January 1, 1918 is a special day for me. That is the day my grandmother was born. She told me that her mother had said that they could still hear fireworks going off and people celebrating the coming of the New Year when she was born. She played a very important role in my life, so much so, that we named our daughter Maggie after her.
Life doesn’t always go as you would like it to, and I’m sure that is true for both my grandmother and my mother. My grandfather passed away three years before I was born. My grandmother spent 30 years as a widow. My mother raised me as a single mom. Luckily for me, my grandmother was there to help raise me while my mom worked. She probably didn’t think that her golden years would be spent raising another child, but I’m sure glad she did. Most of what I know about the gospel, I learned at her knee.
Some of my earliest memories were of playing with my Hot Wheels cars under a huge quilt the relief society sisters had set up in her front room. They made a lot of quilts. I knew all of the elderly sisters in the ward. It seems like we were often at the church to help with funeral luncheons. I’d help set up chairs then go find something to do. I often found myself going on visiting teaching assignments with my grandmother to some of the other sisters in the ward. Tuesdays I’d walk to primary. Most Sundays I’d go to church with my grandmother at her ward. My mother was not active in the church when I was growing up. I remember my grandmother singing the alto part in the choir. Thinking back on it, she served a lot in the church. There were a lot of widows in the ward and they were all busy doing things to help others out. We often refer to them as the greatest generation. They lived through the great depression, world war II, and they were strong and capable of anything. She would tell me stories of her father, who owned the Burgon Market in Union, right up the street from her home. At his funeral, several of the neighbors told her that they would have starved during the great depression had it not been for him giving them food from the market at no charge. I remember feeling proud of my great-grandfather and his generosity. I remember my grandmother telling me of paying tithing when there was no food in the fridge or pantry. She said the next morning she woke up and there was a sack of potatoes on the front porch. She said she never went without because she was always sure to pay her tithing. She taught me about prayer. I often would walk into her bedroom and find her kneeling by the side of her bed. I’d listen for her praying about a couple wayward children, one of whom she would never in mortality see come back to the church, but whom I have seen come back to the church and saw him serve in the bishopric and now serves as a temple worker. She taught me about fasting. She taught me about how the prophet would never lead us astray and how she knew that Spencer W. Kimball was a prophet. She taught me about the importance of reading the scriptures. Hers were well-read and well-marked and sat next to her chair on the end table. They were always there. We’d read them together. We also listened to some dramatic cassette tapes of the Book of Mormon. We even had a scripture game called “Seek” that we’d play. I got to know the Book of Mormon really well. She taught me about baptism, the Holy Ghost, the importance of going to church and taking the sacrament, about being a missionary, and about the temple. I remember that she’d prepare a little suitcase and go to the temple. She told me stories of how her grandfather was a stone mason and carved the sun, moon, and stars on the Salt Lake Temple. She had memories of him pointing to them with pride and telling of how he had worked on the temple.
I’m sure like all of us, she probably wondered at times what good she was doing, if I was listening, and if she could be doing more. I’m eternally grateful for a righteous grandmother who taught me about the gospel. I would not be who I am today without her teachings and influence. We cannot control the circumstances life gives to us. We can only determine how we respond to them. I know life throws us disappointments. Turning to our Heavenly Father and asking in the name of Jesus Christ for the Comforter to be in our life and help us during difficult times is a magnificent blessing we have as members of His Church. Each of us needs the Spirit to be with us always. We need the sacrament. We need the power of the Book of Mormon in our life. We need the counsel of living prophets. I pray that we can be a light to others and pay it forward as surely we all have someone in our life who has given us the gift of the gospel. In this new year, let us share that gift with others, whether it be a grandchild, a child, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, or a coworker.
Love, Brother Bringhurst
This was takenfrom a Bishopric Message which I wrote in January 2016