Friend to Friend


Elder John K. Carmack

“I was born in Winslow, Arizona, a little railroad town on a plateau in northern Arizona. My father was from a family in Kentucky who were longtime members of the Church. He knew that he probably wouldn’t be called on a mission if he stayed in Kentucky—in those days only people in Utah and Arizona were called on missions—so he moved to Joseph City, Arizona.

“My mother was born and raised in Joseph City, just twenty miles from Winslow. Her forebears had left Utah with other Mormons to colonize northern Arizona. Her grandfather had had a prosperous farm and a good reputation in Lehi, Utah. While he was sitting in church one day, his name was read from a list of people who were being called on colonizing missions to Arizona. Leaving his Lehi farm, he took his wife and family and moved to northern Arizona near the muddy Little Colorado River. They built a dam and started to irrigate. He raised a large family and served as bishop for twenty-seven years there. When he was released from that mission forty years later, he moved back to Lehi and became a temple ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple until he died.”

Speaking about his own childhood, Elder Carmack said, “Until age eleven, I lived in Arizona. I have vivid recollections of living in and loving that dusty desert town of Winslow. I was the oldest of four boys, and we had one older sister. My father was the Scoutmaster; later he was in the bishopric. Grandfather Carmack had a retail grocery store next door to our home. He was always kind to us.

“My grandmother was a towering figure in many people’s lives. She was a great missionary, a diligent genealogist, and a marvelous artist, winning second prize for an oil painting at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. She taught me oil painting when I was seven years old.

“It was a great advantage for our families to live so close together. I had wonderful, enriching influences—cultural, intellectual, and spiritual—from both sides of my family. Grandfather Bushman filled three missions for the Church. He and Grandmother Carmack gave me a strong love for missionary work.

“My father had a truck dealership in Winslow. When World War II came along, Dad couldn’t get any vehicles to sell, so he decided to leave his business and find new work. He found a welding job in Monrovia, California, and we moved there. When he was offered a job as master-mechanic for the harbor that the government was building in Moro Bay, California, we moved there for a year. Later we moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area to a walnut ranch until the war was over. Dad worked for a machine shop in Oakland.

“After the war, Dad decided that he wanted to move to a small community and open a machine shop. We moved to San Luis Obispo, California, where I went to high school. Later we moved to Santa Barbara. Living in so many different locations in California helps give me a love for my new assignment in the Church as second counselor in the North America West area presidency. It doesn’t make any difference where I go in California—I have some connection there!

“During the war, my father had to work on Sundays. Whenever he could find time, he attended sacrament meeting. During these years, Mother had to become a strong spiritual leader in the family. One of my vivid childhood memories of her is of the time she went to tithing settlement and discovered that we still owed about twenty-five dollars. As ward Relief Society president, she wanted the family to close the year as full tithe payers. Dad was working as usual and could not be reached. Mother suggested to the children that we talk about our family tithing problem and have a family prayer. When the prayer was over, Mother had an idea. We were living on a walnut ranch, so we sold enough of the walnuts in our cellar to pay our tithing in full!

“My mother was a brilliant woman who loved to read. Her hobby was working crossword puzzles. Dad had only completed the eighth grade in school, but he had a good mind and craved knowledge. His family had been poor, which required that he work to help make the living for his family. He was talented in mechanical work and music, playing the saxophone, violin, banjo, guitar, and in later years the organ. I have always enjoyed music too. I didn’t have much formal training, but I played the piano often when I was a young man. I still enjoy the piano. My parents didn’t admonish their children to get a good education—they just expected it of us. We responded to their good example.

“I would like to tell the young people of the Church to make use of their educational opportunities. Learn everything you can that will be of benefit in your life and in the lives of others.

“Most important, develop the habit of saying your personal prayers first thing in the morning. Then remember to pray again before you go to bed at night. Also develop now the habit of reading the scriptures. They will help you to develop a close relationship with our Heavenly Father and Jesus.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth M. Whittaker