Seeing news reports of families filing past President Gordon B. Hinckley's casket brought back memories of an earlier time and a mother's desire to impress upon her children the importance of our prophet, who was at that time Heber J. Grant.
In the summer of 1942, our family lived in the basement apartment of an old house on Quince Street, several blocks down the hill west of the Utah State Capitol. I was 11, the oldest of three daughters, and we had recently been joined by a baby brother. Our parents, Francis and Gwen Jones, were active members of the 19th Ward, Salt Lake Stake, and worked hard to make a living in the still depressed economy at the time.
One summer weekday morning, our mother instructed me and my sisters, Peggy and Marrilyn, to put on our Sunday clothes because we were going to go "somewhere important." Mama dressed our baby brother, Gordon, in his Sunday best, put him in his baby carriage and we set off on our adventure, wondering what it could be.
We didn't own an automobile. Our dad was a bus driver for the Utah Light and Traction Co. (later Salt Lake City Lines) and we were well-accustomed to taking the bus or walking everywhere. So on this day we girls followed our mother as she pushed the baby carriage up the hill of Apricot Avenue, past Almond Street, Center Street, North Main and Columbus, to the Capitol at the top.
We didn't stop when we reached the Capitol, but crossed the Capitol grounds and started down the switchback trail that led to Memory Grove in City Creek Canyon. We often came here for picnics (or ice skating in the winter), but this day we continued on, zig-zagging our way up the east side of the canyon. When we reached the top, we continued on into the Avenues neighborhood until we came to a certain house that was unfamiliar to us children, but obviously known to our mother.
We went up the front steps, baby carriage and all, and Mama rang the doorbell. A woman came to the door and looked at us in a questioning way. "I would like my children to meet the prophet," Mama announced. The woman said, "Wait here and I'll see if it is all right." She disappeared down a hall and after a few minutes returned and invited us to come in and follow her.
Mama carried the baby and we were all led into a bedroom where President Grant was propped up by pillows into a sitting position in bed. This was three years before he died, but as I recall, when he greeted us his voice seemed strong. Mama explained to him that she wanted her children to meet him and to understand that he was our prophet.
President Grant shook hands with our mother and with each of us girls and patted Gordon's hand. There was a jar of peppermint sticks on the bedside table. President Grant held the jar and had us each take a stick of candy. We were just there for a few minutes and I don't recall what else was said. I just remember that it was a sweet experience and left a lasting impression on me of the importance of revering and respecting the prophet and his calling and that my mother recognized that importance.
Today, with tightened security, such a visit could never take place and I am grateful that we had that opportunity.Today, as I am a pianist in Primary and listen to the frequent lessons about the prophets, I am reminded of that special day at President Grant's home so long ago. I hope that all the individuals who went to pay their respects to President Hinckley will be able to remember, many decades later, the feelings they had on that occasion.
Norma Dee Ryan is a grandmother, great-grandmother and pianist at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.