Our town of Malad, Idaho, was situated in a little valley, and we explored every corner of it. There was Aunt Mary’s farm toward the north where wild bluebells grew up on the bench. Uncle Will’s dam was on the south where we went swimming. We hiked the six miles west to St. John and gathered watercress from a stream, and we explored Blue Rock and the M on the mountain to the east. When the first snow came, we pulled our sleighs up Hungary Hill. Snows came thick and heavy in our valley. Some winters the road to the north was blocked with such deep snow that we could only get to the outside world from the south. As soon as the snow left, we would explore up the creek to see if the uncovered world was still as we had left it in the fall.
I attended church in the First Ward. The meetinghouse was frame with one large room and lots of wide steps leading up to the big front doors. I’ll never forget the last ward party we had before they tore down the original building. Afterward, before everyone went home, we stood in the night air, talking about our experiences, and everyone said they could almost see that tired old building swaying on its foundation.
Later we built a new brick meeting house, and President Grant came from Salt Lake to dedicate it. But it was never the same.
The Second Ward met at the south end of town in a building that was also our stake tabernacle. Oh, how we loved that stately building! I suppose now it would seem old-fashioned with its quaint corners and small rooms. I remember that the chapel there could be divided with curtains for classes. But above all it had what we called character.
We loved to go to stake conference there and hear the organ music. The organ was located high up at the west end of the chapel, and the sound seemed to come from everywhere. Behind the pulpit and the choir seats were the tall, shiny pipes of the organ and a high bench for the organist. Looking up from where we sat, the organ seemed like it was almost in heaven.
In later years my friend Clarice had permission to practice on the organ. I would go with her early in the morning before school or late at night. She would sit up on the high bench and the music would roll out. I’d sit on one of the back benches and listen, and Brother Yearsley, the janitor, would patiently wait for us. Often he would be polishing the old benches until the woodwork fairly glowed. Then when we were finished, he’d lock up after us.
Brother Yearsley was a remarkable man. He was blind. His wife helped him a lot, and they kept that building as clean and neat “as if,” he used to say, “the Lord might really visit us and sit on these benches and walk on these floors.” He taught us to love the house of the Lord. He taught us respect for every polished bench and every hall and classroom.
One evening we were having a party in the “rec room” downstairs. We had been playing games, drinking punch, and eating cupcakes. The party was just at its height with noise and jollity when the electric power failed all over the valley. It was dark down there, and everyone was running this way and that trying to get out. We were knocking into chairs, running into doors, and upsetting food. Suddenly Brother Yearsley was there. “Quiet!” he said in a voice loud enough for all of us to hear him.
“We can’t see, Brother Yearsley,” we chorused. “We don’t know how to get out. Do you have a light?”
Brother Yearsley stood still in the doorway and answered, “Yes, I have a light, so settle down. Now each one of you just take the hand of the one next to you, get in line, and we’ll go upstairs together. Follow me.”
I almost said, “But you can’t see either.” And then I realized he had been going about that building doing our Father’s business for years without eyes to guide him. And that was the light he meant that he had.
We were quiet as he led us, saying, “There is a step here. Now we turn right. Watch your feet. Don’t kick against the walls. We must love the Lord’s house.”
And we surely did—that night and ever after.