LDS in early South left rich gospel legacy

Numerous references were made by the General Authorities and members alike at the dedication of the Orlando Florida Temple pertaining to the rich, though difficult, legacy of the Church in the South.

Tributes were paid to many Latter-day Saint pioneers who gave nearly everything they had for the gospel cause. Dozens of members commented about having attended Church meetings in homes and rented halls in the days when the Church was just getting a foothold in the South. In areas where just 30 or 40 years ago there were only home Sunday Schools there are now wards and stakes.President Gordon B. Hinckley, in one of his addresses, noted that Elder Charles A. Callis almost has the status of a "patron saint" in the South. Before he was called to the Council of the Twelve in 1933, Elder Callis presided over the Southern States Mission for 25 years. Elder Callis, in the later years, said he had just one wish, that of seeing the organization of a stake in the South. At age 81, he returned to his beloved Jacksonville and organized the first stake. He died two days later in Jacksonville.

President Hinckley said he knew Elder Callis very well. "I suppose no mission president ever served in this Church who was more greatly loved than Charles A. Callis who presided over the Southern States Mission from 1908-1933. He and his wife came here as missionaries in 1906. They came here and labored in Florida. A few months later, he was called as president of the Florida District. That began a career that was largely unique in annals of the Church. Brother Callis was here as president for a full quarter of a century. His wife, Grace, and their children became an institution."

President Hinckley told a story related to him by the late Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Council of the Twelve, who had served as a missionary under Elder Callis.

Elder Callis told Elder Stapley he would take him to his field of labor, President Hinckley related. They were met at the train station by a member with his horse and buggy, which had place for only one passenger and the missionary's trunk. Elder Callis climbed into the seat and told Elder Stapley to walk behind the buggy. About halfway into the 15-mile journey from the train station to Elder Stapley's assignment, Elder Callis asked the driver to stop. He told Elder Stapley, "Now it's my turn to walk and your turn to

ride." President Hinckley said Elder Stapley told him that as he looked back and saw his mission president walking in the dust of the buggy, he said to himself, "This is the best man I will ever know."

In one of his talks, President Thomas S. Monson spoke of another Latter-day Saint pioneer of the South, James R. Boone, who began a lifetime of Church service in 1932 as a local member called to serve a full-time mission.

"Twenty-three years ago, in September 1971, I attended stake conference in the Jacksonville Florida Stake, where I learned that the patriarch of the stake, James Boone, was ill," President Monson said. "All through the two sessions of the conference on Sunday, I felt the impression that I should visit James Boone. I had heard his name mentioned as one of the real pioneers in the Florida area.

"Following that impression and at the conclusion of conference, I was driven to the home of James Boone, I thought it significant that he lived on Sunbeam Lane. I was aware that there were 14 children in the family, yet as I arrived at his residence, I did not see a large two- or three-story structure. Rather, I saw a very small frame farm home situated about 30 yards from the front gate. Sister Boone opened the door, and I was escorted into the home.

"Brother Boone was lying in the bedroom resting and recuperating from an illness. As I went into this marvelous patriarch's room, I could not help but notice that his library was by his bedside, neatly stacked in upright wooden orange crates. Nearest him were his obviously well-used Standard Works of the Church. As I looked upon this wonderful man, a great leader in the Church in Jacksonville, I thought to myself, `Our Heavenly Father has been good to him. He has not blessed him with material things, but He blessed him with a posterity which has done honor to him all through the years.'

"Brother Boone passed away nearly seven years ago, in December 1987. His great desire was to have 100 grandchildren born to his sons and daughters while he lived in mortality. His 100th grandchild was born on the day that Brother Boone was laid to rest.

"As I look upon Brother Boone's life and the lives of many of you, the thought from the Lord echoes throughout my soul: `Lay not up for yourselves treasures an earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' (Matt.

6:19-21.) James Boone labored initially in Georgia and South Carolina until he was ordained an elder in 1933. The next year, he hitchhiked to Salt Lake City to receive his patriarchal blessing and temple endowment. He presided over the Mississippi conference of the Church from 1935-37. He was released from missionary service in 1937 when Elder LeGrand Richards, then mission president, suggested it was time for him to get married and raise a family. He married Ruth Flake in the Salt Lake Temple in September 1937.

When the Florida Stake was organized in 1947, Brother Boone became its first stake patriarch. At his funeral in December 1987, it was surmised that he had given more than 1,500 patriarchal blessings.

David F. Boone, a son of James and Ruth Boone, attended the dedication, having traveled from his home in Utah for the sacred event. "This is a monumental day," said Brother David Boone after he attended a dedicatory session Oct. 9. "Yesterday I went to Oak Grove, one of the original sites of the Saints in this area. I thought, `How could they have ever known how the Church would grow, that there would be a temple here. We stand on the shoulders of giants and have a vantage point they never had.' "

The nephew of James R. Boone, Robert G. Boone, who is patriarch of the Jacksonville Florida North Stake, said: "It's like a miracle that this temple is being dedicated here. We've traveled so far to the temple. We're so pleased the Lord has seen fit to have one here. The temple blesses lives of people so

much." Numerous members told the Church News of the days when they had to travel all the way to Salt Lake City at great expense and personal sacrifice to receive the blessings of the temple.

Bernie Boxx, a third generation Mormon in the Lake Mary Florida Stake, said: "In 1943, my mother and father took seven children to Salt Lake City to the temple to be sealed. It was during World War II when everybody had to have stamps to get gas and buy tires. My father had such great faith that he took his family to the temple, not knowing how we would get back home."

Brother Boxx was present for one of the most momentous events in Florida's Church history: "I had the privilege of sitting next to Elder Charles A. Callis and Elder Harold B. Lee when the first stake was organized in Florida, on Jan. 19, 1947."

The Florida Stake, established in Jacksonville, was the fourth stake east of the Mississippi, and the first in the South. There are three stakes in Jacksonville today.

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