Friend to Friend

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone

While growing up in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone was invited to go to Primary with a friend, and subsequently he joined the Church. He liked to go to church because “I felt like I was somebody there.”

Elder Featherstone’s childhood years were often difficult. His father had a drinking problem. “I remember that on payday my mother would look out the window, waiting for the bus to come by that would drop my dad off. She would wait and wait until the last bus had gone by. He would not come home; he would be out spending his paycheck on alcohol.

“We’d have no food in the house at all, and the next day my mother would send me to the store. I’d get our old red wagon with the tires worn off and the rims worn flat and drag it up the street as slowly as I possibly could. I’d get to the store, go in, and walk around the aisles, trying to avoid Mr. Parsons. Finally, I’d hand him my mother’s note: ‘Dear Mr. Parsons, We don’t have any food in the house. Would you mind charging fifty pounds of flour, a bucket of lard, some side pork, and a few other things? We promise to pay back every penny when we get some money. Thanks.’

“Mr. Parsons would fill the order and make out a charge slip and put the food in the wagon, and I’d drag it home. I did that more times than I can tell you. I give credit to my mother and older brothers that we paid back every single penny that we ever owed to Mr. Parsons.

“We not only had little money or food, we didn’t have much clothing either. I had a pair of shoes with soles that were worn clear through. I’d cut out pieces of cardboard and slide them inside the shoes to cover the holes. When I went to church, I would sit with both feet flat on the floor—I didn’t want anyone to see ‘Quaker Oats’ through the bottoms of my shoes.

“Everything was fine until those shoes wore out. It was Saturday, and I didn’t know what to do. I thought, I have to go to church. They really care about me there. Finally I got out the box of old shoes some neighbor had given us. The only shoes that fit me were a pair of nurse’s shoes. I thought, How can I wear these to church? They’ll laugh at me. I decided I wouldn’t go to church.

“The next morning I knew I had to go to church, even if I had to wear the nurse’s shoes. I decided to run over to the meetinghouse early and sit down close to the front before anybody got there. I thought, I’ll put my feet back under the pew so that no one can see them, and then I’ll wait till everyone leaves before I go home. Well, I dashed over to church half an hour early, and nobody was there yet. I put my feet back under the bench. Everything went just as I’d planned—until the Sunday School superintendent announced, ‘We will now separate for classes.’

“I had forgotten we had to go to class! The ushers came down the aisle, and as they came to my row, everybody stood up and left. I just sat there. I couldn’t move. But the whole meeting seemed to stop and wait until I moved, so I had to move. I got up and followed my classmates.

“In our classroom the teacher had us sit in a big semicircle. Each of my shoes felt like it was two feet in diameter. I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was. But not one of those eight- and nine-year-old children in that class laughed at me! No one pointed at my shoes. My teacher didn’t look at them. I was so busy watching everyone to see if anyone was looking at me that I didn’t hear a word of the lesson. When it was finally over, I dashed home. I thought, Thank goodness, nobody saw them. I know now, of course, that they saw those nurse’s shoes that I wore. But they were kind enough not to laugh or call attention to them.”

Later Elder Featherstone’s parents were divorced, and his mother joined the Church. “Working nights so that she could be home with us, she supported and maintained our family. She was our great defender in those bitter years. She never gave up on us.”

Elder Featherstone and his wife, Merlene, have seven children—six sons and one daughter. “The five older boys are Eagle Scouts, and we’re proud of that. The five oldest have been on missions, so they’ve been through the temple. Four of them are married, and we have eleven grandchildren now. It’s like starting our own Primary.

“I would like to counsel all the children of the Church to develop a close relationship with Heavenly Father. Pray to Him, and know that no matter where we are or how far from home we are or whatever our problems may be, He is always there. He loves us and cares for us. If we ask for His help, He will give it to us. His love for us is so great that He was willing to let His Only Begotten Son be sacrificed so that we might be able to come back into His presence again.

“The Lord has called a modern prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball. It is a great privilege to live at the same time as President Kimball. I remember when I was in Oklahoma with a man whose father had been a stake president there for about fourteen years. The stake president kept a visitor’s guest book for General Authorities and other special guests to sign. It was a pretty thick book, as I recall, and it had the signatures of Joseph Fielding Smith, Matthew Cowley, Adam S. Bennion, and other great leaders. There was space for the date and the person’s name, position, and hobby. Under one entry in 1954 I read these words: ‘Name—Spencer W. Kimball; position—Apostle; Hobby—I love people.’ I kept turning the pages, and I saw that President Kimball had revisited the stake ten years later. Except for the date, everything was the same, including ‘Hobby—I love people.’ I think when the prophet loves us so much, we can love him and pray for him too.”