Participatory Journalism:
Helping, Sharing, Reaching Out

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    Does all missionary work begin with the phrase “What do you know about the Mormon church?” Do all missionaries wear white shirts and ties or dresses of a conservative color? Is all missionary work done with nonmembers—is it possible to do some in a class full of Beehive girls or a family full of Mormons? Can you do anything for the cause if you are only ten or twelve or sixteen?

    If the answers to these questions are not perfectly clear to you right now, they will be after you’ve read the experiences of the contributors to this Participatory Journalism section.

    It Doesn’t Make Any Difference

    by Barbara Balli

    On January 11, 1975, at 1:35 P.M., I was on my way to the store near my home. I was walking on the sidewalk when a car traveling about 40 miles per hour went out of control and pinned me against a telephone pole. There just happened to be a policeman at the scene, and he immediately radioed for help. He then tried to help me, but my leg was so badly damaged that where he needed to apply the tourniquet there wasn’t any leg.

    By the time I arrived at the hospital, I was listed as dead on arrival, but the doctors, working feverishly, managed to revive me. After a beautiful blessing by my bishop, I went into surgery. The doctor said my leg would probably have to be amputated, but an investigating officer at the scene of the accident found a four-inch piece of femur bone and rushed it to the hospital. When it was taken into the operating room, the decision to try to save my leg was made. Although I later lost my leg, I have a six-to-seven-inch stump that I wouldn’t have had if they had taken my leg right away.

    After my accident many friends and relatives did many things for me and my family. People in the ward were so nice that they made it possible for my parents to be with me during the many months I was in the hospital. They brought meals and tended and cared and showed great love and concern for us.

    The first thing I remember about Mutual was when the young people invited to the closing social the girls and boys who would be old enough to attend Mutual the next year. When they asked me, I was so surprised because I was still spending most of my time in the hospital, with only a few days at home between surgeries, and I was in a wheelchair. They said this wouldn’t matter, so all the kids helped me, and I went. It was really neat!

    When it was time for me to start Mutual, I was called to be the second counselor of our first-year Beehive class, even though I was going to be in the hospital much of the time. That year my class really did a lot for me. I especially remember the time they taped a meeting they held at our bishop’s cabin because I was unable to attend. They also recorded the New Beginnings program and brought it up to the hospital where we all listened together.

    I was out of the hospital and on crutches when the stake Beehive adviser asked me to take a part in the play “Apple Seeds.” That really made me feel like I was wanted and loved.

    After nine months of pain and suffering and 34 surgeries trying to save my leg, the doctor recommended that my leg be amputated. With the help of my parents and my Heavenly Father, I decided to have it done. The date was September 24, 1975, and I was 12. When my class found out, they were wonderful. They said, “Oh, it won’t make any difference!”

    While I was in the hospital for my 35th and final operation, my class would often bring lessons and cheery faces to make me happier. They would call me and include me in all their planning when I was unable to attend meetings. This way I knew all the fun things I was missing and really felt as if I wanted to hurry and get back in the swing of things.

    About five months later our ward held a Bicentennial Spring Sing, and our class was asked to participate. I was included, of course! I had my prosthesis by then. The class really helped so I would look good on stage, and when we went off stage, down the front stairs, they all took them one at a time so I wouldn’t lag behind and be noticed. It looked like that was the way it should have been. They let me know I didn’t have to hesitate when asked to do things, and I learned that if I will try, I can do anything anyone else can do.

    During the summer I asked one of my girl friends in the class if she would teach me how to ride a bike again, and she did. After falling down about six times and laughing each time, I finally got the hang of it. We still go on bike rides together, and it is really fun.

    The closing social last year was a swimming party. I really didn’t want to go, but my mom and friends persuaded me to at least attend. When I got there, everyone was having so much fun, I couldn’t resist their coaxing; so I called my mom to bring my suit. After I removed my leg and got into my suit, the girls carried me to the pool. I had a great time, and everyone was so understanding and made me feel that I had nothing to be ashamed about.

    This year I was called to be president of the second-year Beehive class. I only hope I can do a good job and help other people the way I have been helped.

    The Best Date

    by Gary Goodrich

    My friend, Don Crowther, and I were double-dating together one evening last fall, and the Friday night star show we had intended to see at the planetarium was sold out. After a few minutes of discussing what we could do, the suggestion was made by my date, Carol, that we go to Temple Square. We were all in favor—it seemed right.

    As we entered the temple block, Carol and I were so involved talking that when Don and his date stopped on the sidewalk in front of us, we almost walked right over them. He and his date, Marilyn, had stopped in front of the visitors’ center to talk with a family of three teenage girls and their parents. I wondered if they were friends of Don’s, but just then I heard him ask them if they would like a tour.

    “How much will it cost?” they asked.

    “Nothing; it’s free, and it’ll be our pleasure!”

    My eyes met Don’s, and I silently laughed. He was always so good-humored, so friendly and open. He never hesitated to start conversations with people—even strangers. I always knew Don would make an excellent missionary. We led our new friends into the visitors’ center and looked around for one of the regular guides. They were all busy with other groups. Don looked at me.

    “Ready to direct a tour?” he asked.

    We walked over to a large, beautifully colored panel depicting six dispensations since Adam. Don explained the first pictures. Our tourists were interested. While they carefully listened to him, my friend lifted his voice in eloquent description. Don was a practiced speaker, and his voice carried a most appealing tone. He had the conviction of a true and heartfelt testimony of the reality of God the Father, his Son, Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel.

    A few other tourists ambled by, paying only slight attention to our presentation. Then Don announced that I would explain the next scene of Noah and his ancient family. I assumed the front and center position of teacher, and as clearly as I could, expressed what I knew about Noah. I tried to emphasize the importance of strictly obeying all of God’s commandments, in our time as well as Noah’s.

    We and our new friends moved on, and I noticed Marilyn who was Don’s date. I could see a gleam of warm pride shine in her eyes as Don pointed out the various pictures on the wall. She, too, decided to involve herself by chatting with the visiting girls. Suddenly Marilyn brought to our attention the fact that nobody had been introduced. After I learned all the Cromwells’ names, I shook Mr. Cromwell’s hand and asked where they were from.

    “Kansas,” they replied simultaneously. Now a suspicion formed in my mind.

    “You’re all LDS, aren’t you?” I asked.

    “Oh, no,” said Mr. Cromwell, “we’re Baptists.” I looked at Carol, and she just smiled at me. Then Don suggested that we all go upstairs. At the top of the stairs we beheld the majestic Christus. The huge statue is posed in a loving stance that seems to shield all its admirers from earthly care.

    Our little party maneuvered into a side room that contains a glass case exhibit of the Sacred Grove. Here Don related the story of Joseph Smith. He explained vividly the details of Joseph’s vision. Don expressed how significant this restoration of truth was to all of us. I was awed at the good memory and good spirit of my friend, and noticed he used many lines from the missionary discussions we had been learning.

    “I know this is true,” he announced, “because I’ve received a personal witness that it is from God! You can know of the truthfulness of the restored gospel too …”

    I slipped downstairs to the information desk so I could buy five copies of the Book of Mormon. When I returned, all the girls were in tears, and Mr. Cromwell was intently listening to every word Don uttered.

    Marilyn suggested that we include the film Man’s Search for Happiness in our tour. The Cromwells seemed to identify with the questions the movie brought up. They willingly considered the answers, too. After the movie was over, I felt an overwhelming sense of brotherhood for our new friends. I felt prompted to stand, and there and then I bore my witness to the Cromwells of the truths we had just seen.

    Carol and Marilyn were suggesting to the family that they skip their upcoming plane trip home and remain in Utah for a while, but the Cromwells were on a tight schedule. We finally said goodbye. The Cromwells didn’t go, however, until we had given them each a Book of Mormon and an expression of our love.

    The evening was over. Expressing her gratitude and happiness, Carol thanked me for the best date she’d ever had, but I wasn’t to be thanked. It was Don’s generous missionary spirit, the gift of testimony, and the opportunity we didn’t let pass us by that had made it the best date ever.

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch