A Sister’s Example


In Conference Report, Oct. 1948, 159–60; spelling and punctuation modernized.
Elder Matthew Cowley

Matthew Cowley was ordained an Apostle in 1945. As a young man he served a mission in New Zealand, and later he returned as mission president during World War II.

I had a little mother … in New Zealand. I knew her on my first mission when I was [young]. In those days she called me her son. When I went back to preside, she called me her father. …

Now, on one occasion I called in as I always did when I visited that vicinity to see this grand little woman, then in her 80s and blind. She did not live in an organized branch, had no contact with the priesthood except as the missionaries visited there. We had no missionaries in those days. They were away at war.

… She was out in her backyard by her little fire. I reached forth my hand to shake hands with her, and I was going to rub noses [in a Maori greeting] with her. And she said, “Do not shake hands with me, Father.”

I said, “Oh, that is clean dirt on your hands. I am willing to shake hands with you. I am glad to. I want to.”

She said, “Not yet.” Then she got on her hands and knees and crawled over to her little house. At the corner of the house there was a spade. She lifted up that spade and crawled off in another direction, measuring the distance as she went. She finally arrived at a spot and started digging down into the soil with that spade. It finally struck something hard. She took out the soil with her hands and lifted out a fruit jar. She opened that fruit jar and reached down in it, took something out, and handed it to me. And it turned out to be [a lot of] New Zealand money. …

She said, “There is my tithing. Now I can shake hands with the priesthood of God.”

I said, “You do not owe that much tithing.”

She said, “I know it. I do not owe it now, but I am paying some in advance, for I do not know when the priesthood of God will get around this way again.”

And then I leaned over and pressed my nose and forehead against hers, and the tears from my eyes ran down her cheeks.

[illustration] Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak