Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Way We Were: February 1985

The Way We Were: February 1985

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 15, 2008

For some of us, February 1985 was little more than a week ago last Tuesday – we remember where we were living, who our favorite teachers were that year, or what job we were working. For one of Keepa’s readers, though (who may identify him/herself or not, at the reader’s discretion), February 1985 is as exotic as any point from earlier in the 20th century: it was the month s/he was born.

What were we like as a Church that month?

Spencer W. Kimball was president of the Church (he would pass away in November that year), with counselors Marion G. Romney and Gordon B. Hinckley. Ezra Taft Benson was president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Barbara W. Winder was Relief Society general president. Ardath G. Kapp presided over the Young Women, and Dwan J. Young over the Primary. There were about 5.5 million of us that month.

We were still singing from the old hymnbook that had been in use since the 1940s – the “new” hymnbook (our current one) would be published later in the year. The Family History Library had not yet moved into its familiar quarters on West Temple, in Salt Lake City. Senator Jake Garn was in training to become the first Church member to go into space. New stakes were organized: Chandler Arizona Alma, Anaheim California East, San Francisco California West, and San Jose Dos Campos Brazil (the 1513th-1516th stakes of the Church). Members (men and women) who had not been endowed previous to marriage to non-members or inactive members were barred from temple attendance (that would change in February 1986). Stakes still had seventies’ quorums, in addition to elders’ and high priests’ quorums.

Actor Jimmy Stewart (“It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and so many other classics) visited BYU to be honored by the library there for his gift of his personal papers, including prints of 25 of his movies. Peter Vidmar, LDS gold (2) and silver (1) medalist in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics, spoke to thousands of students at a fireside at the University of Utah. One of the few LDS members of the U.S. Congress, Sen. Paula Hawkins of Florida, chaired Senate hearings on a proposed limitations on alcohol advertising; the Church submitted a statement supporting such limitations. The Church continued to expand the Missionary Training Center system, opening the eighth such center on the grounds of the London Temple. Fifty-five mostly non-Mormon high school choir members traveled from Royal Oaks, Michigan, to Salt Lake City hoping to meet the Tabernacle Choir; they were thrilled to be invited to perform for the Choir in its February 21 evening rehearsal, after joining with the Choir and other audience members on its February 17 broadcast, singing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” Miss America Sharlene Wells, LDS, visited President Ronald Reagan at the White House.

The Church News provided glimpses into the lives of individual Mormons that month: Olive May and Alexander E. Mellows, Church members of New Zealand, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Singaporean architect and branch president Tan Su Kion was interviewed concerning his profession, which gave him many illustrations (firm foundations, blueprints for life, quality materials) for use in counseling branch members. Guamian Kenneth Duenas told of the answer to a prayer. Elders’ quorum president and Navy Chief Warrant Officer Gary L. Lichty was recognized by President Reagan for having saved the navy nearly $3 million by tracking down equipment that had been mistakenly discarded.

The “Mormon Forum” feature of the Church News solicited suggestions from readers on “how to help others who are having money woes.” Among the suggestions were to be understanding of individual situations and don’t condemn jobless members as “not trying hard enough” to find work; preserve each other’s self respect by offering to barter services if possible (“If you babysit for me, I’ll fix your door”); and trust the principle of tithing.

The Ensign published several historically-themed articles: “Joseph Smith – In His Own Words, Part 3,” “Preparing Early Revelations for Publication,” and an article I suspect Edje is very familiar with, “Odomville: its Citizens Are Family, Its Boundary is Love,” about Mormons in East Texas. There were articles on motherhood, on living in part-member families, and on Mormon doctrines concerning the physical body. There were humorous glimpses of Mormon life:

Two old dears were talking about our LDS missionaries, and one of them was heard to say: “Oh, yes, they are very nice, and so polite. But if they read a passage of scripture and don’t agree with it, they cross it out with red ink.” (from Lancashire, England)

Discussing a verse in the scriptures, our Relief Society Spiritual Living leader asked us what the word “Behold” at the beginning might be saying to us. A sister near the front answered, “Pay attention, you might learn something.” A sister on the back row raised her hand, saying, ‘I didn’t hear what she said,” so the instructor kindly repeated, “Pay attention, you might learn something.” (from Sunnyvale, California)

News reports from the magazine reported the length of elders’ missions was returning to two years, after a brief experiment with 18-month missions, and noted that the Church was reducing the number of welfare projects to produce no more than was needed by the welfare system, and emphasizing “the importance of each member’s responsibility for personal and family preparedness,” and also that the Indian Placement program was being scaled back, with participation being limited to the oldest students. Although the report insisted that “These changes should not be viewed as a phaseout, but as a refinement of this program,” history has shown that this did in fact become a phaseout of the program.

The New Era emphasized early career development for teens, with articles on figuring out one’s interests, benefitting from career fairs, obtaining effective letters of recommendation, and finding first jobs. Popular youth author Jack Weyland published a short story, “A Chance to Make Good,” and Elder Neal A. Maxwell encouraged teens to recognize that “These Are Your Days,” suggesting that the reader “Look before you to a bright clear future. You are in this time and circumstance by Divine appointment. God knows you and he knows what you have the capacity to achieve.” A heavily illustrated feature on “Incredible Edible Valentines” showed young bakers how to cut round and square cakes to construct a heart-shaped one, and how to create giant Valentine cookies and cupcake valentines.

Children reading The Friend read a poem about mothers who bake bread, a biography of Joseph Smith’s brother Samuel, another of Emmeline B. Wells, and a third of LDS television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth. They read the story of “Choon and the Runaway Elephant,” about working elephants in an unspecified locale, and the story of “The Flute Player,” a Peruvian boy. There was a paper doll, “Young-Sook from Korea,” with both traditional and western outfits to color and cut out. One cartoon showed a dog with a bandaged nose explaining to another dog that “You learn something new everyday. Today I learned about bees!” Another cartoon showed Polly the Parrot telling a little boy with a firecracker in his hand, “Not that kind!”

 … and as if this were not enough to make February 1985 eventful, this was the month that Michelle was born.



  1. An interesting trip down memory lane… I was in my second year at BYU then. I reached over and pulled out my journal. In February ’85, I was a singles ward ‘service leader,’ and we had just instituted taking “family home evening” to Cove Point. I also took a trip with a sociology class to visit the prison up at the Point of the Mountain, spending a day with the sex-offender unit. Here’s an entry from the end of the month:

    “At Stake Conference, Elder Oscar W. McConkie told us there would be temples in Moscow & Peking, and it would [be] based on the faithfulness of those present. Just figured I’d mention it.
    “I signed contracts for the next year to stay in Budge Hall — I figured, why not? I really did not feel too right about the apartments [where all my friends were moving]; there is more mental and emotional space here, and if time is money, then it is a good value; by staying on these last few years, I’m saving $100 as well.
    “There are a few major tests today — Music 103 midterm, and ch. 5 Spanish. Icky! I studied a lot for the first, none for the second. Oh sigh. I added 3 hours to my schedule yesterday, Physics 127, Descriptive Astronomy.
    “A— asked me to the Festival of the Arts Ball, on the 8th of March. Of course I told him yes. He’s a very nice guy.”

    A couple of comments: Tuition and Room & Board were a LOT cheaper then (having a freshman son there this year brings this into focus). It was a good thing I stayed in the dorms… I met my husband there the next fall. I’m still waiting for the temple in Peking (er, that would be Beijing, would it not?).

    Comment by Coffinberry — October 15, 2008 @ 6:35 am

  2. Eew. I pulled out my journal and it was a painful period of early adolescence. Lots of babysitting for neighborhood families and young women activities and school events. I notice that I was more religious and idealistic than I am now. Several inspirational quotes from President Kimball and others and an awful cultural poem about growing up.

    Last week in church I played a piece from the old hymnbook for organ postlude and one of the sisters in the ward came up after absolutely raving about my having played the piece. For those of you acquainted with that hymnbook (certainly not the person for whom this post was written!) it was “Though in the Outward Church Below,” with a tune adapted from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and words by John Newton, who also wrote “Amazing Grace.”

    Comment by Researcher — October 15, 2008 @ 7:22 am

  3. Great contributions! You’ve also given me ideas for future posts in this series. (A few people have given me other months they would like to be featured — anyone else who would like to have a month added to the list can contact me at keepapitchinin at aol dot com — note that “keepapitchinin” ends with “inin” rather than just “in.” You’ll always have the option of publicly identifying yourself as the one who asked for that month, or keeping that private.)

    I don’t have a journal for that month, but I remember I was living in Provo and working in American Fork, and that when the weather warmed up (certainly not in February!) I rode my bike to and from work all summer long. Don’t remember anything church-related in particular — for somebody who loves to root through other people’s private papers, I’m leaving spectacularly few to the future.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 15, 2008 @ 7:38 am

  4. I actually remember the covers of both the Ensign and the Friend that you posted. I must have been very impressionable at age 9.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — October 15, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  5. I was in the MTC when the announcement was made that missions were retuning to two years. That must have been November, 1984. (?) My call originally was for 18 months, so we were given the choice to serve any length of time from 18-24 months – primarily to accommodate those whose school plans would be messed up by extending to a full two years.

    Comment by Ray — October 15, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  6. Yay! That’s when I was born. I’m glad to know it was still a good and eventful year. 😉 Thanks for the research!

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — October 15, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  7. Didn’t Bruce R. McConkie pass away in 1985 as well?

    Comment by JB — October 15, 2008 @ 11:39 am

  8. Yes, BRM died two months later, in April.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 15, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  9. Guilty, as charged, on Odomville.

    Comment by Edje — October 15, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  10. I found an entry in my wife’s journal for February 10, 1985:

    “It seems like years since Rachel was born–8 weeks ago. She’s an easy baby to care for, very sweet and not fussy.”

    “Andrew [7 1/2 years old] has been having a particularly hard time recently. He loves Rachel . . . but I think he feels overwhelmed by all the females in the family and sometimes feels left out.”

    “Maryanne [5 1/2 years old] has learned to read since Christmas . . .”

    “Kathryn [3 1/2 years old] continues to be cheerful most of the time and she has a good opinion of herself and is quite resilient.”

    Nothing about me in the journal that day, but there is this from a few months earlier (which, together with another entry from a few months later, may suggest why):

    “Mark had tithing settlement that afternoon [the Sunday afternoon before Rachel was born] & again in the evening and was only home for about 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon for dinner. . . . I waited up til almost 12:00 for him.”

    From May, 1985:

    “In the past few weeks, Mark has not been home much. He has spent many late nights at the office. One morning he came home from work at 7:00 a.m. He slept a couple of hours and went back in around 11:00 a.m.”

    Just reading about this makes me tired! Probably makes my wife tired too, just to have me read it.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 15, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  11. In Feb. 1985 I was in the MTC. I remember the cold weather at the time and my companion from California who couldn’t believe it was February and it was still snowing! We got a laugh out of that one.

    Ray, I was also called on my mission for 18 months. I got my call in November and it seems like either right before or after Christmas the Church announced it was returning to two years. The announcement was made shortly before I went into the MTC.

    It’s funny that Researcher would mention the hymn by Mozart, “Though in the Outward Church Below.” In Feb. 1985 that was one of my MTC district’s favorite hymns. We sang it all the time in German.

    Enjoyed memory lane.

    Comment by Steve C — October 15, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  12. I was a freshman in high school, and I earned my Eagle Scout in February 1985.

    Comment by queuno — October 15, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  13. More proof that 1985 was a good year. Thanks, everybody. :)

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — October 15, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  14. Married, had four kids, living in Davis County, Utah, and had my first car phone. It took up half the trunk of my Olds Omega!

    Comment by kevinf — October 15, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

  15. I remember all of it! Jake Garn, Jimmy Stewart, Peter Vidmar, and all the rest. I was living in Provo, in the house Dallin Oaks was born in, and Daughter #1 was a month old. Thanks for the blast from the past!

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — October 15, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  16. BiV:

    Does that mean you lived on 6th East somewhere north of 2nd North?

    When I lived on 2nd North between 6th and 7th East, up until 1964, Sister Stella Oaks lived around the corner (somewhere). She was one of the widows in the ward, who appeared, to a young boy like me, to be about 100 years old. I think she lived somewhere on 6th East–and she may have lived there since the early 30’s when her children were born.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 15, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  17. My son had turned in his mission papers expecting an 18 month mission. When he got the call it gave him the option of going for 18-24 months. He really had to ponder it for awhile. He was mentally prepared for 18, not 24, but we convinced him that the last 6 months were the most productive. He’s glad he went for the full 24 months.

    Comment by Maurine — October 16, 2008 @ 1:42 am

  18. They gave us the 18-24 month option in the MTC. I had prepared for 18 months and at the time took that option. The others in my MTC district all took the 24 month option. As it turned out, two left after 18 months for personal reasons. I, on the other hand, after about 14 months decided to extend another five months. It was worth it.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 16, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  19. Why the heck did Jimmy Stewart give his papers to BYU?

    Comment by jeans — October 16, 2008 @ 9:00 am

  20. He was courted by the special collections curator at BYU (there’s a NewsNet story about that here — but note that the date is wrong in the NewsNet story; a major article in the Church News in February 1985 makes it clear that the bulk of the donation came then, not 1983) — apparently nobody else had shown the same interest, and he liked what he saw of BYU, so why not? I’ve also heard but can’t vouch for the notion that he had such a good time with the Tabernacle Choir in “Mr. Kruger’s Christmas” that he retained a soft spot in his heart for things related to the Choir.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 16, 2008 @ 9:34 am

  21. That was Jim D’Arc, wasn’t it? He had a way of landing the Hollywood celebs and getting them to give stuff to BYU.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 16, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  22. Yup. He’s still there, working his magic. He (or his staff — I don’t know who personally has done the actual labor) located what is probably the only surviving print of the movie “Corianton” a few years ago and have digitally restored it. I’m still looking forward to their showing of that film for the first time — I don’t understand the delay. But it’s another example of the coups they have pulled off in the realm of motion picture history.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 16, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  23. This was great Ardis! I was born in October 1985 so they’re relevant to me too(I know you think I’m OLD, but according to this post I’m just a youngun). Wow, barring people from the temple? I can see why that one got squashed real quick.

    Comment by Meghan — October 16, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  24. Last time we talked, Meghan let it slip that her mother and I were born the same year. Yeah, I think she’s OLD!! {g}

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 16, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

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