Portraits

By Giles H. Florence, Jr.


Mark Seamons: Living in Tune

Mark Seamons is a uniquely gifted musician. To listen to him play a piece on the piano after he hears it once is to be convinced. Whether the music is complex or simple, if Mark can listen to it, he’ll be able to play it.

When Mark was two, he heard some children playing a simple piece on the piano, then tried it himself. It was immediately apparent to his father and mother that Mark had a unique talent. By age five, he was playing the organ.

“In my home as a child, we had many 78 rpm records of all sorts of music,” Mark recalls. “These recordings became my source. Since I couldn’t read music, I had to hear it—from Dorsey, Lombardo, whoever. That’s how it began.”

Congenital tumors in the retinas of his eyes—called retinoblastoma—had required the removal of Mark’s eyes when he was four months old. His blindness forced him to learn to play all music by ear.

Mark has now recorded two albums of religious music—his own arrangements—and is working on a third album. “This one will be pieces I composed myself,” says Mark. His favorites range from popular and jazz to country and western. He performs such varieties at a Salt Lake City hotel dining room, as well as for school assemblies and Church activities.

“I want to be a good ambassador for the Church wherever I perform,” Mark says. He serves as ward organist and as Primary pianist in the Center Ward of the Salt Lake Rose Park Stake. Ward members will tell you that Mark expertly tailors his music for Primary or sacrament meeting.

In August 1982, Mark married Melva Gunn, and they have three children—two boys and a girl. Melva describes Mark as “the most sincere and caring person I’ve ever known. He doesn’t know how to speak unkindly. Even with the energetic demands of our little children, we lead a simple and calm life.” Mark and Melva are usually among the audience at the Thursday evening Tabernacle Choir rehearsals on Temple Square. “It’s one of our favorite dates,” Melva says. “Music somehow keeps us in tune with each other and with the Spirit.”

[photo] Photography by Ann Florence

Martha Poston: Peace-Seeker

Atlanta-born Martha Poston undertook a spiritual pilgrimage to Africa that eventually led her home and to the Atlanta Temple.

Martha joined the Peace Corps in 1972 because, she explains, “I wanted to share my skills and knowledge with those less fortunate than I.” After she studied health and sanitation, child care, food and nutrition, and sewing, Martha began serving in rural Jamaica, where she organized classes to improve living conditions. Soon, however, she was transferred to Liberia in western Africa.

During her Peace Corps service, Martha recalls yearning for an understanding of eternity and her place in God’s plan. She had implicit faith in a loving Father in Heaven. “I began feeling spiritual promptings telling me to set my house in order,” she remembers. “But when and for what reason was not clear.”

So Martha kept serving. To help combat the ever-present diseases, she taught rural Liberian women how to do their domestic chores off the ground, where mites and bacteria abounded. She also taught the people how to boil and crack open palm nuts for their butter, to store grain, and to build iceless refrigerators from oil cans. These they insulated with fabric-stuffed rice bags soaked with water.

As Martha continued to lose herself in service, she began to awaken spiritually. She occasionally became discouraged, but remembers that she felt very close to God. “I relied on his Spirit to strengthen and direct me,” she says. “During this time, I had a dream similar to the one I would later read of in the Book of Mormon—that of the rod leading to the tree of life. Other dreams assured me that my Heavenly Father would lead me from darkness into the light.

“I began reading my Bible daily but did not understand it,” she says. “I didn’t know what my next step should be—I just trusted the Lord. Then my mother became ill and I returned to Atlanta to care for her. I still continued to search the scriptures.”

While Martha was at her mother’s home, two missionaries came to the door. “We are here to teach you the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” they said. After the first lesson, Martha felt grateful for additional knowledge, but she wasn’t inclined to join this “true church.” But by the third lesson, she began to receive answers to her prayers. She felt strongly that she was being led to this church where she would find people who would love and accept her.

On 1 May 1983, Martha Poston was baptized. She recalls that “my soul hungered and my mind and spirit were athirst, and God didn’t fail me.”

Two years later, Martha received a call to serve a temple mission in the Atlanta Temple, where she enjoys bearing her testimony of “having found the Spirit of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ. He is alive,” she says, “and is blessing those who will open up their hearts and let him come in.”

Beverly Greene Jungst: Hearing the Voice of Each Child

For thirty-three years, Beverly Greene Jungst has taught Primary. “Every time I think about giving someone else a chance,” smiles Sister Jungst, “I look at the next group of children that will be advancing to my class and I tell myself that I must teach them, too.”

Even before she had children of her own, Beverly was teaching the Co-Pilots. In those days, Primary was on weekday afternoons. After teaching first grade at Salt Lake’s Longfellow Elementary, Sister Jungst would go over to the Monument Park Fourth Ward and give her lesson.

“My students have been the cream of the crop,” says this master teacher and storyteller. “I focus my attention on recognizing them when they do well. When a child answers a question I tell him, ‘I’m so glad you were here today to tell us that.’” Her catch-more-flies-with-honey-than-with-vinegar approach to teaching makes for a positive atmosphere in which children can learn. Her optimism allows her to make friends with even the most reluctant student.

No one is left out in Sister Jungst’s class. “It’s too easy for some children to answer all the questions,” she says, “so I seek out the quieter members. I learned from a fine in-service leader that a lesson is never complete until you have heard the voice of each child in the class. I’ve never forgotten that, and I practice it.”

When asked how she has managed to enjoy teaching for so long, her answer is simple. “Seeing children progress, grow, and discover as you teach them is the most exciting thing about my calling.” Sister Jungst’s love of children is evident as she prepares for yet another group of CTRs that will come into her class next month.

[photo] Photography by Jed A. Clark

Marilyn Costello is a Relief Society visiting teaching supervisor in the Chino Second Ward, Chino California Stake.