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From a personal interview by Janet Peterson with Virginia Beesley Cannon, first counselor in the General Primary Presidency

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    Virginia Beesley Cannon

    “I was born in Salt Lake City,” said Sister Virginia Cannon when asked about her childhood. “My home was on Capitol Hill, which was a very special place to live. I had an older sister and two younger brothers. We had a warm, loving neighborhood, and we children played with everybody in the neighborhood, no matter what his age was. In the summertime we played kick the can, run sheepie run, football, baseball, and other games, and we roller-skated.

    “In the wintertime we ice-skated and skied and went sleigh riding. There were so many little hills around Capitol Hill that we made our own ski jumps and ski trails. I lived right at the top of a very steep hill on a street that was closed during the winter because the street was too dangerous for cars to travel on when it snowed. We could sleigh ride for blocks down that hill. It was a lot of fun.”

    Sister Cannon has many fond memories of her parents. “My father was Wilford A. Beesley,” she related, “and for as long as I can remember, he was president of the Salt Lake Stake. My mother served for seventeen years as a member of the YWMIA General Board. So as I was growing up my parents were both very busy in the Church. But there was always a lot of time for fun too.

    “One of our favorite family activities,” Sister Cannon recalled, “was to go for a ride in our car. We would drive through the countryside and enjoy its beauty together.

    “My family really enjoyed holidays. We could hardly wait for a holiday because it meant that we would go somewhere special. We would travel to the canyons, to the lakes, or to a resort such as Como Springs. These places were usually quiet and not very busy.

    “Christmas was extremely special too. We weren’t allowed to go into the living room to see what Santa Claus had brought until Dad had gone in and made a fire and got things ready. Then we’d all go in together. It was a Christmas Day tradition in our neighborhood to go from one house to another to visit each other after family gifts had been opened. We spent most of the day visiting.

    “Music has been important to us as a family. My father’s father was Ebenezer Beesley, who composed the music for ‘High on the Mountain Top,’ ‘Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words,’ ‘Sing We Now at Parting,’ ‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love’ and other hymns in the Church hymnal. Although Grandfather Beesley died before I was born, I have always been very proud of him.

    My mother’s parents lived about two blocks down the hill from us, and we visited often. I felt close to them. They were both musicians and sang in the Tabernacle Choir. My grandmother was a soloist. My mother was also a fine singer; she sang for performances in the Salt Lake Theater.

    “I took piano lessons for many years. It has always been a blessing in my life to be able to play the hymns and Primary songs.”

    Sister Cannon, who has served as a counselor in the General Primary Presidency for the past four years, previously served on the general board for many years. She remembers very well attending Primary as a child. “Of course, Primary was on a weekday then,” she said, “and I remember being a Zion’s Girl, a Lark, a Bluebird, and a Seagull. I had loving teachers, and I enjoyed going to Primary.

    “I remember a teacher telling us about the Book of Mormon. She wanted us to understand it thoroughly, so she had us act out the time when Nephi and his brothers went back to Jerusalem for the brass plates. We learned a lot by reenacting such events. Of course, music always stands out—I will remember those Primary songs forever.

    “My father was the greatest influence on me. He was such an example of one who quietly serves! He would sit back and listen to everybody’s opinion and then make a wise judgment. One day I decided I didn’t want go to sacrament meeting. My father wasn’t alarmed. He only said, ‘Just remember that when you don’t go once, it’s easier not to go the next time. That’s how we can fall into bad habits. I would suggest that you go every time, and then you won’t have to keep remaking that choice.’ That’s all it took. I didn’t argue with him, and I didn’t feel unhappy about going to church that day—or any other day. And l’ve always remembered that advice when I’ve been tempted.

    “My message to children is to see the great blessings that come from service in the Church. If you try to obey your parents, it will be easier to answer the calls that come from Church leaders when you are older. By doing so, you will receive opportunities for growth that you can’t get any other way. I know how many times I have felt that the things I’ve been asked to do were way beyond my ability, and yet, when I tried to do them, l’ve succeeded. The Lord teaches us and helps us to grow. As we serve, we are blessed.”