With his academic experience at what is now Utah State University, and at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, apostle John A. Widtsoe was keenly aware of the interests and attitudes of young people, and the changing times of the 20th century. As president of the European Missions, for instance, he realized that changing times called for new proselyting methods and messages.
The old missionary tracts, so comfortable and familiar to generations of missionaries, no longer spoke to the non-Mormon public. Those old tracts assumed that people believed in God and knew the Bible, and that their primary concerns were which form of baptism was preferred by God, or who had authority to speak for God. Answering those questions in favor of Mormonism, the old proselyting methods assumed, meant that people would join the Church. But Widtsoe realized that theological debates no longer appealed to most people, and certainly didn’t govern their behavior in choosing a church, or choosing to be religious at all. To meet the needs of changing times, Widtsoe wrote a set of tracts which he called “Centennial Tracts” in honor of the Church’s approaching 100th birthday, addressing the questions he thought were on the minds of modern people: What can a church and its teachings do to improve my life and meet my needs? His Centennial Tracts still taught doctrine and theology, but they began with the practical needs of modern people and showed how faith and Church membership would meet those needs.
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1962 –
Sow the Field with Roses
By Margery S. Stewart
She was lost. She was lost somewhere in the Malibu mountains, in country new to her, on terrain inhospitable and bleak. Nina Karsh reined Dominick in, and the mare came to a dancing halt. Nina braced against the jolts and patted the damp mane. Dominick whinnied, pleading to be allowed the reins. Nina rubbed the arching, golden neck. “You are beautiful, Dominick, but you are not clever, and I do not think you know the way back any more than I do.”
Her voice was pushed against her by the silence. Nina took off her gloves and looked about.
There are different ways of being lost, she thought. Within myself I have been lost – since Father died, since Laura and David moved to Milwaukee, and terribly lost since Danny went away. The thought of her nephew made him rise in the brush, a tall and vital mirage.
Cora Birdsall’s deed was delivered to James E. Leavitt in June, 1904. Isaac Birdsall, Cora’s father, testified in Washington during the Smoot hearings in mid-December, 1904.
Almost immediately upon his return to Utah from Washington, Isaac took steps to have Cora’s deed invalidated and her land returned to her. It may just be that he finally got around to doing something after six months of wondering what to do, but I suspect that the trip to Washington prompted what came next: Maybe somebody gave him some legal advice. Maybe when he came home after a week or two’s absence he could see Cora more clearly and realized that something must be done.
In any case, under the direction of a local attorney, Isaac took steps to have Cora declared legally insane, and to have himself appointed as her guardian.
Isaac arranged for a Richfield doctor, William Griffith, to come to his house and examine Cora. Dr. Griffith reported his credentials this way:
I reside and have resided in Richfield for about seven years; I am a practicing physician and surgeon, a graduate physician and surgeon of Hospital College of Medicine, Louisville, Kentucky, and am licensed to practice. I studied medical science regarding insanity. I visited the State Mental Hospital there with Dr. Reynolds, an expert on insanity, and listened to his lectures and talks on a great variety of cases of insanity. I have practiced in this state since 1896. In that time I have had the care of a great number of patients, mostly among the women who have exhibited a variety of insanity.
Wednesday night, May 10th, 1842.
We attended a meeting of the Rev. Mr. Henderson’s of the South Church, Paisley, having been invited by the two young men who was asking questions at us on the Thursday night before that, & they as they said themselves not being able to answer our inquiries invited us here & said we would get someone who was better qualified to do so than them. After we came, we asked one of the young men if he would ask Mr. Henderson himself & if [he] would answer us. he said we might if we pleased & he thought he would answer our inquiries. After Mr. Henderson got done E.G. said that as we was invited to come by two of his friends to ask a few questions, I wish to know if I shall have the privilege of doing so now. Then the Rev. man got up & said that he durst not, for it was against presbytery laws & it was against the law of the land & etc. & then the people got up & began to cry that we were impudent blackguards to attempt to speak to the Rev. Gentleman. I then said that we would not have come if we had not been invited. E.g. then told them that he would answer his lecture on the night following, & if the Rev. Mr. Henderson would come he would give him the opportunity to deny him. Mr. Henderson told us that he wold be at his house after ten o’clock any morning, & invited us there & he would speak to us. We mean to avail ourselves of this opportunity.
At His Trade.
Judge – What is your trade?
Prisoner (who was caught in a gambling-house raid) – I’m a locksmith.
Judge – What were you doing in there when the police entered?
Prisoner – I was making a bolt for the door.
From the Relief Society Magazine, March, 1956 –
Room for Nancy
By Edith Larson
Adding her “Amen” to the others, Mary raised her head and looked around the breakfast table. Usually it warmed her heart to see her family together.
Richard, with graying hair making him more distinguished looking that ever, was turning his attention to his bacon and eggs. Susan was dressed for her office job, and the twins Joy and Jay wore the garb of the high school crowd. Seven-year-old Dickie was scrubbed and shining as far as his ears, but his hair stood on end, bed-tousled, and his neck and arms still bore the dirt of last night’s play.
Only Nancy was missing, and she might arrive with baby Larry any minute now. Arrive, expecting a welcome that wasn’t there. Mary’s heart twisted at the thought.
When my stake president set me apart to serve as a missionary, his blessing included the claim that I was going to this mission at this time because I would meet people who would respond to the gospel as delivered by me, who might not accept the gospel from someone else. I wish I had a transcription of that (the stake president wouldn’t let me record it) so I could get the wording right. I didn’t think his words meant that anyone’s acceptance of the gospel depended solely on my knocking on their door – that would be rather counter to several principles of the gospel, I think – but he certainly made me feel that I wasn’t just preaching to the world at large, but looking for specific people who would respond to the message in the way I brought it..
I believed him, and I looked for those people. Twice I thought I had identified them … but because I was transferred virtually every month, I never got to stay around long enough to see anything develop. That’s one of the unresolved issues from my mission, 30 years on – I want to believe that there is something unique about me, and that God can use that uniqueness somehow, but what do you do when you fail, even when the failure was due at least in part to another’s agency?
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A Problem in Eve-olution
By Frank Oswald Warren
How big was Adam’s apple, Pa,
That halted in his throat,
To show all down the centuries,
Beneath his billy-goat?
How happened it that Eve could gulp
And swallow all o’ hern,
While Adam could not get his down
By any twist or turn?
The reason is, my little lad,
That Adam was a frog,
In throttle just about the size
Of yonder polly-wog.
The apple was not overlarge,
But froggie’s throat was small–
No wonder modern science doubts
He got it in at all;
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