Friend to Friend


Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.

“I grew up in Mormon country, but I never heard of the Mormons except maybe one time,” said Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., a convert to the Church. “I grew up in Missouri, and one day as my mother and I were driving over to Huntsville, the county seat, I saw a couple of mounds in a field. We were traveling about twenty-five miles an hour in a Model T Ford, so I had time to look around. I asked my mother what those mounds were. She said she thought that they were the graves of two Mormons who had died moving through the country years ago. I didn’t know what a Mormon was, and she didn’t say anything more about them. That was the only time, as a boy, that I ever heard the term Mormon.

“My home in Moberly was up on a hill,” Elder Rector remembered, “and a creek that ran about fifty yards below it formed a swimming hole. Everyone learned to swim in that creek. We called it the Old Well.

“I was the only boy in a family of three children, and I was spoiled. My grandmother saw to that. Her name was Lucy Ellen Mason, and she would save marshmallows for me. Back in those days, before plastic packaging, marshmallows in an open package would turn as hard as rocks. I still love hard marshmallows.

“My grandmother was very religious. I would spend a whole week with her before school started, and every night we would go to revival meetings (something like the meetings Joseph Smith went to before he prayed in the Sacred Grove to find out about the true Church). She would also read the Bible to me as I sat on her lap.

“My father never joined the Church. But I guess he’s about as honest and honorable a man as I’ve ever known. If he gave you his word, you never had cause to question it. He was a stern disciplinarian. When he told me that I had to do something, then I knew I had to do it.

“When I was about seven, Dad sort of hoodwinked me into milking cows. He said, ‘You’re not big enough to milk the cows.’

“Well, I knew I was big enough to milk them, so I said, ‘Of course, I can milk them.’ I got up early, got the bucket, and went out and milked the cows.

“My dad then said, ‘I believe you can milk the cows. You’ve got the job!’ For the next dozen years I milked eight to twelve cows each night and morning.

“Dad was a lot smarter than I was. One day I said to him, ‘I don’t want to milk cows.’ He replied, ‘That’s OK. You don’t have to want to. … as long as you do it.’

“My dad loved to play baseball, and I loved baseball too. I was sure I was going to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals, and I might have done it, too, if the war hadn’t come along. As a result, I went into the service. Although I hate war, the Fourth of July and what it stands for always gives me a thrill. I have the strongest feeling for my country’s flag. I can’t see it pass by without getting a lump in my throat. I considered it a tremendous privilege to serve my country in the military.

“My mother was a sweet, wonderful woman who really loved my father. Their example had a great effect on me. I wanted to live like that; I thought it was the only way to live. It was quite a shock when I got out into the world and discovered that their relationship was rare.

“Sunday was a day spent visiting our relatives. My dad’s sister, Aunt Lila (whom I baptized in 1955, the only other member of my family who has joined the Church), had four children. My three boy cousins were practically my brothers. In fact, one of them came to live with us for a year and went to junior college with me. He even helped with the milking!

“I loved school. There were only thirteen pupils in my little school. They didn’t teach all eight grades each year, but alternated certain grades. They double-promoted me twice, so I missed the second grade and the fifth grade completely. I went from that little school to a big junior high school with three hundred sixty students. I found that there were many things I didn’t know, and I really had to study hard. By the time I got to college, studying wasn’t at all difficult for me.”

Elder Rector says that “one of the most important things to learn is to be where you should be when you should be there. If you can do that, there’s nothing that you can’t do. If you think about it, when you have been in trouble, it was probably because you were where you shouldn’t have been at the time.

“There is a time to be born, a time to die, and a time to do everything in between. When it’s time to go to bed, you ought to be in bed. When it’s time to get up, you ought to be up. There’s a time to play, and there’s a time to be in school. Be there. There’s a time to be in church. Be there. Be where you should be when you should, and everything else will follow in its proper time.”