I was attracted to the singing and the music of the church. People in our branch used to sing the hymns with enthusiasm. I learned most of the words by heart, and they took on a special meaning for me.
We thank thee O God for a prophet, to guide us in these latter-days
My grandparents sang this song on a record. They walked into a dime store, once, and wanted to record their voices. It was the only song they knew. This hymn always reminds me of them.
There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home.
Again, this reminds my of my grandparents. They were really in love.
Trials make our faith grow stronger. Truth is nobler than a crown.
We will brave the tempest longer, thought the world upon us frown.
We used to sing this song in Sunday School. I didn’t know why the world would frown upon us, but it made me proud and it made me think that we must be doing something right. The time to be worried is when you as a church try so hard to fit into the world, that you forget what you really stand for.
Today while the sun shines, live to be true
Constant and faithful all the way through.
I wanted more than anything to live the Gospel and to be constant and faithful to it. It wasn’t until I later attended religions classes at BYU that I learned that the Church and the Gospel were not one in the same. The Gospel is everlasting, but the Church is only temporary. It was about that time, at college, when I saw many Mormons (in name only) lying and cheating the students, that my loyalties became divided.
When I saw how the students were treated, I wrote a little song about it. The melody should be familiar:
We thank thee O God for the profit, we made off the students this year.
It’s keeping two cars in the driveway. It’s keeping the fridge full of beer.
No, things aren’t so good here in Utah. We’re poor with a capital “P”.
So, thanks, Lord, for sending the money, so bail out the economy.
I decided at that point to embrace and remain true to the Gospel, and tolerate the church merely as a social institution, and also as a gathering place for some of the most wonderful people I ever met. I was in love with the members. I revered some of the General Authorities, like LeGrand Richards and Harold B. Lee, but didn’t think much of the church as a whole.
Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Battle for freedom in spirit and might.
And with stout hearts, look ye forth to tomorrow. God will protect you, then do what is right.
In Aaronic priesthood, we used to have monthly lessons with a theme. One of the themes was “Be honest with yourself.” Another one was: “This above all, to thine own self be true. Thou canst not them be false to any man.” In Primary, in the Co-Pilots, Pilots, and the Guide Patrol, we learned the importance of following the compass. In Scouting, my dad taught me how to steer a boat in a straight course by fixing on the goal on the distant shore and constantly making the necessary adjustments. The D&C advises us to be wise and take the Holy Spirit for our guide. To be valiant is to follow your testimony of Christ, despite all indications to do otherwise.
Put your shoulder to the wheel, push along.
My aunt says this was my favorite song in church, growing up. She says I used to sit on the front row and sing it at the top of my lungs. I have always had a penchant for putting action into words. Talk is cheap.
Humbly kneeling, sweet appealing, ’twas the boy’s first uttered prayer.
Every young Mormon child is familiar with this story, and with the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. These were always great examples to me of being valiant, as I mentioned above, and sticking up for the truth. The lesson I took away from the life and story of Joseph Smith was not that he was some kind of special demi-god, evolved far beyond us ordinary humans, but that if it could happen to him, it could happen to us, provided we follow the same principles he followed. The D&C promises as much.
O that we in the day of his coming may say, I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work, thou hast sent me to do.
I have always felt that my life had a mission, much as I feel that everybody’s life has a mission. We all have work, and rather than wait for somebody to tell us what to do, let’s be about our father’s business.
Growing up, I had all kinds of relatives in all different kinds of churches. My dad’s stepmother was a Baptist. I attended Baptist, Nazarene, and Presbyterian Bible school. Our cub scout pack met in a Congregational church, and I attended some youth programs at the local Methodist church. So I wasn’t a stranger to Protestantism. Oh yes, our neighbors were Lutherans from Wisconsin and we went to church with them a couple of times. Their pastor had all gold teeth, and I wanted to have all gold teeth so I would be a good looking angel, once I got to heaven. My step-grandmother gave us a book of ABC Children’s Bible Stories. For every letter of the alphabet, there was a story about a Biblical character or event that began with that letter of the alphabet. I was particularly taken by the phrase used to describe Abraham. He was “a friend of God”. I was amazed that a man could not only be a servant of God, but a friend of God. I wanted to become of friend of God. I later discovered that God wants us all to become his friends.
As Branch President, my uncle always went to Salt Lake City to attend conference. Back in those days, there was room in the Tabernacle for all the ward and branch leadership. I knew a little about Salt Lake City because I had aunts and uncles and cousins there and because we listened to Richard L. Evans and the Tabernacle Choir. That was part of what got me first interested in music.
My dad’s grandmother was still alive and she was a Pentecostal. My Pentecostal great-grandmother married her second husband, a really funny Italian guy, early in life, but Grandpa Galanetti did not convert. He used to say the Mormons on Sunday morning made more sense talking for 1/2 hour than the Holy Rollers did talking for 2 hours.
One year, my uncle returned with a picture of the church’s General Authorities. I looked at the First Presidency, recognized David O. McKay, then down at the Presiding Patriarch, which the church no longer has, the Presiding Bishopric, the Assistants to the Twelve. But what really caught my eye were the Twelve Apostles, for some reason. I was very interested and very curious about them. I used to love reading about the Apostles in the New Testament, and about the apostles in the church today. I added a new line to my little set prayer that I said every night: “… please bless the Twelve Apostles …”.
My mother was a member of the church. My father had not joined at the time, but he did attend church from time to time, and even stood up and bore his testimony in our little branch in Beaverton, OR. After my dad came home from WW II and the Korean War, we moved to a little one bedroom house in Beaverton. We had a large service porch in the back, and my dad hung up three Navy cots on the wall for us three boys. We had our own bunk beds. When we moved in, the house was unfinished. There were only studs separating the bedroom, living room, and kitchen. When several family members got the measles, my parents hung up blankets to the walls to keep out the sunlight, and everybody who had the measles slept in the one and only bedroom. My parents were concerned about my eyes. They didn’t want me to get measles, because of my eyes, so I slept in the living room and was not allowed in the bedroom. I never got the measles.