Thursday, April 9, 2009

I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go

I had a jolt this morning as I sat at my computer. The phone rang and when the caller ID came up I said to myself, “Hmmm… That’s a little odd. Who would be calling me from there at this hour?”

When I picked up the phone a sweet voice said, “Hello. Is this Paul N. Hyde? This is Kristie calling from President Thomas Monson’s office. Do you have a minute or two?” A thousand things went through my mind in the nano-second before I responded in the affirmative. The real reason why anyone from the President’s office would be calling me never occurred to me; I had forgotten all about it. I wrote a letter last Sunday morning.

5 April 2009

Dear President Monson,

When I came home last night from the Priesthood Session of General Conference, my wife Pat asked me how it was. I said, “Let me tell you about the closing hymn…..”

My branch of the Hyde family joined the Church in Freedom, New York, in 1834, at the time Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt were recruiting members for Zion’s Camp. They eventually moved from that little valley to Kirtland, Ohio, and from thence to Missouri, Nauvoo, the Salt Lake Valley, Kaysville, Logan, and finally, Auburn, Wyoming. My wife’s family in the Church travelled half way around the world from England to Utah, with several stops along the way, eventually ending up in Beaver, Utah. During the Great Depression, my Grandfather, his wife, and his youngest son moved to Southern California. Just before World War II, that Star Valley boy met a girl whose immediate ancestors hailed from Missouri and Minnesota. They married in the fall of 1941; I was born into that inactive part-member family in July of 1942. About that same time, the Girl from Beaver met a fellow from Duluth, Minnesota, a French Canadian Swede, who swept her off her feet in Seattle, Washington. My wife was born into that inactive part-member family in August of 1945. Although I would stay in California for most of my childhood, Pat’s peregrinations would take her from Washington to Nevada, and finally to northern Minnesota where I met her during my tour of duty with the Air Force in 1963. After my mission to southern Mexico, Pat and I married in the St. George Temple; the officiator was her grandfather, David Heber Edwards. “I’ll go where you want me to go……”

I guess that I have always wanted to be a teacher, even from the time I was a child. I learned in school so that I could share with others the knowledge I had acquired. As a result of the inactivity of my father’s little part-member family, I was not taught that I should be baptized at age eight, but I was given rather extraordinary opportunities to learn about the Savior, his life and ministry, that were not part of the established curriculum of the Primary, the Sunday School, or the Mutual Improvement Association. Eventually, the members of the Church sought me out, and on the 4th of April 1959, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife experienced a similar childhood in Minnesota, except that her faithful mother was the instrument by which she learned the fundamental principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She was nine years old when she was finally baptized, but still had but limited access to the formal organization of the Church until she graduated from High School. Before we were married, both Pat and I were fervent in our studies of the doctrines of the Kingdom, her library being as extensive as my own. I spent three years of my tour with the military actively preparing myself for my mission to Mexico. By the time that I left for Veracruz, I had read almost every LDS book in print, including the various Histories of the Church, the writings of the Presidents of the Church, and other Brethren of the General Authorities of the Church. From 1961 to 1964, I hitch-hiked from Duluth, Minnesota, to Salt Lake City, in both April and October, so that I could attend General Conference. There was a special place in the Tabernacle set aside for men in uniform. I sat there during every session taking notes, being uplifted. After those sessions I had the opportunity to shake hands with the likes of N. Eldon Tanner, Gordon B. Hinckley, Marion D. Hanks, and, yes, even Thomas S. Monson. I shared the insights that I had in Conference with those around me in Duluth. From August of 1964 to November of 1966, I shared those things, and many others, with my companions and the people of southern Mexico, having to learn another language altogether in order to do the latter. I found out about the Church Educational System while on my mission; I had never heard of the Seminaries and Institutes before then. I determined that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I attended BYU, taking classes in Spanish and English Literature (a double major) and in the process picked up 30 hours of religion classes from the likes of Ivan J. Barrett, Robert J. Matthews, and many others on the faculty in the Religion Department. I began teaching Seminary in the fall of 1969 at Bountiful High School Seminary. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to teach Institute classes at Cypress College in Buena Park, California. During my 35 years with CES, I taught students at Purdue University, UCLA, USC, the University of New Mexico, and finally at Utah Valley State College. In all of this, my wife and I have tried to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in these latter days to the servants of God. “I’ll say what you want me to say….”

From the time that Pat and I became formally active in the Church, first as young single adults and then as a married couple, we have willingly accepted the various callings that have come to us by revelation and the laying on of hands. Pat has served in almost every capacity in every auxiliary in the Church; I have been blessed to serve in various callings in the Wards and Stakes in which we have lived. Each of the callings has required us to be better people than we were before we were called. For the most part, we rose to each occasion. As we have learned the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, we have tried to apply them directly to our daily walk and talk. Wherein we have been successful, we have been fundamentally changed, laying aside a portion of the natural man and slowly but surely partaking of the divine nature. We are not perfect by any means, but we have improved and are still improving. We have tried to raise our children in righteousness and in the attempt have become better ourselves. We have served the living and the dead, and we think that no matter where we may find ourselves, in this world or in the next, we will be somewhat comfortable with those who are like-minded, those who are trying to please God the Father. “I’ll be what you want me to be…..”

Last night I was silently celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of my baptism. I wanted the day to be a little different from the rest because I wanted to be a little different as a result of it. As I sat in the Stake Center waiting for the session to begin, I prayed that I might be particularly edified by what was said and done, that I might be more determined, more committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his Church and Kingdom here upon the earth. The speakers were wonderful; I might easily flatter you and your counselors. But the singular moment came, the capstone of the meeting, when the young men from BYU-Idaho sang the closing hymn. I like the sentiments of the song, but I have never really enjoyed the music for some reason. I will sing it when called upon, but I would not choose it if left to my own devices; I much prefer “Ye Elders of Israel”, written by my great-great grandfather, Cyrus H. Wheelock. But whoever did the arrangement of “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” somehow got inside of the hymn; it was transformed into something glorious. The sentiments and music amplified each other and I could not have wished for a greater blessing than to have heard that hymn sung that way. If I may say so without being misunderstood, it was as if the entire Church were singing “Happy Birthday” to me last night. I came home a better man, or at least a man who more than at any other time in his life wants to “go”, to “say”, and to “be”, what the “Dear Lord” desires of me.

This has been a long letter. I hope that you have arrived at this point without having been wearied by my pile of words. But I do have a request to add, if it is not too unseemly. Would it be possible to communicate my feelings to the one who arranged the closing hymn last night and to the choir itself for their performance? I don’t know how I would go about doing that myself. I would appreciate any effort in that direction.

Today I will watch the Sessions of Conference with anticipation. It was fifty years ago to the day that I was confirmed a member of the Church. I remember standing in my first Fast and Testimony meeting, begging the saints in the Chino California Branch of the Church to forgive me for anything that I might have done during the first sixteen years of my life that might have brought embarrassment to them, that they might forgive me my weaknesses and follies. I believe that they did. I feel the same way today, that I might be at home with the people of the Lord, that I might not be a stranger or a foreigner to the Kingdom of God, but a fellow citizen every whit. I am grateful for those around me who have my best interests at heart, who love and cherish me as a member of their eternal family. I treasure the friendships that I enjoy in the quorums of the Priesthood, for the spirit of brotherhood that only those quorums can provide.

Know, President Monson, that Pat and I love you, and are willing to follow your righteous counsel, wherever it may take us, whatever we are required to say, whatever we may become as a result.


President Monson’s secretary had called me to ask if it would be all right for him to send a copy of the letter to the two men in Rexburg, Idaho, who had been responsible for the arrangement and the performance of the hymn. I said that it would be perfect in my eyes to do so. What a delightful thing to have happen as the result of a singular five minutes on a Saturday night in April! Little connections of joy and happiness, a little moment that changed my life and perhaps the lives of others. What could be better than that?


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is really neat, dad! It made me cry... :)

Katscratchme said...

That's awesome! Thanks for sharing. :)

Junette said...

My grandfather is David Heber Edwards that officiated in the St. George Temple. I must be a relative too? My mother is Helen Edwards Harper, the 12 child born to David Heber and his wife Ann