Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Janet Peterson with Elder John H. Groberg of the First Quorum of the Seventy

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    Elder John H. Groberg

    Elder John H. Groberg was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the third generation of Grobergs to live there. His great-grandfather joined the Church in Sweden, immigrated to the United States, and eventually his son settled in Idaho Falls.

    Elder Groberg said that “Idaho Falls wasn’t as large a town then as it is now; it was basically a farming community. We lived toward the Ammon area, which was settled by the Mormon pioneers. Although we lived in town, we worked on farms. The thing that I remember most about Idaho Falls was that everyone was very friendly and knew almost everyone else. There was a good feeling, a solid feeling of community.

    “Everyone worked hard. For two weeks each October we would be let out of school to harvest potatoes. A few years later, when combines could do the job more efficiently, ‘spud vacation’ was cancelled.

    “I am the third of eleven children. I have two older sisters; then I was the eldest of five boys in a row. Following that ‘basketball team’ are two more younger brothers and two more younger sisters. We really enjoyed playing with one another. We had friends, too, but more often we did things as a family. We played a lot of basketball, football, baseball, and tennis. We also built forts and playhouses in the trees.

    “Mom taught school in Ammon before she was married. She’s from Provo, Utah, and her family was established as early in Provo as Dad’s was in Idaho Falls. There were eleven children in her family, too, so I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. We were always very close to them. I spent quite a few summers with different aunts and uncles. Automobile trips during World War II were very rare because of gas rationing, so a trip to Provo or Salt Lake City from Idaho Falls then was as much of an occasion as going to New York is now.

    “I especially remember my mother’s determination. She was very musical, and she served as ward organist for as long as I can remember. When she decided that all her children would learn to play the piano, we did! I still play the piano and do so occasionally in quorum meetings.

    “Dad was the bishop during the war years. He was very involved in community affairs, being a member of several community boards, and even running for mayor. I can remember Dad coming home one time during the war and saying, ‘Guess what I have? Some real butter!’ That was a big thing for us. Getting a new pair of shoes or a new pair of pants was a big thing too. We never felt that we were poor, though. We always seemed to have enough.

    “I think the thing that I learned most from both of my parents was to love the gospel. They were both very dedicated to the Church. From my mother, I learned determination. From my father, I learned devotion to duty. We had a lot of Church welfare projects, and they always seemed to conflict with pheasant hunting season. As a boy, I really liked to hunt, but there was never any question about which activity we would do. We went to the welfare farm to top beets or whatever else needed doing. It was not a matter of forcing us to go; we just knew that that’s what you did.

    “One fall a friend asked me if I could go hunting after church. That was when we had priesthood meeting and Sunday School in the morning and sacrament meeting in the evening. I didn’t want to break the Sabbath and I didn’t want to offend my friend, so I said, ‘Why don’t you have your dad call my dad.’ The call came, and when Dad said, ‘I don’t think so,’ I was very happy.

    “When I was baptized in Ammon, a strong feeling of having my sins literally washed away came over me, and I knew that from then on I needed to be more careful in my thoughts and actions.

    “My father sustained a ruptured pancreas in a freak car accident when I was about ten. For some time there was a question as to whether he would live or not. When the doctors gathered our family together to explain the situation, Mother said, ‘He’s had a blessing, and he’s going to be all right.’ I remember that as a very strengthening spiritual experience because we all knew that Mom was right. In eight to ten weeks Dad was completely healed. During Dad’s hospitalization I remember that I went to the hospital several times, and Dad told me to set a good example for the rest of the family.

    “I can remember well my dad talking about his mission in the Eastern States and his father serving a mission to Sweden and my great-grandfather joining the Church and doing missionary work in Sweden. I knew that if a mission was right for my father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, it must be right for me.

    “My message to you children of the Church is this: Strive to be obedient to gospel teachings and the counsel and example of your parents, your bishop, and your leaders. It is most important that you attend your church meetings, keep the Sabbath holy, pay your tithing, prepare for a mission, and do whatever your parents ask you in righteousness to do. Choosing to do the right things will bring you closer to your Heavenly Father and make you feel good about yourself.”

    John, far right

    John, back row right

    John on left

    John, in front, at laying of cornerstone for Idaho Falls Temple, 1940