Friend to Friend


Elder Theodore M. Burton

“I was born on Sixth South Street just west of what is now Third West Street in Salt Lake City, in a red brick home that is still standing. When I was about three years old, we moved to Fourth West Street, and I remember sitting on our front porch with my arm around my dog, watching the trains go by. I always had a dog as I was growing up. Bruno was my first dog. He was followed by a dog we called Talker because he barked so much.

“I’ve always loved animals. We had a horse, chickens, rabbits, and even raised pheasants on our city lot. One of my earliest memories was of driving out to Grandmother Burton’s with our horse and buggy. We wore long stockings in those days and knickers with a buckle at the knee. Grandmother Burton knit black woolen stockings for me.

“I remember one experience I had as a little boy that had to do with my going to the grocery store. When I came back, I was eating an apple. Mother asked me where I got the apple. I said, ‘I found it.’ She asked where I found it, and I said, ‘At the store.’ She said, ‘You found it before it got lost.’ I had partly eaten the apple, but she made me take it back anyway. I can still remember crying all the way to the store. Mr. Goddard, who ran the store, said, ‘I saw you take it, but I didn’t say anything because I knew your mother would make you bring it back.’ I have thought of that experience many times and know that I learned the true value of honesty through that incident.

“Another experience I had as a child was being taught the value of work by both my father and my mother. Mother had a large cactus plant, and it had sent out some new little shoots. Mother taught us that those were the children of the big plant, and she showed us how we could plant the little cactus shoots in their own pots so they could grow. We must have had twenty-five or thirty little plants, each in its own pot. When the plants were about three inches high, I loaded them into my red wagon and sold them around the neighborhood for twenty-five cents a pot.

“My father asked, ‘What are you going to do with the money you earned?’ I told him my plans, and he reminded me to pay my tithing on the money, which I did. Many years later, when I was president of the Genealogical Society, I went to the Granite Mountain Records Vault, where the old records of the Church are stored. While I was there, I thought, I wonder if my childhood tithing records are here? I took the time to look up the financial records of our ward when I was a child, and there was the record showing the amount I had paid on the money from those cactus plants! After all those years, the record was still there!

“When I was six years old, my parents had me start taking piano lessons. My father never said if you go on a mission, but always reminded me that when I became a missionary, I could serve the Saints well if I could accompany their singing and thus contribute to their music. As I grew older, I became the stake organist and played for stake meetings and activities. When I went on my mission, I was able to accompany the Saints on the piano whenever it was necessary. Even today, when we meet in our Quorum meeting or in the temple, I occasionally accompany the Brethren as they sing. I encourage boys as well as girls to learn to play the piano.

“I would like to give a message to the children—a message of love. It is important to learn to love while you are young. Grow up loving your brothers and your sisters. Love your mothers and your fathers, and love Jesus Christ and your Father in Heaven.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull