It started years ago when a sister–in-law requested I write to her missionary son who probably needed a few more letters from home.
I protested that I did not know what to write. She suggested that since I had spent years collecting family histories, letters, journals, etc., that I might send a page or two of histories each time and just include a short note from me.
I began and found that it was not that difficult to do, just difficult to keep doing it. I even had some fun with it — one time I had sent some journal history of my grandfather as he described being charged by a range bull and he had no place to hide. The page I sent included the part about the bull charging him, and then the page ended without describing how he was spared injury. The rest of the story was on the next page, which I planned on sending the following week.
About 10 or 12 days later, I received a letter from my nephew wanting to know the rest of the story as the page ended in mid-sentence. I did not know a letter could make a round trip from Australia that fast.
Later, as one of my grandsons went on a mission, I made a promise to myself that I would write him each week while he was away. I kept that promise and even added another letter when a second grandson went on a mission.
An interesting turn of events began in December 2007 when I received a letter from a granddaughter as part of a grade school assignment. I wrote back, and because she lived some distance from me, and I only saw her and her family once or twice a year, I decided that writing every week to her family would be a good thing. One grandchild would get a letter one week and another grandchild the next week.
It has yielded some wonderful letters in reply. After doing this for several months and observing the positive reaction, I decided I could do it for all the other grandchildren, even if they lived closer.
I included some stickers and photos on the letters because the children love stickers and pictures. They enjoy getting a letter addressed to them, and the mailman brings it to their mailbox. They do usually share the letter with the family, but they know they each are important to Grandpa because he sends a letter to them every few weeks. The older grandchildren who are at college or married continue to get the letters in e-mail format.
Here are some of the positive effects of this project:
1. Even though there are fewer letters in return than those sent to them, we have topics in common to talk about when we get together. It has strengthened the bond between grandchild and grandparent. The mothers tell of the excitement when their child gets a letter. I have listened to grandchildren quote from journal histories of lessons they have learned from ancestors. The price of a stamp is well worth the enjoyment they have.
2. I have shared things we do such as when Grandma and I attend the temple, finish reading the Book of Mormon again, get some more ancestor names ready for them to take on baptismal trips to the temple, fulfill our church assignments, etc. No need to be preachy; just set an example for them to follow.
3. Testimony is shared both by example from us and by ancestors as they recorded their history for us to read. I have written some mini-histories that condense large histories into easier-to-read episodes or events. I also share "historical gems" that showcase objects we have saved from earlier in our lives or were passed down from ancestors. They contain a photo of the object and a description of who it belonged to, why we saved it or what it means to us. An example is the miniature Book of Mormon that was passed down from my mother.
4. It is a method of sharing the way things were in the "olden days" and how we coped with the conditions. It is a method of teaching, such as how ancestors' lives were affected by World War II, and the earlier ones by being driven out of Nauvoo, and of others who accepted the gospel message brought to England by Wilford Woodruff. Many of these letters are being saved in binders as future history.
I encourage all grandparents and grandchildren to write to each other. Both will be blessed as a result.
Richard Grover lives in Gooding, Idaho.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company