Halloween in a Houston Hospital: Not So Bad When Someone Cares
A funny clown and a floppy bird danced around the room, shaking hands with laughing four-year-olds. Five other girls dressed in funny costumes were passing out crayons and uncolored pictures of witches and ghosts. It was Halloween night, and suddenly things looked a lot brighter to the children (who ranged in age from three to seven) than they had earlier that evening. They were all patients at the Houston Southwest Memorial Hospital in Texas and because of sickness or injury were unable to join their friends in trick-or-treating. Not wanting the children to feel left out, the Braeburn Ward Laurels in the Houston Texas Stake had decided to take Halloween to the hospital.
The evening’s activities included telling a story about a pumpkin, singing “pumpkin carols,” acting out a ghost story while the children helped with the sound effects, and coloring Halloween pictures. The hospital supplied the young women with a room so all the children (and their parents) could participate at once. After lots of laughter and smiles, the evening of sharing came to a close. As the Laurels bade their newfound friends good-bye, they agreed that this was one Halloween they would always remember.
Sharing the Book of Mormon on Halloween
Last Halloween, members of the Redlands Second Ward Mutual in the San Bernardino California Stake were busy making cookies and marking scriptures instead of sewing costumes and painting faces. Their efforts culminated in a “trick or treat in reverse” the evening of October 27, their regular Mutual night, when they treated 27 nonmember families to homemade cookies and a Book of Mormon.
The ward seventies group leader and the young people themselves decided who to visit. The youth were then divided into groups of six, with one representative from each Mutual class in each group. After presenting the families with the Book of Mormon and the cookies, they asked them: “Do you have any questions for us? Representatives of our church would like to stop by in a few days and see what you think of the message of the book. Would that be all right with you?” A week after the event, a list of 18 families who had been visited was turned over to the seventies quorum. These families have been contacted by stake and full-time missionaries for teaching possibilities, and families in the ward are fellowshipping the contacts. At least one girl who was visited that evening has been baptized.
The spirit of the evening was summed up by Mia Maid Rachel Hansen, who said: “We who were giving and those friends who were receiving felt a special closeness. It was a beautiful experience to see one of our nonmember friends feel the joy of accepting the gospel.”
Festinord Means Fellowship
Young Latter-day Saints from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway traveled all day by boat, train, and bus to the small city of Skien, Norway, for a five-day, multi-nation LDS youth conference, the biannual “Festinord.” Flags of the various countries waving above the Skienshallen (a sports hall and convention center) identified conference headquarters, and as weary travelers deboarded buses that had brought them the final 30 miles from Oslo, they soon forgot their fatigue.
Old friends greeted each other, new friends got acquainted, and all of them realized that their Church membership fostered an instant kinship. Imagine 750 young Latter-day Saints in the same town! Small wonder that Festinord is a special word to LDS youth of Scandinavia.
Participants attended workshops and sports events, a mammoth missionary project, morning devotionals, evening dances and entertainment, a community-improvement service project, and tours to a porcelain factory, an industrial complex, a famous playwright’s home, and scenic points along a nearby river.
One of the spiritual highlights occurred on Thursday night. Thirty people stood in line at the end of a testimony meeting longing to share their feelings but conscious that time had run out. One of the leaders stood and asked all those still waiting if they would come forward in a spontaneous choir to sing the closing hymn.
By Saturday it was time for return trips. It was a sobering moment for many who would return to places where they were the only LDS youth in a city of thousands. Yet somehow, each person knew he had been in a place where he belonged—among his fellow Saints—and that he would carry a part of it with him to his home. Perhaps in two years he would be able to bring new friends and members with him to witness the strength of Zion’s youth in Scandinavia.
“We Sang Hymns When Things Got Rough”
As we piled into the automobiles that would take us on the first lap of our field trip, we paid little attention to the warning hanging heavy in the overcast skies. For weeks we had been planning a re-enactment of the last few miles of the pioneer trek into the Salt Lake Valley, and now that it was here, we were determined to have as realistic and exciting an experience as possible. The clouds added to the atmosphere: after all, hadn’t the real pioneers awakened many times to the threat of stormy weather? We, the Tooele, Utah, seminary students, felt equally ready for the challenge!
The morning began with a devotional, followed by a film presentation concerning the historical spots we would be visiting in our journey from Tooele to Henefer and then up Big Mountain. By the time we arrived in Henefer, splotches of rain could be seen through the windshields of our cars. When we reached Big Mountain, it was raining and hailing so hard that we decided that those who wanted to hike the three miles up the mountain could do so, and those who didn’t want to could ride to the top in cars. We unloaded the large handcart, thankful that, unlike the first pioneers, we could send the contents up in a safe and dry automobile. Nancy Stewart, one of our historians, recorded the hike in her journal:
At the beginning, our journey was quite easy, but soon our troubles began. First the right wheel of the handcart fell off, so we had to stop and repair it. We were on our way again, doing quite well, when the wheel fell off again, and again and again. We finally just took it off and carried the right side of the handcart.
The trail was really wet and slippery. We had a few falls, but none were really serious. The left wheel was also giving us quite a few problems, and finally it got so bad we just took it off and carried the whole handcart. We thought about leaving it behind but decided against it. We continued trudging along through the rain and mud, singing a few hymns when things got rough.
When we finally looked down into the valley, we stood at the monument where Brigham Young had declared, “This is the right place.” We were grateful that our time on the old pioneer trail had consisted of only an afternoon and felt much greater appreciation for those courageous pioneers who had been willing and determined to make the whole trip.
Easy Decision: Mission Comes First
It was typical of a national junior college finals wrestling match, especially in the heavyweight division. Both competitors struggled and strained, muscles bulging, feet grasping for a hold on the mat made slippery with sweat. Then the Ricks College wrestler slipped quickly behind his opponent, grabbed his arm, with a shoulder forced him onto his back, and held him helpless until the referee called a pin.
Afterwards, in the dressing room, the rivals smiled and shook hands. “When you go on this ‘mission’ of yours, I hope you get your call in my area,” the loser said. “I really want to hear more about your church.” J. L. Coon, 19, Ricks’s heavyweight, smiled broadly. But he smiled even more broadly a few months later when his mission call arrived: he was called to his opponent’s area, the Washington Seattle Mission! “I’ll have to look him up if I get near his city,” J. L. said.
J. L., whose real name is Joseph, has been winning at wrestling—and football and weightlifting and track—since starting high school. He had 34 straight pins in his senior year, was an all-state football player, took first place in the Utah high school shot-put competition, and won the Utah power-lifting competition by dead lifting 585 pounds. His record at Granger High School earned him scholarships in wrestling and football at Ricks. Recently, as a freshman at Ricks, he took fourth place in the national junior college wrestling championships, and his future as an athlete seems assured.
But J. L., who stands six feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, is giving it all up—for two years—to accept the mission call.
“It was an easy decision,” he said just before entering the Missionary Home in Salt Lake. “I’ve known all my life I would go.” He said living the Word of Wisdom, praying constantly, and reading the scriptures daily have helped him prepare. “Besides,” he adds, “I know this is the true church. I want to share it with others.” He plans to continue his sports career when he returns.
Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward by Neal A. Maxwell Deseret Book Company, $ 4.95, pp. 141
Whether a person is a new member, a formerly active member, or already strong and active in Church callings, he faces two challenges, according to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. These challenges are: (1) Remaining true to the covenants and promises he has made, and (2) progressing and enduring as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“The straight and narrow way stretches before us,” Elder Maxwell writes. “It is no easy escalator; it is not even a gentle slope upward. … Our different degrees of spiritual development are obvious and should arouse within us neither competitiveness (except with our former self) nor persistent discouragement.”
Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward is a guidebook for those striving to plot a course along that demanding path. It is based on Nephi’s counsel that entering in at the gate through baptism is not enough; that one must press forward and endure. (See 2 Ne. 31:19–20.) Each chapter begins with one or two quotations from scriptural and literary sources that set various themes: letting go of the world, initiating discipleship and pressing forward, obedience, being steadfast and having a brightness of hope, preparing a generation of destiny, keeping the second great commandment, and enduring to the end.
Although the book stresses the importance of strict adherence to commandments, it also shows that perfection is a gradual process and even offers suggestions on how to defeat discouragement. It offers valid counsel to Latter-day Saints serious about progressing in the kingdom of God.
Marriage by President Spencer W. Kimball Deseret Book Company, $3.95, pp. 56
What decision has more far-reaching effects than that of whom to marry? When two people become husband and wife, they commit themselves to an eternity of togetherness, one that can and should bring them the greatest happiness they have ever known. Too often, however, couples let the sparkle go out of their marriages and allow “their love to grow cold like old bread or worn-out jokes or cold gravy.” In his latest book, Marriage, President Spencer W. Kimball reminds us that “love … cannot be expected to last forever unless it is continually fed with portions of love, the manifestation of esteem and admiration, the expressions of gratitude, and the consideration of unselfishness.” (P. 46.)
Marriage consists of two well-known essays, “John and Mary, Beginning Life Together” and “Marriage and Divorce.” Each includes important messages for every young person contemplating marriage and for every married person who would like guidance in how to keep his marriage beautiful throughout eternity.