Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Joleen Meredith with the wife and children of a General Authority.

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    “My husband’s family was very poor. His mother made rugs to sell at a store in a sparsely settled area, and his father tended sheep, cut firewood, and hauled water for the family,” explained the lovely young wife of this General Authority, while rocking a baby on her lap.

    “There were ten in his family and they lived 24 kilometers from the nearest town in a remote desert area. There were no cars or running water. And the drinking water was often so bad that the people there would drink fruit juices and soda pop instead.

    “When my husband was four years old, he became very ill and went into a coma. Everyone thought he had died. In fact, his body had been placed in a casket for burial. In a little while they heard a faint knocking on the inside of the casket. The child was alive! The casket was quickly reopened and the boy sat up. ‘I want a soda pop,’ he said.

    Thereafter, he was known as the ‘soda pop child’. His parents have often said that after this experience he was a changed child. He was more responsible and would help tend the others in the family. He was concerned about others and seemed to be blessed with a special spirit.

    “The main food for his family was fry bread made from biscuit dough, mutton stew, and often soda pop. Today, his favorite foods are anything hot and spicy that he can put pepper on.

    “He herded sheep until the age of nine; then he was placed in boarding school. Since the people there could not pronounce his real name, they gave him an English one. The only problem was that they also gave three other children the same name. So there was a number one, two, three, and four with the same name.

    “A Latter-day Saint missionary couple at the store baptized my husband when he was ten years old, and he attended Church services from that time on. He was selected to participate in the Church’s education program and was to be sent to Utah to live with a foster family and go to school. An hour before the bus was to leave, a friend, Brother Bloomfield, put a bowl on his head and gave him a quick haircut. All of his belongings were put into a shoe box—he had no shoes. There were more holes in the denim pants he was wearing than there was denim material. He was put on a bus at night, given two dollars by Brother Bloomfield, and told that he would arrive there by morning.”

    At this point, I was thinking how difficult it must have been for that little boy to leave his family to go all alone on a bus to a place with a different culture where he knew no one. The only tie that he had with them was that he was a member of the Latter-day Saint Church.”

    The General Authority’s wife continued: “On the first day at his new school in Utah the children all gathered around my husband. They had never seen an Indian before. ‘Where’s your war paint?’ they asked. ‘Where are your moccasins?’

    “The new foster parents were concerned because their Indian son was so shy. In fact, the only words he spoke to them during the first three months were yes and no. At Christmastime they gave him some new clothes—two pairs of pants, four shirts, two pairs of socks, etc. The mother asked him to go upstairs and try them on. After quite a while he came downstairs with all of the shirts, pants, and socks on at the same time. It was difficult to get used to a new language and customs.

    “Even though my husband is now very busy, he enjoys football and basketball. When he has spare time, which isn’t often, he loves to play the harmonica. Last Christmas he played for the General Authorities at their Christmas party.

    “My husband believes that family home evening is a great time to train children to be leaders. He always has one of our children conduct. One of them will assign the prayers and choose the hymns. At the conclusion, the one conducting thanks all those who participated. Usually the person who gave the lesson is sincerely complimented. Then the closing song is announced and the name of the one to give the closing prayer.

    “One morning the children’s father had to leave at 5 A.M. for an early meeting at the Church offices. Later he called when the children were just getting up and we all had family prayer with him on the telephone.”

    His small children had these comments: “When Daddy comes home, he tells me that if I eat my dinner he’ll give me a ride on his back. Sometimes he’ll give my friend a ride too!”

    “Dad is helping me to save money for my mission.”

    “My daddy shows us how to clean. He always tells us to clean the counter after we wash the dishes.”

    “He’s kind.”

    “When he plays football with us, we all have to speak nicely.”

    When asked about her husband’s favorite topic to speak on, she said, “He always says that we’re all God’s children, no matter what color we are, and that our church has no room for prejudice. When he speaks, he represents the whole Church, not just the Lamanite people.”

    Show References

    • Answer: Elder George P. Lee