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 —
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.
From the Improvement Era, December 1921 –
Mother’s Christmas Decision at Windrift
By Elizabeth Cannon Porter
Mrs. Davis finished wiping the breakfast dishes, surreptitiously wiped her eyes, and stole away to her room to read the letter again, as if every phrase were not already burned into her brain.
The letter which she took out of the front of her black dress was from her dead husband’s sister, and was characteristic of Myra, who was proud, selfish and childless. At the funeral of John Davis two months before, Myra had intimated to the widow that she would do something for the little family. At the time, she had sent an expensive floral offering and furnished three automobiles.
Mulek of Zarahemla
By J.N. Washburn
The war dragged on, and every nerve became raw from sacrifice, danger, and anxiety. transportation was slow; communication, almost non-existent; and for weeks, and even months, families would receive no word from loved ones in dangerous places.
Then came a development which replaced the war as a topic of discussion, as a cause of worry, as a source of heartache. The trials of the king-men began in deadly earnest. Many a home was desolated; many a heart was broken. Justice struck where it was necessary; tragedy, where it would. Many were the stricken mothers and fathers who wished sorrowfully, or thanked God devoutly, that their tall sons had fallen in the field of honorable battle.
The tribunals were impartial. Everything that could be urged in a man’s favor, together with that brought to condemn him, was heard and weighed.
Mulek’s turn came along with the others. He was taken from his barren room, the only home had had for a long time, and presented before the bar of justice. He was perfectly calm as he faced the tribunal.
Well, not Mormon stuff, exactly, but stuff to buy from Mormons —
Middle name creep: the process by which descendants or other interested parties give an ancestor or historical figure a middle name after his death, the error then spreading in genealogical databases, e.g., Erastus “Fairbanks” Snow, George “Eskridge” Washington, John “Hamilton” Morgan, etc.
Here are six short case studies.
From the Improvement Era, December 1930 –
A Really Merry Christmas
By Margaret C. Moloney
Noah Brown scratched his head, and squirmed about in his chair. He didn’t like the arrangement.
“We could put Andy in a boarding school, of course,” Annie, his wife, continued her argument. “’Tisn’t as if he was on charity. There’s a plenty to educate him — without selling a thing – stock, or farm, or anything; but, it’s Sue Blake I’m thinking about. The shock of Ed’s death has changed her awful, and I’m banking on little Andrew to bring her to.”
“Yes, but didn’t you say she told you emphatically that she didn’t want the boy; that his father had killed her husband, and she’ll never forget it fer the boy? Gosh, Annie, I’d a never thought Sue Blake would turn out that way under trouble. The kindest woman in this country, and now jest because Andy’s father took Ed in his car to that meeting, and a drunk runs into ‘em, and kills ‘em both, she hates the little shaver. I wouldn’t leave the boy with her, Annie. I’d be afraid to. She ain’t right in her head. That’s a fact. I don’t think it would be wise for us to keep him when him and Jack fights all the time, but I say put him in school.”
From the Improvement Era, December 1925 –
Christmas Comes to Waring Hill
By Mary Hale Woolsey
Seldom did anyone pass by the old Waring place on the hill above Mill City without pausing for a second long look. To the practical mind, there was an interesting contrast between Waring Hill and the smoky, dirty factory town below; but those inclined to sentiment found in the fine old estate a sort of concrete representation of their own ideals. Dignity, gentility, wealth, tradition – those things which ambitious fathers and mothers hope to achieve and to pass on to their posterity, seemed a part of the very atmosphere of Waring Hill.
These December days, when there were holly-wreaths in the windows and evergreen branches twined above the massive white door; when nights brought glimpses of lighted candles and the flickering, rosy glow of pine-log fires – then one would picture a long row of expectant stockings swinging before the fireplace; a tree glittering with tinsel and colored lights and laden with gifts; and the children, and children’s children, flocking “home” to the ancestral roof for a happy holiday.
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Mulek of Zarahemla
By J.N. Washburn
Synopsis: Mulek loved Zarahemla, the city of his forefathers, where two factions were striving for power, one ruled by Amalickiah, a man of tremendous powers and winning manners, who had caused a rupture in the country, and one by Moroni, young chief captain of the armies of the nephites, who went everywhere, encouraging, instructing, pleading with the people to unite in the country’s defense. Accustomed to receiving the adulation of the people, Mulek was consumed with jealousy at his fall from favor. In order to call attention to himself, he had mocked the priests of the church and allied himself with Amalickiah. Then, to win their praise he decided to support Moroni’s projects. Mulek was eager to win the favor of the girl, Zorah, niece of Amram, a boatmaker. He devised ways of meeting her, but Zorah was too intent on the political unrest to be interested in him, and was lavish in her praise of Moroni, which added to Mulek’s envy. He determined in some way to win Zorah’s approval. When, therefore, one of his friends approached him with the idea that he become king – even as his forefathers had been kings – he entertained the thought. A general election was granted by Pahoran, chief judge, to determine which kind of government was the more desirable. In the voting the king-men lost, at the very moment when Amalickiah led the Lamanites against the land. When the king-men were asked to support the government, they refused. Beside himself with worry, Pahoran sent word to Moroni, in the land of Bountiful, to come posthaste to the defense of Zarahemla. with great loss of life and devastation, the king-men were vanquished. Mulek, fighting to the last, was finally disarmed and dragged off to prison. While in prison he learned of the death of his mother, which aroused him to a sense of reality again. He amazed himself in the distress he felt at the advance of the Lamanites. Finally he called for a lawyer and asked whether he might not be freed to fight on the side of the Nephites. His request, not unnaturally, was denied. the prophet Shiblon called on Mulek, leaving him a copy of the Book of Mormon to read.
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