Meeting Martha Cragun Cox, a woman after my own heart.

I have been reading a wonderful book called Women’s Voices:  An Untold History of the  Latter-day Saints 1830-1900 by Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey Godfrey and Jill Mulvay Derr.  It is filled with journal entries and first person accounts of women who lived fascinating and difficult lives.  This week I read Martha Cragun Cox’s words.  She is a woman after my own heart.

Here are a few parts (with my own highlights) of a long and beautifully detailed overview of Martha’s life and memories which was written by Lavina Fielding Anderson.  You can find this complete review here:

Martha Cragun Cox
A “Salt of the Earth” Lady
Lavina Fielding Anderson

Martha James Cragun Cox was born into a Salt Lake family on 3 March 1852, married into a polygamous St. George family on 3 December 1869, had eight children, buried three, and died 30 November 1932. To support her family she taught school all over the southern end of the Mormon corridor in the small towns of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. She went to Mexico in time to be expelled by the Revolution. She loved history, and her narrative gift found expression in Church periodicals. She spent her last years in temple work in St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake City.

Why is she important? Because she left a handwritten autobiographical record just over three hundred pages long, written in 1928. It is because of this autobiography that she is more than a name on the family group records of her hundreds of Latter-day Saint descendants. She claims neither unusual beauty, power, intellect, wealth, nor influence, though she seems to have been above average in her hunger for knowledge, her energy, and her loyalty. But her autobiography, by its very existence, transcends the limitations of her time and place to show her struggling towards a sense of self, struggling to make sense of the world, and struggling to make sense of her life. In her autobiography, she performs the labor which is the distinctive work of that genre; and by so doing, she has stocked the toolshelf and provided cheerful companionship for scholars of first-generation Utah, of second-generation Mormonism, and of future generations. It is a record, quite simply, of a strong, uncomplicated woman, a lady who was the salt of the earth. Like salt, she both seasoned and preserved what she touched. And like salt, her influence was subtle, not compelling or dominating.

Her autobiography sets one goal for itself in the first two sentences: “There are few lives so uneventful that a true record of them would not be of some worth, in which there are no happenings that can serve as guide or warning to those that follow. It is to be hoped that in the pages that follow there will be some things found that may be taken as good lessons to those who read.” [1] Because she has perceived shape and direction in her own life, she is a reliable guide. . . .

One senses in her pages both the pleasure in recollection that is one of the joys of reminiscence and also an urgency to record, to make an island of permanence in an ocean of evanescence. Thus it is also a vivid and little-mined scrapbook of small-town life along the Mormon southern corridor—dances, courting, Indian relations, diet, and doctrinal understanding are all there. . . .
I feel the same urgency to record my own simple but true record that might someday be of worth or a guide to someone after I am long gone from here.  Every day I fill pages in my journal.  I doubt my family now will ever read what I write, but someday, in some distant future, I think my words will be of value to someone, including the children and grandchildren of my own kids.  They will wonder what it was like for me here and now, in this day and age, when all of our world seems to be falling apart around us.

There may be some who will wonder why and how I believe what I believe and how I feel permanence in the tempest around me.  My words will stand as a testament that I find peace in Christ and in His teachings.  I am grateful every day for Him and for His gifts to me as I continue writing my fingers to the bone.

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A Matter of Bequeathal by Helen Mar Cook (1916-2015)

I have recently been introduced to the poetry of Helen Mar Cook.  Her son, David Cook, was our son, Aaron’s Mission President in Santiago, Chile.  Pres Cook has been sharing her poetry with me and with others and I have loved each piece.  Especially this one.

I share her heartfelt desire to leave myself behind–with words but also with a few quilts!

My friend troubles over the mixing bowl,
measuring salt, sugar, flour and yeast,
mixing, blending, then kneading the dough
to place under a damp cloth for rising.
She pummels, rolls and shapes
the perfect loaf, places it in the oven
to come out fragrant with taste and lightness.

I am a troubler over words. I measure
metaphor, mix, blend, knead and pummel
to shape a poem that I hope my dear ones
will taste and savour.

She stores her trunk with embroideries
while I go on threading the rainbow
with silk strands, stitching, unstitching.
sometimes dropping a stitch
to bring subtlety, meaning
into a line.

Her children will treasure her recipes,
and her patchworks will be handed down
through generations after she has gone.

My patchworks, my recipes will turn
into a shuffle of papers, phrases
that I measure into hoped-for meanings.
when nights grow cold. I wonder
will my crazy patchworks keep them warm.


Helen Mar Cook was the last surviving grandchild of Elder Orson F. Whitney, sometimes described as the Poet Laureate of Mormonism. She inherited her grandfather’s gift for the written word and became an accomplished and frequently published poet, receiving numerous awards in prose and poetry. She published four volumes of poetry. Her first book, Shape of Flight, was published in 1975 by the Utah State Poetry Society when she was named Poet of the Year. She was a well-known teacher and lecturer in poetry workshops and readings throughout the state of Utah. She was a member of the Utah State Poetry Society having served as President and in various official capacities. She served as president of The League of Utah Writers and the Utah Association of the National Pen Women and served on the National Letters Board. She also served as President of the Ben Lomond Poets, Blue Quill Writers, and on the Literary Arts Panel of the Utah Arts Council. She was also a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

Posted in Quilting, Thoughts and Insights | 3 Comments

Ekaette’s World and Practical Christianity by Ann Laemmlen

Here’s an article I wrote that was published in the March 1989 Ensign.

Ekaette’s World and Practical Christianity

How a Nigerian sister taught me about true service and practical Christianity.

by Ann Laemmlen

I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine named Ekaette, my neighbor for two and a half years. She lives in a tropical rain forest in Nigeria, the most densely populated country in Africa. During the rainy season, Ekaette’s home is surrounded by lush green undergrowth. Palm trees decorate the horizons, and the sun shining through the clouds creates gorgeous sunsets. During the hot, dry season, winds from the Sahara desert bring a haze of fine dust that filters the harsh rays of the sun.

Ekaette is two years older than I. She was a young schoolgirl when her marriage to Akpan, ten years her senior, was arranged. Their first child was born when Ekaette was only fourteen or fifteen years old. Ekaette has had eight children. Five have survived. Her family joined the Church a few years ago.

Akpan is unemployed, but he works at miscellaneous jobs and repairs things for other people. He is a proud and industrious man, a good husband and father.

Ekaette has a nice home made of reddish clay packed between bamboo poles. A thatch roof protects her family from the heavy tropical storms. Inside, the home has a hardpacked earth floor and is divided into four rooms. A covered cooking area is separate from the house.

As with many other places in the world, there is no electricity in Ekaette’s area of the country. Ekaette cooks over a fire, washes clothes in the stream, and irons them with an iron filled with hot coals.

Ekaette’s day begins very early. She and her children must carry all the water they will need for the day from a stream not far from their home. Several times a week they must make a trip into the forest to cut the firewood they need. They carry the wood home in bundles on their heads.

Most of the food for Ekaette’s family comes from several small farm plots outside their village. Ekaette grows cassava, yams, bananas, plantain, pineapple, hot red peppers, and several kinds of greens used in different soups.  Ekaette and her family are happy. They have a good life.


I met Ekaette while I was directing a village health program for the Thrasher Research Fund, which sponsors research projects on child health in third-world countries. My colleagues and I organized health classes and trained volunteer teachers in dozens of villages to teach basic health principles like nutrition, sanitation, personal hygiene, and home health care. The teachers then taught similar classes in their own language in homes, schools, churches, and village council halls.

I remember one hot, sultry evening sitting under a generator-operated ceiling fan looking through some of the latest editions of a newspaper which I had just received. I paused at a page filled with suggestions of practical things to do in our homes to save money. Ideas included turning off lights and water when they are not being used, buying food in bulk and then freezing it in small containers, using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones, sending letters to cut down on long-distance telephone bills, and not shopping for food when you are hungry. These suggestions are certainly practical, but they belonged in a world other than the one I was in at the time.

But in spite of the differences between my world and Ekaette’s, there was something that united us: the gospel of Jesus Christ—Christianity.

Christianity is absolute. It should not be affected by our environment or circumstances, even though they determine how we practice our beliefs. Christianity should not be affected by skin color or race, by how we earn a living, or by what we buy at the market. It should not be determined by climate or geographical location.

I returned from Africa with a simpler definition of Christianity than I once had. To me, Christianity is love, or charity—the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love—the pure love of Christ. It may prompt alms or benevolent deeds, but it is not the same thing as charitable works.

In other words, Christianity is not so much what I do, but how I love; it’s the process of learning to love as Christ loves. Churches are institutions where we can learn about Christ and practice being Christians. But attending church will not make me a Christian any more than sitting in a library will make me a scholar. It simply gives me the means and opportunity of learning to become a Christian. Christianity teaches me about my relationship to God and to those around me. Understanding that relationship helps my heart change, increasing my capacity to love.

Principles such as love, sacrifice, faith, repentance, self-reliance, and consecration are universal. Working in Africa taught me how much more important principles like these are than programs. The Western world provides many programs for third-world countries. Schools are built, clinics are established, medicine is dispensed, tractors are imported, and food is distributed. The programs help meet immediate needs, but often, the principles behind the practices are overlooked. I don’t think I could do much good for Ekaette if I concentrated on programs like food storage or family history, worthy though they are. But Ekaette and I share a broad basis of belief in such eternal principles as faith, love, and self-reliance. In practicing these principles, we learned from each other.

I realized the importance of teaching principles after I attended a Relief Society lesson at the local branch. The lesson, taken from the manual, was on keeping our homes neat and clean. An illustration in the lesson manual showed an American home that was neatly arranged and obviously well kept. Our instructor was so unfamiliar with Western-style homes that she held the picture upside down when she showed it to the class.

Later that week, I went to Ekaette’s house and found her covered from head to toe with mud. She was beaming. Inspired by the lesson, Ekaette was cleaning her home. She had taken every single item out of the house (there wasn’t much), and she was smearing new clay mud on the walls and floor. She excitedly showed me how she had decorated the front of the house by using a darker mud along the bottom for a nice trim. It looked beautiful. Ekaette had learned the principle, then implemented it in a way that was practical for her.

Her example prompted me to think about my own efforts to apply the principles of Christianity. It occurred to me that perhaps the first and most important principle to practice is self-examination. For example, many times I think, “That’s a good idea, but I don’t have the means to do anything about it.” Money and material things become issues that prevent Christian service. But what things does it take to be a Christian—a rug to kneel on, or a warm loaf of bread to share with a neighbor? Must I be financially established before I can share my means? Must I go to Africa to find children who need help? I believe the Lord is pleased when we serve with whatever resources we have available to us.

A second principle I learned is that it is important that I serve wherever I am. My experiences in Africa was very special to me, but I do not feel that it is better to love someone far away than those near at hand. The Savior showed by example whom I should love. He didn’t leave his own country and travel far away to another place and people. He went among his own people, and he associated with a variety of people—the wealthy and the poor; the politicians; the sick, the lame, and the blind; tax collectors; the hungry, the tired, and the lonely; and even those considered unworthy.


When I was in Africa, it was clear to me that Africa was the best place for me to practice being a Christian. Now that I am home, the most practical place for me to be a Christian is here, among my own people. This is challenging for me. It often seems easier to send some money to a “save-the-world” organization than make room in my busy schedule to take time with a brother, sister, neighbor, or friend.

A third lesson I have learned is that I should prepare myself to serve in a wide variety of settings. I had many experiences that helped me understand Ekaette and her family better. But because I could not understand all she had experienced, it was hard for me to know how to help in the best and most practical ways. I don’t know how it feels to have three of my own children die in my arms because no medical help is available. I don’t know how it feels to wonder where my next meal is coming from. I don’t know how it feels to mold the walls of my home into shape with my own hands. I don’t know what has brought Ekaette her greatest joys. As hard as I try, I am not able to relate to many of her problems and challenges.

And yet, I’ve learned that the more variety I can experience, the more people I will understand. Choosing to associate only with a select group of individuals who think and act the same way I do will seriously limit my opportunities for Christian service. I can choose to increase the variety of my experience and my capacity to love. The more people I understand, the more like Christ I can become.

As I have tried to practice being a Christian, I’ve discovered that many of my motives are often reflected in the actions of the people around me. As my colleagues in Africa and I associated with hundreds of people from dozens of villages, we observed many reasons for their participation in our program. Some came because they believed that white health workers would provide free services, medicine, or employment. Others were curious about the novelty of white faces in their villages. Some came because they were concerned with their family’s health; they were frightened of illness and feared that a child might die. Others wanted to learn more about health for their families’ sake. Some came because their neighbors came. Still others came because there was love in their hearts and a desire to know how to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

It was fascinating to see the different responses to our project. The people who came hoping to get something free dropped out very quickly. The curious got used to our white faces and also left. Those who needed to solve family health problems usually did well; they not only received some answers to meet their current needs, but they also stored up information against future needs. Those who were motivated by love not only stayed, but went a step further in offering what they had learned to those around them.

Ekaette was one of these people. She told me once, “If you had given me money—no matter how much or how little—it would all be gone now. But you have given me knowledge, and no one can ever take it away from me!” In the last year or so, Ekaette, on her own with very little help from us, trained teachers to instruct several groups of women in different villages.

In Ekaette’s life, I have seen Christianity—or love—at work. Guided by gospel principles, she has found practical solutions to her daily challenges. And so can we. I am convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of the world’s problems.

I have spent nearly half of the last decade living outside of my homeland. During this time, I have seen and experienced much contrast, and I have looked into the eyes of many who have great challenges in their lives. I believe what President Spencer W. Kimball said to be true—that in the gospel of love taught and exemplified by the Savior, we can find the answers to all our problems. With that kind of love in my heart, I can be a practical Christian, whether here or in Ekaette’s world.

Photography by Ann Laemmlen

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Turning Their Hearts

COVID Grandparents

I saw this incredible piece of art today and I can’t stop staring at it.  Spanish artist, Juan Lucena painted this in honor of all the deceased grandparents of COVID 19 who were not able to say goodbye to their grandchildren.  This has been one of the greatest tragedies of our last 3 months– links between our generations have been severed in isolation.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking to imagine grandparents leaving without a last kiss or hug or the gentle squeeze of a tired hand.

The grandma in the painting turning back reminds me of the oft-repeated scripture, voiced by the prophet Malachi in the last verse of the Old Testament, where he said, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

There are important links that hold generations together and if those links are broken, our purpose here –to be gathered in families– is lost.  In this beautiful and heart-wrenching artwork I feel the importance of those family ties that bind us to our dear ones.   May we always remember them.

Here is Juan Lucena, the artist:

COVID Grandparents- la-despedida-que-hubieran-merecido.1

COVID Grandparents- la-despedida-que-hubieran-merecido

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The Process of Becoming Christlike

Faith is not Blind.2

I’ve been reading a very insightful book written by Bruce and Marie Hafen called Faith Is Not Blind.

I’ve spent many years and a lot of energy putting things into my mind, willing facts and figures to stay put and not fade (and yet they all do) and maybe not as much energy on practicing a way of life like our Savior. I’ve thought and taught a lot about “becoming” –we are human beings, not human doings. I know all of that, but something about the Hafen’s arrangement of words got it just right for me.

Practicing.  Practicing is different than just living and hoping you get it right (which has been my way, my approach to being Christlike, hoping for the best).  The Hafens give examples of things like playing the piano that can’t be taught intellectually, they have to be practiced. There is no other way for us to become what we need to become, other than practicing over a life-time. You can’t study music theory and stare at a keyboard for a lifetime without touching it, then sit down in Carnagie Hall to play a concerto, even if you’ve intellectually memorized every single note. It simply is not possible. You must practice with your heart, your mind and your hands over and over and over again, perfecting each note, each nuance, each sound.

Here are parts of 3 different pieces of music my daughter Claire learned and performed.  I’ve heard every note in each of these 100s and 100s of times as she sat practicing them.  I  have the sound of them memorized, but is there any chance I could play them?  Never!  My hands were not the hands practicing them.

It’s not so different from hearing the good Word from the pulpit every Sunday for my entire life and not practicing it.  Hearing alone gets me nowhere.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 10 that I will be thinking about for a long long time, like the Rest of My Life:

Learning from experience teaches us in ways nothing else can. In designing His plan for our mortal experience, God consciously took the risk that some of His children wouldn’t come back. Didn’t He have the power to touch us with some kind of wand that would give us the capacity to live with Him in the celestial kingdom? . . .  What is it about experience that is so essential it’s worth the risk that we may not come back?

Salvation and exaltation are not just abstract goals. Those terms describe an entire process that requires growth, development, and change. Central to that growth process is mortality’s unique opportunity to let us learn by experience–by practice–which is the only way we can develop capacities and skills. We’re not here just to learn facts and absorb information. There is something about forcing people to be righteous that interferes with, even prohibits, the process that righteousness in a free environment is designed to enable. Righteous living causes something to happen to people.

There are two very different kinds of knowledge. One involves such rational processes as gathering information and memorizing. The other kind of knowledge we might call skill development–like learning how to play the piano or swim or take a computer apart, learning to sing or dance or think. The process of becoming Christlike is more about acquiring skills than it is about learning facts and figures. And the only way to develop those divine skills is by living His teaching. Even God can’t teach us those skills unless we participate fully in the process, with all the trials and all the errors that are inherent in learning a skill by practice, . . . Some things can be learned only by practice.

Faith is not Blind.1

European scholar Michael Polanyi has identified “skills” as a unique field of knowledge. He writes that often the essence of a skill can’t adequately be described, measured, or specified. So the skill can’t be transmitted by written descriptions and instructions intended to be memorized by later generations. “It can be passed on only by example from master to apprentice.” Therefore, “an art which has fallen in to disuse for the period of a generation is altogether lost” and “those losses are usually irretrievable.” . . . .
It follows, then, that we can learn a skill only by imitating the skillful performance of one who has mastered the skill–even when the teacher whom we imitate cannot specify every detail of the art. There is a close analogy between this fact and the central gospel concept that emulating the Savior’s example is the ultimate way of internalizing the gospel, a way that transcends merely following specific commandments and detailed doctrines. . . .

The idea that exaltation results from a process of skill development may help explain why there is a veil. Faith and repentance and knowing God are processes and principles of action, understood not only by defining them but by experiencing them. God is a great teacher, and He knows the patterns and the principles we must follow-and practice–in order to develop divine capacities. He can teach us those skills, but only if we submit to His tutoring.

Much of the substance of Christ’s gospel can’t be fully measured; it can’t all be specified, except as it is understood by experience. But that is no reason to value it less. We can’t totally explain our most significant experiences–our love for our families, our testimonies, our feelings of gratitude for the Lord’s love and mercy. To reduce these essences to a content that we can communicate fully to other people may diminish their sacredness. Like beauty and joy, they are too important, to nuanced, to be totally specifiable.

There is a veil between our world of mortality and God’s world of the eternities. It can become very thin at times. But for most of us the veil remains, for He has placed it there to help us learn how we must live, and who we must become, to live with Him someday.

Faith is not Blind

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Things Fall Apart

2020-6 George Floyd

It’s an interesting thing to be out of the country, watching from a distance, when it seems like America as we know it is imploding, self-destructing.  This last week in Minneapolis  a black man named George Floyd was killed by a white cop who knelt on his throat, suffocating him until he died.  Someone filmed the whole thing.  Riots and demonstrations have erupted across the nation.  Destruction and looting is happening everywhere, right now.  Mob mentality has taken over, even in Utah.

Demonstrations SLC 2020-6

Demonstrations in Salt Lake City this week. –Daily Herald photo

What a surprise that pallets of bricks have appeared in city after city–appearing out of nowhere–ready to be chucked through windows of businesses and cars.

2020-6 Bricks

Stores like Target and Walmart have boarded up their doors after a few days of looting wrecked havoc on their properties.

Our President is a boof who yesterday used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a peaceful demonstration off the steps of the church by the White House so he could stand on those steps for a photo shoot.  He held up the Bible with a look of consternation on his face.   It’s a place he does not visit and a book he does not open.

Trump 2020-6

Our nation will self-destruct if this continues.

We watch from our peaceful neighborhood in Abidjan.  Here is the view from our window into our world this week:

Where would I rather be?  The answer to that is easy.  I am learning to love new neighbors and friends here and this is why:

Love you Neighbor

I hope we get through the next few weeks in one piece.  This has been a hard week, after several weeks of COVID lockdowns and isolation.  It sounds like those issues are on the back burner now.

There really is only one answer for all the problems erupting around us:  We must love one another and love our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It’s the only way.  I hope He will come again soon.

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Building a Food Supply in Abidjan during COVID Times

2020-6-4 Food Storage Abidjan (4)

Our Abidjan Kitchen

We are passing through some interesting times.  At the beginning of March we traveled to Accra, Ghana with church members to attend the temple.  We had a glorious week there with them, then they returned to Bamako and we flew to Abadjan for what we expected would be a couple of weeks.   Bamako is our main residence, Abidjan is our other home.  We come and go between our two apartments.

After a day or two in Abidjan, our world changed.  We were not able to get a flight out to Bamako.  Borders closed.  Missionaries were sent home.  Lockdown felt imminent.   We were in an apartment with no food supplies and the world around us was in a panic.  We didn’t know how much time we’d have to stock up on some food before that window of opportunity closed.

On the evening of March 17th we went to the finest supermarche in Abidjan to do a little shopping.  We found a ransacked store with panicking shoppers filling carts with whatever they could grab and afford.  It was frightening.  We purchased a few things to sustain us for the coming week.  We had no idea what the future held.

Gratefully, in the weeks that followed, we were never required to go into apartment lockdown.  We continued to go to the mission office every day, helping there as dozens of missionaries exited for their homelands.

We are still here.  We don’t know how long we’ll be here.  The country borders are still closed.  The Abidjan city limits are also closed to contain the spread of the virus to other parts of the country.  There are not many cases here, which is good.  The stores have restocked their shelves and we are able now to buy the things we need.

What crazy times!  I’ve been thinking a lot about FOOD and what essential food items are most important to us here.  I thought it might be fun to chronicle the list of things we are eating during this particular time here in West Africa.

Here are my cupboards filled with our food supplies–a few things here came all the way from America to Bamako to Abidjan, and we ration them for special occasions.

2020-6-4 Food Storage Abidjan (2)

We also have a fridge with a freezer.  The small freezer space is filled with frozen chicken, ground beef, frozen peas, cheese, butter, bread, and our homemade frozen yogurt.  The fridge holds water, yogurt, cheese, butter, eggs, some condiments and our fruits and vegetables.  We are so grateful to have a fridge and freezer to preserve our food.

This is my food storage pantry in the other room:

2020-6-4 Food Storage Abidjan (1)

And here is our water supply–on top are bottles I’ve refilled with filtered water with a few drops of bleach.

2020-6-4 Food Storage Abidjan (3)

Here’s my list of things I can purchase here that I like to keep on hand:

flour and yeast
brown sugar, white sugar
eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese
dry milk, canned milk
raisins, dates
popcorn, oil
granola, cookies, crackers, chips
spices & herbs:  Mexican, Italian, bullion, curry, salt & pepper
baking powder, soda, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon,
seasoning and soup packets
condiments: mayonnaise, mustard, hot pepper paste
canned goods:  corn, white beans, kidney beans, mushrooms
canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
lentils, split peas
rice, pasta
meat:  chicken, ground beef
fresh vegetables:  carrots, potatoes, zucchini, leeks, onions, peppers, cucumbers
fresh fruit: pineapple, papaya, mangoes, bananas, apples, coconut

We are happy and healthy and we eat well (in spite of losing quite a bit of weight).  It’s a trying time for the people around us who have been impacted by the COVID restrictions.  We still don’t know what the future holds, but we hope we’ve dodged the worst of it here in Cote d’Ivoire.  We’re happy to be here.

You can read more about our ongoing experiences in West Africa here: 

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Aaron Lewis Graduates from BYU During the Corornavirus Era

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (6)

Aaron received a package this week from Brigham Young University.  He has completed his degree in Mechanical Engineering!  What a wild and crazy last semester he and all the students across the country have had.  With just a few weeks left of his college experience, university life as he knew it ended.

BYU’s transition to remote education essentially happened over a weekend.

“We shut down classes and courses on Friday (March 13) — and on the following Wednesday (March 18), everything, with some rare exceptions, had been moved to remote education,” said President Worthen. “That was a remarkable undertaking.”

Aaron moved back home and set up his study place in John’s office.  For the next 6 weeks, learning took place isolated at home.

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (4)

This is what a “Zoom” session looked like:

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (2)

In spite of the challenges, Aaron went out with flying colors.  Here is his last final exam score:

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (4)

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (1)

Here’s Aaron’s take on this unusual final semester:

“Doing the last couple weeks of the semester remotely wasn’t that big of a deal for me and my schedule. I was only enrolled in 3 classes this semester: the first was a group project every day, the second was once a week, and the third was already online. That first class we already met as a team remotely 2/5 days of the week, so all we had to do was bump that up to 5/5 days a week. The second class turned into a Zoom call on Tuesdays. The third didn’t change at all (although the professor stopped taking away points for late assignments and canceled a lab, so if anything, it got easier). So I was lucky to have a very adaptable schedule!

“As far as graduation goes, I have a sense that I missed out on some emotions that I would have only felt as I joined all my fellow classmates and heard my name called out. I say “I have a sense,” because everything has felt completely normal going from non-graduate to graduate. Every day has felt just like the one prior (although maybe with a little less to worry about). I’m sure that if I had been able to walk, then perhaps there would be a happy disturbance to the normalcy; I guess I’ll never know.”

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (7)

Congratulations, Aaron!  You’ve excelled and you make us proud!

Aaron has accepted a job offer at Qualtrics which will begin in a couple of months (after his planned and cancelled graduation trips to Palmyra, NY, to Europe, and a cruise to the Caribbean).

2020-4-25 Aaron BYU Grad

Here’s a historical look at how campus began to close down by the end of March 2020.  In April the campus was virtually closed and all students were encouraged to return home and study from home.  Here’s how things began to unfold:

March 26: Today’s BYU Campus COVID-19 update

The BYU campus has changed drastically due to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and the world. Find out how the campus is functioning, what’s open, what’s closed and what’s new.

Today’s campus updates:


The following are closed for the rest of the semester:

  • Milk and Cookies
  • Cougar Cafe
  • Wendy’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Choices
  • Papa Johns
  • Subway

Still open, Monday-Saturday:

  • Cougar Express 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
  • Chick-Fil-A 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Aloha Plate 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Open restaurants in the Cougareat are only available through “walk-thru” service. People can order through a speaker and then wait in the designated area to pick up their food.

According to the Cougareat website, all restaurants except Taco Bell and Cougar Express will be closed during the spring and summer semesters. The Taco Bell and Cougar Express hours are to be “coming soon.”

Dining Establishments

Starting today, BYU Food-To-Go will offer grocery pickup.

The Cannon Center, Legends Grille and all Creamery locations will remain open, according to an email sent by BYU. However, all other dining locations will be closed for the semester.

The Jamba Juice in the Wilkinson Center is open on Monday-Fridays from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., but the Jamba Juice at the Student Athlete Building is closed.

The Library

The Harold B. Lee Library is open during its regular hours of operation, but services are limited. Starting tomorrow, all service points will be closed and patrons will be referred to virtual platforms such as email and chat. The library hopes to eliminate as much face-to-face interaction as possible.

Equipment at the Media Center is currently unavailable for checkout, and the production rooms are also unavailable.

The Family History Center and family study room are closed.

The library is also offering special resources for faculty as they adjust to teaching remotely. According to the library’s website, group study rooms will no longer be available to students; instead, professors can use them for online class instruction.

Re-enroll in withdrawn classes

BYU is giving students the opportunity to re-add the classes they withdrew from after March 12. The change was made because of BYU’s recent announcement about new grading policies for winter semester.

An email sent out to students who withdrew from a class said, “If you would like to have a class or classes added back to your current registration, please fill out and submit the following form no later than Friday, March 27, at 5 p.m. MDT.”


“Webfest for winter semester has been rescheduled with an online-only format,” according to BYU’s Web Community website. For the agenda and Zoom link visit the website.

Other updates regarding COVID-19:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced all temples will be closed until further notice.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Due to the continued concerns related to COVID-19, all remaining open temples will temporarily close by end of day Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Please see the article for the First Presidency’s full letter. 

First Presidency Temporarily Closes All Temples

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent the following letter about temple closures on March 25, 2020, to Latter-day Saints everywhere. 

Information that is still in place:

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe has temporarily made Creative Cloud available for all students. Any BYU student can access and use their BYU Net ID to set up an account.

Bowling and Games Center

The Bowling and Games Center is closed until further notice.


According to BYU’s website the Harris Fine Arts Center, the Tanner Building and the Engineering Building are adjusting their hours to better secure the campus. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Most remaining academic buildings not specifically listed here will be open from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The website also states that all buildings will be closed on Sundays except to ecclesiastical leaders who will be provided with updated building assignments and other information from their ecclesiastical leadership lines.

BYU Sports

All BYU athletic events have been canceled.

All single game tickets will be automatically refunded.

Mens volleyball season ticket holders will be contacted by email regarding a refund for the final home match of the season.

Gymnastics season ticket holders will be refunded for the final match of the season.

Baseball season ticket holders will be refunded for the whole season.

For questions or concerns contact

BYU Store

The BYU Store is open, but operating on new hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with distribution services only being open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Campus Employees

A Y News email sent out March 25 gives the following directions for working on campus:

“Employees whose work requires them to be on campus should stay home if they have symptoms of illness. Before going to work each day, employees should specifically self-assess for signs of fever, cough or difficulty breathing and report their status to their supervisor.

Managers and supervisors should also direct employees to return home if they are observed with any of these symptoms while at work. Supervisors may contact BYU’s Compensation Department for guidance regarding employees who do not have sick leave as an option.

Where possible, supervising units have the discretion to allow student, part-time and full-time employees to work from home.”

The Cannon Commons

“The Cannon Commons will be open for students with meal plans and will provide boxed meals for pick up.” according to an email from University Communications sent out to students.

Commencements and Convocations

The university has canceled all gatherings for this year’s commencements and convocations, but individual colleges can stream their convocation.

COVID-19 cases

BYU announced it’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 23.

In an email sent out to students from University Communications it stated “BYU received a notification that a student enrolled in classes on campus this semester tested positive for COVID-19. The student has returned home.”

The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

An email was sent out to Kennedy Center students saying, “Until further notice, the Kennedy Advisement Center and student lounge in 273 HRCB will be closed.”

The email said that they will still be advising students through phone calls and the video software Zoom.

The Kennedy Center will not be streaming their convocation.

Devotionals and Forums

The April 7 Devotional with Estela Marquez will proceed as a broadcast through BYUtv. The March 24 Forum with Dambisa Moyo has been postponed. The March 31 Performance Devotional and the April 14 Unforum have both been canceled.

Enterprise CarShare

Starting on March 27, Enterprise CarShare will be unavailable until further notice.

College of Family, Home and Social Sciences

Departments and faculty are making determinations on a case-by-case basis regarding practical and lab-based requirements including things like licensing and accreditation.

There has been no final decision regarding convocation, although a delayed convocation is being considered.

Final Examinations

“In preparing finals for W2020 faculty may choose to employ standard examination modes, adapted to remote delivery. They might also approach final exams in novel ways and are authorized to do so,” according to BYU’s website.


“Until further notice, BYU is prohibiting all in-person gatherings of more than 10 people in accordance with a Utah public health order. This broadly applies to any on- or off-campus gathering of BYU employees. This also applies to any on-campus student or visitor gatherings,” according to BYU’s website.


In an email to students Academic Vice President Shane Reese addresses decisions to fairly evaluate final grades.

“At the end of this semester only, faculty will submit a letter grade for each course as per the standard grade submission protocol. After the grades are submitted by faculty, students can choose to keep the standard grade given or move to a pass/fail for each specific course.

Pass and Fail grades will not affect GPA. A ‘Pass’ will count as a passing grade and a completed academic credit. For this semester only, a ‘Fail’ will not adversely affect GPA and no credit will be given for that course,” according to the email.

International Cinema

According to the International Cinema’s website “all in-person screenings have been cancelled for Winter 2020 in response to the COVID-19 virus.”

An email sent to students said “We are currently working with film distributors to acquire permission to stream films through hummedia, the BYU Humanities Department’s content streaming platform.”

The Ira B. Fulton College of Engineering

The Engineering Building is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the Clyde Building is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. According to the college’s communications manager Jordyn Watts, Dean Michael Jensen is strongly encouraging all classes, including those with lab work and research done primarily on campus, to move online.

Lost and Found

BYU’s Lost and Found will be open 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. in the Wilkinson Student Center.


The Museum of Art, Monte L. Bean Museum and other similar venues used for gatherings will be closed until further notice according to BYU’s website.


Students can park in any Y or G lots without a paid parking pass, but A lots and specialty stalls will still be monitored as normal.

Recreation and Fitness Facilities

All recreation and fitness facilities on campus are closed. This includes the gyms, pool, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor track and racquetball courts.

Research and Writing Center

The Research and Writing Center will continue to offer virtual help via Zoom or email appointments. Visit their website for details.

The writing consultant application deadline for spring, summer and fall has been extended to March 30. For more information and to apply, visit the employment page on their website.

For any other questions contact


Everyone has free access to Sanvello premium during COVID-19. Sanvello is a mental health support app that is meant to help with stress and anxiety.

School of Communications

According to an email sent to students in the School of Communications, “The School of Communications main office will remain open for the rest of the semester. School leadership and office staff will be in the office and available, during regular office operating hours.”

The Brimhall is currently closed except for those with key-card access.


The free campus shuttles are still running on their regular schedules.

Spring Term

Kevin J Worthen announced in an email sent out March 24 that Spring term at BYU would be held remotely.

“In all other ways, spring term will proceed according to the previously established schedule,” according to the email.

For more information about how this affects on campus housing, student jobs and grading visit the announcement BYU’s website.

Student Health Center

The Student Health Center is still open to treat students. Its hours are Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Visit BYU’s Health Center website for more information.

If you have a respiratory illness or suspect you have COVID-19, please call 801-310-0438 before coming to the clinic.

Study Abroad and Performing Tours

All study abroad programs and performing tours that were scheduled for spring and summer terms have been canceled.

Testing Center

The Testing Center is closed until further notice.

The Wall

The Wall has been closed until further notice.

Wilkinson Student Center

The Wilkinson Student will maintain its regular hours, but specific offices within the building may be closed.

Withdraw Deadline

BYU tweeted that the withdraw period will be extended by one week. The new deadline was March 24.

Women’s Services & Resources

Women’s Services & Resources sent out an email on March 18 stating that their office in the Wilkinson Student Center is closed until further notice. The email also stated that WSR Director Dixie Sevison is available during normal business hours at or 801-422-4455 for anyone in need of immediate assistance.

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Advice from An Old Farmer

Harvey, Daniel Jr. b. 1860

Daniel Harvey Jr. b. 1860. My first cousin, three times removed. He was born in London and he died in Kaysville, Utah.

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.
Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good, honorable life… Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
Don ‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance.
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around..
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to fate.
Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.
Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

Lyman, Albert Alonzo with daughter

Albert Alonzo Lyman b. 1889 with his daughter Mary Ellen. He’s my second cousin twice removed. He lived in Nevada.

What advice from our day could we pass along to future generations?

Posted in Thoughts and Insights | 1 Comment

Advice From a Farmer’s Wife


Whenever you return a borrowed pie pan, make sure it’s got a warm pie in it.
Invite lots of folks to supper. You can always add more water to the soup.
There’s no such thing as woman’s work on a farm. There’s just work.
Make home a happy place for the children. Everybody returns to their happy place.
Always keep a small light on in the kitchen window at night.
If your man gets his truck stuck in the field, don’t go in after him. Throw him a rope and pull him out with the tractor.
Keep the kerosene lamp away from the the milk cow’s leg.
It’s a whole lot easier to get breakfast from a chicken than a pig.
Always pat the chickens when you take their eggs.
It’s easy to clean an empty house, but hard to live in one.
All children spill milk. Learn to smile and wipe it up.
Homemade’s always better’n store bought.
A tongue’s like a knife. The sharper it is the deeper it cuts.
A good neighbor always knows when to visit and when to leave.
A city dog wants to run out the door, but a country dog stays on the porch ’cause he’s not fenced-in.
Always light birthday candles from the middle outward.
Nothin’ gets the frustrations out better’n splittn’ wood.
The longer dress hem, the more trusting the husband.
Enjoy doing your children’s laundry. Some day they’ll be gone.
You’ll never catch a runnin’ chicken but if you throw seed around the back door you’ll have a skillet full by supper.
Biscuits brown better with a little butter brushed on ’em.
Check your shoelaces before runnin’ to help somebody.
Visit old people who can’t get out. Some day you’ll be one.
The softer you talk, the closer folks’ll listen.
The colder the outhouse, the warmer the bed.

Effie Madeline Turley

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