Today I received a fabulous treasure in the mail–these two photographs of my grandfather, Franklin Smuin, who served an LDS mission 100 years ago.
I can’t even remember what took me to the Early Mormon Missionaries database, but I was there and looking for some family members when I noticed the photo above (left) posted with my grandpa’s information. I’d never seen that photo before. It made my heart pound.
My mother had given me these 2 photos from his mission: Franklin is in the top row, far left. Below Franklin is with 3 others.
These are the only photos I had of Franklin before he was married in 1924. I contacted the Early Mormon Missionaries database to ask who had submitted the wonderful photo of Franklin. It turns out that the man overseeing the database knew me. He contacted the woman who had submitted the photo and gave her my contact info.
I’ve been corresponding with her ever since. Her name is Mary Ann and she lives in Salt Lake County. She told me she inherited her grandfather’s missionary scrapbook and it was filled with photos of the places he’d served and his missionary companions and friends. Some had captions and some did not. Franklin’s photo had his name and we were able to identify him in other photos. She was kind enough to share the images with those managing the database. Because she shared, I am now holding these beautiful treasures!
When I learned that her grandfather was Elder Daniel Probert, I was thrilled that he was one of the Elders captioned in the photo I had and possibly in the group photo. I was able to share my photos with her.
This week I’ve been reading about many of my ancestors who served LDS missions a long long time ago. I feel connected to them and feel love for them. Their families and descendants have been blessed because of their service. I can see it and I can feel it down through the generations.
I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that is so compelling and brings us such happiness that we leave our homes and families just at the thought that someone we share it with might listen and find the joy we feel. That’s why I am here now, in Washington, away from my family, sharing what I know and what I believe with others.
A couple of nights ago, I was considering these things when a FB message popped up on my computer screen. It’s from the son of dear friends I taught in South Africa, where I was a missionary 35 years ago. It brought me to tears.
I have been asked to give a talk next week about the blessings of the priesthood in my life for a session in Stake conference and today while I was thinking about it I had this incredible experience that I felt prompted that I should share with you. I have been thinking about my topic for weeks and for the most part I could only come up with generic answers. I was struggling to see what those blessings were specifically because they are so intertwined in my life. My parents ensured that we were brought up in that environment.
Today though, in the temple rededication, I was thinking how grateful I am that I have been sealed to my family and then in my mind I could see a timeline of all the blessings that I have received from the priesthood play out. From callings that I have now, to home teachers, to father’s blessings, to a mission that changed my life, to wise council from priesthood leaders and a patriarchal blessing, to receiving the priesthood, to baptism and the sacrament, to being sealed and being blessed as a baby.
Those blessings are the core of all my happiness and hope. My whole life is based around it. Whenever I think of the blessings of the gospel I always first think of my incredible parents who, having hardly any experience, made sure our home was a place the Spirit could dwell and where the gospel was taught. After that though, I always think of the incredible missionaries that my parents told me about that brought that gift to our family. I don’t like to get soppy (it ruins the tough, rugby player image I’m trying to create) but I want you to know that I am eternally grateful for not only what you shared with my parents but also who you were and are. The gospel is the source of every happiness I have and I received it through your faithful service and the way you have shown your love to me and my family has given me another example of how to live it.
I just felt that I needed to let you know that your small acts over 30 years have completely changed my life for good in every way and that outside of my parents and siblings, I don’t see anyone in a higher light or consider anyone more like family.
Thank you always
With all my heart, I know that God lives and loves us. He sent his Son to provide a way for us to return to Him someday. I am grateful for the peace and happiness I feel every day as I try to follow His plan for me.
This week I have felt surrounded by love–from my ancestors who believed and made sacrifices to share with others, from families I taught when I was a missionary long ago, and from missionaries that surround me today. My heart is full.