I grew up in the little town of Mantua, Utah. My mother, Laurine Nielsen Jeppsen, was a very courageous woman. She had an illness called Bright’s Disease, which was incurable. She knew that she was terminally ill, and she had been advised not to have any more children before I came along. My coming into the world hurried her exit from it, I’m sure, but I’m grateful that she decided to have me, anyway.
Mother and I were the best of friends. On my first day of school, Mother said good-bye and I started to walk to school, which was a half mile away. I remember turning back and seeing Mother standing on the porch, watching me go. I was the youngest, and, knowing that she wouldn’t be around very long, she must have had deep feelings about seeing me leave. I ran back and gave her a hug and a kiss four separate times before I finally went to school.
I remember lying on the bed with Mother in the early evenings, particularly the summer evenings. She loved to go to bed early and listen to the birds sing and watch the sun fading outside the window of our home.
Mother taught me the gospel. One time we had a cloudburst, and the ditch out back overflowed its banks. Our house was on a little rise, but there were at least three feet of water around it. Father was farming at a place called Dry Lake. I remember kneeling with Mother and praying that we would not be flooded and that Father would get home. About four or five hours later, the downpour stopped and Father came home. It had flooded where he was too. Water had been up to his waist, but he’d been preserved. I was very impressed with the power of prayer.
Mother was very great on service. Many times I took fresh cinnamon rolls or other baked goodies that she’d made to the school bus driver as he came by our home. His wife had died. That’s just one example of what Mother did even when she was suffering.
She prepared me for her death, too, lavishing love on me. She used to look at her legs that were so swollen that they had cracked open and make jokes about them. She assured me that she would have no pain where she was going. She said, “I’ll see you baptized. I promise.” That brought a great deal of comfort to me.
My father baptized me on my eighth birthday in the dammed up ditch in back of our home. It was the first of November, and I still remember how cold the water was. Mother went into a coma the day after my baptism and died four days later.
I remember crying when I was told that Mother had died. Everyone was crying. My older sister, Mae, who was about nineteen or twenty and was a registered nurse, said, “Malcolm, I’ll be your mother.” She kept that promise.
My father, Conrad Jeppsen, served as a bishop for twenty-two years. He was also a great teacher, and he taught me many things. He taught me the principle of honesty. For example, I remember jumping up and down with joy when I found a dollar bill on the floor of a store. In those days, a dollar was really something. I would be wealthy! I grabbed it and said, “Look what I found!”
Dad said, “Is it yours?”
I said, “No, it isn’t mine.”
“If it isn’t yours, let’s take it to the clerk. Somebody will come back for it.”
I took the dollar to the clerk and learned a lesson. Since then, whenever I’ve found things, Father’s question has come to my mind: “Is it yours?”
My father was also a great one to serve others. He loved to tinker with clocks. People brought their clocks to him, usually mantel clocks that struck the hour. He’d take the inner works out, clean them up, and put the clocks back together. Then he would just touch the mechanisms with a feather dipped in very, very light oil. He kept the clocks for three or four weeks while he regulated them. Sometimes we had twelve to fifteen of those clocks, and then every midnight sounded like New Year’s Eve!
The example of the selflessness of my mother and father will always remain with me. I hope that you will always be respectful and appreciative of your parents and family. The family unit is eternal.
Listen to good counsel from your parents and leaders. Don’t assume that you know more than they do. Learn from the mistakes of others instead of making the same mistakes yourself.