"Howdy Neighbor," was always Phil Elgen's greeting as he crossed the street to occupy my favorite hour of a typical Saturday morning. Displaced from his ranch in Western Colorado and not too pleased with city life, he loved to while away some time as he always had, spinning a yarn or two about the life he loved. He still kept busy in the city, but it was easy to tell that he yearned for former days. There were stories about growing up on the ranch, his crusty dad and faithful Latter-Day Saint mom. There were stories of having lived, at one time or another, all over the Western Slope. Always there were stories of the infant church in that area. And always there was mention of Elmer Bair. At first that didn't mean much to me. But as Elmer's name cropped up Saturday after Saturday I began to put pieces of his life together and began to ask questions and to secretly admire this remarkable friend of Phil's.
My Vernal, Utah ties had always been to the West and the Wasatch Front and though I'd been to Colorado a number of times, I knew little of it's history nor the history of the church there. I was fascinated as Phil's stories developed into a marvelous picture of faith and pioneering. One day Phil moseyed over with a book in his hand. It was Elmer Bair's Story 1899 to 1987 by Elmer O. Bair and he offered to let me read it. I did, from cover to cover in a matter of days.
About that time I was Home Teacher to Brother and Sister Hacking. Brother Hacking is a cowboy and he and I loved swapping stories of the old west. I'd usually try to weave a little gospel and inspiration into those stories and Elmer Bair's Story was a treasure trove for that purpose. Phil had told me of Elmer's remarkable gift of healing and somewhere along the line that was mentioned during a visit to the Hackings. Sister Hacking had a chronic illness and their son-in-law had cancer. She bundled them both up one day and went over to see Elmer and got themselves healed. That Christmas, Sister Hacking gave me a copy of Elmer's book, a gift I treasure to this day. Phil had told me it was out of print.
One day a few years later, I was in the home of Arvel and Elva Allred, life long friends of mine. Their daughter Ellen and I were friends in High School. Somehow Elmer Bair's name came up in the conversation and an aura of admiration came over the two of them as you never saw. It turned out that they too had lived in Western Colorado for a time and had stories of their own of Elmer Bair. How he'd helped them get started in the sheep business. How they wouldn't have been blessed to raise Ellen without his blessing. How they'd left their hearts in Glenwood Springs.
Elmer Owen Bair was born on a homestead near Chesterfield, Idaho on February 1, 1899. A little over a year later, they moved to Alpine, Utah, where Elmer grew up. I wish there were time and space to tell those stories. He was a rough and tumble cowboy and sheep man in his youth. His early adult life was spent in many enterprises including work for the Deseret Livestock Company tending sheep and cows and busting broncs.
In 1919 Elmer's father and a partner purchased a Ranch in Colorado and decided to move there with their families and sheep. Elmer went with them. The cattlemen in the area believed sheep would drive the cows from the range and ruin their livelihood. They threatened the Bairs with their lives if they ever came. Elmer said it "reminded me of the old tales told about the early Mormons, and to make matters worse, these were both Mormons and sheep." Elmer relates that one evening while alone, high in the mountains, tending the sheep a couple of cattlemen came into his camp with the intention of driving him and the sheep from the range. When they expressed the nature of their errand Elmer told them they'd better stop and let him give them something to eat before undertaking such a formidable task. He fixed them some vittles and when they were through they decided their boss was going to have to find someone else to run this nice fellow off the mountain because it was no longer in them to do it.
On October 22, 1921 Elmer married Ida Smith his companion through thick and thin for the next 75 years. In those early days in Colorado, the church wasn't organized. The wild and wooly life of ranching became pretty far removed from the LDS lives of their youth. In the summer of 1939 Elmer became extremely ill and remained that way for many months. This illness began a saga which led him back to Utah, resulted in a miraculous recovery and eventuated in Elmer's being ordained an Elder, his daughters being baptized and his family being sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. One morning after their return to Colorado, in the Summer of 1940 a couple of Elders appeared in their yard. "We are going to start a Sunday School in Glenwood Springs," were the first words out of their mouths. To which Elmer replied, "Where in the hell are you going to find Mormons enough to start a Sunday School?" "We have found thirteen families." "Thirteen families! Where?" "All this time I thought I was the only Jack-Mormon in Colorado!" It wasn't long before Elmer became the first Branch President of the Glenwood Springs Branch. Of this time Elmer said, " When Ida and I became active in the Church, we just let all holds go and fell in all over. Although we were timid and shy like wild animals, we had found something we liked and it fully agreed with us. The Church and its teachings rapidly became our way of life."
As Branch President, Brother Bair was instrumental in building the first chapel in Glenwood Springs. In fact, when he discovered that the building the church intended for them was too small for Elmer's projected needs, he marched right into the Presiding Bishop's (LeGrande Richards) Office to demand a larger one. When Bishop Richards turned him down Elmer simply said, "Then give us our money back and we'll build it ourselves!" Bishop Richards was so shocked that they had already turned in their assessment for the cost of the building (even before the plans were drawn) that he complied with their wishes.
Upon completion of the building Elmer was called to serve as Second Counselor to the District President, President Whetten. When President Whetten was called to preside over Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, Elmer was called to replace him as President of the District.
The West Colorado District was enormous! It's boundaries ranged from Paradox, Colorado in the South to Baggs, Wyoming in the North, from the Continental Divide in the East to the Utah border. The District headquarters were in Grand Junction. Elmer lived in Carbondale 100 miles from headquarters and his counselors lived in Craig, 150 miles away. Imagine the miles they traveled in the administration of their duties.
On October 16, 1955, the West Colorado District became a Stake. Elders Harold B. Lee and Mark E. Peterson were the visitors at the conference. During interviews to select the new Stake President, the brethren repeatedly asked who was the most humble man in the District. The unanimous reply was Elmer Bair. So during the course of the conference Elmer was called to be the new Stake Patriarch, a position he actively holds to this day.
In the Spring of 1964 Elmer and Ida were called to serve a mission. They served faithfully in the Cumorah Mission, headquartered in Rochester, New York. Their first assignment was in the Joseph Smith home.
You can imagine my excitement, when a couple of years ago my daughter Jenny and son-in-law John decided to move to Glenwood Springs. We were not long in following them over there and making a visit to their ward. All through the meeting I kept an eye out for Elmer Bair. There were several brothers Bair in the congregation but none of them could have been Elmer. I was looking for a 98 year old man. I picked out one of the brother's named Bair, a little black haired, bright eyed fellow of about five foot five who appeared to be about sixty. I approached him and explained that I was looking for Elmer Bair. "You've found him!" came the reply. "No, no, I mean Patriarch Elmer Bair," I said. "That's me," he answered. "But, but," I stammered, "I thought Patriarch Bair was approaching 98 years old?" "I am, old Bairs never die, they just smell that way!" "I'm a friend of Phil and Fay Elgen and Arvel and Elva Allred," I explained, and he shook my hand like we were old friends. Looking beside me, he noticed my seven year old daughter Katie and asked, "who is this?" I introduced them and he gave her a big hug followed by these instructions, "Now, young lady, you go tell your Mom that you just got hugged by the oldest Bair in the territory and you never got a scratch!" She was as delighted to meet him as I was.
A couple of months ago I found myself seated next to Elmer in Fast and Testimony Meeting in Glenwood Springs. It had been a wonderful meeting when toward the end, Elmer stood and walked to the pulpit. He related a story I'd read in his book. He told of being deathly ill once while serving as District President. He went to Salt Lake City where he was diagnosed with cancer. He took that news to Elder Spencer W. Kimball. Elder Kimball, upon learning the diagnosis, gave it some thought and said, "But you and I know the Lord can do these things don't we?" "Sure, but if my time is up I didn't come to plead for my life. I don't feel like it is and I think you can help me." Elder Kimball went next door, got Elder Peterson and the two of them gave him a blessing. Meanwhile, the West Colorado District was conducting a special fast for President Bair. He was healed and returned to Colorado in time to preside at District Conference. While there, addressing the Saints, a small boy, about eight years old got up from the back of the congregation and made his way to the stand. There he wrapped his arms around Elmer's legs and with eyes shining with tears said, "President Bair, I knew you were going to be made well because I have sure been praying and fasting for you." He closed with his testimony of God's love and goodness and of the great faith of little children. Then he returned and sat by me. It astonishes me that I could be so blessed to know this man, let alone be near him and feel of his love.
I tell you this story to lay the background for the news I just heard this weekend. On Sunday, November 15, 1998, Elmer accepted a call and was set apart as a Stake Missionary in the Meeker Stake, to serve yet again, no, still, his Father in Heaven. Less than three months short of his one hundredth birthday, he is still pioneering the way for all of us.
P.S. There will, no doubt, be a great birthday celebration on the first of February 1999. If anyone out there happens to know who that little eight year old boy was I think it would be a wonderful thing to have him there to see the results of his fasting and prayer.
By Myke Weber firstname.lastname@example.org If anyone reading this knows who this boy is, even though the time is past for the birthday celebration, Myke Weber would appreciating hearing from you.
PATRIARCHIAL BLESSINGPresident Hal Torgerson of the Camarillo, California Stake related the following story at a stake priesthood meeting:
An old friend from high school days came to visit. The friend was a stake patriarch in Idaho. He told a story of himself and a young member of his own home ward. This young man who was born with Downs' Syndrome was now in his late teens. They were neighbors, and this young man would often stop to pass the time of day whenever the patriarch was working in the yard. He possessed all the classic symptoms of the disorder, including characteristic speech and tonal deprivation. In addition, however, he had a speech impediment, which made him hard to understand. Moving with difficulty, he was deliberate and lacked fluidity.
It came to pass that the young man asked, one day, for a patriarchal blessing. Nonplused, the patriarch stammered, only for a moment, and replied that one must first get a recommend from his bishop.
He reported to his friend, President Torgerson that he somehow imagined that no more would be heard on the subject.
Less than a week passed before the youth, smiling broadly, appeared at his door and held up his bishop's recommend, announcing that he was now ready for his patriarchal blessing.
Now, thoroughly confounded, the patriarch told his young friend to speak with his parents about a time that would be convenient for them and then to call and he would make an appointment with them.
Afterward, he went into the house and prayed for inspiration. Nothing seemed to be forthcoming.
At the appointed day and hour, the young man, accompanied by his parents, came to the door attired in their Sabbath best. He ushered them into his home and visited for a few minutes, catching up on last-minute family gossip, frantically hoping for divine intervention. After nearly 20 minutes of "small talk", he became aware that it was no longer possible to delay, and in the knowledge that the Holy Ghost had never let him down, he acknowledged that it was time to begin.
The young man approached him with confidence, smiled broadly, and seated himself in the specified chair. The patriarch, glancing at the smiling parents, placed his hands upon the youth's head and surrendered himself to the Spirit.
Immediately the patriarch felt the presence of the Spirit, and he began to speak in the sure knowledge of purpose. He came, in that moment, to know and to repeat that this special young man was present at the trial of Satan after the war in Heaven, and it was he who escorted Satan out of Heaven. Because of his unique experience, God the Father knew that he would be subject to special risk at the hands of Satan during his time on earth. To protect him and to keep him safe from harm, he was given, as armor, the special shield of Downs' Syndrome as his sword and buckler against the enticements of Satan. This was a gift of the greatest magnitude, which the Father could bestow in order to protect him while he gained the experience of having a mortal body until he could return again to his Heavenly Father.
At the conclusion of the blessing, the young man stood up, walked to his parents, now standing, with the confident gate of an athlete, and spoke clearly, without any of his usual characteristic speech patterns. He first embraced his mother and said, "Thank you for not having an abortion when you could have, after you learned that I would be handicapped." Then he turned to his father, embracing him and said, "Thank you for being my father and for never being embarrassed by me or treating me as different from any other child. I love you." Then he walked over to the patriarch, shook his hand, and said, "Thank you for the blessing."
"For just that moment in time," the patriarch said, "the boy was as normal as his parents or I in every way. There was a different set in his countenance and an expression in his eyes that gave us, for just that moment, a glimpse of the valiant steward of Heavenly Father's kingdom who dwelt within that youth."
The next time the boy and the patriarch met was when the patriarch was getting out of his car. The youth shouted in his loud, flat Downs' Syndrome voice, "Hi, brother," and shuffled more than walked down the street towards his home.
Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see my beauty."
Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."
Finally, the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on the top of the hill and look up to my branches and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me..."
After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree. I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter." And he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest. At the second tree, a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down, his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree, so I'll take this one." And he cut it down. When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.
The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.
The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by and the trees forgot about their dreams. Then, one day, a man and a woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man and he stood and said "peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in it's boat.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who carried it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.
The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.
We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.
A PRAYER FOR THE CHILDREN
We pray for the Children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.
We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
who never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must,
who we never give up on,
and for those who don't get a second chance.
For those we smother and . . .
for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
In Memory of........
Natalie Brooks, student age 12
Paige Ann Herring, student age 12
Stephanie Johnson, student age 12
Brittany R. Varner, student age 11
Shannon Wright, Teacher age 32
This is in memory of the children and teacher killed in the shooting on Tuesday, March 24, 1998, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Also in Memory of......
Mikael Nickolauson, student age 17
Ben Walker, student age 16
This is also in memory of the two teenagers killed in the shooting on Thursday, May 21, 1998, in Springfield, Oregon.
MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON AMERICA'S CHILDREN!
Sometimes we get a little scared as leaders or parents when we feel impressed to do a certain thing but we aren't really certain "why". It often takes that leap of faith to just DO IT. The following is a story that was sent out to the home school list and it describes exactly, such an act.
THAT LEAP OF FAITH FROM LYNNE PIKE:
When we endured Hurricane Andrew and the aftermath that followed, there were many families who lost all of their food storage in the flooding that followed the storm. As some of you may recall, the problem with Andrew was not the winds but the water. Somehow these people were provided with food and shelter, and somehow they miraculously managed to survive. It was difficult, but it was nevertheless possible. I had a dear friend named Margaret Cluff who passed away last year and she once told me a very telling tale. When she was a young Relief Society president, she was instructed by the stake Relief Society President to have the sisters sew quilts. The reason she was given for this instruction was this it was a skill that the sisters needed to learn and that any resulting quilts they made were to be kept by the ward. Well, you can imagine the beautiful quilts that were made following that instruction ... some of us have experienced firsthand the meticulous handiwork of our own grandmothers resulting from that period! At one point, Margaret went to the Stake Relief Society President and said, "The sisters are complaining about sewing the quilts. Month after month we make them and, month after month, each quilt is added to our growing stack of quilts. The sisters are all wondering why we are still quilting and what is going to happen to the quilts we have already made. They say that we've all learned to quilt and ask why are we still being asked to make quilts." The Stake Relief Society President replied, "We've been instructed to make quilts, and that is what we will do until we are instructed to do otherwise. If the sisters wish to murmur about that, then murmur they will, but keep making those quilts, Sister Cluff." And so they did. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor a couple of years later, many of those same sisters sacrificed their husbands and their sons to WWII. It was a humbling experience for them to have to endure rationing and to somehow keep their families strong and healthy throughout the trials of that war. Then one day came the call from Salt Lake and the Stake Relief Society President in turn called Sister Cluff. "We have been asked," she said, "to gather all of the quilts that the sisters have been making throughout the country and send them to families in Europe. Many, many of them have lost all that they own in the bombing and they certainly have need of the quilts that we have made." And so the quilts were packed and sent to nameless faces in countries far away. No fanfare or recognition ensued for that monumental and sacrificial human effort. But somewhere a baby was cuddled ... a sick child warmed ... a dying soldier covered ... all by the intricate handiwork of those many and dear sisters. After Andrew, I heard many say that they were blessed in ways that they never could have imagined ... and they believed that their own preparedness was the greatest blessing of all, even those who lost all that they had in the storm. You have to ask yourself *why* we store food and other items ... and the answer comes from someplace deep inside you ... not from governments or disasters or even from anything that we could expound upon here in this forum. We generally are not privy to the big picture, but the Lord can see it. And if our efforts somehow save the life of another human being, or if we somehow learn something through the *process* ... well, perhaps that was the *real* plan all along. (Lynne)
--- AND, NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY . . .
FROM IRENE JOHNSON: "Hi Lynne and all:
I thought you might like to know that I was one of those "faceless" ones who were homeless after WWII, who got one of those quilts, and slept under it for the next 17 years! I have often told of getting that package of food and the quilt, and hope that the message of appreciation may have gotten across. So now I try to follow the spirit, and I too have bedding for those in need when the time comes. I might add that just before that package came to us, my mother and I had been assigned to the home of a widow (her husband, a staunch Nazi schoolteacher, had committed suicide as the war drew to a close) who had spare bedrooms and bedding etc.. She gave us the bare kitchen floor to sleep on, and grudgingly at that. Mum said the next morning that we were leaving, and I remember asking where we were going to go. She said that she did not know, but we were going. As we walked towards the railway station, there came my dad, who had hopped on trains to look for us! He had no idea where we were, and Germany at the end of the war was a real mess, as you can imagine, so I really feel the Lord's hand was guiding dad, because it was an incredible co-incidence for him to be there at that time. Sorry this is so long, but I thought you might like a "first hand" account. -
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