Expression of Gratitude and a Testimony
By Estella Jensen Weech
November 5, 1963
I have just returned from Relief Society. The Theology lesson theme is—"Ye are on the Lord’s Errand."
I don’t know why but for some reason my life so far seemed to come to mine [sic—should read "mind"]. My contributions to the Lord’s work have been so small. Everything I have done in the Lord’s work seem[s] to have benefited me only, and I wonder why I was chosen to receive these blessings and testimonies.
First of all—I was not born into the Church. Of my parents I cannot say as Nephi of old, that "I was born of goodly parents" for I do not know who they were and I do not wish to judge them, however if heredity counts they must have been good, for I have always had a desire to be good and to do good. That I have not always magnified that inward feeling is because of my own weakness, not because of others’ failings toward me.
I was born June 14, 1894, but for me life began on that July day about six weeks later when the wonderful man and woman who adopted me took me to their home and heart.
Why should these two fine Latter-day Saints who had come to this country from a foreign land for religion’s sake, be led to me, and adopt me into their lives and religion?
Mother Jensen walked across the plains with her family and father Jensen came later alone, a young man of 18 yr. They met, were married in the way the Lord said they should—even entered plural marriage in keeping with the Lord’s commandments.
Many trials came to them; the one baby that they were permitted to bring into this world, after a few short months died, and mother was left in such condition that it was impossible to bear more children.
But she was a mother at heart, and after years of helping the other wife to raise and care for children, she prayed that she might have the blessing of one for herself.
How it became known that I needed a home is not clear to me but some friends in West Jordan were instrumental in making the necessary arrangements. Mrs. Steadman (the friend) said I was a very weak little thing and that they didn’t expect me to live—But mother did and through her loving care and also the love of my father I grew in health and strength.
Not only did my body develop but my mind and understanding grew. The gospel meant a way of life to my parents.
Prayer was one of the first principles of their teachings. I was taught to pray as though I was talking to God, someone who would listen and answer me. I was taught to call upon Him when ill, when I needed help in school work, when I needed help to learn a part for Primary or Sunday School, for help upon losing something of value (to me).
When I was tempted to do something that I knew my parents wouldn’t want me to do, I sought His help, and I must say as long as I kept humble enough to ask for this help I received it. Some special blessings received were—Overcoming fear (when left alone or upon having to go into dark places as a small child—I would offer up a short prayer and all would seem OK. Healing of the sick—Father always called in the Elders—A prayer circle would be held around the afflicted and then the administration took place. My faith was strong, and the healing of my mother at the time an operation had all been prepared for her (the operation was never performed). The many times I have knelt by her bed and asked heavenly Father to relieve her of the terrible Migraine headaches that she suffered with. My own severe case of Typhoid fever and later the healings that took place in my own family were testimonies to me.
My great regret is that my faith has not remained as strong in my later years as it was in my early youth. I feel I could have avoided much sorrow and suffering had I trusted more in the Lord.
Honesty—willingness to help, obedience to them and to those in authority—admiration for our church president and his counselors, etc. A desire to attend church and its auxiliaries and to take part when asked, to be kind, and to play fair and oh so many ways to find joy in living were taught daily in our home by example as well as precept.
My mother was gentle and kind, and although she was never strong—she spent many days and nights caring for others. My father was also kind. My mother said he would never quarrel, much to her exasperation at times. But he was strict and expected to be obeyed. He was dearly loved by little children. My time with him was short as he died Xmas Day 1906 after 9 months of illness. I being 12 years of age at that time. And so mother had the task of taking me through the difficult time of life alone. The time when youth feels that everyone is opposed to what they want to do. She also had the task of providing for me, clothing, books, amusement and spending money, something so necessary to young folks and the thing I had so little of—Now I can look back and see the anxiety and loneliness that must have filled her 28 years of widowhood.
My growing up years were good. I missed some of the things that other "kids" had but none of the necessities. My bachelor uncles (Bent and Jake) were good to me, and I’m sure they loved me. I grieved over leaving my Murray friends and teachers. It was hard to start anew, but I arrived in Mt. Pleasant close to the Mutual age. I always loved school, although the change made the next 2 years rather hard. I had skipped a grade and found I had also skipped some studies that others had learned, but folks were usually willing to help, and a certain Leif Ericksen (who later moved to Canada) stands out in my memory as one who was willing to help me understand such things as "diagramming," etc. I graduated from the 8th grade as "Prognosticator" of our class. I’m afraid not much of what I predicted has come true, but it was an honor and it’s a pleasure to read what was predicted. There are not many of that class living today.
Entering High School brought many experiences. First the only school available was the Presbyterian Wasatch Academy. A public high school was under construction but not available until the next year.
Not everyone who graduated from the 8th grade went to high school—so I was again blessed in that my uncles insisted that I should go. They paid the tuition and books and fees, which were not free. The majority of this school were children of Presbyterian residents (mostly grade school). The high school at that time had only about 52 members, some were boarding school pupils from other towns, a few from Mt. Pleasant, among which were 22 LDS members. The Faculty consisted of men and women who were graduates of eastern colleges of Presbyterian faith, and of the local Minister who was also an eastern man. The school was fine, good teachers, intellectual and kind. Each morning we held a Devotional before class work began—A prayer, a short talk—religious but not denominational and singing—I loved the songs, I still do. This and a class in theology were required but I enjoyed both, until—
One morning the speaker in Devotional was a visiting minister, a Dr.—. Instead of the usual mild religious talk, he at once began to berate the Mormons, he denounced our church, he called us heathens, he compared us to Mohammedans and accused us of things I had never heard of. We few Mormons sat there afraid to move. We could do nothing but sit and listen. After school we went to the home of one of the senior class students, whose father was a judge and a prominent church member. There seemed to be nothing we could do, as they were within their rights to call upon whomever they wished to speak. However we decided as a group that should anything like this happen again we would all walk out.
Two weeks later another speaker began on the same subject and we left. We were suspended from school. It was April and school closed in May. Four seniors expected to graduate. Needless to say this caused much dissention between Mormons and Presbyterians which up to this time had seemed very peaceful.
The ultimatum finally was that we would be re-instated upon application from our parents, an apology to the faculty and the minister by ourselves, and a promise never to do such a thing again. The four Seniors went back, the rest of us enrolled in the New North Sanpete High School which opened the next fall. This awakened in me a new interest in the gospel and our church.
In our study of theology at school, questions would arise and we didn’t always agree upon the interpretations that our teacher (who was the Minister) gave us, so we would bring these questions to our Mutual teacher who would give us the word of our church authorities. Sister Alberta L. Jacobs was a wonderful teacher.
We were a mixed group as we went through High school. Some of us were Presbyterians and some of us Mormons. There were also Baptists among us. As I remember back, temple marriage was not stressed as much as it is now, or was it that we were not of one faith and we fell in love at times with those not of our faith. At any rate, we attended our churches, but as dancing was our principle entertainment, religion was not an issue and several of my best friends were married out of the church. I married a Mormon but we did not go through the temple at that time. However as we began raising families, religion again became important to us, and I began to look at my friends and realize what it meant to be married to a fine religious man, and we began to live to be worthy of a marriage in the temple and being sealed to each other for time and eternity. Activity in the church became a blessing to me, although at times it seemed very much in disguise.
Every position in which you give of yourself, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually comes back in time to you. It strengthens you, gives you faith, opens up new vistas to you. You grow, you develop, you become more understanding, you develop love one for another. To be asked to help, in any capacity, is a blessing even though it may prove a hardship at the time.
To teach little children—tell them a story with a moral or teach them of Jesus. To teach the 12 yr. olds, the 14 yr. olds, Sunday school and mutual—to answer their problems, to show them how to control their actions, to dance to sing, how to treat each other, in their homes and outside. To visit the poor and sick, the lonely, those who are called to mourn. Yes you hope you have helped them—but what has it done for you? It changes your actions in your own home. Relief Society home visiting—a job to find time for, maybe, but how much easier it is to face your own problems when you get home. So many things to think of beside the drudgery of house work. To teach the Book of Mormon lesson. How much you learned. Our own scripture. To teach—teacher’s topics—To be kind, to be sympathetic, to spread sunshine. To teach Social Service (Science now). Home life and children. To teach Literature of the Bible (How beautiful). To act on Committees, plan programs, plan ward dinners, decorate halls, furnish foods, etc. All extra work but again it enriches our lives.
Serving as 1st and 2nd counselors, being Sec. and Treas. of the Relief Society, in active wards. Records to keep—meetings to attend, visits to make, going into homes to put up fruit, washing, ironing, sitting with the sick and old, so much to be done by those holding any position in the Church.
But any good you do comes back to you, often literally, but always in grateful memory. Mutual requires so much activity for a tired house wife and mother to do, but it has its blessings, it rejuvenates one, yes it does keep the spirit young, and even the memory of those days and those lovely young folks makes old age easier to bear. What a thrill to read of the accomplishments of your gleaner class or to have them remind you personally of something you did for them. Being counselor on the MIA Stake board gave me the friendship of two of the finest women I have known. There is not always perfect harmony in all this work, but we learn to share, to forgive, to be tolerant and to find the good in people. Evil becomes intolerable and good becomes paramount in our lives.
And now as I have grown old I find satisfaction in attending my Sacrament Meetings, partaking of the Sacrament and gaining strength from the spirit which I feel when associating with good people. Relief Society is a great comfort to me. I enjoy every lesson. The sisters are sweet and kind. Al seem more or less humble and anxious to do right. I am grateful for their friendship.
Oh there are times when I am very lonely and blue. I miss my husband, whom I depended so much on, especially for my social life. I can’t help but see those who are enjoying each other’s company who are much older than I am now, who have lovely homes and many close friends and who are also fine Latter-day Saints, and I regret what might have been.
And then again I think of that little baby that was taken into such a good home, and given a good birthright. Why was I, that baby, given so many positions in the church, why was I kept on the straight path up to this time. I strayed but through repentance I feel I have been forgiven. My contributions to others have been small but my receipts have been great.
I am grateful for all the calls I have received and grateful for the teaching I received that helped me to accept them. My life is drawing to a close. My duties in the church are small. The lives that I touch now enrich my life. I hope to fulfill any assignments given me, but I am very content to reap the benefit of others’ works.
I enjoy Relief Society visiting teaching and hope I will always be welcome in the homes with my good partners. I realize the importance of Genealogy and in my heart I have a desire to do something for my adopted ancestors. For some reason I do not get the spirit that should motivate me to action. I worry about this. I attend all meetings. I go to classes, etc., but it seems I am waiting for something—My health permitting I shall continue to try.
I do not know why I have written this today except that I have been made to feel conscious of what the church has done for me and of how I have been led to do things which now appear as blessings to me. I hope that I will be able to continue in righteous living until I go to live with my worthy husband and son. I also pray that while I live my influence may be felt for good by my children and grandchildren.
Again for some unknown reason I am never able to say to them the things that are in my heart. I recognize their good qualities and I also see their failings and wish that I could help them to overcome them, but I guess we must all work out our own lives. I pray that they turn to the Lord for guidance, with faith that He will do His share and keep His promises if we will show Him that we want his help. It’s wonderful what peace can come to us if we strive to keep His commandments and leave the rest to Him.
I have a testimony of the truthfulness of this Gospel. I believe that our Church leaders are men of God, even though human and have some human failings. Let us now judge lest we be judged and be found wanting—
I pray at this time that the remainder of my life will be tranquil and I will not become a burden to my family in any way. That they will always desire to be near me, that I may be near unto them and that love and harmony may exist in our midst.
Again I say thanks to my Heavenly Father for his goodness to me and mine, and I pray that He will forgive me my faults and failings and my many sins of "omission."
Stella Jensen Weech