If Not for Clyde
It has been 35 years since I was assigned as the junior home teaching companion to Brother Clyde Parkinson. Much has changed in my life since then; much of that change is the result of work begun by Clyde.
In the winter of 1967 I was a teenager who was actively involved in ski racing and hadn’t been to church regularly for several years. On the rare occasion I did attend church, I was alone and always introduced as a visitor, so I stopped going altogether. What prompted someone to assign me as Clyde’s home teaching companion, I still don’t know.
When my mother found out that I had received the assignment, she hoped that I would become active, even though my father was not a member. So she told Clyde I would be ready to go the first Wednesday of the month. At 7:00 P.M. that night the doorbell rang; it was Clyde. He introduced himself as my teacher’s quorum adviser and home teaching companion. I had never been home teaching before, and had it not been for my mother standing there with my coat, I surely would have come up with an excuse not to go.
After a prayer we left and visited three families in the neighborhood. At the end of each visit, we made return appointments for the following month, and Clyde confirmed with me that I would be able to go. I said yes but meant no. Plans for my excuse were already forming. But back at home I reflected on how good it had felt to be with Clyde and how much interest he had shown in me. He had talked to me about ski racing and even knew I’d won a race two weeks before.
Nonetheless, when the first Wednesday of the following month rolled around, I was not at home when Clyde came to pick me up. He called and tried to talk with me four more times that month before he finally caught me at home the last Saturday of the month after a ski race. Maybe I wanted to tell him about the race, because for some reason I agreed to go home teaching with him. I didn’t learn until many months later that Clyde had already visited our families earlier that month and they had all agreed to this second visit.
The message this time was on the priesthood. I know it was for me as much as for our families. Clyde had even arranged for the families to invite me to pray and hinted to me this might happen, making sure I knew what to do. Clyde persisted for months until I actually looked forward to going home teaching with him. After four months of his making repeated attempts to take me home teaching, I learned I couldn’t avoid him and started being more cooperative.
In March he asked me why I didn’t come to church. By then I knew and trusted Clyde well enough to tell him the real reason. I told him I felt singled out and strange. The next Sunday I was in church surrounded by Clyde’s family. I never sat alone in church again.
In May Clyde asked me to give the home teaching lesson and helped me prepare. He suggested Sabbath observance and gave me some material. I could never look at skiing on Sunday the same way again. I also was ordained a priest about this time and became fully active.
As the years have passed, I have come to appreciate Clyde even more. At that critical time in my life, Clyde was the manager of an automotive store. He was also a husband and father in his mid-30s with a large family and a multitude of responsibilities. The hours he spent getting to know me and sticking with me never cease to amaze me.
I was on my mission in Germany the day I learned of Clyde’s untimely death. I wept for days in quiet moments; truly Clyde had been a savior on Mount Zion to me.
There are turning points in our lives. At age 16 I was faced with many hard choices, and I am convinced that without Clyde I would not be active in the Church today. Less than a month after attending church for the first time with Clyde’s family, a close skiing friend of mine got heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. I remember how tough the choice was to lose him as a friend rather than join in his activities. It was feeling comfortable at church with Clyde’s family that made the difference for me. I’m grateful that Clyde never gave up on his tough junior companion.
Help Was in the Mail
I rolled out the last of the microfilm from the parish of Llywell, Breconshire, Wales, realizing I had come to the end of the research for my Welsh ancestors. Clue after clue had been followed, but fruitlessly; prayer after prayer had been offered, but still my efforts were at a standstill. Discouragement swept over me and tears were close. I wanted to do this work. I knew it was important. When I realized further research would likely not be successful, I was devastated. I gathered my books and papers and left the Family History Library with a lost feeling.
My grandfather had been born and reared in a small town named Sennybridge in Wales but came to America in 1878. In 1977 my son had visited the vicarage in Sennybridge and returned home with data for two generations going back to 1793. Years ago I too had gone to my grandfather’s birthplace to search out his roots. Research had been limited, since actual surnames had not come into use in Wales until around 1800. Before that time, Welsh family history research is tangled and complex.
During my visit to Wales, I had given an extended family member a copy of my grandfather’s life history and American experience. He had loved the book and had shown it to his friends.
Now on my way home from the library, these thoughts were on my mind. Still thinking about my day’s disappointing work, I checked my mail. When I opened the mailbox, a package fell into my hands. I opened it to find a book titled Roots and Branches by T. O. Evans, Trecastle, Wales; inside was a letter from the author. Vicar Evans wrote that he had recently seen the history I had given my cousin years before and thought his own book of records might help me in my research. He explained that he was a seventh cousin of mine.
The little paperback was filled with records of my grandfather’s ancestors: acquisition of land records and names of homeowners; records of births, marriages, and deaths; occupations of the fathers, titles, and so on. Vicar Evans had even drawn maps of the small farms and villages in Breconshire and identified them. The maps in his book guided me to parishes that might contain valuable ancestral data.
From this source I extended our pedigree charts back a full century along several ancestral lines. Even more amazing was the fact that, before I had determined my research was grinding to a halt, the vicar’s book had been on its way into my hands. This incident is a constant reminder to me of the power of prayer and of the Lord’s help in family history work.
Water Rights—and Wrongs
I was second counselor to a fine bishop some years ago in a small ward in another state. An alarming situation had come to the bishop’s attention, and he counseled with us about two neighbors who were having a serious quarrel over irrigation water. The bishop explained that he wanted to invite the bishopric, along with our feuding brethren, to meet together in hopes of resolving the dispute and averting a potential disaster.
On the appointed day, the bishopric arrived at the church an hour early. We prayed earnestly to Heavenly Father for guidance. After our prayer, we tried to formulate an approach to this situation, but we could not come up with anything.
The two men arrived a short time later. The first to come in was Frank (names have been changed). He was slight of build and a regular churchgoer, but he could be quite strong-minded and unyielding at times. The second to arrive was big Dale. Broad shouldered and powerful, he seemed to have a quarrelsome disposition and a dark, foreboding spirit about him. He was not active, but he did bring his wife and children to meetings before spending his Sundays at the local pool hall.
The tension in the room was almost frightening. I worried there might be an explosion: either physical, verbal, or a combination of these. We looked to our young bishop for direction. Pure inspiration seemed to flow through this young leader; he was completely in charge. He calmly directed us to place our chairs in a circle with the backs inward. Then he invited us to kneel, saying, “Brethren, we need the Lord’s help on this.” We all knelt except Dale. He stood in defiance. The bishop said nothing as he knelt there looking up at big Dale’s scowling face. Finally the bishop bowed his head as if he were about to start his prayer. At this point, Dale also lowered to his knees.
Usually the bishop was not the most eloquent of men, but on this occasion the Holy Ghost seemed to fill his mouth with inspired utterance. As he prayed, the dark, foreboding spirit that had been so overpowering moments before was cast out and replaced by a feeling of sweet calmness.
Standing after the prayer, we noticed through our tear-filled eyes that big Dale was still on his knees. His head was bowed, and his huge shoulders were shaking with emotion. When he finally got to his feet he wiped away tears, extended his hand to his neighbor, and, in a voice still choked with emotion, said, “Let’s be friends.”
The two men shook hands warmly. Then, in a spirit of true brotherhood, we sat down together and worked out an amicable solution to the dispute. All of us left that meeting knowing our Heavenly Father is near and willing to help those who humbly seek Him in faith.
A Living Testimony
It would be an understatement to say that my husband and I were surprised to learn that, at age 40, I was expecting a baby. Complications in the pregnancy soon prompted the doctors to order complete bed rest for me. My husband gave me a priesthood blessing in which I was promised that if I would do as I was instructed by the doctors, all would be well.
But bed rest proved to be a difficult challenge as I tried to meet the needs of our two young children and keep myself occupied while being so confined.
When the ward members realized I would be “confined for the duration,” dinners began arriving with regularity. My three-year-old son was often picked up to spend the day with friends, and when my six-year-old son got home from school, someone always seemed to drop in to check on him. Sisters came frequently to clean the house and do the laundry, often ending up sitting on my bed to visit.
More than two months before the baby was due, I went into early labor and our tiny, frail son was born. He was so ill that the doctors told us we should set our affairs in order and prepare for a funeral. We went in to see our tiny son, covered with wires and IV tubes, in his warming crib. With tears flowing freely, my husband and two other brethren anointed and blessed our little baby, John. John responded by beginning to fight for his life.
While my husband and I spent many days and nights at the hospital, our ward members continued their many acts of service and love for our family. More than once during the pregnancy and at least twice after the baby was born, the entire ward fasted and prayed for us.
On one occasion when we were permitted to take John to church even though he was still on oxygen, a mother approached us with her eight-year-old son. She quietly, almost reverently, asked if her son could see the baby. She explained that her son had caught the vision of service and love through fasting and prayer. He wanted to see how his faith and prayers had been answered. He looked at the baby and wept. He told his mother he was glad he could fast and pray. “After all,” he said, “look what Heavenly Father did.”
Today our son John is a vibrant, energetic, loving 17-year-old. He is a living testimony to the members of that generous ward and their commitment to faith and charity. Words cannot express the gratitude we feel toward them and our Heavenly Father.