Brother William M. Holman
Music Department Faculty
"The Tremendous Power of Example"
William M. Holman
March 28, 2006
As we reflect on the many people who have crossed our paths, we remember those that have been good examples to us and have made each of us want to improve. I am so thankful for all of these people in my life. Because of their influence, I have become and am becoming a better person.
I did not grow up as a member of this church. I did attend church on Sunday with my parents and was active in Sunday school and had youthful responsibilities in the Sunday services. Prayer was not a part of our family life but I did learn that attending church was important. When I visited a farm in Iowa, Alvin, the head of the house, would place his elbows on the table and bow his head to bless the food at dinner. He would fold the fingers of one hand over the fingers of his other hand without interlocking his fingers and humbly pronounce the prayer. One of Alvin’s hands was unique. He had gotten a new electric saw for the machine shed and one day as he was working he noticed that when he picked his hand up, two and a half fingers stayed on the work bench. So these were the shortened fingers I remember seeing when he folded his hands in prayer. I was six or seven when I began going out to the farm to spend the night and remembered that his prayers were an act of being respectful and being grateful for the bounty they enjoyed on the farm. I must have liked what I saw to remember it so many years later.
When I was about 12 years old, my father retired and decided to move to Florida. After arriving in Florida and beginning junior high school, we continued to attend church every Sunday. While in high school I became a member of the church we had been attending along with some of my friends. When we graduated from our religious education classes, we all received a “red letter” Bible. These scriptures were neat because they had a zipper. The Bible occupied a place in my room but remained zipped up - so the pages would not get dusty, you understand! I knew then there was a higher power but that was as far as it went. I didn’t really understand the explanation of God that I was taught. The few times I remember offering prayers were when I was in crisis (now - “crisis” for a high school boy then was breaking up with his girl friend!). I know this is STILL a “CRISIS.”
Many fond memories from the late 50’s and early 60’s came from the radio program “Music and the Spoken Word.” I would listen late at night to Richard L. Evans. His messages were soothing and reassuring and the music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was beautiful. Little did I know then that these programs and these words would remain with me for a lifetime.
I liked what I heard. I felt comforted and peaceful. The following is an excerpt from one of Richard L. Evans messages – entitled “It All Adds Up” – it may have been one of the broadcasts I heard: the underlined passage had a great influence on my life before my baptism on Feb. 2, 1975 and an even greater affect since then. It applies even today as I continue to grow in the gospel.
We are the sum of the thoughts we think, of the habits we have,
of all we do and have done. We are the sum of all our actions
and attitudes and utterances, of all things stored away in body
and mind and memory.
The laws of health and peace and happiness given by a loving Father are always in force and always effective. His advice is always
worth taking. His commandments worth keeping. It all adds up (“It All Adds Up”, Richard L. Evans, June 12, 1960).
People throughout my life have been good examples to me. In them I see qualities that I have wanted to adopt and continue to adopt. For example, my father had the ability to talk to people as if he had known them for many years. My mother never said unkind things about others. Both had qualities that I admire. “It All Adds Up.”
My wife, Scarlett, and I were married in the sixties, a socially turbulent decade. Bob Dylan became the voice of many of the youth. These times saw slain leaders, an unpopular war, and questions of racial inequalities. John Glenn orbited the moon, African Americans were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as whites, racial tension was high particularly in the South. Rosa Parks quietly protested on a bus seat. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched to Washington, D.C. The Beattles came to town. Diana Ross and the Supremes were hot. Cassius Clay was boxing and Cesar Chavez was protesting for better treatment of California grape pickers. Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a changin’.” John F. Kennedy saw a bright future for America. Woodstock offended adults with their music, drugs and “free love.” It was a decade of turmoil. Yet, at the same time, a new visitors’ center opened on Temple Square and the Choir performed at the World Fair in Toronto. Richard L. Evans became the president of the largest humanitarian service organization in the world: The Rotary International. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
Most significantly, for me (in the sixties) - was a trip out west to see relatives and we stopped in Salt Lake City. We heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse for the World Fair. I bought a record (an LP) of hymns by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and received a maroon copy of the Book of Mormon that had a gold embossed angel Moroni on the cover. This book was put with my “red letter” Bible when we returned to Florida. (The zipper remained shut on my Bible with the Book of Mormon right beside it). Subconsciously, I knew they belonged together.
After graduating from college, I married my sweetheart and enlisted in The United States Army Band in Washington, D.C. Our first child was born. When it came time to get a babysitter, we searched the band for someone’s sister that could babysit. This is the time when good members of the Church started showing up in our lives. We consistently asked Janene Forsyth, an exceptional young lady (Miss Teenage America) who would not come on Monday evenings or drink the cold beverages we had in the refrigerator for her. She was the beginning of many bright examples we would treasure during our seven year introduction to the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Tremendous Power of Example” began to work in our lives.
The seventies led us to graduate school at the University of Iowa. Wouldn’t you know it – our babysitter for the three years there was a Primary President. Our son, Arthur, joined their then eight children (eventually ten) and became part of their family and part of their ward. We, the parents, were on the outside looking in on a wonderful transformation of the wards newest “Sunbeam.” Arthur would come home and tell us he was special and wanted a duty in the house! We did NOT know what to say or do … except be impressed. Remember the earlier quote from Richard L. Evans?
We are the sum of all our actions and attitudes and utterances,
of all things stored away in body and mind and memory.
We wanted these values in our little family. We were still experiencing turbulent times being on a college campus. We were just beginning as parents and didn’t have a clue how to continue. We watched and absorbed the Aamodt family’s activities. They eventually gave us a family home evening manual. We didn’t know what the D&C thing meant but we did sit down together on Sunday evening, pop some popcorn and watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” each week. Our babysitters became stability in a time if uncertainty.
We observed this family for three years. They took us to their daughter’s baptism, the yearly children’s sacrament program, a dessert auction, and to Nauvoo to see the “City of Joseph” pageant. We attended the ward so infrequently (once or twice a year) that we were introduced as “Arthur’s parents.”
While in Nauvoo, the testimonies of the missionary couples impressed Scarlett and questions arose as to how these couples could leave their families. “Don’t you miss your grandchildren? “You can’t go home and see them for how long?” “Why do they always end their speeches with ‘I know these things to be true…’” “Is this something they’ve memorized?” During the return trip to Iowa City, we asked, “So, where are those gold plates now?” WHERE? (we thought…) Well, that’s convenient! This trip was a definite turning point in our interest in the church even after we were told where those plates ended up.
Before graduating, I became ill and needed blood. Members of the ward donated blood while the Aamodt family moved us into their home.
After graduating from the University of Iowa we ventured out of the United States to Bogota, Colombia, where I had accepted a position in La Orquesta Sinfonica de Colombia as principle clarinetist. After being there one week we left our apartment to visit the Sears store. While returning to the apartment, we saw two Americans on the opposite side of the street wearing white shirts and ties. (What a good example). We approached them and asked about the church. Elders Bob Mellor and Stanford Vaterlaus were glad to see us and speak some English. This was in the fall of 1974.
If I am to speak about “The Tremendous Power of Example,” our conversion must be part of this devotional. Allow me to read this entry from Elder Mellor’s journal:
December 8, 1974. Yesterday was a little bit slow and for a while, discouraging. We’re running out of references and investigators. One of our good families out in Esmeralda kind of told us good-bye. He said he knows (his church) isn’t right and the Mormons have a lot more going for them but, at his age, why change. He said he’d keep reading the Book of Mormon so all wasn’t lost. So yesterday afternoon as I was feeling a little low – we were making member visits – not finding a soul home. Then, here comes the most Mormon-looking young couple with their boy walking toward us. He said, “You wouldn’t happen to speak English, would you?”
“Are you Mormon missionaries?” I was quite shocked at first and after I got my cool we found out they were from Iowa and will here for two years with the symphony, don’t speak Spanish, were looking for the Mormon Church – aren’t members. I was so excited I felt like a kid. We’re going to take them to Branch 5 this morning and let them meet some of the gringo members – Oh, they look ‘golden!’ The Lord sure works in mysterious ways, what a great blessing for Elder Vaterlaus and I.
Monday – We took the Holmans to church Sunday and they really enjoyed it. The Elders at Branch 5 couldn’t believe how ‘golden’ they were. I really wanted to teach them but I think one of the Branch 5 office pairs would be better, working with the members and all, since they’ll be going to that branch. I guess it’s not really important who teaches them but that they hear the Gospel and I feel the most effective way to do it would be with Branch 5 Elders. We asked them about the ‘charlas’ Sunday and they said they wanted to wait a week to get settled. I can’t blame them. So, I’ll call the office this week and tell them to start the ‘charlas’ with them, that’ll hurt.
Because these members I have mentioned had shown us how to live in the world but not of the world, we wanted to contact each of them after we had been baptized. We did our best to notify all of them.
Our babysitter, Janene Forsyth, was lost to us for many years until we met a couple in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while we were on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, who knew the family and sent us her address in California. Last month, after 37 years, we met her in San Jose. What a happy reunion.
The Aamodt family has kept in touch with us since we left Iowa. We have a shoe box full of cassette tapes that Sister Aamodt sent to us in Colombia. They traveled to the temple in Washington, D.C. for our sealing.
Elder Steven Taggart that baptized us in Rama Cinco in Bogota was my optometrist in Provo. He actually invited me to ordain him a high priest.
Now, we’re even!
David K. Richards and his wife Sharon, the mission president and his wife, and Kim and Ginger Beckstead – our mentor couples from Colombia – remain our dear friends.
Now the two missionaries that met us on the street in Colombia and turned us over to the office elders remained unknown until four years ago. All we knew was that one of them had red hair.
Again, let me read from Elder Mellor’s journal – April 5, 2002:
I heard the most wonderful conversion story at my Colombia missionary reunion last night:
A couple there told us all about how they came to join the church. Their presence at the reunion was a bit unusual because they were Americans. The missionaries invited them to attend church. The following day the young men picked them up and helped them to attend church. They introduced them to a new set of Elders working in that branch and after the meetings said goodbye. That was their last contact for 28 years.
At the reunion our mission president introduced them as a couple that had to travel all the way to Colombia to find the LDS church. They now live in Rexburg, Idaho where he is a professor at BYU-Idaho. He has served as a bishop twice and been in a stake presidency. He also plays in the Orchestra at Temple Square. Their son has served a mission (in Colombia, Cali) and they adopted a Colombian girl who served a mission in Utah (Provo). They were so excited to tell their story and see the Elder who had taught them the discussions (and had baptized them). Their only disappointment was that they never knew the names of the first Elders they met who took them to church. Through the years they had asked the Elders that baptized them and they couldn’t remember. The couple only remembered that one of them had red hair.
As I listened to their story my heart jumped because I remembered walking down the street with my red-haired companion when this couple came by. I also recall my sadness not to have been able to teach them. After they told their story I later went up to them and introduced myself. I was quite surprised at how happy they were to see me. I had felt that I had played such a significant role. As we recounted the events of those two days and the good people they had met over the years that had prepared them to hear the gospel we both got teary eyed. What wonderful people! She related to me that the Elders who taught them didn’t know the discussions in English and had to use their books to help them as they taught. Their whole lives had changed since joining the church. Many, many people had prepared them over the years by little acts of Christian love and charity. Then came the right moment and circumstances when they ready to hear more. Their conversation reminded me of a talk by President Hinckley and quoted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the October, 2001 General Conference:
“The opportunities for sharing the gospel are everywhere.
We should live so that what he called ‘the tremendous
power of the example of a member of the Church’ will
influence those around us’ The most effective tract we will
carry will be the goodness of our own lives and example.”
Bob Mellor concludes:
As I look back on all this, I have to admit; turning this beautiful family over to another set of Elders was one of the most heart-wrenching ordeals of my mission – even though I knew it was the best thing for them. … I didn’t want my selfish, personal desires to interfere in any way with what was the best opportunity for them to be nurtured in the Gospel.
What a great attitude and example these Elder are to all of you that are preparing to serve a full time mission. By keeping his journal, Elder Mellor was able to recall exactly his recollections and then share them with us after so many years.
Now an update - remember the “red-letter Bible” and its companion the Book of Mormon?
I packed them both with my belongings when I went to college, we took them to Washington, D.C. after we were married. They came with us to graduate school in Iowa. They were in the trunk when we unpacked our belongings in Colombia. This (hold it up) Book of Mormon has President Kimball’s signature in it and was the first Book of Mormon I read – almost 13 years after I received it on Temple Square.
As a junior high school band director, I used to tell my band members: every second you are on the stage during your concert, someone is watching you. They see every movement you make. They notice when your behavior is appropriate and when it is not. I hope the people watching you have a good impression. This earthly life is our stage. We are playing in the grandest concert of all. Are we setting examples in our daily lives as disciples of Jesus Christ?
As I watch you around campus, I like what I see. Do you know that you are wonderful examples to each other? Do you each realize what a positive influence you have on each other?
Let us live our lives as Disciples of Christ and follow the counsel in these two scriptures passages: in the fourth chapter of Ether, verses 11-12
… he that believeth things which have I have spoken, him
will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall
know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall
know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do
And whatsoever persuadeth men to do good is of me; for
good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that
leadeth men to all good… (Ether 4: 11-12).
And these verses in John 13 beginning in verse 12: after washing the Disciples feet, Jesus says:
Know ye what I have done to you?
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well: for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:12-17, emphasis added).
Let me ask you to continue to positively influence those around you. Remember who you are and what you stand for. You are being watched as you perform in this grand concert of life on earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Path of the Peacemaker
Audio of President Kim B. Clark's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2009