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In Her Own Words: Sarah E. Tollerton Buck Rand, 1939

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 21, 2011

Sarah E. Tollerton (1868-1945) was born in Ohio. She married for the first time at age 38, to Cassius M. Buck, with whom she had one son, William; they lived in Minnesota. She was widowed — twice — in her 50s. Sarah then moved to Twin Brooks, South Dakota, and supported herself as a public school teacher. It was in Twin Brooks that she encountered the missionaries at nearly 70 years of age.

My Road to Happiness

In order to make it perfectly clear how far the Lord has taken me on my road to happiness, let me describe myself before He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re wrong.”

In the first place I had been taught nothing of a religious nature. God was not mentioned in our home and Christ very seldom. I was taught to live the good life: that we must be good because it is right. How lacking in strength and resistance that doctrine is I have found to my cost. Without Christ by our side we can’t really live the good life.

At last, after living a selfish, self-centered life, I came to the end of my active career. Ill and without any outlook I felt it would be perfectly fair to the world to utterly destroy myself. I became obsessed with the idea. Death ends all! Why wait?

I was in just such an attitude of mind one Sunday morning when a friend came in silently and tuned the radio to “The Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir and Organ,” station KSL. I tried not to listen. Everything in me revolted against anything of a religious nature. But shall I never forget the voice and words of Richard L. Evans as they filled the room saying, “Some men who have felt they have had things to run away from have been so foolish as to remove themselves by their own hands from the presence of men. But even there they will find, according to the word of the Lord which faileth not, that God is in that place also, and that conscience goes with them, and that life and all of its problems and mistakes must be faced, even in that realm in which men find themselves beyond the grave.” How forcibly his words struck home! The days of convalescence which followed found me pondering thoughtfully over what he had said, and every Sunday found me eagerly looking forward to this program.

One day sometime later I was visiting with a friend who happened to be looking through her box of souvenirs that she had accumulated during her various travels. Among such she found a pamphlet with a picture of the Mormon Temple on its cover. “Why,” I exclaimed, “that’s Richard Evans’ Church.” She was happy to let me have it and from this I obtained the address of the Bureau of Information to which I wrote for informative material. I was careful to point out that I had no desire whatever of becoming a member, as the story of Joseph Smith was repulsive to me in the extreme, but I was interested in the messages which came over the air. My letter was given the attention of President Joseph J. Cannon, and since then under his guidance, I have studied the doctrines and history of the Church.

How many times I have rebelled and turned back! How furiously I have refused to accept the revelations of the Lord to Joseph Smith! At one point I went so far as to completely destroy all the literature President Cannon had sent me, but something stronger than I pulled me back and I reopened our correspondence.

At last I quit fighting against myself, and I believed – I asked for baptism. On July 17, 1939, I was baptized.

Humbly, I feel I shall never attain to great spiritual heights, but I am at last happy! I have a happiness that does not mean inaction or idleness or self. I can see a gleaming road stretching away into remote future. I am taking that road – but not alone.



4 Comments »

  1. How many were converted through Music and the Spoken Word, I wonder. When I was young, I remember missionaries telling of finding a woman who said she already had a church – the Richard L. Evans church. Also a great commentary on thinking that ending a life will end the troubles and/or guilt. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Rosemary — October 21, 2011 @ 7:20 am

  2. Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by lindberg — October 21, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  3. Interesting. I wonder if that’s the origin of the story Rosemary mentions in comment one, which I also seem to recall hearing.

    In our ward, we’ve seen a recent number of baptisms of professional middle-aged people. I haven’t met all of them yet, but one new sister joined the church for a number of reasons, a major one being the new mormon.org website, which I guess is a similar sort of effort on the part of the church as the one in this story.

    And, not to comment at too great a length, but Sarah Rand’s third paragraph from the end reminds me of a comment from one of my ancestors about joining the church:

    When my husband told me that the angel had come and there were apostles in the Church, it charmed me. I believed it. But, we do not always have the good spirit. No, I felt after that to oppose it. I had opposition on every side, but the good spirit would wake me up in the night and whisper, “If today, thou wouldst hear my voice, harden not thy heart.”… My husband believed, and I was certain of the truth of it. I shall never forget the feeling I had the first time I went to meeting to be confirmed a member. They sang: “Come all ye sons of Zion and let us praise the Lord.” I have never heard it since without thinking of the feeling I had when I first heard it…

    Comment by Researcher — October 22, 2011 @ 4:28 am

  4. I remember, vaguely, other references to “Richard L. Evans church”–I seem to be able to hear that phrase spoken by Hugh B. Brown, although I can’t find any reference to his saying that in my searches.

    Here, though, is a statement by Elder Marion Hanks, in an article published in the Ensign shortly after Elder Evans’s death:

    To millions he was the image of the Church. To multitudes of persons who were not well acquainted with the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was the only church they knew and the only religion they formally experienced.

    And here’s another from a story about the choir broadcast in the July 2004 Ensign:

    “I belong to the Richard L. Evans church,” one elderly gentleman told missionaries who knocked on his door.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 22, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

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