Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Joleen Meredith with Elder J. Thomas Fyans of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

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    Elder J. Thomas Fyans

    Elder Fyans, like Nephi of old, was born of goodly parents. His father, Joseph, was a refined English gentleman and his mother, Mary, was a talented musician.

    “My parents lived in the Mormon colonies in Mexico and at the time of the exodus, they moved to Moreland, Idaho, and opened a blacksmith shop,” recalled Elder Fyans. “And that’s where I was born. As a young child, I remember walking the hundred feet or so from our home to where Father had built his shop. The forge, the anvil, and the horseshoes fashioned by my father are vivid memories. I remember walking uptown with my father one day when I was still very young and going into a store where he bought me a bottle of soda pop. In those days that was a rare treat, and I remember how impressed I was with my father’s generosity.”

    The Fyans’s home was modest and cheerful. In the living room was a lovely piano. “Mother always encouraged us to develop our musical talents,” remembers Elder Fyans. As a child he attended Primary in Idaho and has particularly fond memories of being a Trail Builder. His mother taught him to chord on the piano, and the words to the first number he learned to play began, “Oh, we are the boy Trail Builders.” He could use the same chords for a number of songs, but somehow his family felt that no matter what he said he was playing, it always sounded like the Trail Builders’ song.

    Elder Fyans will always remember a story his mother told him about herself as a baby. This story has been a source of faith and strength to him over the years. “My mother was the first white girl born in Tuba, Arizona. One morning when she had barely learned to walk, she fell into an open fireplace and was badly burned. Her father was away from home at the time, but something impressed him that he should return home. Arriving home about four o’clock in the morning, he found that his little daughter was critically burned. Grandmother said, ‘Let the child die. She’s so badly scarred.’ But my grandfather picked his little daughter up in his arms, and he and the patriarch gave her a blessing. He blessed her that she would not be scarred and that one day she would sing before the crowned heads of Europe. That kind of blessing for a little child born on an Indian reservation was impressive.

    “My mother grew to be a healthy, normal child, and, as the blessing had promised, she was not scarred. As she grew to maturity, she sang for a number of years with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The choir toured Europe and she did sing before royalty there, fulfilling the blessing given to her years before by those having priesthood authority.”

    Elder Fyans recalled another story, related to him by his daughter, Kathy, regarding her son, Robbie: “Recently Robbie came home later than usual from school. The principal had called his mother to tell her that her son had been detained at school that day. She asked the principal what the problem was and was told that Robbie would tell her about it when he got home. When Robbie came home, he went straight to his room, and his mother decided to just wait for a while to see if he would come and talk to her. After some time, when Robbie still hadn’t come out of his room, she decided to see if he were all right. He said that he was.

    “Later that evening Robbie admitted to his mother that he and a friend had thrown some wet paper towels at the ceiling of the rest room at school and they had stuck there. The custodian took the boys to see the principal, and that was why Robbie had been late.

    “‘What do the letters CTR stand for on the ring you’re wearing?’ his mother asked Robbie. ‘Choose the Right,’ he told her. She then asked him if he thought that throwing wet towels on the ceiling had been a right choice. He said, ‘No.’ A discussion followed about what kind of punishment he should receive for his misbehavior, besides the fact that he had been kept late at school. Robbie thought it over for a while and then told her that he felt he should be grounded for a week. After thinking it over a little longer, he decided that maybe he should also pay for the towels that had been wasted. The sum of one dollar was decided upon as a fair amount. Robbie wondered if he should take the money out of his missionary bank. However, his mother explained to him that payment had to come out of his spending money to make it right.

    “The next morning Robbie and his mother took his dollar and went to school together. Robbie apologized, not only to the principal, but also to the custodian. Even though it was difficult for him to do, Robbie made the decision to repent as fully as he could for what he had done. He was able to ‘choose the right’ and make it right.”

    Elder Fyans has a great love for children in all countries, and particularly the Latin American countries where he has served as mission president. “I cannot even describe how creative these children are!” he exclaimed. “I have watched these little ones participate in programs and have been utterly amazed at their talents. I recall once in the Mexico City area during regional meetings that the front of one of the chapels was just filled with exquisite and extraordinary visual aids that had been fashioned by the young people there. These lovely children are very artistic.

    “All of us must become as little children in our trust in the Lord and our faith in the Lord,” Elder Fyans said in conclusion, “then He can inspire and bless us.”

    Illustrated by Sherry Thompson