In 1903, during his first year of school teaching, Daniel Horace Lillywhite (1880-1962) of Beaver and Salt Lake City, lived in Box Elder County, Utah, teaching children and teenagers of the Washakie (Shoshone) people. Wanting to showcase the progress of his students, he selected four letters written as a classroom exercise to send to a Latter-day Saint publication. The four student writers were all Latter-day Saints, as was teacher Lillywhite.
In introducing his set of letters, he addressed his presumed readers as those “whom the Lord has blessed with intelligence, and beautiful white skin and surrounded with every comfort and advantage necessary to their becoming what it was intended they should become – little helpers to each other, bearers of each other’s burdens, comforters to those whom sorrow has bowed down, bringing joy and gladness when they come and shedding rays of light where all is gloomy darkness.”
By contrast, the “little Lamanite brothers and sisters” whom he was introducing “do not have pretty white skin like most of us; but they have jet black hair, sparkling, eager black eyes, and half sad, half smiling countenances. … The Lord in His infinite wisdom and goodness is opening a way for these little dark children to become intelligent and useful, that they may redeem themselves by works of goodness and acts of kindness, and merit the smiles and favor of our Heavenly Father.”
From the Improvement Era, December 1948 –
“Beat Glad Drums!”
By Mary Knowles
Ruth held tight to Jake’s arm and looked at the gold and white drum set in the window and then with trembling at the sign that said $150. “There they are, Jake!”
Jake didn’t say anything, just looked, his old felt hat pushed to the back of his head, and she thought, $150, and just a bit over two weeks until Christmas! She could hear Jerry’s excited voice, “Oh, golly, Mom. You should see the drum set in Kimball’s window. What a Christmas present that would make!”
With Warmest Good Wishes and Greetings of the Season
To my friends, my brethren, and to all good men everywhere
There will be no card this year from me – and so, will you, each and all of you, accept this as my personal greeting. My love and my blessings come with it.
For many years I have sent out cards, books and booklets – thousands upon thousands of them. I don’t know how many. One year recently as many as ten thousand cards went out; and one Christmas, not so long ago, I sent out as many as three thousand copies of one book – and many others besides – and through the years there have been maybe tens of thousands, most of which I have personally inscribed. But no matter how many have gone, there have always been so many more I would like to have remembered – and this year there are so many so far away, to whom I would like to send greetings, and whom I cannot reach – and so I use the Era to reach you all, and would like you to know that it is as though we had clasped hands and spoken greetings to each other.
From the Improvement Era, December 1939 —
Unexpectedly finding himself still alive after completing his abridgment of the Jaredite record, Moroni used his time to record a few more items for the benefit of those who would one day receive the record. These precious “extras” include a sermon given by his father before the destruction of the Nephites.
“Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.”
Mormon spoke, then, to people very much like most readers of Keepapitchinin: Most of us are of the Church, and are peaceable followers of Christ, and have our future hope in Christ.
Mormon made that judgment about his brothers because he had seen their “peaceable walk with the children of men” – he knew them, and judged them by their actions. “If their works be good,” he said, “then they are good also,” and this goodness comes from listening to God and turning away from the devil.
As war in Europe seemed more and more likely in the fall of 1939, the Church made plans for what leaders hoped would be an orderly and non-emergency evacuation of missionaries, even from neutral countries where missionaries had remained at work during the earlier World War. If you had been an elder in the Swiss Mission, you would have received this letter at the end of September:
From the Relief Society Magazine, November 1962 –
The Little Blue Bag
By Helen C. Warr
“Hurry, Mama, they will go without me.” Margaret had been too excited about the Christmas shopping trip to touch her breakfast. Now she could not wait to put on her galoshes or fasten the scarf about her neck. Her mother held up one of the red, knitted mittens, and Margaret pushed her hand into it, then repeated the movement with the other hand.
“Oh! My money!” she exclaimed.
“Here it is, dear,” Mrs. Haskell smiled at her young daughter. “I have tied it in the corner of your handkerchief.”
By Lucy May Green
In thy service, Heavenly Father, we thy children meet today.
Bless us with Thy Holy Spirit, aid us in our work, we pray.
We are thankful for thy gospel, for thy blessed truth and love.
May we ever be found faith, never from the pathway rove.
Purify our hearts, our Father, as we promise unto thee
All our life, our time, and talents, until death shall set us free.
May our lives be pure and holy; may we never go astray;
Ever strive to do our duty, walking in the narrow way,
Until life on earth is over. Faithful to the end may we
Dwell with thee in heavenly mansions, throughout all eternity.
Vanguards were Teacher-aged boys, between Scouts and Explorers —
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Community has always been more important than the individual in Mormonism. From the nineteenth century to the present Mormons have bound themselves together in biological and adopted families, sealed themselves across time and space to their kindred dead, and replicated the familial structure on a congregational level with “ward families.” As Sam Brown puts it in his wonderful new book, First Principles, “our relationships matter as the fundamental building blocks of the cosmos” (p. 104).
It is within this context that I was deeply saddened this week with news of a dear “sister’s” diagnosis with terminal cancer. My wife and I both cried as we reflected on the way in which this particular bright light in our ward cosmos has impacted our lives over the past nine years. I know similar stories play out in Mormon congregations across the globe. For me, these relationships are the best part of my life as a Mormon.
“Sister P’s” diagnosis gave me good reason to reflect on my relationship with her and to type my thoughts in a letter. I share it here in the hope that Sister P’s light and legacy might spread a bit of cheer this holiday season and beyond.
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