Friend to Friend


Sister Elaine Cannon

“I lived right up there on Capitol Hill,” said Sister Cannon, pointing, as we looked out of her twenty-fifth-floor office window. “One of the most pleasant recollections of my early childhood is that of Primary being held in our garage. Oh, it was a formal Primary—we just didn’t have a meetinghouse yet. It was still under construction. My mother wanted us children to have this kind of experience. She felt that members should support the Church by providing whatever the Church was unable to provide at the time.

“To this day, when I travel for the Church, someone will come to me and say, ‘Your mother taught me in Primary.’ Mother was a great Primary teacher. She was also a stake Relief Society president, and she served on the general board of the Young Women for twenty-two years and on the general board of the Sunday School. I am her oldest daughter—not the first child, but the first daughter. I was very carefully trained by my mother. We practiced speaking correctly in our home, and as a child I also had formal training in speech. Mother felt that people should be able to express themselves, to clearly state their points of view. Mother has always been patient with me, and she is still very interested in my activities.

“I grew up being in Primary plays and pageants. One recollection I have is of a Sister Paul and the making of costumes for these productions. As soon as school was out, Sister Paul would gather us children together and we would march around our neighborhood. I remember the feelings I had while marching with this little fluffy-haired lady. We would gather material, bits of lace, buttons, and ribbon to make costumes for the pageants. Sister Paul made it fun and exciting and allowed us to help make the costumes. These costumes became famous and were borrowed by people from all over. In fact, our enterprise may have been the beginning of the first costume rental business in the city.

“Another recollection I have from childhood is memorable to me because it became a powerful lesson in my life. Pioneer Day is a time of great celebration in Salt Lake City. It is climaxed with a long parade on the morning of July 24th. When I was a preschooler, I was asked to be on the Primary Children’s Hospital float. Of course, this was very exciting to me. Mother bought me a new nightgown and fixed my hair with a ribbon. Father walked me down to where the parade was forming—and there was the float! The woman in charge of this float turned and looked at me. She said, ‘Look at her! We chose her because she looked sick and was skinny.’ She took hold of my hair ribbon and pulled it out of my hair. Then she took one of those big powder puffs and put white powder all over my face. I was crushed. I’d had visions of riding as a queen on the float.

“Before the parade began, my father took me into the hospital, which was then right across the street from the north gate of Temple Square, to talk to the children—wisely, I know now, because I was heart-broken. I was introduced to all the children as the one who was going to represent them in the hospital bed on the float. They banged their crutches and shook their metal cribs as their way of saying, ‘Hurray!’ I went back outside and quickly got up onto the float. The cover on the bed hid my new nightgown, and the hair ribbon was gone. All you could see was my little white face. But I was happy now. I was representing all the children in the hospital. I was just pretending to be sick—for them. It was a wonderful lesson to me, one that I shall never forget.

“My father was a builder, a booster. He made everyone feel good. He made me feel beautiful, competent, loved, precious, and all those things that everyone should feel. My wonderful relationship with my earthly father has helped me to develop a good relationship with my Father in heaven.

“I love my children and my grandchildren. I love the good things they do. I help them in every way possible to record their lives in their journals. I help by writing in their journals for them before they can write for themselves. These are precious documents. One of my little grandchildren once had the opportunity to meet President Kimball when the prophet was traveling in California. She said to him, ‘I know you. I have your picture hanging on my wall ‘cause Grandma gave it to me.’ This experience is recorded in her journal and will be a priceless heritage to her and her future children.

“You can use your journal to chart your progress, just as a sea captain marks his course. He knows where he has been and where he is going. Start a journal now and write down where you have been and where you want to go. Write the happy things and the sad things. Sometimes you think you don’t have anything to write about, but you always do. Maybe you saw your first spring flower today, or a caterpillar’s cocoon. Write it down. Share your feelings on paper. This will become a most personal, precious history for you to keep always.”