Pres. Monson launches stake jubilee: Church leader returns to area where he spent time as a boy

President Thomas S. Monson took a walk back in time Sunday, Jan. 12, on a bitterly cold winter night - back to an area he called "home."

He was the speaker at the Salt Lake Jordan North Stake's jubilee devotional, the first event of a year-long celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the organization of the stake.The stake was created with six wards on Jan. 12, 1947, by Elders Joseph F. Merrill and Albert E. Bowen of the Quorum of the Twelve as the 162nd stake of the Church, but only the third in the sparsely populated western Salt Lake County.

When the stake was created, it included Granger, Hunter, Chesterfield, Taylorsville and Bennion, all rural areas, and Kearns, which was still a military base, but which within two weeks would be declared surplus, opening the way for residential and commercial development. Today, in the same area are 32 stakes, 226 wards and a total population close to 200,000.

As he began his speech, which was punctuated with humor and reminiscing, President Monson related, "Someone said to me, You have a Sunday off and you're going out to speak somewhere?' I said,Oh, I'm not just going somewhere, I'm going home!' "

The area that President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, referred to as "home" was really where his maternal grandfather owned a 640-acre farm in Granger. As a boy, he often visited his grandfather's farm.

"A weekend on the farm was to be savored," remembered President Monson, who grew up in the Pioneer Stake in west Salt Lake City.

On a night when the temperature plummeted to 10 degrees F. and the wind-chill factor was an arctic-like 36 degrees below zero, 1,446 people, including some of his cousins, their spouses and their children who still live in the area, crowded into the stake center to hear President Monson. He was accompanied to the devotional by his wife, Frances.

People started arriving at the stake center as early as 2:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. devotional, and by 5 p.m., two hours before the meeting was to start, the chapel was already full. "Many of you here today are descendants of some of those who were pioneers in this very part of the great valley of the Salt Lake," President Monson told the congregation during his speech.

Speaking of the growth of the Church in the area, President Monson said, "We used to let stakes get a lot bigger then than we do now." He told of when he came to Granger in 1964 as a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve with Elder LeGrand Richards to divide the stake, which was then nearing 9,000 members. That was the third time the stake was divided and it would be divided two more times within the next 13 years.

"My cousin Janice Woodbury was the stake Primary president and they had over 2,000 Primary children. We have whole stakes of 2,000 now." He explained that after the stake conference most of the ordinations and settings apart had to be done by apostles in those days. "I was voice in 52 settings apart or ordinations that day, and LeGrand Richards in 51. I think it might have set a record, but it was a wonderful spirit and an opportunity to pay tribute to the real pioneers in this area."

In speaking of "memories of yesteryear," President Monson reflected, "I loved to come out here with my father and mother and family. We had an old '28 Oldsmobile. Chugging along at 35 mph, my mother would say, `Slow down, Dad, slow down; you're going too fast!' "

Often President Monson would spend weekends on the farm. "For dinner on a Saturday night, or a Friday night, we would have bread and milk. That's what we had, but I kind of liked bread and milk." He then reminisced about his experiences with his cousins and aunts and uncles, drawing much laughter from the huge congregation as he told of some of the antics of boyhood.

When President Monson would spend weekends on the farm, he and his relatives would attend church on Sunday in the old Granger 1st Ward meetinghouse, a building that was constructed around the turn-of-the-century on the southeast corner of 3200 West and 3500 South. The building has long since been torn down.

"We would get up and all journey down to the old ward. In the main hall I saw something I had never seen before. They separated the hall into four classes with curtains. And I learned that if you sat where the curtains joined and had good hearing, you could listen to four lessons simultaneously." Then he humorously declared, "But you couldn't count it as four times attending Sunday School."

Referring to a line from the song, "Yesterday," President Monson said, "I think we learn from the lessons of the past. I think memories are treasured, or should be. And always in our mature life, we go back to our childhood to the fondest memories we have, and most of those which are fondest to me include the memories of being out here with family and friends, in this marvelous part of the valley. I do believe in yesterday, but I believe in today and I believe in tomorrow as well."

President Monson then spoke of many of the early families in the communities of the area, which have all been, except Kearns, incorporated into the cities of West Valley City or Taylorsville. "The people out here were God-fearing people, who loved the Lord and loved their fellowman. I believe they were true pioneers. Webster defines a pioneer as one who goes before, showing others the way to follow. I think it is wonderful to be known as pioneers, if the trails we blaze are trails to the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father. And that was paramount in the minds of those whom I remember best."

As President Monson finished his address, he left a blessing with the members, concluding by saying, ". . . let this area always be known as a jubilee area where joy reigns supreme."

The year-long events of the stake's jubilee, which will conclude next December, also commemorate the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Some of those pioneers and others who came later "crossed over the Jordan River" and settled in this area.

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