I was serving in Houston, Texas, in 1943 in the Spanish-American Mission. I received a letter from my father that impressed upon me the importance of seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit each time I stood before a congregation to speak or share my testimony.
My father, Rosel Hyde Hale, had served under Elder Melvin J. Ballard in the Northwestern States Mission in the early 1900s. Elder Hale was president of the Washington-Idaho Conference, and the city of Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, was in that conference. Its city council had passed an ordinance or resolution prohibiting Mormon missionaries from living or working within city boundaries. A part-member family lived there. One of the children became ill and died, and the mother, who was a member, went before the city council and implored them to let an elder come into the city to preside and speak at her child's funeral. The council relented.
On the train to the funeral, my father prayed for inspiration. He wanted to soften hearts and comfort souls. During the funeral, he gave a sermon that he felt failed to deliver the comfort and assurances he had hoped to give the deceased child's loved ones.
Years later, in that letter he sent me about his experiences in Coeur d' Alene, he mentioned that he had just attended general conference in Salt Lake City. Between sessions, he had gone to lunch at the Hale Cafe, owned by his brother Edward. While my father was eating, a man walked through the door and approached Edward.
"Do you happen to know a man named Rosel Hale?" Edward pointed to Father and said, "That's him sitting right there."
The stranger approached and asked, "Do you remember a talk you gave at a child's funeral in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, in the early 1900s?"
Father replied that he did remember the talk and expressed the opinion that it was the worst sermon he ever gave.
"You might think so," the stranger said, "but that sermon converted me to the Church, and I have been looking for you for 30 years to tell you thanks."
We can never judge how successful a talk has been.
Q. Val Hale, Cascade 3rd Ward, Orem Utah Cascade Stake, as told to him by his father, Quentin S. Hale, who died last November.