Reflection during 1989 while serving as
Director of the LDS Vistors’ Center at the Hawaii Temple
JOURNAL of PAUL E. FELT
Wednesday, March 15, 1989
I was reared in a very good Latter-Day-Saint home. My parents seldom missed a meeting, and thus it became easy for me to follow their example and attend my meetings. A part of their exemplary training was the fact that it was assumed and often taught that, at the appropriate age, Paul would go on a mission. In fact, I can’t think of a time in my childhood, or later boyhood, when I wasn’t planning a mission. When I turned nineteen, I was also caught up in some freshman classes at the University of Utah which led me to postpone my mission.
My great Bishop, William F. Pershon, stands out as one of the great influences for good in my life. He kept in regular touch with me, encouraging me to prepare and go on a mission. As I recall, my reply always was, “Bishop, I’m going, but before I do, I want to get a year or two of school.” I mistakenly followed my own desires and not the counsel of the Bishop, with the result that for two years, from ages 19-21, I was a mixed up young man wrestling between two basic options, a mission or school. In an effort to help sort out some of these struggles, I began keeping a journal about a year before I went on a mission. It was the journal, together with regular contacts from the Bishop and encouragement from parents and much prayer, that finally led me to go on my mission in April of 1937. Throughout my mission I kept a journal and have them today, together with the journal prior to my mission. I regret that, since that time of my youthful mission (1937-1939), I have seldom kept a journal. And now, as I sit in my mission office as the Director of the Visitors’ Center at the Hawaiian temple grounds, I’m resuming my much belated journal responsibilities.
Fortunately, throughout our married years, my wonderful eternal companion has kept a journal which, for a number of years, we referred to as the Felt Family log. Each time I would see my wife making an entry, I would go on my little guilt trip and say to myself, “I must do what my dear wife is doing.” Now, after these many years, I am getting around to a journal again. As I do, perhaps I could pick it up for a quick overview of our years since 1974.
It was July 1, 1974 that my family and I completed a three-year mission where I was serving and presiding over, initially, the Southwest Indian mission which, midway through the three years, became the New Mexico-Arizona mission. This realignment came about because I recommended that we no longer have what was then a segregated American Indian mission, but to make it an integrated mission wherein, given its geographical area, I would be presiding not only over the American Indians, but all people who fell into my boundary mission.
A year following my return from the mission, I was called in about 1975 to serve as a Branch President at the Language Training Mission. At that time, President Max L. Pinegar, who was just released from a Dutch mission, was called to succeed President Hansen who had passed away. Shortly after President Pinegar became Language Training Mission President, he got permission to organize eight branches. I was one of those eight Branch Presidents. One year following that service, I was called to serve as the First Counselor to President Max L. Pinegar and did so until 1980.
President Pinegar was released six months prior to that date, and President Joe Christensen was called and he invited me to continue to serve as the First Counselor. I did so until such time as I was called to serve as one of the directors of Israel’s semester abroad. Six years later, President George D. Durrant was called to preside over the Language Training Mission in April of 1986 and, once again, I was called to serve in the Presidency, this time as First Counselor to President Durrant. Since his call was for two years, ours also was a two-year call. President Durrant’s successor, Ed J. Pinegar, invited me to serve, which we did, but only for a four-month period. It was intended to be a two-year call and we were prepared to serve for two years, but a month or two before I was released, Elder Robert Sackly invited me in to conduct what he called, “A Background Check.” He indicated the need for a Director at the Temple Visitors’ Center in Hawaii, which he said was one of the strategic areas in the Church. Naturally, my wife and I agreed to go wherever we would be called.
On October 20, 1988, Afton and I had our official call from President Ezra Taft Benson. The letter in part, reads:
Dear Elder Felt:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Hawaii-Honolulu mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months and in addition to your calling to share the gospel with non-members, you will be assigned to serve as the Director of the Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.
We were further instructed to report to the Missionary Training Center on February 1st for two-and-a-half weeks of training, following which we would go directly to our assigned mission. It was very interesting for Afton and I to go through a training program that we had watched for a number of years as a member of the Presidency.
In the Missionary Training Center, our first two calls with Presidents Max L. Pinegar and Joe Christensen was on a Church service call basis, but when we were called to serve with Presidents Durrant and Pinegar, we were called as full-time missionaries, both my wife and I. As I served in the Presidency, she served in a variety of callings and the one that was most rewarding was a call that enabled her to replace a full-time employee looking after the needs of support missionaries. Support missionaries were those who came from different parts of the world, usually third-world countries, where there was a need for the missionary to be provided for financially in order to go on a mission. These were marvelous and good years for Afton and I.
We found the training program to be very instructive, productive and intensive. During a good part of the training, we were meeting exclusively with twelve other newly called Directors of Visitors’ Centers in specialized training and classes. We completed training on February 16, 1989 and then departed by air for Hawaii on February 20th. As I dictate these items for the journal, we have now completed three weeks in Laie, Hawaii.
Tuesday, March 28, 1989
I have allowed three weeks to go by without a journal entry. I will attempt to cover three weeks and then hereafter make weekly entries.
During our second week, we continued to meet at some length with President Haycock and his people in an effort to bring about some changes here in the building. With our Visitors’ Center located on the temple grounds, the maintenance, care and operation is rendered by the temple engineering/maintenance staff people. They have been unusually supportive. Our relationship with President and Sister Haycock and their people has made our whole operation go so much better.
One of the highlight experiences almost weekly is the moving baptisms that occur down at Temple Beach. These are scheduled early in the morning so that they do not get in the way of the missionaries’ daily schedule. Our ten young sisters, who serve as guides, do proselyting work in the evening and are unusually productive. The bulk of their time is spent at the Visitors’ Center, but they still do very effective missionary work each evening. We always attempt to attend the baptisms of those they are instrumental in bringing into the Church.
Since coming, we have spent two or three mornings each week at Temple Beach. During our third week here, we called new District Leaders, with Brother Ray Wiscombe serving as District Leader for the couples and Sister Christy Huffner as District Leader for the sisters. Sister Felt serves as the advisor to the sisters district in their weekly meetings. Brother Wiscombe has called a district meeting for the couples each week, which has proved to be very fruitful. Although we’ve only been here two weeks, it certainly is heartwarming to see the complete support and love that all the missionaries are extending to Mom and I.
We’re comfortably located in a more than adequate home, and Afton and I are attempting to follow the regular missionary schedule which includes gospel study each day and a weekly companion inventory. This week we were also able to attend our first Zone Conference under the direction of our great Mission President, President Kikuchi. The meetings were held in Kaneohe.
We traveled in our car, along with some of the missionaries. En route, Afton and I had the missionaries singing verses from the Book of Mormon and sharing what relevance and application those scriptures could have in our personal lives. It was an inspirational and happy time driving to Kaneohe. Upon our arrival, the zone gathered and heard a moving message from President Kikuchi, following which he called on Mom and I to bear our testimonies. The next hour was devoted to what President Kikuchi calls, “spirit tracting.”
The missionaries were given a choice of remaining in the Conference room witnessing a video presentation of the message President Gordon B. Hinckley gave two weeks prior to the Conference when he came to visit the island. The others had a choice of doing some spirit tracting. I chose the latter and went out with a great zone leader, Elder Saxton. After knocking on several doors, we finally were invited into a sweet, young Polynesian girl’s home who listened to our lesson and agreed to having other missionaries follow up to give her the discussions.
Since our arrival, we have been attending our meetings in the Laie North Stake. Our Stake President is President Steward and our Bishop is Bishop Coleman. In each of the meetings we attended, we have been so impressed with the quality of people and how well they follow the programs of the Church. Each of the priesthood leaders and other leaders are informed, warm, loving, and very competent. Our ward make-up is pre-dominantly Polynesian and native people with the Caucasian, or Haole people, very much in the minority. We love it.
We held our first Correlation Meeting on March 22, 1989. Our Correlation Meetings consist of President Kikuchi, President James Christensen of the Polynesian Cultural Center, President Haycock as Temple President, and Brother Felt representing the Visitors’ Center. The purpose of these meetings is to correlate the efforts of the four agencies involved: the mission, the PCC, the temple, and the Visitors’ Center. My first meeting and experience was very heart-warming. President Kikuchi has asked me to prepare the agenda and also to keep the minutes. This recommendation made by Brother Ballard in December was an inspired suggestion. I will continue to look forward to these meetings.
Our working relationship with President David Hannemann, Senior Vice-President at the PCC, who has major responsibility for the tours, has been very, very helpful. President Hannemann reflects and exemplifies all the great qualities that Polynesian people have which are really the envy of all those who know them. I look forward to a weekly meeting with President Hannemann where we will correlate our joint efforts. About 60 or 70% of all the tours that we have come through are generated through the Polynesian Cultural Center. There is no Visitors’ Center in the Church that enjoys this kind of luxury. Too many Visitors’ Centers are lacking in tourists, but thanks to the PCC, we have plenty of business.
Sunday, March 26, 1989
Sunday, March 26th was Easter Sunday. One of the couples working out of the Mission Office suggested that the Visitors’ Center sponsor an Easter Sunday evening Fireside. We asked President Kikuchi to be our speaker, but he was not able to be there. Next, we asked President Haycock, but he was not able to be there either, so we asked Brother and Sister Mack, our missionary couple who works here at the mission on reactivating less active people, to join Afton and I, and together we worked out a beautiful Easter program that was unusually well attended.
An excellent Samoan choir from the BYU campus provided special musical numbers, as did our ten lovely lady missionaries. Brother Mack and I were the speakers. We had a packed house and everything seemed to go very well, so much so that we likely will be planning something like this each Easter.
Monday, March 27 – Friday, March 31, 1989
Because of the success of our Sunday evening Easter fireside, we have been giving careful consideration to further firesides. I therefore called in Elders Saxton and Groll, our Zone Leaders, and together we concluded that, beginning April 9th, we would undertake Sunday evening firesides again, not utilizing the whole foyer, but only one theater where all of the missionaries would be aware of the fact that for that evening they have the option of inviting their teaching family to be taught at the Visitors’ Center beyond what they teach them in their home. Of course, the immediate value of the Visitors’ Center is that they would be able to draw on different missionaries and other resource people, together with the alternate theatres and impressive presentations available only in Visitors’ Centers. We will watch this new development with interest.
On Tuesday, I met with Verdetta, who assists President Hannemann in the Orientation and is the supervisor of the tram guides. Presently, there are nine guides, six of whom have been with them for some time and three of whom are newly appointed. The three new ones are Polynesian, and all of the six who have been with the PCC for some time are haole. With the implementation of an extended time at the Visitors’ Center, it required that trams leave every 15-20 minutes. This has created some real resentment on the part of our older tram guides. I’m reluctant to move into doing anything differently because this is really not my stewardship. Since President Hannemann is not here, we will likely just wait until he returns before we give more consideration to the matter.
Keith Russell, the founder of “planned spending” seminars, came to conduct some of his programs at the BYU Hawaii campus. He came to the Visitors’ Center and offered to give a free demonstration to our missionaries, which he did on Friday in connection with our Friday devotional.
Saturday and Sunday was General Conference. The historical announcement and new development was the creation of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Twelve new members of the Council were called. Among the twelve, the only two that I knew was Joe Christensen and Jeff Holland. Truly the work of the Lord is moving forward with great speed.
With the time change, we watched the first session of Conference on Saturday morning at 7:00, as well as the first session on Sunday morning at 6:00. Once again, I was able to watch each session of Conference, including of course the priesthood session. As I make some personal preparation, I never fail to get a tremendous spiritual lift from General Conference. I took careful notes of each session.
Monday, April 3, 1989
Our day began with a very inspirational Family Council with all of our missionaries that we have each Monday morning from 7:30-9:00. The general format for that meeting is several business items, followed by a missionary presentation of a gospel principle taken from the gospel doctrine study program. Each missionary presentation has proved to be very, very effective. Following the missionary presentation, we then turned the balance of the meeting into a testimony meeting which was a very moving experience for all of us. After the meeting, the missionaries informed us that this was the first testimony meeting they had since they’d been here as missionaries. Apparently, the previous Director didn’t feel it was appropriate for testimony meetings in our weekly instructional meetings. Mom and I interviewed two of the missionaries, and we announced in our Family Council that we would undertake our second personal interview with each missionary.
While presiding over the New Mexico-Arizona mission, I would have interviews with each of the missionaries at each zone conference. Since Mom is certainly the Assistant Director, from the beginning, I felt I wanted to involve her in a number of things, including the interviews. She adds substantially to each visit with each missionary and every program that we involve her in. We love our labor and find it to be a sweet labor of love.
Tonight we’ll be visiting with Brother and Sister Eugene Flores, who have been assigned to us as a reactivation family. He is an alcoholic and has been discharged from his job, but given a tentative recall providing he doesn’t have another alcoholic slip.
Monday, April 3 – Tuesday, April 4, 1989
Monday was devoted to interviews with the young lady missionaries and further preparation on our resource book. Monday evening we met our appointment with the Eugene Flores family and had a delightful first evening with them. Brother Flores is Mexican and Sister Flores is Caucasian. They have three children. Brother Flores was employed by a local chicken farm and Sister Flores, as a young girl, was serving in a retail outlet. After a short courtship, they were married. Sister Flores’ father is a faculty member at BYU. We learned that Brother Flores has had a long pattern of alcoholism, but a near critical accident so shook him up that he has finally submitted to an alcohol rehabilitation program, together with the AA chapters and regular visits with the Bishop and his home teachers, and now with Mom and me assigned to them for reactivation purposes. It’s going to be a delight to work with them. We plan to meet with them each Monday.
Tuesday was another busy, happy day, including missionary interviews and further work on our missionary resource handbook. A call from Marilynn informs us that all is going well with the family and our business interests.
Sunday, April 16, 1989
Jessie called and shared with us a heart-breaking message of her decision to undergo a separation and a possible divorce from her husband, Sam Allman. While this did not come as a surprise, it was still a very devastating thing for Mom and me. As these crises have occurred in the family, we’ve always alerted and invited all the family to unite with us in our efforts to help and assist. This we are doing and already we’ve had a long call and visit with Tammy and with Ron, and we do have some peace now that, as our family once again unites themselves in fasting and praying for one family member who’s hurting and needing help, we may be able to get this thing turned around. How grateful we are for life and membership in the Church and the fact that we can call down the powers of heaven to assist us and help us in time of need.
Last evening we attended our first big Polynesian luau. President Haycock sponsored it, along with all the temple leadership, in honoring and hosting their many employees and the missionaries. It was a delightful, wonderful evening. Once again, as we came home and now contemplated, we count our blessings in being here in this area under this divine mission call, moving forward on such a great and important labor.
Tuesday, April 18, 1989
I have long believed in the principle of delegation that the Church teaches. Accordingly, upon our arrival, we organized the district of the couples and a district of the young sisters. I don’t believe that this has ever been done before, but already it’s beginning to bear some real fruit. The districts meet weekly with Sister Felt advising the young district and then both of us, being a part of the couples’ district, advising them.
One of the challenges we faced when we came here was to introduce and to adopt a whole new format that is now moving forward at the Church worldwide Visitors’ Centers. Heretofore, each Visitors’ Center developed pretty much their own programs; but now the Church has standardized and unified a whole new approach, one that includes a standard script and two pretty standard videotapes that are being used. It hasn’t been easy to implement a new program; change is always resisted by a number of people, as it has been here. But as of April 10th, we moved forward on the program and we’re delighted to find that the groups, by and large, were pleased.
There are still a number of details and operational procedures that need to be resolved, but overall it looks good. One of our couples, Brother and Sister Dunn, has had some health problems, he in particular. All of us have united our prayers in fasting for him and, while the long-term prospects look good, it does appear that he may have to go home early which will be in June. Meanwhile, Brother Dunn has given some outstanding leadership to a member involvement program which moves through all of the wards and stakes in the mission encouraging members to bring to the Visitors’ Center their non-member friends, part-member families, and reactivation families. Our program has even attracted the attention of other Visitors’ Centers.
Each Monday we have our Family Council meeting with all of the missionaries; always meeting with the missionaries is very rewarding and inspirational. In addition to Family Council, we have a devotional every other Friday and then a Family Home Evening once a month. In our devotional last Friday, we had an unusual experience featuring President and Sister Christensen of the Polynesian Cultural Center as speakers. We invited one of the Polynesian groundskeepers to come in with his harp. The numbers he chose and his singing and the involvement of the group, together with the background of the harp, was most impressive. What came across so beautifully was the deep sincerity and the spirit and love of Rosario. We were all moved to tears. As he concluded, I stood up and invited him to come forward whereupon I told him, “Rosario, on behalf of this whole group, we want you to know how much we appreciated what you’ve given us here and to let you know we love you.” And then I embraced him and told him again, “I love you.” He said, “This is the first time in my life that any adult has embraced me and told me that they loved me.” Since then we’ve had a number of interesting visits as we come and go from the Visitors’ Center. He has reflected what is typical of all the people in Laie, especially here at the temple and the Visitors’ Center. What a high privilege and honor it is to be associated and rubbing shoulders with such celestial people.
Saturday, April 29, 1989
Once again I have delayed any journal entries and will attempt to bring the matter current. Afton and I are still struggling with the script, “Heavenly Father’s Plan.” We do have it pretty well under control, but must refine it further. I’m sure the only way to do this is to actually take some tours. Tomorrow will be the moment of truth. We will then take some tours. It is very important that we do this not only for our own training, but also with this background and experience, we’ll be better able to teach and train our own missionaries who are struggling with the script, especially those who have been here for some time and who must abandon the old one and take on the new. Our newly arrived sisters come with the script well in hand.
Our training meetings on Monday, April 24th and Friday, April 28th proved to be a very inspirational time together. Mom is playing a very vital and impressive role in a number of different areas including a lot of records and office work, together with some direct involvement with each of the lady missionaries. Our love for the mission call with the great Polynesian people, for our missionaries, our membership in the Church, and most of all for our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, continues to be the great lodestar of our life.
Today, April 29th, we were part of a traditional departure for one of our missionaries. This was the third one that Mom and I have been a part of and each one has been a very moving, inspirational tribute to the departing missionary. Today Sister Quilter, who has performed an unusual service, had her departure Aloha which consisted of about 30 people gathering in a circle, singing the traditional Aloha departure song. Then each person in the circle goes up and places a lei or offers some other appropriate expression or gift to the party leaving. Present were several members that she was instrumental in bringing into the Church. All in all, it was one of the sweetest experiences that we’ve enjoyed in this great Laie area.
Sunday, April 30, 1989
Sunday, April 30th was another enjoyable Sabbath day. We began the day by taking on our Sunday schedule which includes four hours Sunday morning from 8:00-12:00 at the Visitors’ Center. I cover the outside gate and Afton is in the Visitors’ Center proper with two of our twelve sisters looking after those who choose to walk through the door.
The previous Director apparently did not take Sunday schedules which meant that one of our couples missed their Sunday meetings. With Afton and I filling in like this, all of us are able to get to our regular meetings; for all of us have long learned that a Sabbath well spent, which includes attending meetings and partaking of the sacrament, makes for not only a good Sabbath day, but significantly helps the rest of the week. Once again, our three services–Sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Priesthood meeting–were very inspirational and very informative. About 80% of our large congregation are Polynesian and the rest are haoles. The more we mingle with these people, the more impressed we are with their genuine qualities of true discipleship and they are true friends and brothers and sisters.
Sunday evening we enjoyed a huge fireside at the Polynesian Cultural Center where President Kikuchi was the featured speaker treating the topic, “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.” He reviewed with us some impressive inspirational experiences that he and his wife and others enjoyed in the Holy Land. Joe Ah Quin sang two remarkable numbers. I gave the opening prayer.
Monday, May 1, 1989
This Monday morning we had our regular Family Council which begins at 7:30 and goes an hour and a half. A sweet and loving spirit prevailed and I believe we made some significant progress in unifying the group. There’s considerable work that Mom and I must do in terms of bringing them together on the approved script, the approved video and the elimination of the so-called “Harvesting” program they’ve been using to bring referrals. That very aggressive approach did generate a lot of referrals, but too many of them came out of compulsion and pressure which means they didn’t turn out too well. There’s so much that we must yet do and are deeply concerned with how it’s all going to be accomplished. But, do it we will with the Lord’s help.
Three new sisters arrived: Sister Pasco, Sister Hoyal
Tuesday, May 2, 1989
Tuesday the 2nd was another busy, busy day at the Visitors’ Center and once again the prospects for bringing all of this together is encouraging; but I’m sure it will not happen without some hard work,
Wednesday, May 3, 1989
Today should have been our preparation day, but without a
Thursday, May 4 – Thursday, May 11, 1989
My last journal entry was May 3rd, so let me attempt to pick up some experiences of May 4th through May 11th.
On Friday, May 5th Sister Banks, our newly appointed District Leader for the young sisters, held a meeting where a number of goals was projected that Sister Banks would achieve during her short, three-week tenure as District Leader. As Mom and I sought the Lord in prayer for a successor for Sister Quilter, the name of Sister Banks came through clearly. Her performance thus far more than justifies the inspiration behind the call. We challenged her to achieve a number of things in a three-week period, which on the surface appeared impossible, but she is making the impossible possible. I did give her a priesthood blessing which was an inspiration to give and has proved to be a great inspirational motivator for Sister Banks.
Later in the afternoon the couples met, including Sister Banks, to bare their souls about the program and some frustrations that they were facing. Little did I realize how heart-wrenching and painful it would be. But as I look back on it now, it was a very, very productive meeting. It was gently but firmly pointed out to me some of the things that I, as Director, need to be doing in terms of training our missionaries and learning and conducting tours myself. Since Brother Wiscombe is the District Leader for the couples, following the meeting I asked him to serve as trainer for the couples. He immediately went to work and conducted tours with the couples and then has since asked each of us to do the same. We meet each morning at 8:30 and go through a tour, rotating the tour, person by person and couple by couple. Thanks to the courage of Elder Wiscombe this very needed training exercise has been implemented.
Both Mom and I now have conducted a tour and will continue to do so. In fact, I have offered to cover for Brother Wiscombe while he does some interisland visiting prior to his departure in July. He will be deeply missed. He and his wife are among some of the greatest people with whom we have ever served. Normally, Directors of Visitors’ Centers apparently do little or no tour conducting and so I was moving forward on that premise, but now realize that in order for me to give proper direction, I must be a part of the heart and substance of any Visitors’ Center–that is, conducting tours. Both Mom and I feel very comfortable in this new role.
Sunday May 7th was a special day because it was a fast and testimony Sunday and all of our missionaries, with the recommendation of Sister Banks, held a fast in the interest of better unifying our group and thus achieving greater performance. Already the blessings and fruits of the fast and the meetings have more than justified the fast and the meetings that have been held. Our Family Council meeting Monday morning was another highly informative and spiritual experience for all of us. Near the end of the meeting, as we came to grips with the urgent need for all missionaries to adopt and adapt and learn and teach the tours with the new script, some answers came into sharp focus. Because of the spirit of the Lord that was building in the meeting, I was able to issue some invitations and some charges that apparently penetrated the hearts of all the people and led them to make the decisions and set the goals that were needed in order to more fully implement the program that the Brethren charged us to establish. Each day since Monday, and since the fast, we have been able to be more productive in our efforts and be more at peace with ourselves and we have enjoyed it for some time.
Once again, in this journal, I want to express the deep appreciation that my wife and I have for this call. The demands, the rewards, the opportunities, and the wonderful association with so many people has exceeded our fondest dreams. We are so grateful we yet have about 22 more months. If we can continue to serve on the spiritual level we seem to have achieved, it certainly will be one of the greatest chapters of our life.
Our service here at the Visitors’ Center hasn’t been without some deep anxieties about family members, however. It was only a few weeks ago that Jessie informed us that she likely would not be going with her husband to California because of the extreme stress and pressure she has faced since the marriage as they’ve attempted to combine two families. Following her telephone call, I made a long distance call to her Bishop and talked with him at length about the matter. He then went to work with Sam and Jessie and their home teacher, and together with some letters that we sent to the Bishop and several to Jessie, that whole situation is looking more hopeful.
Two days ago we had a letter from DeAnne, the wife of our son, Larry, indicating some deep depression on the part of Larry as he struggles to find a professional career that is rewarding to himself. He feels that the business world is not his thing. He has wrestled with this before, but once again it has surfaced. This time it may well be that it will force him into a position that will enable him and hopefully come up with a choice and a field of labor that will be more rewarding than what he is doing. Here again, because of the gravity of the situation, it was necessary to alert the family and the Bishop and thus unite appropriate key resource people to help resolve the matter. We have learned over the years that when the proper people, priesthood leaders, and family members and other trusted friends have been brought to bear and they exert their influence, prayers, faith, and time to assist a person in need, then miracles do happen. We have faith; Afton and I have faith that these matters–as stressful as they may have appeared–yet seem to resolve themselves for the lasting blessings of all parties.
Monday, May 8 – Friday, May 19, 1989
May 8th, being a Monday,
Although since we’ve arrived, we’ve had to implement some new programs, and that has not been easy. By
We came with a charge to get the program in line with the new guidelines and on track with what the Brethren have laid out for us. This we have done, but not without some real resistance and opposition and some real pitched voices and criticism. But finally, after some prayer and fasting by all of us, we are moving forward in complete harmony with Section 121, namely with persuasion, gentleness, patience, and long-suffering. It now appears that they have all come in line.
It has certainly been a testimony to us that the only way people can effectively work with others is in complete alignment with what the Lord has given us when he said, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, by meekness and by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge which will greatly enlarge the soul, without hypocrisy and without guile.” That message has worked and it has done so beautifully.
On May 10th, I was informed that my sealing authority had been transferred from the Provo temple to the Hawaiian temple. In the letter dated April 27, President Benson wrote President Haycock as follows:
Dear President Haycock:
In response to your letter dated April 13, 1989, authorization is hereby given to Paul Ernest Felt to exercise the sealing power in the Hawaii temple. Since Elder Felt was given the sealing power on April 14, 1982 for use in the Provo temple, it will be unnecessary to confer it upon him again. I suggest that when you advise Brother Felt of this authorization, I suggest you give him a copy of this letter for his records.
Faithfully, your brother,
Ezra Taft Benson, President
Everything about our assignment has been superb and beyond our fondest dreams, but now I will have the privilege to perform sealings each week in the Hawaiian temple. We have already committed a family we’re reactivating and given them a date in June of 1990 for their sealing.
Several days before Mother’s Day, Afton and I were in Kaneohe and seemed to be lost. As we were driving back to Laie, at a junction in the road, it seemed to me we should go one direction and Afton felt we should go another. I said, “Well, let’s go my way and if I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a sewing machine.” The following week we did make the purchase and that turned out to be her Mother’s Day gift. Afton’s sewing is not only a great
One of the happy memories that will be with me throughout the eternities is observing on many occasions when Afton, together with all of our daughters, were down in our utility room. Each
On May 18th, I called Brother and Sister Glick, who will be replacing our great couple, the Wiscombes. He is a Jewish convert to the Church and an outstanding guide on Temple Square. In my telephone visits and letters, it’s very evident that they will be an outstanding replacement couple for the Wiscombes. We will deeply, deeply miss the Wiscombes. They have been and are the kind of people you love to have around you in any setting and under any circumstances. They represent and reflect among the finest people in the Church.
One of the good things–and must be almost inspiration–that Afton and I did was to splurge and spend $650 for a Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike. We loved it so much during the few months we had it at home, that we shipped it over to Hawaii. Not long after it had arrived we not only find ourselves daily exercising on the Airdyne bike, but it provides an excellent opportunity for us to memorize our script and now, for me, some additional scripture.
It has been so very, very difficult for both Mom and me to memorize. As a young man, I seemed to be able to do it, but I haven’t done it for 50 or 60 years and it seems that once I get on that bike, then the time not only goes more rapidly, but I’m able to better concentrate on what I’m attempting to memorize. Since it has taken me so long, and as I was praying about it, it came clearly to mind the statement that President Grant gave so many years ago that I haven’t recalled for so many years.
That statement is, “that which we persist in doing becomes easier, not because the nature of the task has changed, but that our power to do it is increased.” When that came to mind, which I’m sure was an answer to prayer, I have continued to persist in my memorization and in my exercising and both my exercising and memorization is coming into place. I’ve been able to memorize the script and am now starting on scriptures and am determined to continue this practice, hopefully, throughout the mission and even beyond. In fact, I seem to have some grandiose idea about taking home a wealth of scriptures that I memorized while I was here. I know young missionaries memorize many scriptures. In fact, on occasion, I meet one who says he memorizes one new one each day. I likely won’t be able to do that, but I’m certainly going to resume my memorizing.
Within the past few days, we’ve been able to call a new District Leader, Sister Banks, and a new trainer, Sister Miner. In each case, Afton and I really pondered and prayed about these matters and their names came clearly to mind. With each of them, I suggested they be given a priesthood blessing. In each case, I was able to feel clearly the inspiration of the Lord as I gave them a blessing.
On Wednesday, May 17th, we held our third correlation meeting since I’ve been here. This meeting is held each month. In each of the previous meetings, I became so nervous being with President Kikuchi, President Haycock
As a number of things seemed to fall in place, I then recalled as I was praying one day, that as a young man I remembered going to our Stake Patriarch who resided in our ward, Charles S. Hyde. It was while I was in one of his classes as a young teenager that I believe I felt the spirit of the Lord in a class. I, therefore, felt comfortable to go to him when I was torn about some decisions I had to make in connection with a mission and schooling and my severe stuttering problems. In a blessing, he made reference to the fact that I had the gift of peacemaking. Almost for the first time in my life, I can see that gift prevailing and making it possible to bring together people and groups which in the past have been bringing in some real discord and disharmony.
On Thursday, May 18th, I took my first PCC tour. I’ve had one or two small walk-in tours, but this was the first large group tour. Brother Wiscombe challenged me to take a group. I did so with much apprehension, but it turned out moderately well. I’m sure as I continue to practice, it will become easier. In fact, as I dictate it now, it comes clearly to my mind, “that which we persist in doing becomes easier, not because the nature of the task has changed, but the power to do it is increased.” The Lord certainly abundantly blesses His servants as we seek to do His will.
Friday, May 19 – Monday, May 29, 1989
Another weekend is approaching and one of the few preparation days for Mom and Dad. Because of the demands of the job, together with the rewards and joy of labor, Mom and I haven’t taken our assigned preparation days. When this occurs, Mom wisely reminds Dad that we are instructed by the Brethren to jealously guard preparation days. They are days of
There are so many marvelous places to visit. You can go in any direction and find scenery and getaway places that on the mainland are hard to come by. Here, they’re right at your back door. As I refer to this virtual Garden of Eden throughout the whole area, except of course Honolulu which is very much Mammon in the world, you can look in any direction and see a virtual Garden of Eden. In fact, as I followed one of our tour guides, he motioned off in the distance overlooking the temple and I asked him this question, “Doesn’t this look like the Garden of Eden?” Once again, let us assert and affirm that we love the area, we love the people, we love the call. Never in our 46 years of marriage, except when we were on our three-year mission, have we been able to devote every day and every hour to something of this spiritual nature. Really, it is more so now because when were on our first three-year mission as a family, we had seven children. Many of those were young, so Mom spent so much of her time at home, although we happily recall that she did make it a point to go to Zone Conferences with me and our missionaries came to know and love the President’s wife. But here, when we come home, we don’t have children or grandchildren, so we engage in scripture reading, listening to good music of the tabernacle choir, and are able to virtually spend every hour in something spiritually productive.
We are following very meticulously the scripture program that President Kikuchi has assigned the missionaries and we read the Book of Mormon faithfully, consistently to each other each day. In another few days, we will have read the entire Book of Mormon. This is the first time I have read the Book of Mormon aloud, and it’s the first time Mom and I have read it together with each other. Also, something very promoting and very rewarding is our weekly companion inventory. The handbook sets forth the structure which consists of an opening prayer, a review of our recorded goals in the past week, recording new goals, discussing some unresolved concerns in our relationship with each other or others, and then our expression of our love for one another, followed by bearing testimony to each other and concluding with an evening prayer. This we have done ever since we began at the MTC when we were there being orientated as a missionary couple. We love it and look forward to following this practice each week. During the 46 years of our marriage, there’s seldom a day gone by but what I haven’t told my wife that I love her and she told me that she loved me, but in this setting, our expression of love to one another takes on new dimensions as does our testimony to each other.
We’re still meeting with the Eugene Flores family whom we are reactivating and helping to get to the temple. We feel we’re making some significant progress. We love these people and they seem to love us. We have a very warm interaction and warm relationship with them. If all goes as projected, I will be performing the sealing for them a year from next month.
Another significant journal entry, if I haven’t already made it, is the reinstatement of my sealing power here for the Hawaiian temple. I have performed two sealing sessions, and each
Through some misunderstanding, I arrived late. Always I’ve had a penchant for being on time, but when I arrived they had been waiting for a half an hour. I was so embarrassed. When I took them in, I apologized and they smiled and nodded, but most of them had been there since 5:30 in the morning and here it was well into the morning and still there. As we began, I felt a flow and the spirit of love from them and certainly I, too, was able to fully reciprocate this. And before long, in that sealing room, we were in heaven. They felt it. I felt it. In circumstances like this, you don’t need to articulate it; you know when they feel it because I feel it. What one feels, the other feels. Well, we had a sweet time together, but because I started late, I hurried through and my back was getting real tired. The witness next to me reached over to me and massaged my back. Instantly the tension, the pain, left. He looked at me with a big Samoan smile and then he said, “If you want more, let me know.” The following evening, I gave a picture of President Benson to him and to each of the Samoan couples who were there. I do hope and pray that our time here will be intense enough and long enough for us to acquire something of a true Polynesian heart.
I don’t know whether I put in my journal that I had been called as a High Priest Group teacher. Yesterday, May 28th, was my third Sunday. Each time has been a very special inspirational hour. Here again, much of this comes about from the spirit that these great Polynesian people bring to each class. They have so much love to give and they are so eager to learn and are so appreciative of the love extended to them. I look forward to this teaching opportunity each Sunday.
Perhaps another heartfelt experience in the temple was when I went for my first Orientation. An 80-year-old Polynesian Hawaiian introduced himself–I can’t even pronounce his name let alone recall it–but instantly there was love felt by each other. After a minute or two, he put his arm around me and said, “I love you, my brother.” I know he did because I loved him; but he, like the Savior, said he loved me first. I knew my relationship with that good brother would be a heavenly experience each time we met and it has been. Indeed, that’s the way it is with all the people at the temple, especially those with brown and delightsome skins.
Another experience I had with that good brother came when I went to my sealing session late and apologized. He just crimped and smiled and said something like it doesn’t matter. And then, as the Director of sealers, he came in to see how the new sealer was doing. It could have been an apprehensive experience for most of us, but with this good
I hope and pray that my heart and mind will be open so that I can learn many other lessons from these great people and partake of some of the great divine attributes that all of them seem to naturally possess. In my lesson with the High Priest group yesterday, I indicated, as we were talking about spiritual gifts, that I wasn’t aware of any ethnic group in the world who has more natural gifts of the spirit than the Polynesian people.
We had another great Family Council on Monday morning, May 28th. From the outset, there was a sweet, sweet spirit present. Since it was Memorial Day, I wished them a happy Memorial Day and felt impressed to call for someone to share something with us about Memorial Day. When no one volunteered, I turned to Brother Wiscombe, a retired Marine captain who knew something about Memorial Day and Flag etiquette. He gave us a beautiful message, not only about Memorial Day and the flag and this great and promised land, but also about the cute little banter that he and President Haycock had in raising and lowering the flag on Memorial Day. He later gave a moving message on the power of the Priesthood, and then our district leader, Sister Coleman, won the hearts of all of us with her testimony and clear evidence of humble leadership.
Tuesday, May 30 – Friday, July 7, 1989
Once again I have neglected regular journal entries so I must attempt to recall some experiences by referring to my Franklin Planner. I believe an early reference in my journal referred to a Schwinn Airdyne bike that we shipped over for exercise purposes. It is not only an excellent exercise
I have long felt that the Lord can inspire us how to utilize our time and thus magnify our responsibilities. As I began memorizing it was very, very difficult. I really haven’t done any memorizing since I was a young missionary, except for memorizing the sealing ordinances at the temple; but memorizing them at the temple certainly made it come faster. I’ve learned that as I’ve had to recall what I’ve memorized at the temple, much of it I can’t remember. But, once I get into the temple, it seems to come readily to mind.
I now must have 30 or 40 scriptures memorized, and I plan to do many, many more. As I have pondered this matter, I have somehow seemed to get a warm distinct feeling that the memorization of these scriptures will serve me well in a later calling that may come to me. What it will be, I don’t know. In fact, at my age, I don’t think there will be any more significant calls in the Church, but I do believe there is a purpose in my memorizing these scriptures. If I don’t use them much here, I’m sure there will be calls beyond the veil where they will come to great value. The Lord makes it very clear that what we learn here we take with us, so my motivation for memorizing is for some future call which may not occur here, but will certainly be of value to me there.
President Kikuchi did give us a remarkable blessing a week ago Sunday, which would be June 25th. He called that morning indicating that he wanted to come down and visit with all the missionaries. As he did, he gave each of them a blessing, including Mom and me. For each of us, it was a remarkable blessing. In the blessing he gave Mom, he blessed her specifically in her spinal cord and nervous system. This was a remarkable reference because Afton’s involuntary jerks, a carry-over from the major surgery which was given back in 1974, was so heart-warming to each of us. Since the blessing, there have been virtually no involuntary jerks. Prior to the blessing, they were getting to be a real problem, particularly in the evening or in long meetings. In my blessing, he made reference twice, it seems, to future calls that would be mine. Again, it is difficult for me to see how anything more could come at my age of 73, but I do seem to have a drive–almost an urgent, urgent feeling–to prepare for something else.
Many years ago, I suppose I was guilty of occasionally aspiring for office in the Church; but I no longer have that problem. I feel I can be perfectly content with this call to soothe out the remainder of my mortal years in whatever calling the ward or stake may extend to me. I do want to keep busy and certainly, with the availability of temples, Mom and Dad will be spending a lot of time there following our release here at the Visitors’ Center. Presently, Mom still spends every Thursday morning in the Laundry at the temple and my initial call as a sealer had me coming Thursday mornings as well. But they began calling me as they needed me because of my proximity to the temple, so President Haycock suggested that I be an on-call man rather than attempt to keep a regular weekly schedule. I’ve always loved serving in the temple and, since my call as a sealer back in April of 1982, I’ve come to more fully and deeply appreciate temple service than ever before. I remember the last ten or fifteen years of Mother spending so much time in the temple. Occasionally Dad would go, but Mom would go almost daily, walking all the way from 828 South 100 West to the Salt Lake Temple.
Over the years July 4th has been a huge celebration for us, because of our home in Provo, Utah. No one does a Fourth of July quite like Utah County! The Fourth of July for us was another work day, as is every day. The Center never closes, even on Christmas. But, we did break away and enjoy a special buffet dinner over with Ed
One sweet experience I’ve had with Ed was one Sunday afternoon when he was working on a computer that he has leased us for a dollar a year. He asked me an interesting question. He said, “Elder Felt, do you have any fantasies?” I said, “What do you mean by fantasy?” He said, “All my life, and I suppose other people much like me, have had to live in a fantasy world in order to find real fulfillment.” As I thought about
Brother Dunn is doing a great job introducing and helping wards and stakes more fully utilize the Visitors’ Center, in bringing their less-active, part-member, and non-member friends to the Center. One of the charges and goals
Our Family Council meetings and family devotionals continue to be very spiritual experiences for all of us. The new approved script is now in place and all of the missionaries have been certified. We now have in place an ongoing training program with Sister Pasco, a relatively new missionary who is providing unusual leadership in this important phase of our work. For some time, I have had some concern about our lack of reports and accountability in our operation at the Visitors’ Center. I asked my Assistant Director, Brother
I still felt strongly we needed to do something, but since he didn’t take hold of it, I decided to put together something myself and then have our great young District Leader, Sister Coleman, review it further. She came up with an excellent personal weekly evaluation form for the sisters to cover both their responsibility at the Visitors’ Center and their evening proselyting work. As I introduced it, there was a little resistance, but I believe it is largely now dissipated. While we haven’t yet had reports come in, I’m sure they will and I’m confident also that it will serve a great purpose in inducing the missionaries to do some personal soul searching evaluation of their performance. I called President Monson’s secretary to ….
… just reconciled myself to this “thorn in my side” and have come to realize it is now a blessing in disguise. When I awake at night, I no longer fight it; I just get up and spend an hour or two, more or less, each night always engaged in some very profitable scripture reading or other good reading and often in some very warm and inspirational pondering and meditation. In fact, it has come to mean so much to me that even if I were miraculously healed from my insomnia, I think I would still get up in the middle of the night and do my best reading and study. My dear wife continues to worry about this aspect of my life, but I can’t seem to convince her that it is no longer a worry or a stress to me. On the contrary, it’s a blessing in disguise.
Several weeks ago, the Director of the Mesa, Arizona Visitors’ Center called about the availability of quality portraits of President Benson and President Joseph Smith. They were available at 50 cents apiece. We had to take them in goodly number, which we
Our huge topographical map, which I understood cost about $150,000 and occupied
Afton and I continue to love the work very much and are thrilled over the fact that we’re able to devote so much of our time every day to our mission. We not only spend long hours at the Visitors’ Center, but when we come home, we do our assigned scripture reading and engage in other faith-promoting activities.
Saturday, July 8 – Monday, July 10, 1989
Saturday was another one of our preparation days and, although missionaries are supposed to have them weekly, Mom and I by no means have been able to take one each week. But with the heavy demands of the Visitors’ Center seven days a week, every day through the year, it’s imperative that we do this. In fact, instructions from the Brethren at the Missionary Training Center included some very strong counsel not to rationalize and talk oneself out of a preparation day. Mom and I, unlike others, prefer to spend preparation day leisurely at home where we catch up on many things that don’t get done through the week.
Shortly after our arrival at Laie, Barbara Butler visited us. Barbara is a classmate from my BYU class of 1942. I remember her well as a student during my memorable days at BYU. I don’t recall any formal dating with Barbara, but I do remember the quality and the warm association we had. She dated another one of our classmates, Max Butler, who became a Doctor following his marriage to Barbara. Since then we’ve had only a very few contacts, perhaps the most important one being at a 1942 class reunion during the year of 1982. I served as chairman of that reunion and Barbara was one of about 150 students who returned for the reunion. I had heard earlier that her husband passed away in a strange malfunctioning of equipment in his anesthesiology laboratory. She has been a schoolteacher in an elementary school throughout her adult years and came here as an
About 4:00 p.m., when we were doing our daily gospel study, we had a call saying that Elder Oaks and his party had just walked into the Visitors’ Center. We hurriedly got ready and, when we got there, they were walking around the temple grounds with President Haycock. So we joined them and had a delightful visit with President and Sister Haycock, together with President and Sister Jeffrey Holland and Brother and Sister Dee Anderson, an administrative officer at BYU. In addition to a walk around the grounds, seeing the remarkable development around the temple, we also went in the temple and saw the many, many innovations and improvements that President Haycock has brought about during his nearly three years as President.
Every project that had long been neglected was brought to completion under his dynamic leadership. All of this, including the Brethren,
Saturday evening, July 8th, Afton and I were guests of a special dinner at the PCC (Polynesian Cultural Center), along with all of Zion’s Security employees in connection with the quarterly PCC Board Meeting. At that
That delightful evening of entertainment and dinner at the Polynesian Cultural Center culminated the two days of meetings that were held with the PCC Board. They meet quarterly and this was one of their meetings. In President Hannemann’s presentation to the Board, he apparently overstated himself in the kind of happy, productive relationship he enjoys with Brother and Sister Felt. Needless to say, we enjoyed this very much but I feel he was a little too generous because the Brethren did tell us again and again what a great job we were doing. We’re striving to not let this go to our heads so that we can keep humble in this great and glorious work.
I’ve never been associated with a man that I’ve loved more quickly and more deeply than President Hannemann. I had better qualify that because there is also a brother at the temple, a brother Tom Kaleo, who is the Director of Sealers. I’ve made previous journal entries about this brother. But with the kind of love and respect that President Hannemann and I hold for each other, I feel confident that we’ll be able to support and help each other so that we will, in the next 18-20 months, bring about some significant increases of the number of tourists who come to the Visitors’ Center and also improve the quality of our tours, both the tram guides and our Visitors’ Center guides. As I ponder the prospects of this, I’m filled with a warm feeling that assures me that the Lord certainly would welcome and sustain our united efforts in increasing the numbers who come and thus increase the number of quality referrals.
Sunday was another very busy day beginning at the Visitors’ Center with Dad at the gate and Mom inside, following which we took our three meetings in stride, beginning with Sacrament meeting and ending with Relief Society for Mom and Priesthood meeting for me. Once again I gave a priesthood
Sunday evening the young sisters had another great musical fireside and packed in a large group of people. Prior to the meeting, I was feeling some real nausea and some uncommon perspiration. I brushed it off because I had felt this many times before. It passed momentarily, but then, as the meeting began, it came on again. It seemed to sweep through my body so quickly that I wisely left and, when I got into the office, I laid down on the couch. My dear, eternal companion began administering some of her well-known skills
I have a deep faith that, if I am wise and prudent in my own demands of my body, I will enjoy strength sufficient to the demands of this assignment. Mom and I have often commented that the physical and emotional and spiritual demands of this job have been as great as any that we’ve ever had, including the time that we presided over a mission many years ago. The Lord certainly is teaching me and re-teaching me some lessons that I’ve learned in the past, and one such lesson is that, without Him, one is nothing.
I have memorized a number of scriptures and perhaps the one I love best I will recite here in my journal: John 15:1-12.
I remember so well when Elder Robert Simpson visited our mission at a Stake Conference in Albuquerque and the text of his message included these verses:
“I am the true vine. You are the branches.
Every branch in me that bringeth forth not fruit, he taketh away and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bear more fruit.
Now you are clean through the words I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. For without me, you can do nothing.
If you abide in me and abide in my words, ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is the Father glorified that you bring forth much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. Continue in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”
I quoted that without referring to the scriptures. Each day, as I may have indicated in an earlier journal entry, I ride at least five miles on my Schwinn Airdyne bike. While I’m exercising, I memorize scriptures. As I do so, I feel again and again that these scriptures I’m memorizing are prompted by the Lord. I mean, among the many scriptures I could memorize, there have got to be some that will be better for me in terms of what my later ministry may be. So I pray often for the Lord to inspire me, not only in the scriptures, but in the memorization of them. I haven’t yet used these too freely in my teaching endeavors, but I will more often as I gain more confidence. I also have a feeling coming back again and again that these things I’m learning by way of scripture will serve me in a later call. I can’t believe it will be a call so much that may be mine here in mortality because of my limited years, but knowing full well that what we learn here goes with us, I’m moving ahead in my scripture memorization with the real assurance that they will serve me well, if not here, then beyond the veil.
Today is Monday, July 10th, and it seemed best that I take the day off after that scare last night. But I intend to be back on the job in the morning. One of my very severe frustrations the last few weeks has been my inability to get adequate secretarial help. When Linda was secretary to President Hannemann, she was able to do so much for me; but when she left, I tried to use the sisters and one or two other voluntary people. But in an effort to work through so many secretaries, I was getting very little done. So I went back to Muriel and we worked out a program that I hope is acceptable and just for
While dictating this journal entry, I had a call from Ken Cox who’s managing our Hurricane home and he tells me that Glen Jurgenson is very very ill, and they were wondering if they could pay the full price for the rental and not bother with people downstairs. I readily agreed and settled on a rent less than what they were offering.
I’m at home and, therefore, having more time to record than I normally have, let me enter another matter that should be a matter of record. And that has to do with my efforts to cultivate and thus acquire a number of spiritual gifts which will assist me in my ministry. It all began about a year ago when Mom and I and five of our twelve children were enjoying a semester abroad in Israel. On a given day, we were out on one of
Spiritual gifts, as I understand it, are special spiritual talents and capabilities that the Lord gives us in those areas where we are deficient. Thus, spiritual gifts would be different for different people. As I asked for help on this matter, there promptly came to my mind and heart five such gifts, beginning with 1) charity, 2) a pure heart, 3) discernment, 4) moral courage, and 5) increased faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing scripturally that charity was such a great gift–in fact, it’s perhaps kind of an umbrella gift that embraces virtually every other gift–though I didn’t know that this would be important. So, quickly I chose charity first and then the others seemed to fall into place. The expression and term “moral courage” seemed a little strange, but as I thought about it, that not only includes the gift of integrity, but also a gift of courage to stand fast to that which is right and true.
So, with those five gifts in mind, I have included in virtually every prayer, at least once a day, some help in the acquisition of these gifts. As the years have gone on, I’ve chosen–inspirationally I believe–to add others. I have since added wisdom, meekness, patience, righteous desires, and appreciation. Appreciation came clearly to mind because when President Tanner, representing President Kimball, set me apart as a sealer in April of 1982, he blessed me with the gift of appreciation for temple work. I often pondered that, so that gift was certainly one that I wanted to enlarge upon. I’ve also added pure motives or working with an eye single to the glory of God, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, a broken and contrite heart, a willing heart, and an understanding heart, and a heart that envieth not. So, daily in my
Since our assignment at the Visitors’ Center, I believe I’ve made more progress in developing a friendship and relationship with the Savior than I’ve ever had before. In our Visitors’ Center we have a large Christus, a Christus that was not being used much at all by our predecessor. Why, I don’t know. I don’t say that critically of him, but as soon as Mom and I saw that Christus, we both knew that we would want to do more in utilizing that in our tour scripts. Mom has been particularly adamant about it. I felt equally strong about it, yet we had introduced so many changes that I was reluctant to press another change upon them; but we did. And now every one of our people love the Christus and their presentation there more than anything else they do in the Visitors’ Center.
As we bring our people in from outside, they stand at the Christus and we each give a very personal message, not only about the background and history of the Christus as a notable work of art, but then we personalize it, each a little different from the others. For me, I quote a few scriptures where the Savior makes it very clear that He wants us to Come Unto Him. One of which, let me quote:
“Oh ye that labor and are heavy laden, come unto me and you shall find rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and I will send you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Occasionally at this point we’ll invite the sisters to come in and sing a song, “Love One Another.” Mom and I have a distinct feeling that what we have done thus far with the Christus is just the beginning of what will yet come.
Tuesday, July 11 – Monday, July 31, 1989
Over the years, cars have always been a great interest in my life–in some respects, almost an obsession. Cars during our mission time have been one of our real liabilities and stresses. During the time we’ve been here we have had some very unpleasant experiences with two of the three cars. Several weeks ago, we sold a Toyota and had no end of problems in collecting payments, which forced us into repossession. With another car, the Nissan, Afton got into an accident and virtually totaled the car. That car was sold to another party who hasn’t paid anything on it, nor has he repaired it from the insurance we collected in the amount of $1500. Another very negative aspect of cars is the fact that the cost and maintenance has been too much of a drain on our mission costs. Unfortunately, the time required to tend to some of these problems has, in a very real way, compromised the effectiveness of my mission.
It has been a joy to become acquainted with each of the many sisters who, at this stage of our mission, some have already left. We have come to deeply respect and love each one of the young sisters. Two or three have presented some real challenges for us, but I believe Mom and I have seen beyond the problems and felt the heart and the potential of each one of them. One of the sisters, Sister Cooper by name, came with some serious manic-depressive problems. Prior to her arrival, by only a few months, her mother committed suicide. Since her arrival, her younger sister, also manic-depressive, has attempted to take her own life. In addition to all that trauma, Sister Cooper had been subjected to some serious physical and emotional abuse and thus came with so many problems that each companionship was a real challenge for her and her companion. But Mom never did lose faith or interest or commitment to help. This she did through the whole mission. There was a period when I almost gave up the ship, but once I got my stewardship priorities in order, I began extending extra help, faith, prayers and love to Sister Cooper.
Mom and I learned something about manic-depressives from some of Sam & Jessie’s children, and we have thus come to appreciate more deeply than ever the kind of stresses that Jessie has faced. During the final four to six months of Sister Cooper’s mission, her mood swings created such serious problems, not with the young sisters, nor even with her immediate companionship, but with the couples. On two occasions, the couples met with us and almost insisted that either Sister Cooper goes or they might leave. Afton and I refused to yield to these ultimatums. We made it clear that we were going to see this sister through her mission. As Sister Cooper came to really feel our genuine interest and love, we saw some brilliance and some beauty and strength that we’ve rarely seen in any missionary.
In our weekly visits with the sisters, by companionship, as we teach the principles of faith and goal-setting in not only those settings, but also in her tours and in the classes, she was able to rise to heights of effectiveness that were seldom matched by any other sister. Because of the many stresses and emergencies and crises that seemed to follow her in the course of her time here, I had occasion to give her four or five priesthood blessings. On each occasion, especially during the last one, the Lord made clear to me the kind of true qualities and potential of this sister. One of the common problems and mistakes so many people make is to make quick judgments about people in moments of crises and thus they overlook the true goodness and potential of the person. I’m sure that one of our treasured memories when we leave will be that of Sister Cooper.
One of the things that we had been learning in our time together with the sisters is that the Lord really meant what He said when He instructed us to “treasure up in your minds” those inspired statements and scriptures and then, at the moment they are needed, they will come to you. More correctly, what He says is, “take no thought of what you should say, but treasure up in your mind and He will give you at the hour and the moment what is needed.” During my last two temple sealings, I have followed that admonition. Always it gets very scary as the moment arrives, as it did last Saturday, when I walked into the sealing room and there found a large group, none of whom I knew. The fathers of both the groom and the bride were the witnesses, and both mothers were there, as well as both sets of grandparents, which I’ve learned over the years as a sealer is rather uncommon. Too often a father or a mother are not worthy to come. Without any thought or preparation ahead of time, I was given inspiration and direction like I seldom had before.
One of the keen disappointments that Afton and I have had since coming is the fact that our children haven’t been regularly communicating with us. Marilynn and Tammy now have charge of our “Heartfelt Family Forum” letter which comes out quarterly.
Since coming to Hawaii we have had two grandchildren. Kathleen and John gave us a new granddaughter, Collette, and Tom and Stephanie have given us a grandson, Wyatt. That is four children for John and Kathleen and two for Tom and Stephanie. They, like Mom and Dad, seem to be on the two-year plan, a child every other year. We also have three other family members expecting: Marilynn, Tammy and DeAnne. We’ve only been out less than six months and we already have two grandchildren and within the next two or three months we’ll have three more. It will be interesting when our mission comes to an end to see how many grandchildren we will have had while we are on this mission, which likely will be our last. We are also expecting a great-grandchild. Kim and O’Dean are expecting in August.
Jessie and Sam are still facing some difficult matters that they must resolve in connection with their troubled marriage. They have been living apart now for about a month, during which time Jessie has been able to reach out and cultivate a better relationship with Sam’s children. But from our last visit with her, she still doesn’t have any intention of going to California and joining Sam. That deeply concerns us because, among all of our sons-in-law, we have no greater son-in-law than Sam. But Jessie has good solid reason for taking the drastic step she did, so we are supporting her and backing her emotionally and spiritually in what she has chosen to do.
Recently we had a glorious Family Home Evening, which not only included our missionaries, but also all of the PCC missionaries and the BYU missionaries. Prior to our arrival they were being held once a month. It became quickly apparent that we had to cut back on some meetings as a group. We concluded that our Family Home Evening would be held quarterly, which would also include other selected people. Last Sunday we held one at the large and elegant home of President and Sister Christensen who is the President of the PCC. We had about forty people and featured President Haycock as the speaker. He gave a marvelous message as only he can do as he related and shared some of his experiences with the Presidents of the Church. He has served as a personal secretary to five Presidents. It was my privilege to introduce him, and I was happy to do so, because from the time of our arrival we have been having many productive meetings with him. Indeed, we meet with him each week. He has made it possible for us to achieve many, many things here in the Center, mostly of a tangible nature, like new carpet, re-upholstery, a new $5,000 phone system, and many other things. He will be leaving September 1st and will be followed by President and Sister Jex, a couple who have been on four missions since their retirement and now will be coming as Temple President.
We also have welcomed a new Mission President, President Waldo Perkins, a retired medical doctor. He shows great promise, especially in terms of his member involvement programs. We presently are facing a real stressful situation as we attempt to transfer the referral program that should properly be located in the mission home, from the Visitors’ Center. It has been a very time consuming thing for too many of us and we have been instructed to transfer it to the mission home. Presently, President Perkins is understandably resisting it. I do believe I will really press and be very reluctant to compromise on this matter. However, the bottom line is that he is my priesthood leader and I should and will submit to his final position on the matter.
Our volunteer people are serving very well. Each change I have made has been resisted and on this matter, once again, people–especially couples–resisted. But I moved ahead and we now have as voluntary guides Sister Metta Christensen and Sister Barbara Butler who are both doing very well. Both of them have served very effectively at Temple Square. Recently, we have asked Brother and Sister Treglawn to take time at the gate, which they will do beginning next Sunday.
In our weekly Family Council meeting we introduced a whole new program which, by and large, was accepted; but here again there were some reservations from some people. I believe it can succeed given a try. It is a two-hour block every Monday morning for both Family Council and Training Meeting.
Perhaps one final item in my journal should be the fact that a couple of weeks ago I suffered some crazy symptoms that resulted in a near passing out, which resulted in being taken to the Emergency Hospital at Kahuka. At the outset they feared it could have been a stroke or a heart attack. This whole episode has put me on a track that I’ve been on before, where I go from one doctor to another–first a neurologist, then a cardiologist–all of which have been referred by Dr. Nielson of the BYU Health Center. They still haven’t isolated and identified the cause of the problem, but I’m scheduled to see a doctor again tomorrow. However, I am feeling much better and am carrying a full load of work.
This concludes the journal entries to July 31st.
August 1, 1989
Since my last entry of July 31st, I have dealt with some challenges to my health which threw a little scare into Mom and some others, but I have now completed the circuit of doctors, the last of which was my cardiologist, Dr. Sol. From all the tests that I’ve had they can find nothing other than a heart murmur and an irregular heartbeat, which is largely being controlled by my medication, Lanoxin. As I look back on this whole scenario of doctors and examinations, I feel strongly that it was the blessing given me by my associate, Elder David Beardshaw who serves as the Assistant Director, that has brought about an almost instant healing. That, added to the fact that in my setting apart, Elder Russell Taylor told me that I would enjoy good health. Presently, I am.
As I look back on these several months, I’m sure a singular factor in my hurried trip to the Emergency Room was caused through stress. Among all of the Church assignments I’ve had, I can’t recall anything that was fraught with more stress and severe challenges than this job. I was told this would be the case by a previous Director whom I highly respect, Stewart Durrant, the older brother of President George D. Durrant. When I was given a background check by Brother Sackley of the Quorum of Seventy, I was told they were considering sending me to a very strategic area in the Church. I remember well the word “strategic.” I have pondered on that since and now I can see the wisdom of that word.
In this area of the Lord’s vineyard, right here in Laie, we have a Temple and a Visitors’ Center, plus BYU Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is imperative that these three Church entities function harmoniously. From information shared with me by high-level sources over the years, maintaining a harmonious working relationship on the high level, the middle level, and the rank and file level is not easily achieved or sustained. On the contrary, people, causes, and projects of any nature seem to be subjected to so much debate and hence contention and confusion far beyond what normally is the case in different areas of the Church. For me personally I have never been in an assignment where there are more things occurring that seem to divide people, throwing them into vigorous debates and discussions, often very contentious.
As I visited with Jay Blair, the Director of all Church Exhibits, he informed me that there is no area they service that has more problems with people on the high level (Temple Presidents, Mission Presidents, Polynesian Cultural Presidents, and Directors of Visitors’ Centers) than here. His virtual quote was, “Historically, there have been more problems and unresolved concerns than in any other area.” I believe I know the reason why. This area is indeed what Brother Sackley called a “strategic area” in the Lord’s vineyard. Since coming here I’ve learned more about the prophetic destiny of this place as prophesied by President David O. McKay and others of the Brethren. Already, much of the prophecy that was given has already been fulfilled in terms of people coming from this area who would wield a great influence for good and peace in the world. The BYU enrollment of students consists of about sixty or seventy percent Asian people and Polynesian people. As these people come here and get their degrees, they go back to many other parts of the world and wield a great leadership role in their various communities and countries. What we have now seen come to pass is just the beginning of what will yet happen as the final wind-up scene for the Lord takes place. Down the road, I’m sure, the people from this area and these “Isles of the sea” will wield an even greater influence in bringing about permanent world peace. The old adversary is very much aware of the potential and what the Lord has in mind for this area and these people, so he works overtime to divide people.
I humbly believe that one of the singular blessings the Lord has given me is a gift of peacemaking, which has made it possible for me to cultivate, under the Lord’s influence, a good working relationship with all my key people: President Haycock of the temple, his temple engineer Mike Williams, together with his counselors, as well as our two Mission Presidents, President Kikuchi and President Perkins, and also President Christensen and the many high level people at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I am not boasting. I hope I’m just stating an honest fact; but presently we enjoy a very good relationship with all of these people. The great challenge now is to maintain it. Since I’ve been here I have had a number of minor and major encounters with different people, which is very unlike me. I normally withdraw and back off when there is any real division and contention, but when a great principle or a critical decision is at stake, then I’ve learned to take a firm stand. Always, I make it a point to either compromise something or to make sure that the relationship is not undermined beyond a few hours or a few days. My predecessor, Brother Patterson, was not even on speaking terms with the Temple President. Apparently he spent his whole twenty-seven months here having very little harmonious communication with the Temple President.
I hasten to add to my journal that I certainly don’t feel I’m boasting about these things. I am making a statement of fact and attributing what harmony and accord I have been able to achieve as having come about because the Lord has used me in a kind of a peacemaking role. I feel something like Ammon did when his brother Aaron accused him of boasting as they were looking back upon the very successful mission. Ammon waxed boldly about some of their successes, and Aaron did rebuke him. Then Ammon replied, “I do not boast in my own strength or in my own wisdom, but I do rejoice in my God and my heart is full to the brim with joy, and I do rejoice in my God. Yea I know that I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak. Therefore, I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, in whose strength I can do all things. Wherefore, we have been able to do many mighty miracles on this land for which we will praise his name forever.” As Ammon spoke, so I speak.
Shortly after my arrival here, we did begin the training program using the Missionary Guide, which we were instructed to do. However, because of so many changes I had to implement, I maybe unwisely withdrew those training sessions for too many weeks. We did meet regularly in our Family Council and Family Home Evenings and other appropriate leadership meetings, but did little or no training directly from the Missionary Guide. We were able to get our people on the correct video presentations, “Together Forever,” and also get all of our people to certify on the approved script. We didn’t really move forward on further teaching skills. Three weeks ago we did begin again, after a careful review of all of our meetings, getting input from all of our missionaries and designing a program that seemed to have full acceptance of all of our people. So, for three weeks we have been having some productive training meetings. Last week we were somewhat derailed because of some very harsh and intimidating criticisms. Some of our older couples were criticizing the young sisters as they were role playing different skills. Both our training coordinator and I had carefully taught our people the format that the MTC taught us on giving feedback.
The principles and guidelines basically for giving feedback are couched in Section 121, where the Lord gives beautifully the principles of true leadership. He says, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood except through patience, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness and love unfeigned.” We made it clear that they shouldn’t criticize; they should just describe. We also urged them to give at least seven positive aspects before giving any negatives. Our couples tend to over react and harshly pick out faults and failings that devastate our young sisters. I then had the very unpleasant assignment of taking a strong position in the class, defending the beautiful presentation that the sisters had made. Then I sought each of the couples out and individually reviewed again with them that the approach they took was wrong. While it may be practiced in business circles and out in the world, it certainly is not the mode and pattern in the Church. They were very defensive and for the past few days our relationship has been a little cool, but I feel it improving. Since they have resisted virtually every change I’ve introduced here, this scenario of going up to them and re-cultivating them and getting their support is something I’ve learned how to do. I don’t mean to be critical of these people; on the contrary, I don’t believe I’ve ever had more love and respect than I do for our senior couples. But, it has been very difficult for them to accept the kinds of changes that we felt imperative to introduce. In fact, what I am doing is nothing more than what we were taught at the Missionary Training Center.
Afton and I have not only faced a succession of challenges here, we are also getting them at home. A few weeks ago, a call from DeAnne, Larry’s wife, gave us some deep concern. Here, as we’ve done in the past, we have promptly united all the family in extending themselves in love and communication which has always ultimately come out good in the end. This has worked for Larry and DeAnne. In fact, Larry is doing better than he has done for years. Jessie is now separated from her second husband, Sam Allman. It is not only the separation that devastates us, but it is also the fact that she feels that she has faced so many stresses and crises during the past ten years in her first and second marriages, that she has lost faith in God. She no longer prays, she is not attending Church, but we are reassured that she is not violating any moral or Word of Wisdom standards. She spends too much time with people who, like herself, are divorced or in the midst of a divorce, or who are very uncommitted to some of the standards of the Church. We have some deep anxiety over our daughter, Jessie. She, and the two boys, will be coming over at the end of the month and we hope and pray that once here, she will be able to re-sort some of her values and get back on track.
As I have pondered the crises and challenges that we have faced here as well as at home, I take great comfort in a statement by Brigham Young. He said, “God never bestows upon his people an individual superior blessing without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual and that people to see if they will keep the covenants with him, and to see if they will keep in remembrance the things that he has shown them. Then, the greater the vision, the greater the blessing, the greater display and power of the enemy.”
I believe that we are here in an area and on an assignment fraught with great possibilities and the Lord has abundantly blessed us. I feel confident that there will be additional abundant blessings, but not without some trials and tests. Certainly we are going through them now.
Another area of test and challenge which all of the couples, with their private cars, face is car repair. Each of us has had horrendous car expenses. The mechanic, a great Polynesian man, has said he’s noticed that all of the couples have no end of problems with their cars. He, like me, seems to attribute that in part to “Old Scratch” or the Adversary.
Another thing that the couples have pointed out to me is that every couple, especially the Priesthood holder, has had some real health crises. All in all, it seems like the hand of the adversary is doing everything he can to thwart and de-rail this program.
We unwisely brought over a luxury car, which was a mistake; we knew that from the day we arrived. The cost and problems have been horrendous. Our friend, a Polynesian and a good auto mechanic, is going to sell that car for us and he has made a purchase at a salvage yard in Honolulu of a badly damaged 1986 small Toyota that he is going to repair and get to us for about $2500. He will also then add another figure to that which will give us a warranty and repair guarantee.
We have enjoyed a wonderful visit with Windy for about two weeks. We met her at the airport at 1:00 in the morning and took her back at 11:00 at night, which was not good for us, but it was wonderful having her here. She had a delightful time and she really did very, very well with our sisters and our other friends and associates here in the area. It looks like our next visitors will be Jessie and her two boys.
This concludes our journal entry to August 20th.
Monday, August 21 – Monday, September 11, 1989
During the past few weeks, we have had a windfall of blessings in the form of grandchildren. We hadn’t been out very long when our daughter, Kathleen, gave birth to a beautiful daughter whom they named Collette. They now have four children under seven. John and Kathleen, like all of our children, are outstanding parents. Each of them have achieved the mix and blend of a lot of love and appropriate limits in discipline. They, like their parents, never administer any corporal punishment, but they do require performance and discipline.
A few weeks following the birth of Collette, Tom and Stephanie had another son whom they named Wyatt. This Is their second. Their first son, Malcolm, must be two-and-a-half years old. The birth was difficult, resulting in some impaired lung function. But two or three days in the hospital for the baby and the mother corrected that. Presently all are doing well. A few weeks later, Tammy, our twin, gave birth to her third child, this one a daughter. They expected another son but they got a girl and they are happy beyond expression. They sent us a video showing how the two brothers love their new sister. The video, complete with a musical background, was a very professional kind of thing which Kirk is able to do. For the first time in our mission we really got homesick as we saw these pictures.
Two days ago, Steve called to tell us that his wife, our daughter Marilynn, gave birth to their fourth child, another girl. They named her Stacey Mae. Mae is my mother’s first name. So they have two boys and two girls. Each of their children is a miracle child.
Steve and Marilynn were married five years before they had their first, which was an adoption through LDS Social Services. Shortly after their marriage, when they learned they were not having children, Marilynn and Steve sought a blessing. In the blessing I felt impressed to promise them that the time would come when she would be able to bear children naturally. As the first and second and third and even the fourth and fifth years came, I began to wonder when the promised blessing would come to pass. After many months of negotiation they were able to adopt a choice little boy. The month following the adoption, Marilynn became pregnant and eight or nine months later gave birth to sweet Stephanie, now about eight years old. Stephanie reminds us so much of her mother.
A few years later, when Steve and Marilynn were living in Malaysia–he working as an attorney for Exxon–they called and told us of another pregnancy. The first pregnancy was so critical that this time Marilynn had to have a C-section; the baby was born after a little over six months and they despaired for his life. But here again, the united faith and prayers of so many, especially the family, brought about another miracle–Justin was born. They despaired for his life, but he is now a happy, vigorous, normal boy.
With this recent pregnancy, Marilynn carried the baby to nearly full-term, but still had to undergo a C-section. Mother and baby are doing very, very well.
Thus, during the six months that we have been out, we have had four grandchildren and are yet looking for the fifth which will be coming in February.
Mom and I had an interesting experience in Sears and Roebuck in Honolulu a week ago. Each Christmas, for the past several years, Mom has done the impossible by personally making some stuffed dog, animal, or something for each of the younger grandchildren. This always has represented scores and scores of hours of work. The young grandchildren and the older grandchildren always look for Grandma’s special gift. When I see how our grandchildren love the gifts that Afton makes for them, I know for a certainty that the greater effort and sacrifice a person puts into a gift, be whatever it may be, it always carries over in the gift. The receiver always is more appreciative and happy with such a gift. But this year, because of the demands of our mission at the Visitors’ Center, there was no way it could be done.
So, while at Sears we found a huge table with a number of stuffed animals. Most of them were marked down from $20 and $15 to $10. Afton quickly concluded this was a real value. In fact, she said the material itself would cost nearly $10. So, both of us began scrambling through the whole pile of animals and finally picked out twenty-three of them. As we carried them over to the counter, the clerks wondered what in the world we were doing with all of these stuffed animals. We told them we were giving them to our grandchildren for Christmas, whereupon they began asking about the size of our family and the number of grandchildren. When we told them that we have twelve children and forty-four grandchildren, they couldn’t believe it!
A couple, about Mom’s age (mid-sixties) came by and overheard the conversation, and the lady with her husband standing by her side said, “Did I understand you to say that all of those are going to your grandchildren?” Whereupon we replied, “Yes.” Then she said, “Well, how many grandchildren do you have?” So we told her and then she told us, “Well, here I am sixty-seven and I’m just now expecting my first grandchild!”
Over the years our family has brought so much joy into our lives. Heaven is no mystery to not only my wife and I, but also to all of our family. Heaven is family. Our family get-togethers and letters and telephone exchanges give us a bit of heaven on earth.
A beautiful letter from our son Ron and his wife Tracy, who are now living in Tokyo, explained it so beautifully. I should quote in this journal entry something from his letter. Perhaps I could just capsulize it. Ron and Tracy said something to the effect that “Mom and Dad, through their example, have taught us how to find happiness in family. Our family, together with the families of our other brothers and sisters, reflect something of the great qualities that we had in our family.”
President David O. McKay said it well as follows: “The poorest shack where love prevails is of far greater value to God and to future humanity than all the riches of the world. In such a home, God can and does work miracles. Pure hearts and a pure home are within whispering distance of heaven.” This we know.
Our work at the Visitors’ Center continues to be a challenge every day. It never occurred to us that a Visitors’ Center, which is often thought of as an easy “country club lifestyle” mission, is nothing like that at all. Mom and I are working harder and giving more than we did back in 1971 when we presided over a mission with up to two-hundred-and-eighty missionaries. There is something about this area and this place which makes it so highly strategic for the future plans and prophecies of this area. That causes the Adversary to be ever present. But, we do love our work. We love the challenge. We love the missionaries. We love the people. We are honored to be entrusted with such an assignment at my age.
Presently, Jessie and Sam and Jessie’s two children are with us. Earlier, Windy spent two weeks with us which was a joy for her and a joy for us. We’ll have more for the journal on the visit with Jessie and Sam later.
Thursday, September 21, 1989
Today is September 21st. I am now recording some more journal entries, ending as I recall on the note that Jessie and Sam and the two boys were here.
The week that Jessie was here brought back so many memories of Jessie in our home prior to her marriage to Cory. Even though there was a time difference of ten years, nevertheless as she came into our home she seemed to act and look just like the lovely, bubbly daughter she was prior to her marriage to Cory. Because of two failing marriages, there have been some changes in Jessie’s outlook and demeanor; but for one week it was just the Jessie we remembered from ten years ago.
Among all of our faithful and obedient children, none adhered to the straight and narrow path quite like Jessie. I’d better qualify that–so many of them, indeed all of them, did–but Jessie seemed to do it so effortlessly and so happily. It was Jessie and Ron who were always able to resolve differences and problems as they would surface in the home about different matters. One of the great, great blessings of our family life was the nearly total absence of quarreling and contention. They never saw any of that between Mom and Dad and they just seemed to emulate us in that respect. When sibling rivalry or some imminent dispute surfaced, Mom and Dad–one or both of us–would make some effort to resolve it, but so often it would be Ron or Jessie who seemed to have more influence with their brothers and sisters than we did.
It was Jessie who helped us launch an early morning scripture reading program. When we brought it up in a Family Council there was much resistance. The appeals of Mom and Dad fell on unresponsive ears. But Jessie said, as I remember so vividly, “Let’s give it a try,” and that we did; and so the pattern became established for years in the family.
It seems so ironic and in a way unjust and unfair that this lovely daughter would have faced such a tragic first marriage. Yes, it was a temple marriage to a returned missionary who was a companion to Matt Durrant, President Durrant’s son, and we were assured by him what an outstanding missionary he was. But what Jessie and all of us failed to look into was his family background. We did have some uneasy feelings–that is, Mom and I had some uneasy feelings–when we met the family and some of his brothers and sisters. And it was only a year following their marriage that Cory became inactive and later drifted into drinking and then infidelity. Jessie stayed with the marriage as long as she could and then finally left him. But when Cory’s father committed suicide, Jessie felt that Cory needed her. So she went back to him, attempting to pull it together again, but once again with no success.
So she left him. When she came home, she was a devastated girl, and her young son, who was then only a year-and-a-half, was almost a basket case. She stayed with us for about a year or a year and a half and once again fit into the family just like she did prior to her marriage. She’s always been a very independent girl and carried more than her responsibility in the home and insisted in sharing the costs from the small payments she was getting from her former husband.
About a year later, Sam Allman came along–fourteen years older than Jessie, with five children of his own, four girls and one boy. They appeared to be such an outstanding family. All of the family fell in love with Sam. It wasn’t until later that we learned more of the background of this family. Sam’s wife walked out on him leaving him with the five children. She was a severe manic-depressive, which wasn’t known to us when the marriage was consummated. Three of the five children inherited the same manic-depressive genes and it was that, I suppose, that finally brought Jessie’s second marriage to a very unhappy ending. Sam was in such a difficult role. Some of the awful outbreaks of the children, because of their chemical imbalance, had to be faced daily by Jessie. Sam was away from home a good part of the time on his job which left the burden of the family to Jessie. She toughed it out for nearly five years and then we noticed, during the last year of the marriage, Jessie was undergoing some alarming changes in her nature and character. Never did she seriously compromise any moral standards, but she slipped away from the Church and went into some deep, deep depression.
As we look back on it now, had these matters been known at the outset and had been addressed and met by some deep and consistent counseling for Jessie, for Sam and all the children, perhaps things could have turned out differently. Sam, unfortunately and unwisely, felt that it was Jessie that needed the counseling and not him. Finally, Jessie gave up on that marriage and when Sam appeared here against the wishes of Jessie, he came with the intention of making one final effort to persuade Jessie to give the marriage another chance. We urged Jessie to do the same. She was obedient enough that she was willing to give it another three months which Sam was pleading for. But in a visit with her the second or third night of Sam’s visit, Jessie shared with me some of the very deep depression and stress she was facing and indicated that there were times when even suicide crossed her mind. That, of course, was a red flag and at that point I realized that I needed to get some more insight on the matter. With time running out, in light of Jessie and Sam’s imminent departure, I plead with the Lord for some direction and help.
Friday morning, the day prior to Sam’s departure, and only two days from Jessie’s departure, I walked up alone to Temple Hill to give this further prayerful thought. I had hoped that no one would be up there so that I could privately talk with the Lord. After five minutes I noticed a strange character walking up the hill with two canes; he had every appearance of an over-sized dwarf. As we met, we both recalled that I had met him earlier in the Visitors’ Center, and fortunately I remembered his first name. He, of course, noting my missionary badge, called me “Elder Felt.”
For an hour we just discussed a number of things about each other and the more I talked with him, the more I felt I was in the presence of a true man of God. I then learned that he was a PhD and had served very successfully for many years as a consulting psychologist. The more he talked, the more I came to know that here was an answer to prayer.
I then shared with him my deep anxiety about Jessie and Sam. He then shared with me some insights and some directions which gave me clear answers to the perplexing problems we were facing with Jessie. He had previously told me that five years earlier he had undergone a massive stroke which forced him into retirement and also with a label that the medical profession had given him as being “incompetent” and not able to function normally most of the time. In my visit with him I saw no evidence of that at all. As he was talking to me, throughout the two hours we were there, he indicated to me that he had never felt more inspiration and more light and help in his counseling than in the things he shared with me. He attributed all that to the direct intercession of the Lord. In fact, he said on occasion “It’s not me that’s talking, it’s the Lord talking through me.” He thanked me profusely for providing him such a great experience, not only to perhaps help me in some of my unresolved dilemmas, but also in feeling such a rich and sweet spirit.
I learned that he was going to be leaving the day after Jessie, which would be the following Tuesday, as Jessie was leaving on a Monday. The party who was going to take him to the airport couldn’t make it so I volunteered to take him and I’m certainly glad I did. Anticipating this, I gave him my dictaphone and asked him to dictate a number of the things that he shared with me. I’m looking forward to having all of this taken off tape. Meanwhile, he learned more about the Church, both at the Visitors’ Center and from me, and quickly agreed to taking the missionary discussions.
Since I’ve been at the Visitors’ Center I have learned how to memorize again. I haven’t done any of this since my first mission in 1937. It was difficult to begin, but now every morning as I get on my Schwinn Airdyne bike it enables me to swing my arms and pump the bike and memorize. I’ve been using a number of these memorized scriptures and inspired quotes in our Missionary Family Council, but they served me particularly well as we were driving to the airport with Jack Cottrell. I shared with him from memory recall, many of the verses in Section 121 relating to the true principles of leadership. As I shared that with him, he quickly grasped those as containing some of the greatest insights in human relationships and true leadership that he had ever heard.
So, all in all I have made a great friend in this little old man that came waddling up the hill when I needed some help. I later shared with Afton that for a few moments I thought maybe I was visiting with one of the three Nephites. I’m reasonably sure that that could not be so, because he gave me a background of his past life which was fraught with all kinds of heartache and unusual achievement.
When he was born his parents thought he was a Mongoloid and his father made it clear to his wife and family then, and all through the growing-up years of Jack’s life, that he was a curse. Even today, after all these years, his aged father still berates him and tells him things that destroy his self-worth. But Jack refuses to let that stop him from honoring and respecting his father.
He’s had so much heartache with his own wife, who bore him three children. She uses him only as a provider and a convenience. She has been repeatedly unfaithful to him but he always takes her back. Some of the most serious differences they have is the fact that he makes very good money in his professional counseling career, but all his life he’s felt that any money that came to him was the Lord’s money and so he would share it with any needy soul.
His counseling was instrumental in saving and turning around many a life and he’s also shared and given money to those in need. He is now the recipient of not only many letters and many treasured friendships from people he has helped, but also they are repaying him with gifts and money far beyond what he ever gave.
Well, because of his help it is now clear that the marriage of Jessie and Sam for now must be terminated. Jessie has undergone so much mental anguish that she has been taken right to the brink of maintaining a sane, normal life. So our clear counsel from Jack Cottrell was to give her full and unqualified support. Up to this stage, Mom and I, together with the family, have been pleading with Jessie to give the marriage another chance. Now we have made a complete reverse, hundred-and-eighty degree turn and are supporting Jessie on her decision.
While she was with us she did go to our meetings with us and, now that she knows the position of the family, we believe she will find a way back into activity. Meanwhile, though, she’s lost a lot of ground and must recover a lot of things that she has lost spiritually and in terms of her values.
Life at the Visitors’ Center continues to be very demanding, but also very rewarding. It is also fraught with more heartache and stress than any Church service call we’ve had. The only way we can account for this is to realize that this is a very strategic area of the Church. With Visitors’ Centers undergoing such a major change, the Adversary seems to be going overtime here against all good causes and to some degree affects all people. But we are assured that we are where the Lord wants us and have every faith and confidence that He will see us through any challenge that yet awaits us.
This concludes the journal entries up to and including September 21st.
Thursday, September 21 – Saturday, November 4, 1989
On July 1st of this year, President Kikuchi was released and his successor was President Perkins, a retired medical doctor. We were able to cultivate a very warm, happy relationship with President Kikuchi and looked forward to a similar relationship with President Perkins.
Unwisely, I overlooked the transition and adjustment period of a new Mission President. Shortly after his arrival I placed on his desk some urgent matters on which I asked for quick action. I should have known better because I vividly recall, in 1971, when I replaced a great Mission President, and the trauma and the test of that transition.
The matters that I urged quick action on had to do with the transfer of a Referral Program which has long been the responsibility of the Visitors’ Center, but I was instructed to transfer it to the Mission, together with a review of some of the stresses our young sisters have continually faced being accountable to two priesthood leaders–the Mission President for their proselyting and the Director for the Visitors’ Center. The latter creates a difficult situation where people are really accountable to two masters, which has generated, in my judgment, many serious problems.
President Perkins understandably reacted very quickly and resisted either of the recommendations I was making. I continued to press for a transfer of the Referral Program because rightfully it belongs in the Mission and, because of the fact that it was developed here some years ago, each new Mission President came to feel that that’s where it should remain.
Well, because of some of these matters, unfortunately, my relationship with the new Mission President didn’t start off too well. Since then I have made every effort to mend the relationship and have made some progress, but there is still much to be achieved. By nature, he is a very strong “take-charge” kind of person and that phase of his personality, together with my unwise action of placing such heavy problems on his desk at the outset of his mission, has created a problem that hasn’t been fully resolved yet. But, one of my top priorities is to do what needs to be done in order to develop a harmonious working relationship.
With President Kikuchi I had in place a number of programs involving member involvement and public relations for the Visitors’ Center, all of which had to be renegotiated. Some of the things President Perkins has cautiously approved; others he has not. It will not be possible for me to work on the objectives set forth in the job description until more trust is built between us. I fear President Perkins came with a traditional and common view of the Visitors’ Center as being a kind of a “country club” atmosphere that really didn’t require much serious work.
One good thing out of all this is the fact that the Brethren did send a new job description for all Visitors’ Centers, which went to President Perkins, following which he sent it to me. As he reviewed it I’m sure he could readily see that if I do my job there’s going to be a lot of things that will have to happen, any one of which, of course, must first begin with his approval. In the job description there is a request that the Director prepare a master plan and submit it to the Missionary Department through the Mission President. I have prepared such a plan and will shortly be submitting it to him.
Ever since my arrival I have had a very difficult relationship with a forty-year-old man, single, a convert of about a year, by the name of Walter Wagner. Brother Patterson, the previous Director, had assigned him a number of things to do in the Visitors’ Center without appropriate clearance from the Bishop and Stake President. The end result was that Walter Wagner had not been properly integrated into his ward and stake and therefore his church activity revolved around the Visitors’ Center.
There is much to be recorded about this unhappy episode, but I’ll just briefly say that there is no one person in my lifetime who has caused more stress and problems as I’ve sought to discharge my assigned responsibility in the Church than Walter. What he has done for us in terms of problems goes beyond the Visitors’ Center. He has also created serious problems with the Temple. Presently, things have significantly improved.
Out of this whole experience I have relearned a great lesson. Because of his abrasive manner intruding into different areas that he had no right to be operating in, I allowed myself to have a few open confrontations with him that has offended and alienated each of us from the other. I let that seethe and boil in my own system too long before he and I together met and reviewed the past and made a genuine apology to each other, seeking forgiveness for the offense that we had caused each other. Since then the outlook appears much better.
Here is an interesting example of a situation where I knew full well when any offense is caused, it is the responsibility of each party–regardless of who caused what–to forgive. I hadn’t done that. Once I did there was an immediate peace that came into my heart that has enabled us now to develop a better relationship. Yesterday, I met with his Stake President and Bishop and was happy to give that good progress report on the matter.
I don’t ever recall an assignment in my life where I have faced more tests and trials in adjusting to my call. One area, that has been not only a source of stress for me but also with the other couples, is the purchase and maintenance of our individual cars. All couples in the mission have mission cars, except the Visitors’ Center couples. We must buy our own and maintain it. That has proven to be a very costly thing for all of us.
While the cost of cars here is about the same as it is in the Mainland, the repair and breakdown costs are much higher. The nature of so many Polynesian people is to make a lot of promises about what they are going to do, but frequently never perform. A case in point is my own car repairs. For at least three months I have spent far too much time trying to get cars repaired. All in all it has added up to a major stress in my life. Hopefully, it is resolved now and we can move forward without that major anxiety.
We not only have a new Mission President, but also a new Temple President. I was able to enjoy a marvelous relationship with President Haycock, who sadly was not even on speaking terms with my predecessor. The new Temple President came September lst. He is an unusually warm and congenial man. From the very outset we were able to develop a good relationship and it’s getting better as the weeks and months go by.
Another real stress that I, and every Director before me has faced, is attempting to get the needed maintenance work done on our Center, especially with some of the high-tech equipment, from our temple personnel. With President Jex, he is requiring more performance and thus easing substantially what has been a continuing anxiety.
While I am identifying areas of concern and anxiety, there is yet another one I must mention; namely, Sister Margaret Farnsworth, a former executive secretary to two or three Temple Square Directors, who came with a great deal of background in script-writing and other areas of expertise in Visitors’ Center operations. We learned of her arrival weeks before she came. So when she did come, we met with her to see what kind of involvement she could take with the Visitors’ Center. Her job description at BYU was unclear and they were willing to give us a portion of her total time, which at the outset appeared very, very promising. However, here again was a person who had serious problems adjusting at BYU and also in finding her place here at the Visitors’ Center.
It seems that this entry in my journal is identifying problems with too many people. Anyone reading this account would probably conclude that the problem is not so much with the other people as it could be with me. That may well be. So, I plan to do some soul-searching and make sure that I don’t generate the problems which I see other people generating.
We learned recently that our daughter, Marilynn, and her husband Steve, who just completed a lovely large home in Salt Lake, have accepted a job with Exxon, a company they had been with previously for a number of years. Exxon made an offer that was difficult to turn down, so Steve and Marilynn will be moving to Houston. Since our arrival here about eight months ago, we have been blessed with four grandchildren, one of whom is a sweet girl for Steve and Marilynn.
It has been difficult not to be able to spend more time with family; however, Afton and I are both assured that in the long run there will be really no loss to us nor to the family in terms of family unity because of our two-year separation from them. Already there is some clear evidence of the fact that the family is becoming even more united even with our absence.
Another great news item for us in the family is the call of Ron to be a Bishop in the Tokyo English Ward. Two months ago his assignment with Morgan Stanley in New York called him to work in the Tokyo Office and provide some management for the Hong Kong Office. Ron has achieved unusual success in the few years he’s been in the banking business, which began first with Chase Manhattan and then Morgan Stanley.
Recently, Eldon Ricks and his wife came to the Visitors’ Center, which brought back a flood of memories from our time together at BYU.
Since my arrival here I have had one rather serious health episode which was fortunately resolved through a blessing and some treatment from good doctors. Another one recently occurred which had some very strange characteristics.
Each Monday we have an hour and fifteen minute Family Council and Training Meeting. There is a twenty-minute period there reserved for the Director to give what instruction he feels necessary, or to call upon others. I chose to do something on my own, having made notes of a number of things we might discuss. When I arose, I experienced an unusual “stupor of thought”–I use that phrase which comes from Doctrine and Covenants Section nine where the Lord reminds that when we are pursuing a wrong course, or some other situation in a given matter or time that would generate some discord or division, that there could be a serious stupor of thought. As I struggled to get some insight and direction, I had to frankly admit to the group that I was just helpless.
The couples observing the matter determined that it was more than just a passing loss of memory or a stupor of thought, but perhaps some health factor such as a minor stroke. Brother Fugal of one of our couples happened to have with him, visiting from the Mainland, a medical doctor, Dr. Gardner, an internist. When they described the situation to him he asked that he might visit with me. In the course of the visit he attributed the whole matter to not only the possible forerunner of a stroke, but also what he called fatigue. His instruction and charge to me was to slow down and take more rest. This is not going to be easy to do but I must do it and certainly will follow his instructions.
This concludes the journal entry up to November 4th.
Sunday, November 5 – Wednesday, November 29, 1989
Upon our arrival, President D. Arthur Haycock was the Temple President. We were able to enjoy an unusual, warm, productive relationship with him. Because of this fact, we were able to get into place a number of significant improvements in the Visitors’ Center which had been held up because of serious communication problems with my predecessor. However, the kind of working relationship he had with my predecessor, he had had with several others; so the fault doesn’t lie with others as much as it does with President Haycock. But I certainly was able to develop a good relationship. In fact, as I look back on it now, he reminds me so much of President Ernest L. Wilkinson.
In 1951, when I was appointed Director of Indian Affairs at BYU, my line of accountability was directly to the President. This was not only a frightening prospect, but a very difficult one. He and President Haycock have a lot in common. They get a great deal done but in the process some people are offended and alienated.
The new Temple President, President Victor Jex, is the man for the job. He comes with tremendous administrative experience and with a temperament and personality that makes it possible for him to relate warmly to people and yet require performance without giving offense. He and his wife together make a great pair. Since their arrival we have been able to have them share a number of evenings with us in different firesides and meetings and socials. He and his wife have come from three back-to-back couples’ missions prior to coming here.
Recently, President Perkins sent me a new job description for the Visitors’ Center. Our present one is only two-and-a-half pages; this one is about nine pages long. This seems a little strange when we understand the Church is on a program to simplify.
I was delighted to learn of the appointment of President Shumway and requested that I be permitted to pass my matters through him rather than take them to President Perkins in Honolulu, because of distance. At the outset President Perkins resisted this and asked that I bring things directly to him. A few weeks later I made a second request and he approved that we go through President Shumway. Brother Fugal and I met with President Shumway and shared with him a rough out of our master plan, which he felt very good about.
As I look back on some ten months here at the Visitors’ Center, one area that has created some stress and thus has compromised my total commitment to the Visitors’ Center, was a preoccupation with cars. Unfortunately we brought a luxurious car which we shouldn’t have done. Upon our arrival we realized that we should get a more modest car and therefore concluded we would sell the Maxima. But this wasn’t easily done. In fact, no one would give us near what it was worth, so we determined to keep it through our mission here and likely take it home with us. Meanwhile, however, I had purchased another car which required a lot of body work which took a total of two months. I have been dealing with a man who is a very good mechanic and a very honorable man, but because of his Polynesian ways of being quick to make promises but slow to perform, it has created some real stress.
Each of the couples face similar problems with vehicles. Before I leave, I am going to attempt to get a new policy for Visitors’ Centers–at least this Visitors’ Center–where our couples, like all other couples in the mission, will have access to mission cars. The cost of our mission is probably running about $1500 a month, a good part of which is the maintenance and care of cars.
For the first time in about thirty years I have a tax audit for the year 1986. It seems ironic that this would come while I’m serving a mission. My accountant, Hans Anderson, has always done an unusually good job for me, but somehow he missed something. I allowed myself to develop such anger and bitterness towards him and I could not seem to rid myself of it. For the weeks that followed I allowed this to fester which resulted in paying a real price in terms of the companionship of the Spirit.
I know so very well the guidelines the Lord gives us in Doctrine and Covenants Section sixty-four, where we are commanded to forgive all people regardless of the offense and injury. This I didn’t do and held this grudge for many weeks until finally one evening I came to grips with myself. With the help of the Lord I was able to bring myself to invite Walter in and seek forgiveness for the stress and sorrow I had caused him and let him know of my love for him. This came as a real surprise to him. For the first time I saw a little emotion and a tear on his cheek. Since that meeting the relationship between us has vastly improved. We have also been able to cut back and limit his visits to the Center.
It’s good to be able to be serving in an area where another arm of BYU is always available to us. With the BYU campus so close, we have pretty much what we had in Provo. We have a Temple, we have a BYU campus, and we have a Visitors’ Center, which is a kind of Celestial triangle. With BYU we are able to handle all of our health insurance claims through the DMBA. The principal doctor and Director of the Health Center is Doctor Nielson. He has given me unusual care. Recently, he questioned whether I need to remain on Lanoxin, a heart medicine, and Tagemet, a stomach medicine. For several weeks now he has had me off both of these and I seem to be doing much better.
A recent letter from Ron and Tracy has informed us that Ron is now assigned to Morgan Stanley in Tokyo. Ron has had an unusual career in the banking business and in the world’s greatest and most respected investment bank–Morgan Stanley. They have now assigned him to the Tokyo Office with some middle management position for the Hong Kong Office. He had been there only one month when they called him as Bishop. A recent letter from Tracy, his wife, and from Ron explained in some detail something of the providence that operated in their lives, not only with this call as Bishop, but in this professional move.
Another major move for a family member involves Steve and Marilynn. Steve had a very distinguished legal career with Exxon, where they were preparing him for some high-level management positions. He chose to turn it down and go with a big law firm in Salt Lake. During the year he’s been there, Exxon had apparently come back and are again courting Steve. They finally persuaded him to take an assignment in Houston.
With both Ron and Steve, their company moves them and buys the home they must sell. So, their moves are not like many moves Mom and Dad took where we pretty much were on our own. We were shocked to learn that, for Ron, Morgan Stanley is paying all of their costs including the rental and lease of a modest home in Tokyo which costs the company six thousand dollars a month.
Another item of unusual interest that I want to put in the journal is the training program we have for an all-island conference in Honolulu in the tabernacle. President Gene R. Cook, the area president, was the General Authority visitor. For three-and-a-half hours he gave some unusual instruction and training which I fortunately recorded and have.
This concludes the journal entry up to November 9th.
Friday, November 10 – Thursday, December 14, 1989
Upon my arrival, I was provided a page-and-a-half job description for the Visitors’ Center. Recently President Perkins sent me a nine-page updated description of the Visitors’ Center. In light of the Church’s present emphasis on simplicity and the reduction of meetings, manuals and letters, etc., this came as a little surprise.
Included in this job description is an assignment to the Director that he prepare a budget for each calendar year and then to submit a master plan to the Mission President, who would be our priesthood file leader, on what we plan to do to meet the objectives of the Visitors’ Center as set forth in the job description.
Brother Fugel, who serves as our “Public Relations and Member Involvement” man and I have prepared a master plan which we have submitted to President Shumway, a counselor to President Perkins, who gave us a full endorsement and further assured us that he was sure the Mission President would accept it as well. Since the arrival of the new Mission President it has been so difficult to get a hearing and approval on a number of things, including the things we should be doing in Public Relations and Member Involvement.
With President Kikuchi, his predecessor, I had in place a number of things, and upon his arrival I sent a letter indicating those things that we were doing and asked for approval to proceed as I had been under President Kikuchi. He asked that I hold it in abeyance until such time as he was able to review these matters. Months have gone on with really no direction or authorization to proceed on these matters.
I asked if I could work through President Shumway, who lives here in Laie, and he turned me down–but later approved us going to him. Since we have been taking our matters to President Shumway, we have been able to move forward with pretty much the same program we had before. I’m still moving very cautiously with President Perkins, attempting to mend some fences that were damaged as I pressed for some changes in relocating the referral program into the Mission Office instead of the Visitors’ Center.
President Perkins and the Correlation Committee have approved us moving on a very ambitious Christmas program which includes much more than has ever been done in Hawaii before. In brief, the program includes: beginning Dec 3rd with a Nativity scene out on the plaza, and then programs continue each night until Christmas. Inside the Visitors’ Center—the latter would include community singing groups, along with the Nativity scene outside. Overall the program was a huge success. On the first night we had over 600 people. The Nativity scene includes local young couples with a new baby complete with the manger scene and a pony or a donkey and a bail of hay, with our sisters and other groups singing by the Nativity scene, surrounded by Christmas lights and Christmas music. Inside we have local community singing groups.
While the first night drew great numbers, there has been a big fall-off of numbers, but nonetheless we continued and had some ups and downs on the numbers and on the quality of the program. Overall, our Christmas effort under the chairmanship of Sister Mary Glick, involving other couples’ wives and the wife of the Temple President, worked out very well.
I received a letter from my dear friend and neighbor and former Stake President, Clyde D. Sangrin. He was my Stake President when I served as a Bishop in two wards on campus. For this journal, I hasten to add I didn’t serve in both wards at the same time; they followed back- to-back calls, but in the same stake. It was a joy serving under President Sangrin’s inspired leadership. Since then, those of us who served have met two or three times a year in what we’ve come to call “The Sangrin Seconds.” Since this letter, and recalling these many memories, I’ve learned from a friend that President Sangrin has undergone a massive heart attack and is not expected to live.
Since my last journal entry we have had two couples complete their 18 months and leave. The first were Brother and Sister Billy Dunn, and the second Brother and Sister David Beardshaw. The couple replacing the Dunns was Brother and Sister John Fugel and the couple replacing the Beardshaws was Robert and Marva Wood.
Since my arrival it was necessary to initiate new programs which were routinely and always resisted by the couples. Nonetheless, through careful cultivation of the couples, they did resign themselves to the changes and gave some measure of support. But always in the process of making the change, it became a situation filled with stress and trauma. Both Afton and I have really extended ourselves to cultivate the friendship and love of these good people which we have.
The Aloha that was held for each of them was an evening of great joy for all of us. Afton and I have high respect and love for both couples. However, we are so thrilled and pleased with the couples we now have in place: Brother and Sister Harry Glick who replaced the Wiscombes; Brother and Sister Fugel who replaced the Dunns; and Brother and Sister Wood who replaced the Beardshaws. The present quartet of couples are completely united and working so very, very well together. Brother Wood serves as the Assistant Director, Brother Fugel as the Public Relations and Member Involvement Representative, and Brother Glick as the Training Director. Prospects for continued productive work look very, very promising.
A few months ago I had a letter from my accountant, Hans Andersen, who had done an audit on my 1986 return and informed me that there was a $1900 deficit still owing for some undeclared income. This surprised and shocked me, but with the distance separating us it has been difficult to get it resolved. We finally settled on a figure of about $900, and I was just in the act of writing the check for that amount when Brother Andersen, our accountant, called and said that they had discovered an error that he had made and that the IRS had made and that I did not owe the government anything. In fact, they owed me $600. All of this came as an early, appreciated Christmas present.
Several months ago Margaret Farnsworth, who was the executive secretary to two Temple Square Directors, reported as a BYU missionary, but with no clear assignment of duties. When we learned of her arrival we asked permission to use her part-time in our operation here for scriptwriting and public relations purposes. She readily agreed, but for the first few weeks and, in fact, the first few months, it became so contentious in our meetings that we had to back off utilizing her. Since then, however, each of us has reached out, making it a point to keep the friendship and relationship alive. And now she has come back seeking to assist us on our terms and not on her terms. At this point in time it looks like it’s going to work out well for us.
A call from Ron and Tracy, who are now in Tokyo, Japan representing Morgan Stanley in a kind of a middle management position with some responsibility for the Hong Kong office, has proved to be a marvelous opportunity for Ronald. The company has taken on the whole financial responsibility of the move including a monthly payment for a lease and rental of a home of $6,000 a month. Ron had only been there three weeks when he was called as bishop of a ward in Tokyo. Mom and Dad feel he’ll make a wonderful Bishop.
Another major move for a family member is the move of Steve and Marilynn, who just settled into a large law firm in Salt Lake City, having come from some highly successful work with Exxon in international assignments which took them to Malaysia for several years. Since his affiliation with the new law firm in Salt Lake and the completion of a large and beautiful home, his former employer Exxon has continued to court him to see if they might get him back. They apparently made an offer that they couldn’t resist. And so they, like Ronald’s company of Morgan Stanley, Exxon has picked up all the costs of the move, the purchase of their existing home, and a substantial front-end bonus. So, it appears that they will be going to Dallas, Texas.
Steve, because of his background as an attorney and his willingness to take on all of our personal property matters, has done such an outstanding job for us. Because of his work, we have had little or no anxiety or any problems of a temporal financial nature. They have done everything for us in the management of things at home. But with his move, our son Larry has now taken over that role and is doing very well.
Since our arrival and during the ten months we have been here, it has been marked with some significant highs and some stressful lows, but overall we feel very positive about everything–especially now that we have four loyal, supportive couples in place. Our Christmas Eve with the Visitors’ Center family, which consisted of four couples and ten sisters, proved to be unusually successful. Added to that a phone call from every family member, together with letters and packages, made this an unusual Christmas for Mom and me. All in all at this point in time everything looks very good. Since our arrival, the family has blessed with four new grandchildren, and with one more yet to come in February.
Let me conclude this journal entry with one unpleasant experience which is now resolved. For a number of years the couples, and now the young sisters, serving in the Visitors’ Center had been residing in a cluster of homes within five minutes from the temple and the Visitors’ Center. The housing provided is modest, but very adequate and very, very convenient. A few months ago we had one temporary vacancy and the Mission President requested that we be allowed to house four proselyting sisters there until such time as they were able to locate housing in the community. I resisted, realizing that once this house rental unit was given up, it would be very difficult for it to come back to us. But I yielded with a verbal assurance that we would have it back when we needed it. Our understanding was that they would only need it for a month.
Two months went by, three months went by, and there was no indication of the mission giving it back to us. When there came a time that we had to provide some housing for our sisters, we had to look elsewhere. It finally reached the point where President Perkins suggested that, inasmuch as the Fugels were living in a unit with two bedrooms, they should move and make that available in order to accommodate our two additional sisters.
I resisted on the grounds that it was not right to move a couple who came and settled in. They came with the understanding they would have an additional bedroom which they need because of their health needs and because of family visiting them. Each time I resisted, the President countered and urged me to support them on this proposal. After the third time, I had to yield, but with this counterproposal: rather than disrupt the Fugels, let the missionaries take over our home and move Sister Felt and I into a one-bedroom unit.
Normally the Director has two bedrooms and a large living room in order to accommodate the Family Council meetings and other Alohas and meetings that are held in our home. The President agreed that this could be done. None of us felt right about it, but we felt we had to yield to what the President requested. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Sister Fugel wrote a pretty clear, harsh letter to President Perkins. That letter finally brought to light the kinds of unjust, thoughtless requests he was making of the couples. He apologized very profusely to the Fugels and to others, and now we’re back where we were prior to the request. The four proselyting sisters and missionaries will be seeking a rental out in the community, thus making available to us the ones that we had had for a considerable period of time.
Friday, December 15, 1989 – Thursday, January 11, 1990
Earlier journal entries referred to some stressful problems we had been facing with President Perkins regarding the housing of some of our young lady missionaries. He invited me to bring the other three couples and to share a dinner and an evening with him in their home in Honolulu. Naturally we were happy to go, knowing that the stressful housing situation had been once again resolved.
Following the dinner, he visited with me on the matter once again and pointed out that by not leaving our four lady missionaries in our Visitors’ Center housing, it would incur a heavy cost each year on housing through the Mission. Prior to going, Afton and I had further counseled about the matter, prayed about it and had come to some peace within ourselves that we would no longer object to whatever he proposed to do.
Prior to leaving, we met with the four couples and let them know our position, but two or three of them still registered some real opposition to some of the things that he had done and said that if he proposed any changes to the agreement to which he had assured us he would support, they would fight it. I plead with them not to create any more turmoil and argument. Following the dinner, he recommended the roll-back because of the financial savings to the Mission, seemingly with total disregard for the previous promises and commitments he had made. I was disappointed, but I didn’t want to get into any more encounters. I assured him we would support them.
Brother and Sister Fugel and Afton and I came up in the Fugel’s car, and when we left, the other two couples registered some real displeasure to the President about his change of heart. So once again we were right back in a deep, stressful, unresolved matter. It threw all of us in a deep depression and bitterness toward the President. The other couples felt that I hadn’t taken too bold and strong a position on the matter.
Another sleepless night was spent mulling this matter over, so early in the morning I called the President and told him of the dissatisfaction and the murmuring among the couples. He quickly agreed that what he had proposed to do was wrong, that people were more important than program and money, and once again reversed his position. This time he has kept his word and there is a much better feeling about the matter. Tomorrow we will be meeting with the President in his own conference, at which time he assures us he will meet with the couples and apologize to them.
Presently everything looks very good and upbeat with the President. As for Afton and me, we have long since crossed this bridge and have developed a genuine love and respect for him. With this present concession and roll-back, our love for him is greater than ever.
Ever since our arrival on this mission, we have been spending a good part of our time cultivating different key people at the temple, at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and in the Mission. All of these people, and all of these entities, have real impact for good or bad upon the Visitors’ Center. Therefore, it is imperative that we maintain good working relationships with all these people.
As I modestly look back on my nearly one year in the mission, I can see clearly that my principal contribution, if there has been any, is that of a peacemaker. Historically and traditionally, this whole area involving the temple, Visitor’s Center, the Mission, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the community have had no end of disputes and arguments. When I was called for what the Brethren call a “background check,” I was told that this area was a very strategic place for the Church.
Since coming here, I know more deeply than ever that this is a fact; because it is such a crucial and strategic area, the adversary certainly works overtime among this people and in this area. In fact, as I reviewed some of these matters with others at Church offices, they told me that this kind of thing “goes with the turf.” In the eternal scheme of things, apparently the isles of the sea and, more specifically, this area right here in Hawaii, will play a very strategic role—thus, Satan works overtime. Upon coming here, President Haycock served as the Temple President. He reviewed with me, as have others, the kind of extreme difficulty even great priesthood leaders have in getting along with people.
President Haycock and my predecessor, Brother Patterson, were not even on speaking terms, with the result that the temple was extending little help in terms of what they should do for the Visitors’ Center. It wasn’t difficult at all for me to cultivate a wonderful working relationship with President Haycock. And once that was in place, he had extended more significant service and budget monies and help than I could ever dream of. I cite only a few things: he made it possible for us to get a thirty-thousand dollar ($30,000) carpet installation; a five thousand dollar ($5000) upgraded phone system; and many, many other things. With his departure, a new Temple President came, by the name of President Victor Jex.
President Jex and his wife are tremendous people. We were able to quickly cultivate a good relationship with them. President Haycock had overspent the budget, so much so that they had to cut back on a number of services they were extending to us, as well as to other things in their own operation. When we came, we had two full-time maintenance people and one full-time man who took care of the plaza and things out in front of the Visitors’ Center. Because of budget restraints, they had to terminate those services and bring in their own people each night to do the maintenance.
For the past few months, things have really been deteriorating inside and outside. The organizational structure of getting help in time of need was so complicated that we always had real problems in getting jobs done. Finally, I scheduled a personal meeting with President Jex and told him of the problem. He then, in turn, called the Recorder who serves as the Administrative Director and, together, we persuaded him that the present system was not working and that we would once again have to assign two people to the Visitors’ Center. This they are now doing, but we will be given full authority and control over them, which we did not have before. This will enable us to better monitor their work and get more performance.
Once again, we went through a real battle, so to speak, and had some sleepless nights and stressful moments; but, once again, things are looking very good. As these devastating, stressful problems occur again and again, we think we have finally come to the end of them, yet we have concluded that, as long as we’re here on this assignment in this strategic area, it will never end. However, we are learning how to cope better with the problems as they do surface.
Today, Mom and I are enjoying a preparation day and spending it pretty much here at home, picking up a lot of loose ends. Presently, our four couples are working so unitedly, so energetically, and so effectively. Also our young sisters, under the direction of a newly appointed District Leader, are doing very well. All in all, it appears that we are reaching a peak and a level of performance better than we ever have before.
“Hoop-de-doo, the gospel’s true!”