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My Most Memorable Church Meetings
By David Ririe
(From NETWORK, the family newsletter,
volume 3, October 1997)
After attending thousands of church
meetings, I have concluded that being able to attend is one of the great
privileges of this life. Our Church meetings have a positive, uplifting
effect on the souls of those who attend them with reverence, optimism,
and a degree of enthusiasm. The Light of Christ permeates our assemblies.
The first memorable meeting that influenced
me was when I was about four or five. The words spoken and the special
occasion that brought such a distinguished visitor to our town, I cannot
recall. But what transpired after the closing prayer was indelibly impressed
upon my mind. A tall, stately, elderly man with a beard shook hands with
each person on the row in which I was seated. As he took my hand in his,
the Holy Spirit assured me that I was shaking the hand of a Prophet of
God. Being noticed by the President of the Church, Heber 3. Grant, was
a thrill I will never forget. It was revealed to me at that tender age
that he was a Prophet.
My father was called to be the Bishop
of our Ward when I was about fourteen. The meeting in which the ward
auxiliary leaders were sustained was impressive. each leader and assistant
willingly accepted the call. I do not know how much warning they had
received prior to the meeting, but it seemed to me as if they had received
none at all. Knowing those fine men and women; among whom were Edna Ririe,
Vivian Bush and 3. Arlo Moss; it wouldn't have mattered. They would have
responded affirmatively to any call without any hesitation. These people
were an inspiration to me and an example of how we should respond to
those in authority in the Church.
After that meeting or one soon afterward,
as our family rode home, one of my younger brothers innocently asked, "Dad,
-now that you are Bishop does that make all of us Bishops?" Dad
answered with his characteristic chuckle, "No, son, just me and
It was my privilege to attend several
very special Sacrament Meetings while serving in the Army Air Corps during
World War II. After several weeks at the Victorville Army Air Base, we
were finally given a weekend pass. Melvin C. Rich, Ellsworth Brown and
I caught a bus to San Bernardino, California so we could attend Church.
As we approached the San Bernardino First Ward one of my buddies said, "I
know it's a Mormon Church because of the kids running around on the lawn."
I suppose it was the first Sunday in
August of 1943 because a Fast and Testimony Meeting was conducted. All
three of us bore our testimonies. I believe it was the only time I ever
cried while bearing my testimony. I was so overjoyed to be in Church
after an absence of several weeks that I could not control the tears.
Just before the meeting adjourned the bishop congratulated us on being
in Church on the first opportunity we had been given. Only then did it
dawn on me that this Bishop was the army officer in charge of our training
schedule at the base. Approximately three years later this same Bishop,
Charles Sampson, gave my bride to be her temple recommend so that we
could be married in the Idaho Falls Temple. I contend that there is no
better place to find a wife than in Latte-Day Saint Sacrament Meeting.
Incidentally, Ellsworth Brown also married a girl that he met at that
same meeting on that day.
In April of 1944, I found myself in
Stalag Luft One, a Prisoner of War camp near Barth, Germany. Prior to
arriving with other captured airmen at the camp, I met a great young
returned missionary, Lieutenant Robert D. Matheson, who had also been
shot down. We decided after reaching Barth that we would canvass the
camp to locate those who were Church members. We found six of them and
decided to hold Sacrament Meetings. We had no handbooks, no Doctrine
and Covenants, and no Book of Mormon. We did have a Bible. Subsequently,
we were able to obtain a French translation of the Book of Mormon, which
became our course of study. Brother Matheson had served in the French
Canadian Mission and was able to read the Book of Mormon for us. I mention
the Book of Mormon because at our first meeting we had to recall from
memory the Sacrament prayers and we were very relieved when a month or
so later we confirmed that we had been using the correct wording as we
blessed the sacramental emblems.
Our first meeting was the most memorable.
All of us in our testimonies expressed thanks for being alive and for
the Gospel that brought us together. One of the testimonies stood out
above the others in my memory and I relate it as nearly as I can remember
it being told by Lieutenant Blaine Harris from Idaho. He said: "Upon
being assigned as the pilot and therefore the captain of my crew I prayed
fervently that if we were shot down, I would be able to save all of the
members of my crew. On the fateful day when our airplane was hit and
it became my duty to give the command to bail out of the ship one of
my crew members in the rear section of the plane exclaimed, 'The ball
turret gunner's parachute has burned up."' I should explain that
the ball turret gunner had to leave his chute in the waist of the airplane
because his battle station would not accommodate both him and his parachute.
Lieutenant Harris said the thought came to him instantly that he should
have two men bail out with one parachute. He told them to hook one snap
of the parachute to the harness of each of them and jump out together.
He ended his testimony by expressing gratitude for being inspired to
be able to save all ten of his crew members:
Of the numerous meetings I attended
at Brigham Young University, one stands out in particular. We were privileged
to have President George Albert Smith speak to us. All I can recall about
his speech was his testimony. It was so strong that it thrilled my whole
soul. Afterwards two young nonmembers applied for baptism.
One evening during one of my breaks
from college, I attended Mutual in my home ward. A few minutes before
the meeting commenced the Young Men's Superintendent explained to me
that the person assigned to give the Inspirational Talk would not appear.
He asked me to fill in. I felt inadequate and definitely unprepared so
I turned him down. Later that evening I related the incident to my mother.
She sadly asked me, "Haven't I taught you better than that? Don't
you know that the Lord would have helped you say something worthwhile
if you had been faithful?" I know she spoke the truth. As my father
often said regarding acceptance of Church calls, "You should say
'yes' and worry about it later”.
My first job after graduating from
college was at the University of California at Davis where it was my
privilege to serve as a counselor to Bishop Glen P. Lofgreen of the Woodland
Ward. Our ward was small and keeping it organized was a challenge. One
time we needed to choose a President for the Young Women's Mutual improvement
Association. We had spent parts of previous meetings without coming to
a decision as to who should be called. After going through the names
of the sisters in our ward several times, praying about and discussing
the situation and qualifications of most of them we still had no confirmation
as to whom the Lord would call. I felt that I should excuse myself and
privately pray about the matter, because I feared I might be the one
holding back the inspiration. In the quiet part of the building I pleaded
with Heavenly Father as the counselor in charge of the Mutual to give
to the Bishop the name of the person to call. I returned to the meeting.
Bishop Lofgreen picked up the ward list and one by one we discussed each
woman on that roster. At about half way through it he read a name and
a definite warm feeling of assurance came over me. I looked at the Bishop
and could tell that he had received the same manifestation. We had in
past meetings repeatedly passed over Sister Lofgreen's name who was the
Lord's choice. Many times I have felt impressions concerning church callings,
but this was the strongest and the sweetest. I can truthfully say I was
in the presence of a good Bishop when he received a direct revelation
from our Heavenly Father.
While we lived in Davis, I was chosen
to serve as a High Councilor and during the afternoon session of conference,
the new presidencies and the newly appointed High Councilors were invited
to sit on the stand. At about ten minutes into the meeting, I was informed
that my wife urgently needed to see me in the foyer. I hastily left the
meeting and soon located my wife, who was very distressed. Our sons,
age 5 and 3 had asked to go to the rest room and only the 5 year old
had come back. A frantic search of the vicinity had proven fruitless
so after many inquires and great concern, I went to the nearest police
station to report my lost child. To my relief my son was there eating
an ice cream cone that had been given to him by a kindly cop. He had
been arrested several blocks from where the conference was convened.
The little child had started to walk to our house, a mere fourteen miles
away. When asked why he had left he said he was tired of the meeting.
The only thing I remember about the conference was this scary incident
and the great relief of finding our little boy unharmed.
My wife and I were called on a Labor
Mission to New Zealand where my primary responsibility was to supervise
land reclamation for a farm to be used for teaching agriculture in the
Church College of New Zealand. Among the faithful Maori people we attended
many interesting meetings.
One of my assignments was to be an
advisor to a Home Sunday School in a rural community named Mangatangi.
During my tenure in this assignment, Tangi Paki, the head of the tiny
branch died from pneumonia. As I approached the humble Paki home on the
Sunday following his funeral, I felt quite apprehensive that the meeting
might be poorly attended and poorly organized. To my pleasure, however,
I found the people present and the humble home set up as before. The
Sacrament table was ready, the hymn books distributed and the chairs
arranged. All was in readiness. Tangi's twelve year old son, Percy, had
faithfully prepared everything. The last time I saw this responsible
boy he was serving a building mission for the church.
A few months prior to his death, a
baby girl was born to Brother and Sister Paki. Tangi asked me if I would
bless the child at the next Fast and Testimony meeting. As Brother Paki
and I took the babe in our arms, I whispered to him, "What shall
I name her?" The answer surprised me. He said, "Whatever you
wish, Elder." Somewhere in New Zealand I suppose a middle-aged Maori
woman who has my dear wife's given names is raising a family of her own.
Not long after Tangi Paki's demise,
a nonmember relative of the Paki family passed away in Mangatangi. I
was asked to participate in the funeral. When I arrived at the Pa, the
people were arguing about how to proceed. The men were shouting at each
other, women were crying, and children were running hither and thither.
I wondered how I could bring some serenity to the scene. My dilemma was
short-lived. A faithful, respected member of the family who bore the
Melchizedek Priesthood entered the premises and immediately a hush fell
over the crowd. My friend took over and conducted a beautiful, dignified
service. The power of the Priesthood on that occasion was manifest in
During my days at Mangatangi I tried
my best to convince a dairy farmer named Jim Connors to be baptized.
He faithfully attended meetings for many months, listened intently to
the lessons, and appeared interested in the Gospel, but remained unconverted.
A short time later as a High Council visitor I attended the Pukikohe
Branch of the newly organized Auckland Stake. I formed a very negative
opinion of the green elder who spoke in Sacrament meeting but I forgot
about him until almost two years later when as a counselor in the recently
created Hamilton Stake Presidency we visited the Thames Branch not far
from Jim Connors' farm. There on the steps of the little chapel a smiling
Jim Connors greeted me and proudly announced that he was now a member
of the Church. When I inquired as to the circumstances of his coming
into the Church he told me that the very Elder I had felt wouldn't be
very successful had baptized him. He went on to inform me that when this
Elder was assigned to work in the Thames area, he had stayed on the Connors'
farm. He volunteered to assist Jim with his chores. As they milked, groomed,
fed, and cared for the cows this Elder's humble testimony and actions
prepared the way for Brother Connors to feel the Spirit and become converted.
Others undoubtedly contributed to the conversion process, including a
great wife, but the prime mover was an Elder whose effectiveness I had
grossly and unfairly underestimated. The words, "Judge not," were
forcibly impressed upon my mind.
Each morning while I was the Crew Leader
on the farm and the landscape areas at Temple View, we held a study class
and followed it with a short meeting during which I gave the assignments
of the day. One morning following an unsatisfactory performance I scolded
my crew for their inattention to duty. Afterwards I felt that perhaps
I had been too hard on them so I started the next crew meeting by saying, "I
hope you will forgive me for my harsh words.." One of the crew members
interrupted me. "It's all right, Elder" he said. "We don't
pay attention to you anyway." Actually my crew accomplished many
good things, so they must have listened part of the time.
Among the Saints who labored to build
the New Zealand Temple was a deaf mute, Hata Tipoki. Everyone respected
him for his devotion. How surprised we were when in a Sacrament Meeting
held soon after the dedication, it was announced that Brother Tipoki
would be one of the speakers. This good brother bore a testimony of Thanksgiving
in words clear enough for all of us to understand. I was told that he
had not spoken before that time.
The Temple and the College buildings
were completed, shining monuments to the great efforts of the Labor Missionaries,
some of whom had served for five to ten years. These dedicated Saints
served without pay, and their loved ones at home supported them by providing
them with ten schillings (one dollar and forty cents a week) for spending
money and twice that for the married folks. President George R. Biessinger
called a meeting of the Building Missionaries to announce a change. Some
would be retained on a small salary to build chapels, while still more
people would be called to fill unpaid missions for the program. When
the calls had been unanimously accepted, a disappointed Sam Beazley,
who had already served about ten years, asked why he was not permitted
to continue. Elder Biesinger said, "Sam, I would gladly have extended
your mission, but I want you to go home and find a nice girl and get
married”. A few weeks later Sam cameback into the program, accompanied
by a smiling bride.
It was my privilege to be with Elder
Spencer W. Kimball part of the time when he organized the Hamilton, New
Zealand Stake. Prior to calling the Stake Presidency, Elder Kimball interviewed
all of the existing Auckland Stake and New Zealand District officers
of the area from which the new Stake was to be carved. After calling
Maurice Pearson and me as Counselors in the Presidency, Elder Kimball
put us to work. For two days he kept us busy on the phone arranging for
interviews and ushering people in and out of his presence. I have been
privy to the proceedings of several Stake organizations, but this was
done more thoroughly than any other. I was so busy that my strength was
almost exhausted. Apparently he also felt the strain as well. One afternoon
he said, "Brother Ririe, I need some rest. Will you call me in fifteen
minutes?" As I closed the door so he could have some privacy, I
observed that he had lain down on the carpet and was already asleep.
At the appointed time I awakened him and that great human dynamo resumed
his labors. By the time he left us on his way to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
where he would organize the sixth stake in Oceana in a six week period,
he had held hundreds of interviews, spoken several times in conference
and given us the most wonderful orientation meeting on Stake Organizational
functions one could imagine. President Kimball asked church members to "lengthen
their stride." I know from experience that few, if any, of us will
lengthen our strides enough to match his whirlwind performance.
We were holding a Branch Conference
in Tokoroa. The chorister selected a hymn that the members had obviously
not sung before. For all I know, it might have been one that no one but
the composer and the hymn selection committee had ever sung. Noting our
difficulty, the chorister decided at the conclusion of the second verse
to delete the rest. He signaled for us to stop, but everyone, including
the pianist, was looking intently at their song books. The chorister
walked down the aisle to take his seat but after he passed several rows
of chairs, it dawned on him that the congregation was still attempting
to sing the hymn, so he walked back up to the stand and conducted the
remaining verses. Only President Wendell Wiser and I noticed the little
drama as it played out. As the strained notes wafted heavenward, President
Wiser sat with his song book completely covering his face so the people
wouldn't notice that he was laughing. He needn't have done so.
One of the best meetings of my life
was when my eldest son Jim reported his mission. During his mission he
had written home and asked us to fast and pray with him that an investigator
might join the Church. We often did this. He told us in his report that
all eleven of his converts came into the church after his and our participation
is such a fast.
In Sacrament Meeting in our ward we
answered the request of Sister Pauline Rice that we fast in behalf of
her son, Billy Joe, who was serving in the Uruguay Mission. His asthma
was so bad that the Mission President contemplated releasing him. After
the fast, his health improved and Joe finished a successful mission.
As an added bonus for his service he later married his fine, devoted
wife, a native Uruguayan.
One night in the Second Ward, a young
married woman who was about to depart with her family from our Ward gave
a very inappropriate Sacrament Meeting talk. As I debated which was the
lesser evil, to stop her and alienate or embarrass her or to let her
continue to speak questionable accounts of her private life, my great
counselor, Brother Bruce Green, broke the tension by whispering to me, "You
can't win 'em all." Fortunately she concluded her talk soon thereafter
to the relief of everyone, and especially me.
One of the most satisfying meetings
I ever attended was in our own Stake Center. The exact date I do not
know, but in it the First Presidency letter of 8 June 1978 was mentioned
which announced that all worthy men regardless of race or color could
have the Priesthood and enjoy every blessing flowing therefrom. Tears
welled up in my eyes as I contemplated the impact of this revelation
given to the world through the Prophet President Spencer W. Kimball.
My prayers and those of many Saints had been answered.
Remarkable coincidences occur when
Mormons attend meetings in foreign lands As Sunday School class started
in Beirut, Lebanon, I was asked by the teacher to introduce myself. I
said, "My name is David Ririe, now of Salinas, California, but formerly
of Ririe, Idaho." The teacher replied, "You won't believe this,
but I am Brother Parker from Parker, Idaho. Ririe probably has five hundred
people in the town and Parker is even smaller."
The Church has made it possible for
me to attend many wonderful Firesides. A while ago President Howard W.
Hunter spoke at one of them and it was carried by satellite to young
people throughout the church. Sister Ririe and I were attended in our
Salinas, California ward chapel. As President Hunter started his address
in the Marriott Center of Brigham Young University, angry words were
heard and the meeting was interrupted. President Hunter, who had been
ordered to read a message by a detractor who had threatened to injure
him, continued his inspiring message with calmness and poise. From President
Hunter's demeanor one could not have guessed that such an incident had
occurred. It was some time afterward that I learned the dramatic details.
My message is that attendance at church-sponsored
meetings is a great privilege. We should attend with reverence, thankfulness
and anticipation. Who knows what great experience may come to us, what
inspiring words might be spoken, or what great lesson we might learn
if we are where we should be when we should be there? Conversely, a loss
of testimony and spirituality will occur in our lives if we attend reluctantly,
critically, or sporadically.
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