Here and there, now and then, the Church is blessed with ward clerks whose minutes open an extraordinarily wide window into the Mormon past. J.H. Yearsley of Menan, Idaho, was such a ward clerk …
SUNDAY, Jan. 12 
Regular ward meeting commenced at 2 PM. with full bishoprick present, Bp. Hart conducting. Choir sang hymn, “Happy is the man who finds the grace.” Prayer by elder, (coun) E.O. Clark.
Choir sang hymn, “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire.” Sacrament administered by elders, George J. Gray and Gilbert M. Green.
Bishop Hart introduced Elders Nephi Otterson and J.R. Chaffin, home missionaries from Lincoln ward. Elder Otterson spoke as follows: –
Am pleased to have privilege of knowing that Latter-day Saints are those who do things. Can tell by public buildings they have; when first came to Idaho, few years ago, expected to see people meeting in log school houses, on contrary see wards fully organized and nice meeting houses. Wonderful how church has grown, think of the thousands who are interested, pleasure to be associated with such people. Easy to say what one thinks, but more difficult to say what one feels. Religion is rational and appeals to intellect. Person who does not feel it cannot do good; takes sacrifice to be a good Latter-day Saint. In Sunday School, question came up about brightest minds in history, such as Ingersoll, Darwin and others, who were not religious; wondered if Christianity taught true gospel if they would have been what they were religiously. Latter-day Saints believe religion is reasonable. If this true doctrine taught to these men, may have accepted it. Why do they accept God without body parts or passions, not likely such men would accept such doctrine.
Compare the doctrine of eternal hell with that of the love of God (God of love) as taught by prophet Joseph Smith also of God of body, parts and passions, who has love and solicitude for his children. Ingersoll thought Mormon prophet had more claim to be a prophet than those of Old Testament. Same with Newton, if he, with his reasonable mind, if he heard doctrine of Joseph Smith, may have accepted, if could see the wonderful prophesies of the gospel. Told of Professor Cluff, when traveling, coming in contact with men; religion came up, talked of revelation; Cluff convinced them that prophecy was Bible doctrine and just as essential to religion now as then. Cluff told them that God had spoken in this day; this left the men without an argument, nothing more could be said. We also have word of Heavenly Father to fall back on; to be Latter-day Saint is greatest blessing that can come to man. We have been raised in the faith but do not realize these privileges.
Speaker referred to an article in Deseret News by Frank Carpenter telling of the Mohamedans in Africa traveling for ten years to get to Mecca; lost all their possessions, were now walking to the holy city. Think of these people doing this to fulfil a commandment of their prophet, how many of our people would do this?
Very few of us live our religion; would die for it, but would not live it. How few study their religion, are like little boy, going to church, man asked what he believed, said did not know, go ask bishop. When on his mission wrote some of his friends, why are you Mormon, answer in many cases was, “because was born one.”
Thought some of our lives like man going over Niagara, did not see the rapids, nor hear the warning voice until too late; like dying man who sent for his minister, could not speak, but wrote the word “remorse,” “remorse”. Bishops and elders are continually warning us. Had missionary companion, who did not know one book in bible, could not seem to learn. God called him home by misfortune in his family. Hope we may live of usefulness to ourselves and fellow man; seems that I have been tried, but am convinced that there is Supreme being.
Speaker read from Psalm 19th chapter, and enlarged upon the beautiful thoughts it suggested.
Choir sang hymn, “Our God, we raise to thee”.
Elder Chaffin spoke at some length as follows: – Felt well in meeting with the saints; is encouraging to see so many out (had a good sized congregation) is duty to attend meeting; have nothing on mind, hope may say something that will help us live our religion. We are not like people of Christian world who pick out those parts of gospel that suit them, we take it in its entirety. We believe as Latter-day Saints, know for themselves that Joseph Smith was true prophet of the father, that the principles have saving qualities.
Have a beautiful building; all these things help build up kingdom of God; heard President Winder say that man who plant one tree, help build up kingdom of God. We believe earth will be redeemed and have its paradisiacal glory, Jesus will reign. We believe should be baptized for remission of sins and have hands laid on us for gift of Holy Ghost; we believe that God has body, parts and passions, that God has love for his children. Are accused of being narrowminded, but are broad minded, believe most all men will be saved, are small people, but will grow, like little stone of Daniel, will continue to grow, that is our destiny. Should live lives of purity, honesty, straight-forward and exemplary. Men of the world have confidence in Mormon people, lend them money without fear of losing it.
Should love our enemies as Savior commands, one who does the wrong is always the worst off, I sometimes think “would like to get even with that fellow,” but that is not gospel.
Told of President Young’s sermon to a man, “get spirit of God and keep it,” good sermon in that.
Are advancing in new year, hope all Latter-day Saints have settled their tithing for last year; ought to keep on paying through new year. Exhorted saints to live good lives, get exaltation in the father’s kingdom. Show me person who lives religion, will show you one who is happy.
Three young men from Iona were over, two of them, George Stanger and [blank] Gudmansen will shortly leave for Germany on missions; Irael Stanger, lately returned from the Australian mission the other.
The first two spoke a very few moments; were thankful had been thought worthy to be called on missions, did not have a burning testimony, but loved the principles of the gospel. Asked for faith and prayers of people in their absence.
Elder Ireal Stanger spoke longer, said last time was here, was home missionary, not here today as missionary but visiting. Thought would do the other boys good to have had the privilege of standing before you. Told of missionary experiences, how they would be initiated into the work &c and of meeting people who would put them to shame for their ignorance, in not knowing the bible and being prepared to defend the faith.
Told of starting out tracting and not having courage to go ahead, went back, got to thinking what his mother would think if she saw his state of mind, was a coward, offered prayer, went back, rang door bell, met nice lady who took him in and gave words of encouragement. Elders generally find friends when necessary, never had so many friends as in Australia; young men will have to work for what they learn, God does not encourage laziness.
Bishop Hart followed, was well pleased with [what] had been said this afternoon, always like to hear young elders relate their experiences, once young elder myself, are negligent at home but go out and do much good. Are not cowards, cowards would not go out as our elders go. Is best thing ever happened to a young man.
As you all know, we have purchased a new organ, was selected by Professor McClellan. The price was $200.00, cost us $150.00; $25.00 cash and balance in one year, without interest. Hope all will be liberal in helping pay for it, now money is scarce, but all can pay some if scratch for it. Have made up tithing records; non tithe-payers have decreased, tithe payers increased, the amount of tithing has also increased.
Has been some agitation about dividing the stake, thought stake too large, division would be 8 miles south of here; will be taken up in priesthood meeting next Thursday at Rigby, have no more population now than is necessary, but would have some advantages, would have more conferences in this end and more officers.
Those who think best to cut stake in two may make manifest by raising right hand; carried unanimously.
Choir sang hymn, “Come O thou king of kings.” Benediction by counselor, O.W. Green.
J.H. Yearsley, clerk.
And that was the record of just one random meeting. These particular minutes fascinate me – we’ll return to them for future posts.