the area had been changed. Neil was an exceptional young man, in looks, ability, and moral standards. He had succeeded here, and I will be forever grateful that in this instance I had not failed him.
The Answer in a Paintbrush
Shortly after joining the Church in England, I found employment in a painting firm run by two brothers. Skilled in the art of painting advertising designs on trucks, both had the dexterity with a brush that comes from years of experience. They were not religious men, but they were generous and believed in doing good whenever possible.
My membership in the Mormon Church was a constant fascination to them. Both were heavy smokers, and they could not understand why Mormons did not smoke. Constantly they wanted to know, “Why didn’t I smoke? When had I given it up? Had it been easy?” In my replies I quoted the scriptures and attempted to explain a little about the gospel, but they made it plain that religion was not for them.
One day we were all working on the same vehicle, and George, the elder of the two, began asking questions about my activities in the Church. Our discussion continued until the mid-morning break, when George lit his cigarette and again asked why I would not have one. Before I could answer, he was called to the telephone, and I found myself praying in my heart, “Please, dear Lord, give me an answer that will satisfy these men.”
They returned in less than a minute, and George immediately repeated his perennial question, “Why don’t you smoke, John?”
I felt the inspiration of the Lord as I looked at him and answered: “George, suppose I came to you and asked you to lend me one of your very best brushes, and after I had used it for a period of time, I brought it back to you full of paint. I had not cared enough to clean it. What would you think of me?”
He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, and then quietly replied, “I see your reason now, John.”
On previous occasions I had quoted from Paul that no “unclean person … hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5), but the illustration of the brush, a most prized possession of these skilled craftsmen, had succeeded where doctrine had failed. Although they continued to question me about the gospel, I was never offered cigarettes again.
Messenger to the Sightless
When I was twenty-one years old, a patriarch laid his hands on my head and said, “Your name and your fame will go around the world, and people in many nations will hear your voice.” I thought this sounded a bit farfetched. I had been almost totally blind since I was a baby, when an infection which could easily be cured now had left me with one percent vision. I hadn’t planned a career and I didn’t know what the future held for one with my handicap.
Most of my early school years were spent at the State School for the Blind in Gooding, Idaho. I later graduated from Ricks College in Rexburg and attended the University of Idaho. Blessed with natural musical talent, I could play the piano, saxophone, and coronet with only brief training; and as a young man I played in dance orchestras. But times were hard, and often my pay was only a sack of carrots and a chicken.
I had a natural interest in politics, since my father, uncles, and a cousin had all served in the Idaho state legislature, my father for three terms. So in 1938, motivated by the knowledge that if I were in the legislature I might help lay the groundwork for needed programs of services for the adult blind, I campaigned and won a two-year term. Yet after my mother died in 1940, I didn’t know exactly where to turn or what to do. I was thirty years of age, and my seven brothers and sisters were all married and living their own lives.
One day as I lay sleeping, although I seemed nearly awake, my mother came and stood over my bed and put her hand on my forehead. “Jesse, don’t worry,” she said, “everything is going to be all right. No problems.” A short time later my sister’s former missionary companion, Edna Stewart, and I decided to marry. She and our two lovely children have been my eyes ever since.
But times were hard for us. We had a small plot of ground, chickens, and a cow, and we were poor. I prayed for guidance as to how to support my family. One day it occurred to me that Albert Talmage, the blind man who in 1913 had inaugurated a monthly braille periodical, Messenger to the Sightless, and who produced the magazine in his home on a homemade press, would eventually have to retire. I made inquiries about the work, and in 1949 I went to work for President George Albert Smith, who was also president of the “Society for the Aid of the Sightless.” When Brother Talmage retired in 1953, I became editor and enlarged the publication, renaming it the New Messenger. It contained material from all Church publications, as well as editorials, poetry, short stories, hymns, and other information. In 1958 we commenced recording bimonthly the New Messenger Talking Book, a long-playing record, one hour on each side, containing General Authorities’ talks, interviews with prominent people, music by the Tabernacle Choir and organ, and other helpful information. Our mailing list for this is 2,200. Since 1961 we have also supplied without charge recordings of adult Sunday School, priesthood, and Relief Society lessons; and in 1972 the family home evening lessons were added. These materials are free to any visually handicapped person anywhere in the world, whether a member of the Church or not.
With that milestone, I have humbly acknowledged the fulfillment of the blessing given to me that people in many nations would hear my voice. And I firmly believe that most persons, regardless of their handicap, with the proper tools and motivation, can take their full part in the Church, whatever their callings might be.
Brother Anderson retired last year. In addition to his work and various Church positions, he has served in the Utah state legislature (1957–59), on the State Library Commission (since 1959), as chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council for the Visually Handicapped and is now in his second term as a member of the Utah State Board of Education. He lives in the Ogden Twentieth Ward, Ogden Utah Stake, and serves as priesthood meeting organist.