Monday, September 1, 2014

Men in The Service from 1944

by Howard E. Salisbury, Lieutenant—USNR

It has been fifteen months since three of we returned missionaries started our weekly services at the Naval Training Center at Millington, near Memphis, Tennessee. The two seamen who were with me were sent away shortly after we started our meetings and I was left to carry on. In those fifteen months I have never lacked leaders to assist me, among them always a few returned missionaries; yet some of our most capable leaders and speakers have been the eighteen and nineteen year old boys who have made best use of the opportunities provided by the priesthood through the years. I will testify to this before priesthood quorums all my life.

Our numbers have grown from three or four to the record attendance of forty-five who were present to hear Apostle Ezra T. Benson and President Graham H. Doxey on their recent tour of the mission.
My tour of duty with the navy keeps me in Memphis at all times except on occasional trips to the Naval Training Center. On these visits I hold business meetings with five or six members whom I appoint to conduct the services and contact speakers, etc. In the Thursday evening service I regularly occupy the last portion of the time to counsel the brethren and instruct them in the principles of the gospel. The counsel is that which accumulates as a result of the many visits paid me by servicemen, sailors, marines, and soldiers at my office in the police station.

A volume could be written about our weekly meetings, because they are the most inspirational services of worship I have ever participated in, with the exception of a few notable meetings in the temple.

There is actually something reminiscent of a temple assembly in these Thursday evening gatherings. I sit at the end of the first bench where I can see the expression on the faces of thirty-five or forty men in white as they contemplate with the speakers the principles of the gospel. These boys are awakening to the fact that throughout their lives they have possessed a. way which is truly heavenly, and that by traveling that way they are progressing heavenward.

They are men, speaking generally, who have come from communities where contrasts in philosophies of life are not so evident as here in this heterogeneous society of servicemen. The views concerning life which were formerly taken for granted have ascended to the highest place in their estimate of values, because the contrast between their knowledge and convictions and the indifference of their associates is so evident, indeed astounding; a contrast which many of our Mormon boys have never before been in a position to observe.

They come to the meetings the first time wearing vestiges of homesickness which bewildered and humbled them in boot camp. They had learned in the preliminary training that the best palliative is the fellowship of men who hold the same beliefs and standards as they, and who have come from the Zion that now shines with a special glory in their imaginations. After that first meeting they return to gain inspiration and support for the variety of situations which insistently surprise them. Men without free agency seem so sensitive to surprise. Initiative and originality are perforce suspended, and it is with these resources that they are accustomed to arise and meet their problems.

Friendships built on eternal lines are formed among us. At almost every service we say good-bye to one or two of our members who, five months before, stood up and introduced themselves to the group. In their farewell these men, bear their testimonies concerning the values of our worship together. The nonmember friends whom they bring marvel at this. 

[Howard E. Salisbury, born February 4, 1911 in Utah. Died June 21, 1977 in California.]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mapping the Middle Tennessee Baptism Record

Recently I have been working in an old membership record book for the Middle Tennessee Conference of the Southern States Mission. The book doesn't have a lot of explanatory notes, but appears to cover from about 1888 to 1920. There are a few entries from prior to 1888, but the entries are few and far between, and only for people who had stayed in Tennessee and stayed in the Church. 

This was about the period when members were no longer being encouraged to gather, whether that be to Utah, Colorado, or Texas. There was still some emigration, but for the most part people were staying where they lived, unless they needed to move for better employment.

The map below shows entries in the book, specifically baptisms, in the County listed as the members postal address. In some cases, this was not where the person was baptized, but where they lived between 1888 and 1920. In most cases, people stayed where they were. There is some fluidity which makes the graphic less precise, but when taken as a whole it isn't too bad of an indicator of both membership and baptism.

Note that East Tennessee is under represented. There was at the time a separate conference for East Tennessee, and a separate membership book. The line dividing the two changed frequently. The few records I have for east Tennessee counties were baptized in Middle Tennessee but subsequently moved to East Tennessee.

I know you can't read the county names, but there are three counties (in red) that stand out as high baptizing areas. Lawrence County - in the center bottom - had been the focus of Church activity after 1884 and led the Conference with 111 baptisms in 32 years. Shelby County (Memphis) followed next with 96 baptisms in the same period. Perry County - in the center - came in third with 87. Shelby County is the only urban center among them, and was virtually ignored by the Church until 1900.

My next plan is to look at this over time, perhaps add East Tennessee, and baptisms from other sources prior to 1888.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Linden Ward Open House

On August 10th, 2014 the Linden Ward of the Franklin Stake held an open house. You can almost feel the intent behind the event. On the 130th anniversary of the Cane Creek Massacre, members of the congregation which included the site of the massacre wanted to open their church to their neighbors.

The event was to be 3 hours long, and included stations throughout the building that showed off specific aspects. This ward has four missionaries. Sister Curtis and Sister Ferrin and Elder Goal and Elder Steve. In an inverse relation to my age, missionaries are getting younger. And these seemed more youthful than the current age limit would appear to allow. They spoke about their testimony of the newest paintings in the foyer.

After seeing the foyer, we moved on to the Chapel where members of the Ward discussed what happens during a typical LDS service. There was time for questions, and several people took advantage of that. We moved on to the Young Men's room, which was positioned behind the not-so-sound-proof dividers at the rear of the chapel. In any other building this would be the overflow before the cultural hall (Translation: indoor carpeted basketball court). But this building does not have one ... yet.

Our tour led us back across the foyer to the Clerk's office and the Bishop's office. A member of the Bishopric was there to describe what the Bishop does and answer more questions. My tour was interrupted as more "real visitors" (translation: non members) arrived. I missed out on seeing the Young Women's room, the nursery and the Primary room. I did see the media center, and the kitchen, which were unstaffed.

For those of you imagining your own building as we walked through these rooms, I have to stop here and say you are thinking too big. I could have stood in a single spot and seen the door to everything on my tour. The stations were only feet away from each other, so I could see and hear many conversions going on all at once. Despite this, great effort was made to create an environment conducive to  feeling the spirit, and they were successful on several counts.

Refreshments were available at the end. More sugar than is healthy for the average person, let alone a diabetic. Plus reading materials on church programs for food storage, family history, and more. One enterprising Ward member created DVDs with the combined video clips from the scriptures that the Church has put online. These were given out as gifts to the visitors.

I was there for 45 minutes, much longer than the 15 minutes the local thought each tour would take, and I did not get to see everything or talk to every one. Before I arrived about a dozen people had been through already. And another two dozen or so arrive while I was there. I left by 3:00 with another two hours to go. To put that into perspective, this ward covers all or part of four counties: Perry, Decatur, [most of] Lewis, and [northern] Wayne. The meeting house sits in a rural location 7 miles outside of the town of Linden which has a population of just over 900.