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The Little Girl and the Sunday School Superintendent: A Story in Four Short Acts

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 10, 2009

ACT I

Juvenile Instructor, December 1911, p. 744:

THE “WHY” PUZZLE.

Boys and girls, here is a chance for you to think. ‘Why” do you, and “why” should others read the Juvenile Instructor. For each of the 10 best reasons given in the fewest words, we shall award suitable books. For the one very best answer we shall give a fine big Christmas book worth $1.50. Write plainly and neatly. Answers must be in before January 1st, 1912. Address Puzzle Editor, Juvenile Instructor, 44 E. So. Temple, Salt Lake City.

ACT II

Juvenile Instructor, June 1912, p. 145:

The Children Know

In the puzzle department of the December Juvenile we offered the children prizes for the best answers to the question, “Why do you read the Juvenile Instructor?” Among the contributions received was one from Margaret Baker, a little seven-year-old girl of Boulder, Utah. it is so full of good things that we reproduce it.

First, my papa is a Sunday School superintendent. If he did not read it our Sunday School would soon know there was something wrong. Then, mamma is a Sunday School teacher. She said one day: “Oh, that blessed Juvenile; what would I do without it?”

I am a little girl, and the Juvenile tells me about Jesus and the wise men and many good men. I also like the Run Away Doll story.

Mamma says she don’t worry much about her “kids” if they always read the Juvenile. I am only seven years old, and of course some big boy or girl will get the prize, but I wish to tell you why I read the Juvenile Instructor: I love it.

Margaret Baker

ACT III

April 1956, observing the 90th anniversary of the Juvenile Instructor, George R. Hill, General Superintendent of the Sunday Schools, spoke in the Sunday School Convention (a general auxiliary meeting then held in conjunction with General Conference) and reviewed some of the highlights of the magazine.

How I wish there were bound copies of this helpful magazine from its beginning to the present in every Sunday School library of the Church! So many of the articles are as helpful today as when first published, five, 50 or 90 years ago.

In 1912 the General Board decided to test the readership of The Instructor by offering prizes under the caption, “The Children Know.”

A 7-year-old girl from isolated Boulder, Utah, sent in [her letter]. … Little Margaret, how I hope you are here tonight – hopefully a mother, grandmother and Sunday School teacher – to witness this testimonial to The Instructor and to the dedicated men and women who have made it! …

ACT IV

Morgan, Utah
August 13, 1956

Dear Superintendent Hill:

In your April Conference address, you read a childish note, dated 1912, in which a little girl told why she loved The Juvenile Instructor. You then expressed the hope that this “little Margaret” was in the audience, “hopefully, a mother, grandmother and a Sunday School teacher.” … Would you care to know the sequel?

This little girl, now a mother, grandmother and Sunday School worker as you hoped, still loves The Instructor. Long ago she learned to take counsel from its pages. It has sustained, inspired and often chastened and rebuked her. Only recently during the hours when Margaret should have been attending an important Sunday School meeting in Ogden, she lay nursing her aches and pains. She picked up The Instructor and read William R. Palmer’s account of Nellie Unthank, a pioneer woman. She was never without pain and never able to stand, yet she met her life’s obligations on her knees without complaining.

“Little Margaret” felt duly chastened but her lesson was not complete. Imagine her feelings when she read, in the June issue, that her name had been mentioned in conference, and that Brother Hill himself had said, “Little Margaret, how I hope you are here tonight.” Imagine her chagrin when she realized that she had turned away at the Tabernacle door with her coordinator’s pass in her pocket, telling herself that driving her daughter back to school was more important!

You have no way of knowing, Brother Hill, what it would have meant to her had she been in her place that evening. Nor would you understand the real impact of your words as they leaped from the pages of The Instructor, for you could never guess that one Dr. George R. Hill had been her idol since childhood.

Yes, this little Boulder, Utah, girl, soon to be left fatherless, was moved to the Logan 5th Ward. She must have been an odd-looking child in her “made over” clothes. She felt so “different” from the others, so alone and afraid. But a very kind man who was superintendent of the Sunday School noticed her. Each Sunday morning he took her hand in his very large, soft one and gave her what seemed to her a very special smile. This same kind man piloted her little fatherless brothers, Myron and Hayward, through the crucial years. He was their scoutmaster. He helped each to become an Eagle Scout, and incidentally, to build a foundation for a life of service and right living.

May God bless you, Brother Hill. I, “little Margaret Baker,” am thankful for the love and kindness that has always radiated from you and that I am still privileged to take your hand in an occasional superintendents’ and coordinators’ conference.

I am thankful for the counsel and advice that comes to me through The Instructor. (This time it was ever so personal!) …

Sincerely,

Margaret Baker McKinnon,
Junior Sunday School Coordinator,
Morgan Stake



8 Comments »

  1. What a fantastic and touching story! Well done, Ardis, for putting the pieces together and sharing it. I really am moved.

    Comment by Alison — November 10, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  2. OK, no fair making me tear up on a sunny morning…. That was a wonderful story; thanks. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — November 10, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  3. awww, and how refreshing that she wasn’t perfect.

    Comment by ellen — November 10, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  4. Wow. Thank you for this.

    Comment by Tamary — November 10, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  5. Ardis, thanks for putting this charming piece together.

    Comment by S. Taylor — November 10, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  6. Wow — what a fantastic story.

    Comment by Hunter — November 10, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  7. Wonderful story.

    Comment by Maurine — November 10, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  8. So often the threads of our lives are lost in time. Keepa is a loom that weaves it all back together and makes whole cloth of disparate threads. Thank you Ardis “Weaver” Parshall!

    Comment by Eric Boysen — November 11, 2009 @ 8:19 am

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