Monday, December 10, 2007

BYU Hawaii Island Wide Missionary Firesides

Back in 1988 after I had completed the Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson I was given a job at BYU--Hawaii as a librarian and religion teacher. President Benson had promised me that after I finished the Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson that I would be given a job in the CES as an institute teacher. I had actually taken the teacher training course and student taught at American Fork High School under Dean Garrett, who later became a BYU Religious Department chairman. I was so good at teaching and so well liked by the students that Dave Ridges had me take over Tracy Ellison's classes while he was out. Dave Ridges thought I was a great seminary teacher and told me so. He had confidence in me and felt I should be hired.

After my teaching demonstrations I received two very high holds (Boyd Beaglie, Rand Packer)and a high hold (Paul Warner). I was told later by Boyd that two holds were enough to be hired. I was actually told by Brother Beaglie that I should take my wife out to MacDonalds and celebrate because I was definitely being hired. After several weeks when I didn't hear anything back I became concerned and I contact Brother Beaglie in Salt Lake City. He apologized and said that Warner had not taken my name in to the hiring meeting and now there was nothing he could do since all the spots were filled for the year. Later when I asked Warner about it he told me that he felt impressed by the Spirit not to hire me because "I was like a former guy who was now in jail in Utah County who was disgruntled that he had not been hired. I prophesy that you will one day be like him." Warner was strange that way one day I substituted for Tracy Snow at the junior high in a neighboring city who was ill. I thought he was a good teacher and his students loved him. Warner told me Snow was dead wood on the tree and needed to be burned off and that it was his job to rid the CES of the dead wood. I really empathized with Brother Snow who had given years of devoted service for having to put up with Warner. Warner told me the only way he would hire me is if I got the Prophet himself to tell them to hire me. A few months later that is what actually happened Gary Gillispie called them. Warner didn't like it and told me they would never hire me. I received a call from a high ranking CES official telling me that Ezra Taft Benson didn't run the CES and that they were called to the job if President Benson didn't think they were doing their jobs he could release them and who was he to tell them who to hire since he didn't run the CES and he should trust they could run their own organization.

A couple of the brethren didn't agree so I was given a position at BYU--Hawaii for a five year period to help me get through a library degree so I could get a job. I was put in the library where I worked full-time as a reference librarian. I also taught in the religion department. The job was paid by the CES which amused those who arranged it.

The head of the religion department was Lavar Thornock who was a great scriptorian. I really liked the man and had respect for him. He assigned me Missionary Preparation and Book of Mormon classes. As the missionary preparation teacher I taught nearly one hundred students in my two and one half years there. Several I heard later became district leaders, zone leaders and assistants. Our department was rigorous and I forced them to learn all the missionary scriptures and missionary concepts by rote memory. I didn't want them to end up like me a junior companion for not being able to pass off their discussions. I gave them good practical advice from selection of suits to teaching them Alvin R. Dyer's the Challenge to how to get along with their companions. I even helped out in the religion department teaching Don Sorenson's load while he was gone one semester to the BYU Jerusalem Center. He told me he would pay me back by giving me some money for gas which he never did. I taught his full-time load free because I was a nice guy. I enjoyed working forty hours a week, going to school full-time and teaching a full load in the religion department.

I had worked in the religion department at BYU for five years and was good friends with all the professors. I was personally invited each year by John Fugal to the Provo Tabernacle where he organized a missionary fireside each year. I decided that I would start the same thing at BYU--Hawaii in 1989. I got permission from my boss, Brother Thornock. There were some former mission presidents on campus: Eric Shumway, Charlie Goo, Robert Goodwin. I can't remember the name of the other three. I called the area president and asked him to come and speak. We scheduled the fireside at a time one of the area seventies' presidency was visiting. I called all the stake presidents personally and put out the word.

The night of the first fireside was amazing as the Seasider was packed. There were boys there from most of the islands with their clean cut haircuts and white shirts with ties. It was an amazing sight. All of the mission presidents spoke sharing their experiences and the area seventy spoke. The highlight of the evening was when Eric Shumway and his wife and family led us in a dynamic rendition of Who Will Share the Gospel. I remember the enthusiasm that the boys had as they shout out "I Will." It was a great success. Brother Shumway took over the led for the next year and we had the fireside the two years I was there. No one ever acknowledged my part in the establishment of the event. I left in 1990 to become library director of the Central Methodist College at the age of 35. I think Greg Gubler told me it didn't last long after I was left the island which is a shame since it was a highly motivational meeting.

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