Writing My Life

Now and Then


… my grandmother: a pioneer in her own right …

I was asked to speak in church about pioneers, and the minute I accepted I knew I needed to talk about my mom’s mother – also named Rebecca. As the entire speech is little lengthy for a post, the following is the first part of my talk. I will post the second part as soon as I write it. Yes, I presented a half-written talk. Oh, and heck back because I am going to post photos as well. But not tonight. 

Officially the pioneer era ended with the advent of the transcontinental railroad. No longer did immigrants or other western settlers have to cross the American continent via covered wagons or handcarts. Nevertheless, pioneering and the pioneer spirit lived on. While my family history does include individuals who ventured forth to Zion in prairie schooners, it also consists of grandparents who continued to settle communities beyond the Wasatch front well into the twentieth century. Among those was my grandmother Rebecca Wheelwright Howe.

Little Rebecca Wheelwright

Grandma Howe’s childhood read like Cinderella’s younger years. Like the fairytale heroine, Grandma was born into a loving family where the beautiful young mother died at age 28. My grandmother was one of 6 children, all under the age of 10, who were left motherless. That was a heavy burden for her father Mathew Wheelwright, but somehow he managed to care for them as a single parent until he met and married Amanda, a woman from Sweden. Grandma’s life dramatically changed again.

While Amanda managed the household, she did not extend the loving care and concern to her stepchildren. When she and my great-grandfather had two sons of their own, Grandma and her siblings were not allowed to eat at the same table with the “new” family. Instead they were sent to the kitchen to eat their meals, a simple fare, while those at the table enjoyed three or four courses that included dessert.

Once my grandmother learned her letters and numbers, she was taken out of fourth grade to stay home and help her stepmother with household chores, watching children, feeding chickens, and tending the garden. By age 12 she was hired out to other households to fend for herself and provide added income for her family. One particular employer was especially unkind, and Grandma wished so much that she could return home, even if it meant living under the same roof as her stepmother.

Fredrick James Howe as a baby and a dashing young man

I doubt that my grandmother dreamed a prince or a knight who would sweep in on a mighty charger and rescue her from a life of drudgery, but she did meet the love of her life one spring day while walking down 25th Street in Ogden. My grandfather, whose family accepted the gospel while living in England, immigrated to Utah when he was three.  At age 20 Frederick had developed many skills, and among those, he broke wild horses – more of a cowboy than a prince, I guess. But when he saw Rebecca Wheelwright and she saw Frederick James Howe, sparks flew and they were married not long after meeting on that spring day on 25th Street.

After 8 years of working as a butcher and grocer, Grandpa decided it might be best for their growing family to move north to Idaho. Having visited his parents there and seeing the fields of green

The Traditional Wedding Pose

wheat, he believed he could be successful at dry-farming, and so they packed all their household furniture, a cow, two horses, some chickens, a wagon AND my grandpa into a boxcar and headed north. That must have been such a pleasant journey??!!

Grandma and her 4 little ones followed a week later on the train. The conductor who helped her off asked her, “Where did you have all those kiddies?”

“On one ticket right there in the car,” she replied, and the railroad man enjoyed a good laugh.

Life homesteading the 160 acres in Marsh Center, Idaho was so hard, and they quickly learned why it was called DRY FARMING. They had to haul all the water they used in barrels for two or three miles, and not a drop was wasted. Four more children were born while they labored there, and two were taken away.

To be continued.


… what I learned about the Holy Ghost today … and yes, I am a believer …

G.E. and I were sitting on our favorite padded pew on the back row – which is the last row before the folding chairs that fill up the overflow area. As usual, I was “glowing” – the euphemism for “perspiring” – which is better than saying “sweating.” At any rate, I was caught up in all three. At times like these, I wish I had a lovely folded fan from China or Japan, but I have yet to find one -which is quite unusual when you consider how many items ARE made in China. (I don’t see so many from Japan any more – other than cars, but I think Toyotas and the like are also manufactured in the good old U.S. of A.)

Enough stream of conscious writing, already.

With NO fan in sight, I snatched three stapled sheets of paper from G.E.’s pile of lesson materials. (He teaches the 16 and 17 year old boys during the priesthood hour.) The 3 papers served wonderfully as a make-shift fan, and in moments I was out of heat-stroke danger. At that point, I scanned the writing on the paper and became engrossed with the lesson about the Holy Ghost. While I have attended 100s of Sacrament meetings, Sunday School classes, and Relief Society lessons, I don’t ever remember learning parts of the doctrine I read in that lesson.

While most KNOWN readers of my blog are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I realize I have a few that drop in who are not.  Because the Tony-winning play, THE BOOK OF MORMON, parodies our religion, there are lots of wild notions out in the world concerning our beliefs. I doubt that many folks sit around the dinner table discussing what Mormons believe about the Holy Ghost, but just in case that is the case, I’ll share what I learned today by reading G.E.’s lesson.

First of all the entire lesson can be found on LDS.org – click HERE if you want to check it out. I am only going to mention my 2 “ah-hahs,” and if you want to see where the inspiration/revelation is referenced, the above hyperlink will take you where you can get that info. Now that all the prattle is out of the way, let’s get started.

  1. The Holy Ghost is the 3rd member of the Godhead, he is a spirit, but he takes the form of a man – and ONLY a man. I know the New Testament indicates that after the Savior’s baptism, the Holy

    The dove - SYMBOL of the Holy Ghost - NOT the Holy Spirit itself

    Ghost descended upon Jesus “in the form of a dove.” According to the prophet Joseph Smith the dove serves as a “sign” of the Holy Ghost and the appearance of the dove signified that the Savior received the Holy Ghost. BUT no, that third member of the Godhead does NOT transform himself into an actual bird.

  2. The Holy Ghost is not and can not be omnipresent, BUT his power and influence can. This is the analogy presented to explain this complex concept – and I love it for its clarity. Okay, we know that the sun occupies a place in the heavens, and that is the only place where our sun can be found. Nevertheless, the sun’s rays can be felt throughout our world – in many places at once – and so can the power and influence of the Holy Ghost be felt by many of God’s children at the same time.
Of course, I realize there is much more to the doctrine concerning the trinity, and  I could share additional beliefs about this interesting topic. But the final and most important tidbit is my testimony that I have felt that power and influence of the Holy Ghost many many times in my life. While some believe this doctrine flies in the face of logic and reason, but it supports and strengthens my faith in God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Faith is NOT based upon logic and reason. There is so much more to that as well. In the end, I am thankful for this knowledge and for the inspiration, revelation, and comfort I have received from this particular spiritual emissary from my Heavenly Father.

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… a Sunday-go-2-meetin’ entry posted on a Tuesday …

I’ve been thinking about prayer. A lot. I am a great believer in prayer even though many are not answered in a timely manner nor are they answered as I often hope they will be. Why? Because of that “thy will be done” clause associated with heaven-bound requests.

Some might ask why pray at all if we know that the Lord will bestow upon us mere mortals only that which He wills? I suppose that is where faithful living enters the scene. We have hope in His holy promise that if we knock, He will answer in a manner that is best for us. Sometimes we don’t always know what that is, but He does.

I have experienced too many instances where I learned the Lord does know what He’s doing; where the resulting outcome really was the best one. In such circumstances, I am SO grateful that what I thought was a prayer was actually wishful thinking, and that Heavenly Father did NOT grant my wish but answered a prayer instead.

One day I had a talk with someone close to me who was discouraged. He posed the question that went something like this: “How do we know that things wouldn’t have turned out the same whether we prayed or not?” He had been going through a stretch of stress that had not been eased by answered prayer. I believe he was thinking, “Why bother? Nothing is happening.”

That’s when I remembered a “saying” about Pray Until Something Happens (PUSH – as in “push” the point? “Push” forward or ahead while waiting for the answer? I’m not sure about the significance of the acronym, but it is memorable.) I don’t think the advice means to stop praying all together once the “something” happens, but refers to praying about a particular problem, situation, condition, etc. until something happens to remedy or change THAT problem, situation,  or condition.

This mantra also correlates with the scriptural admonition to “pray unceasingly” because there is ALWAYS something and someone to pray for. And that brings me to my AH-HAH moment. As I pondered my loved one’s frustrations with slow-to-be-answered prayers, I knew in my heart that prayers would be answered and soon – whether or not he was praying unceasingly. Why did I feel that impression? Because G.E. and I WERE praying unceasingly in his behalf, and we had been for weeks, months, years!

That’s when I realized that while we may “think” the “right” solution comes about even when we don’t pray, we may be forgetting all those prayers that others offer for us. And if you really think about it, an inestimable number of prayers are offered up for families, friends, leaders, victims, and even enemies. If someone is ALWAYS praying for someone else, prayers WILL be answered – in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way, but I know this, too, He does listen to the prayers of the faithful and perhaps He more quickly extends His help OR His comfort because of such pleadings. I like to think so.



… maybe I can be religious AND spiritual …

Personally, I need the hard back of a pew to keep me pointed toward God. So I guess I’m more religious than spiritual. ~ Lavar Webb

Lavar Webb and Frank Pignanelli are politicos who spar via their column in the Deseret News. Among several other topics discussed in today’s newspaper, the two addressed the difference between being “spiritual” and being “religious.” This interesting debate stemmed from a comment by potential presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Junior’s “articulate dodge of the religious question” as reported in TIME Magazine.

When asked about whether or not he was a practicing Mormon, our former governor replied that he was more spiritual than religious. Webb prefaced the above quotation by suggesting that “lots of people consider themselves spiritual, but not so interested in organized religion. They find spirituality in nature and meditation.”

Now I am NOT interested in debating whether or not Mr. Huntsman wanted to distance himself from the “Mormon question” in order to appeal to “closet agnostics,” Baptists,  or moderate Republicans or Democrats. I am merely reflecting upon my own condition. Am I …

  1. more spiritual than religious?
  2. more religious than spiritual?
  3. religious AND spiritual?

Tonight, I’m going with number 3. While many observers might see religion in the light of the “letter of the law,” I see religion as my doctor’s office. The place I regularly  go to check-up on my “spiritual” well-being. It is there, that my heart is examined through words from the pulpit as shared in Sacrament Meeting talks by fellow church members and through lessons in Sunday School and Relief Society.

To be clear, it is NOT church members or leadership who pinch and probe, it is that spirit that accompanies my reflections as I listen to and learn from others. And just as I do at the clinic, I commit to trying harder and doing better. Why? Because my spiritual life is dependent upon the “good-for-the-soul” changes I constantly work on.

I think the hard back of the pew does point me toward God who is so patient with me and toward friends who laugh at my craziness, family members who forgive my carelessness, neighbors who extend and receive kindnesses, clerks I meet at Maverick’s stations, frustrated drivers who flip me off when I inadvertently cut them off, co-workers I learn to respect, and people in far away places that I don’t know but want to help.

Many may not feel they need weekly prodding to do good. But I need all the help I can get to become more patient, more faithful, more prayerful, more grateful, “more spiritual.”

Yes, I find spirituality in nature, in meditation, AND in organized religion.


… beginning of the end of the “war on terror”… maybe ….

Dear FUTURE Great and Great-Great Grandchildren,

Yesterday was one of those historic dates that you may read about in your history books in your online history class. You will interact with the text and learn that on May 1, 2011, nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001, the evil genius behind the Alqaeda attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City was FINALLY hunted down and killed.

 At first, as silly as this may seem, I felt like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz who sang, “Ding dong! the witch is dead; the witch old witch, the witch old witch. Ding dong! the wicked witch is dead.” But then I stopped myself. Like many Americans, I realized that it isn’t right to be excited over any person’s death – wicked as they may be.  

In that distant day, you may not access the hologram that could show the celebrating crowd of 2000 or more cheering in front of the White House from where President Barak Obama made the late evening announcement. But you may stumble onto an ancient CNN story that tells about those who went to Ground Zero – former home of the Twin Towers – to honor the 3000 plus who died there, and you may hear a recording of the crowd’s rendition of  “I’m Proud to be an American.” While many are excited that the tyrant is dead, I hope what we are truly celebrating is the death of what bin Laden symbolized.

Throughout that evening, your great granny here watched those same stories as they unfolded on television (which, to you,  may be an obsolete piece of technology), and they reminded me of photos I had seen of the ending of World War II. I wondered as I watched if this was as big event as VJ Day was back in 1945. Or was it as monumental as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that signaled the end of Cold War? Most importantly, I asked myself, “Is bin Laden’s demise the “beginning of the end of the ‘war on terror?'”


In the coming day, weeks, months, and years, I will learn the answer to that question, and I hope it is a resounding YES. Most politicians and analysts really don’t think so. But I hope they are wrong.

Years from now, when you study this historical event, I HOPE you are curious about the bearded man and wonder how his malevolent influence faded so fast from the face of the world.

I PRAY in that day that you ask yourself how such a one could have misinterpreted the beautiful teachings of the Koran in a way that directed hundreds of Muslims into extremist paths of deep hatred and vast destruction.

I DREAM that when you learn the details, such despicable human beings and appalling events will elude your understanding because YOUR world is one where Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindi, Buddhists and many other peoples and faiths co-mingle in peace.

I know yesterday’s event may not bring about the desires of my heart and my prayers for you, but I want you to understand that I have faith that one day our world will know the peace we dream of. It may not happen in my lifetime or yours, but it will happen, my darlings.

I love you. 


… HaPPy BiRtHDaY, dEAr ReLief SoCiEtY …

As a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I also belong to the largest women’s organization in the world, the Relief Society. Officially organized in March of 1842, Relief Society is “an auxiliary to the priesthood.” In its earlier beginnings, women of the church envisioned their society as a service organization, as suggested by Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball’s idea of establishing a constitution to formalize the community’s sewing circle.

Within the confines of the Mormon Church, the rest of the story is well known: Sarah’s friend Eliza R. Snow wrote the document and took it to Church President Joseph Smith who praised its contents but added that the Lord had something better in mind for the women of the church. It’s my understanding that the “better part” included organizing the women as an auxiliary to the Priesthood AND adding teaching to service; thus the sewing circle also became a learning circle.

While church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Newel K. Whitney, attended early meetings to teach “new things” to the women, the organization eventually turned to its own members to teach one another. And so it continues today.

Yesterday, March 19, 2011, the women of the Eagle Mountain Utah North Stake celebrated that occasion by meeting together at the nearby church. As women do, we adorned the “cultural hall” in springtime pastels; we sang, prayed, and lunched together, and we taught one another. As in  times gone by, a priesthood leader shared his thoughts, but it was women serving, teaching, and inspiring one another that lay at the heart of the occasion.

I know today’s Relief Society may not be my grandmother’s Relief Society – her social would have been the annual bazaar, complete with quilts and pot luck dishes instead of a celebration featuring balloons and a catered buffet – BUT it is still a most amazing organization whose past and present fascinate me.

NOW and THEN …


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… uphill battle for Christianity …

As I have loved you, Love one another,

This new commandment: Love one another.

By this shall men know Ye are my disciples,

If ye have love One to another.

(Hymns, 1985, no. 308.)

This won’t be a long post and I will add to it, I’m sure, but today as I listened to an audio book – Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardytwo thoughts came to mind:

  • I can’t remember all  the sexual references when I read this as a high school senior!
  • I didn’t realize Hardy viewed Christianity as something archaic, provincial, smothering, etc.

That thought led me to think of the struggle to spread the Savior’s message of charity, forgiveness, and redemption. And many of the problems have been initiated by Christians themselves. Some examples:

  • Unrighteous behaviors of kings, popes, and Christian folk in general. And when I say UNrighteous, I mean more than horrendous – torturing, burning, warring, and killing in the name of the Lord. I do NOT get that.
  • Horrific actions of horrific hypocrites: while we are ALL hypocrites to some degree, I cringe and I cry when I read about well-respected church-goers who hold high positions in their congregations and testify of the Lord on Sunday and abuse their spouses and children on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
  • EXTREME views of sects that attack the beliefs of other denominations – burning the Koran, protesting funerals of fallen soldiers, teaching congregations false information about other churches.
  • And on the other side, the mocking and belittling of those who try to live righteously that rises from many (not all) atheists, agnostics, intellectuals, entertainers, authors, artists, etc.
  • Secularism that is replacing faith, hope, and charity with skepticism, greed, and unbelief.

It’s a wonder that there are people of faith left. Seriously. But with so much against those who want to be true disciples of Christ, there is much support as well: A loving Heavenly Father, a benevolent Savior, the Holy Ghost. And They love us ALL. And ALL means ALL!