Missionary moments: 'Answers from God'

"Brigham Young University is named after my great-grandfather," said Thomas Young Emmett matter-of-factly.

Brother Emmett, who lives in Portland, Ore., and celebrates his 100th birthday this March 16, can prove his lineage to the "Lion of the Lord" with a few artifacts he owns: the "field glasses" (binoculars) Brigham Young used when he first entered the Salt Lake Valley and uttered, "This is the right place," and the prophet's hand-held travel kit, including a toothbrush and comb.

Born in Ogden, Utah, but living in Portland, Ore., most of his life, Brother Emmett has also had many prominent Church callings: he's served as a bishop, a stake president, a temple president and later regional representative to the Twelve, a calling which has since been replaced with that of Area Authority and now Area Seventy.

But family heirlooms, pioneer family trees and prominent callings aren't what make Brother Emmett proud to be a member of the Church, he said. Rather, it's the answers to the "questions of the soul" that give him the most to share about.

"There's a time in every life when someone you love dearly goes," he said, "and you wonder where they go to. When you get down to it, these are the questions of the soul."

He said the plan of salvation, with its hope-filled doctrines made possible through the Savior, answer those questions and have been the basis of his testimony throughout his Church service.

He recalls that as bishop in Portland, Ore., in the 1930s, he presided at a funeral for the brother of a woman who was a recent convert residing in his ward. The brother had worked as a "river rat," as they were called, on a tugboat that would haul ships down the Williamette River. He was part of a "tough bunch" of eight other sailors, who collectively requested the funeral services be held in a Mormon chapel.

During the funeral, Brother Emmett taught the doctrines of the plan of salvation. Afterward, the eight, "tough" crewmen came up to their fellow sailor's casket and asked Brother Emmett if he would teach them more.

They invited him to their tugboat, where he taught them about where they came from, where they were going and why they were here.

"They gained, in a nutshell, the beginnings of a testimony," Brother Emmett recalled. "This is an ordered universe we live in, and we do have answers from God." — Philip M. Volmar

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed