'Balm of Gilead' for Idaho family

Temple worship brings comfort amidst life's trials


Roland Blaser was just 5 years old when his sister, Marjorie, died of leukemia. He recalls his parents coming arm-in-arm into their home in Rexburg, Idaho, on a cold winter day. Gathering their children, Ernest and Margaret Grosnick Blaser quietly explained to the children that their 16-year-old sister had just died at the hospital.

Today, at 77 years old and gray-haired, Roland Blaser remembers a sister who read stories to him that last winter of her life while she lay on the couch. He remembers the grief and pain of her passing.

But he also remembers something that has sustained him throughout his life — the assurance of eternal families through the sealing ordinances of the temple, the "healing balm of Gilead."

The son of Swiss and German immigrants, Brother Blaser (pronounced Blawser) grew up in a home in southeastern Idaho where family prayer, Church service and temple worship were the pattern of life. A 15-year-old Roland sat near a pillar in the basement of the newly constructed Idaho Falls Temple for its 1945 dedication and, today, can still point out that pillar in the temple cafeteria.

With the dedication on Feb. 10 of the new Rexburg Idaho Temple — visible from the Blaser family farm — generations of Blasers may continue that gospel pattern of living. The day before the dedication, Brother Blaser, a member of the Plano Ward, Sugar City Idaho Stake, met with the Church News to reflect on his pioneer heritage and the role of temples in his family. (Please see Feb. 16, 2008, Church News for articles on temple dedication.)

"With the temple on the hill, and we can see it on a clear day, I think the grandchildren are going to point their lives to the temple. It's going to lead them to eternal life. Your eyes, your heart — everything is aimed at the beautiful temple on the hill."

Roots of the restored gospel in the Blaser family extend back to 1900 in Switzerland when his father's family joined the Church. Superintendent of a cement factory, his grandfather was baptized at midnight to avoid persecution. "But word got out that he had joined the Mormon Church, and he lost his job," Roland Blaser related. "So he decided he was coming to Zion."

The family settled in Rexburg among other immigrant families, and a young Ernest Blaser set off in 1911 for a mission to Germany. There, he met Margaret Grosnick, whose family also soon immigrated and, ironically, ended up in Rexburg. Home from his mission, Ernest courted Margaret, and they were married in 1914 in the Salt Lake Temple. They had eight children.

"I'm the second to the youngest. That's why I'm so skinny," Brother Blaser quipped, recalling family dinners during the Depression of the 1930s.

His father was a local merchant, and so was able to feed his family. "We always had food on the table, one pair of shoes, a pair of pants."

Other local families also had some food and clothing because of Brother Blaser's father. A young Roland would watch as mothers and fathers charged goods for which his father would rarely collect. In fact, when Ernest Blaser finally retired and sold the store, possibly thousands of dollars on charge accounts were forgiven.

At home, Margaret Blaser took care of her family. "She was a homemaker. She loved to be home with her family," Brother Blaser recalled. "She worked in the ward organizations. She was just one of those who never knew the good she was doing."

Brother Blaser doesn't remember not believing in the restored gospel, but he does recall when he was about 18 years old he was reading the Book of Mormon. "It just flooded over me that it was true, just knowing that Joseph Smith was a prophet. All the things that have taken place in my life have just added to that experience."

He took that testimony with him to the Swiss Austrian Mission from 1950 to 1953, after which he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving from 1953 to 1955. During his stint in the Army, he took with him his new wife, Carol, the childhood sweetheart he had married on Aug. 6, 1953, in the Idaho Falls Temple. Today, they have seven children, 42 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

For Brother Blaser, the lessons of his childhood came full circle after 54 years with his beloved Carol. They had reared their family, with Brother Blaser supporting them by farming with his sons and teaching math for 13 years at nearby Madison High School. Then Sister Blaser's health began to fail, and a stroke in August 2007 took her life.

Returning again to that "balm of Gilead," Brother Blaser sought through prayer and fasting after his wife's stroke for her to be healed. "Then I came to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't the Lord's will. Then I started praying and saying, 'Not my will but thy will be done.' That kind of helped me understand, whatever happened would be acceptable to me," he recalled, with some emotion.

Now living within site of a new temple, Brother Blaser leans on the sealing power and priesthood "that unite man and wife, families together forever."

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