Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Speaking From The Pulpit

It was 1958 and I had just joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The world was full of troubled areas and I was still in the Canadian Air force. Nothing really eventful had filled my life until this transformation of accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To my friends it was a passing phase and the question: “You joined what? The Mormon Church! Never heard them (or) don’t the men have more than one wife?”

My mother said: “Just don’t get sanctimonious on me.” I looked it up and it meant pretending you’re something you’re not.

Well, there I was at twenty-one years old a full-fledged member of a faith still strange to me.

Bobby Fischer, a fourteen-year-old boy, had just won the United States Chess Championship.

Nikita Krushchev became Premier of the Soviet Union.

Elvis Presley received his draft notice.

I was walking and chewing gum at the same time.

The small group of Latter Day Saints numbering just eighty people in a city of over 200,000 would not be impressive in anyone’s circle, except the great folks gathered in that part of the Lord’s vineyard. I was immediately accepted and felt quite at home with the setting and the people.

When you join a new organization there are rules, traditions, and requirements that make up its reason for being. I soon found myself busy and just a little nervous, as there was no paid priesthood in the church. Yet, things got done and there were some really talented people doing them.

The first two months I was invited to people’s homes and began to feel part of that Branch. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

A fellow named Monty Stout, who was the head of Canadian Linen Co, had expertise in so many things. He was well liked, well educated, and talented, which always drew people to him like a pin to a magnet.

One day Monty came up to me and said: “Can you come to my house on Thursday?” I said: “Sure; what’s going on?” “Oh nothing,” he replied, “except for you.” “How’s that?” I said. “Well, I noticed you talk using a little slang and street talk and thought perhaps we could explore some grammar lessons.”

He was quite right, of course. I had two languages at that time: Profane and English and I certainly could use a little polish.

For a few weeks Monty worked with me and was really kind and considerate which gave me some pause for reflection. He never made me feel anything but special and threw a little fun in with it.

Monty could play a musical saw and his wife Lois played a fine violin.

So started my association with other church members and my life took on greater meaning.

A few Sundays later, I was asked to speak in a sacrament meeting for five minutes. My mind raced ahead to that day and I thought about it. I looked at the Branch President, who had made the call, and said: “You can’t mean it.” He said he surely did and not to worry about it. It would be fine and I was amongst friends. He didn’t assign me a subject but said my testimony could be part of it and gave me some idea of how to go about it.

Now, Monty Stout heard about it and also was helpful as I prepared.

At last the Sunday came when I was to speak. I had almost backed out a few times. I had made some preparations and now it was finally here. I bought a suit and thought I was presentable and ready.

Before the Sacrament meeting began, Monty came up to me and said, looking at my new suit: “Nice set of threads! “Keep wearing it; it will come back into style!”

I didn’t know what to think.

A little later Monty came back to me and said: “Digby, I have been thinking it over and I apologize for saying that about your suit. Now that I’ve been thinking, it looked better on the sheep!”

He began to laugh and so did I. It was light moment that helped.

My turn came to get up in front of the congregation and, as I stepped up to the podium, I somehow stumbled so it wasn’t a good start.

Looking over the congregation, there was Monty Stout sitting on the third row back, quite visible. I began to speak and about one minute into the talk Monty took his watch off, shook it next to his ear and then looked at me. One minute later he did the same thing, followed by a big yawn, a look of complete boredom and another exaggerated yawn.

I stumbled over some words and almost lost my place. My face, I am sure, was beat red.
Finally I finished my talk and sat down, noticing an immediate feeling of relief.

After sacrament Monty came over laughing and said: “Digby, when you are up there you are in charge. You did fine but remember, what gets your attention gets you. It doesn’t matter what I do or say. What matters is you’re expressing your love of the Savior. And by the way, that came across quite well.”

After church some of the guys came over to me and said: “You sure were nervous and a couple of times there looked quite alarmed. What was going on?”

I told them what Monty had been doing and they burst out laughing.

Here came Monty again and this time he gave me a hug and said to the guys with me: “It’s great to have brother Granger with us. A couple of times there during his talk I thought we might lose him.” The guys broke up with laughter and I had the greatest feeling of at last being in that place, at that time, amongst those who would add so much to my life and I knew I was home.

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