Life in the Bishop’s Home
In my growing-up years, I don’t ever remember my father sitting with our family at church. He was there, but he sat on the stand. He was our bishop.
There were five of us … the bishop’s kids. Since Dad was called when we were young, we didn’t know any other way of life. Dad served the Lord as bishop for ten years, plus one year as a bishop’s counselor. We assumed every father was as busy as ours, and every mother as steadfastly supportive.
One Sunday afternoon before his calling, Dad got a telephone call; the stake president was coming out to talk to him. I remember scurrying around with mom, picking up Sunday afternoon quiet games and Sabbath clutter. I sensed that something important was imminent, but I couldn’t guess what it was.
The sacrament meeting in which he was sustained, I remember holding my hand high with all the rest. I was twelve.
Bishops’ kids remember little things. Like how many suits dad wore out in those ten years of service—the gray one, a dark brown one, and a shiny green one. Those were days of ironed white shirts, and lots of them hung on the ironing racks. I was old enough to help mom with that job smoothly.
I learned much from Mom during those years about what it means to support a husband in his calling. His long hours became her long hours, and his sacrifices became hers as well. Together they learned strength, and endurance.
Dad literally wore out two briefcases in those years, and his hair, and Mom’s, turned silver; they might even have added a few wrinkles.
Much was expected of us by our parents, and it would have been expected regardless of Dad’s position. For instance, on fast Sunday we fasted. No food or drink. Our family began to fast after Saturday lunch. We five children generally tried to consume an extra generous portion to sustain us, but Dad ate only a regular meal. Some of those hot Saturday afternoons preceding fast Sunday he’d have lunch, then go out and haul hay. Perspiration dripped from his nose and chin as he worked, but he never took a drink.
Those Saturday nights were stomach rumblers, along with shining shoes, ironing Sunday clothes, making raspberry pies for Sunday dinner, and baths for all. There was no cheating, but we felt keen temptation to sample the warm red drops oozing from the edge of the pie.
We rarely left the church before two o’clock on fast Sunday. Then would come our almost-monthly plea: “We’ve gone twenty-six hours this time, dad. Could we cut the fast short two hours next month?”
A bishop goes early to meetings, so we went early each Sunday and stayed late. I remember waiting in our car as dad’s office lights went dark and he came out the door, briefcase and keys in hand. While waiting we read dozens of stories with mom; in the summer we played quiet games on the meetinghouse steps.
Dad was busy, but we did family things often. We’d get into our pajamas while mom popped corn, made fudge, and filled the thermos. Then we’d all pile into our station wagon and dad would take us to the drive-in movie. Once we spent many hours building a ward cabin. Dad was a builder by trade and supervised the job.
Our phone rang often at home … “It’s for you, Dad.” After many cold meals for him, we moved the phone nearer the table. We all learned to record messages and phone numbers. And I thought all families had family prayer like we did, kneeling twice a day. Then I grew up and visited other homes; ours was different from many.
Each April or October, when car space allowed, one of us children got to travel with dad and mom to general conference in Salt Lake City. It meant getting up at 4:00 A.M. for a long, dark morning drive. It meant motels, escalators, restaurants, and seeing the prophet. Now, many years later and many miles away, I still feel the togetherness those journeys brought us.
Our dad was private about ward matters; no ward chitchat from him. We did share in the weddings, however. Out-of-town couples would come to be married at our house since dad was the first bishop listed in the telephone directory and in those days bishops were allowed to perform such marriages. Mom would tidy up the house and we would sit solemnly on the couch for the ceremony. Dad always spent time counseling the couple that this marriage was only temporary and that temple sealing was an important goal.
Dad often talked with us privately in the car on the way to early morning seminary. He listened, and he counseled. He was stern, sometimes uncompromising, but we knew he loved us. I recall disagreements with my brother and sisters, but contention was not part of our home life. We had some teenage showdowns with dad, but there was always a peaceful ending. I remember the feel of his toughened working hands upon my head as he gave me a father’s blessing.
Dad and Mom went often to the temple. Leaving before dawn, they drove three hours to the temple and returned in early evening. This was their vacation, and they were content. As ward members, we were interviewed by dad at annual tithing settlements and, as we came of age, for temple recommends.
As he shepherded the ward and bore its burdens, Dad’s shoulders grew spiritually broader. We felt him mellow; we felt his genuine commitment to service.
Were we raised the way we were because of Dad’s position, or would he and Mom have reared us to walk the straight and narrow way no matter what his calling? I know it was the latter; but I’m still glad I was the bishop’s kid.
“Please Do My Work”
When my husband and I had been married for less than a month, he had to go through basic training and other training for the military. I was not allowed to accompany him, so for the six months he was gone I stayed in Provo, Utah, and worked. This was not my idea of married life—my husband over a thousand miles away and unable to come home for even a visit. I was a very unhappy bride.
One night during this time, I was awakened from a deep sleep by a voice which came into my mind. As I listened to what was being said, I realized that my great-great-grandfather was speaking to me. I lay there for a moment, listening and thinking. My great-great-grandfather was telling me to have his family sealed to him. He had lived in the United States in the mid-1800s. Due to the Civil War and the economic conditions prior to the war, my great-great-grandfather George Wilkie had been away from his beloved wife and four sons a great deal. Eventually he died while serving his country in the Civil War.
I had read copies of letters George Wilkie had written home to his family and letters his family had sent to him during his many absences. I had also read his journals. These letters and journals reflected the love family members had for one another, as well as their desires to be reunited.
My ancestors were not LDS and did not have the blessings of the gospel. Now, in the middle of the night, here was my great-great-grandfather Wilkie saying to me, “Terry Lynn, please have my family sealed to me. I want to be with them through eternity. Please have our temple work done! You are now away from your husband—imagine that for eternity. It is awful! I want to be sealed to my wife.” Then, as suddenly as it had come, the voice was gone.
At first, I thought I must be imagining things, and I lay there and thought about my great-great-grandparents. I decided I should do their genealogy and would get to it when I had the time. Then I began to doze. I was startled when the voice returned and said much the same thing, only this time urging me to have the work done soon. I decided to do something about it the next day. Apparently, however, my grandfather knew I would probably be distracted the next day, because he spoke to me yet a third time, and told me to do something NOW!
I could not quite believe what was happening, but in the middle of the night I got up and began working on genealogy. I sorted through miscellaneous papers and records and found the information I needed to begin. I then wrote letters requesting birth, marriage, and death certificates. When I had done all that I could do at that time, I finally went back to bed.
I worked on genealogy a lot during the six months my husband was gone. Eventually, I was able to go to the temple with my cousin and have my great-great grandparents sealed. I can testify that I felt their presence there in the temple and knew that, at last, they could be truly happy and together eternally.
Throughout the next four years my husband was required to be away from home much of the time. I was often comforted and strengthened reading the journals of my great-great-grandparents. Knowing that they had experienced similar situations somehow helped me to put my life in the proper perspective. I felt very close to them, and even though I had never met them, I felt I knew them. The example my great-great-grandparents unknowingly set for me has been, and continues to be, an inspiration.