A Gift from Heaven

2020-3-20 MARGOT (3)

In the middle of all of the chaos in the world around us, a perfect little granddaughter joined our family today.   Her name is Margot.  Her father delivered her, but her mom did most of the work.

I cried when the news came in on our phones with What’s App.  Everything’s going to be OK in this world.  Margot is here now.

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The World Changed

Not cancelled

An intruder has come into our lives.  By the end of this day, 150 countries will have reported more than 150,000 cases of the Coronavirus worldwide.  And this is just the beginning.  We’ve all been watching the numbers spread and grow as each day passes.

Life as we’ve known it has changed in some pretty drastic ways.  It’s basically shutting down out there.  Travel, school, church, temples, work, businesses, and human interaction is has ended for the time being.

Not so much here in Africa.  You wouldn’t know anything has changed by the looks of things.  There is no drama here yet, just life as usual.  Some say viruses can’t live in hot climates.  Here’s what it’s looking like here:

Bamako weather March 2020

So, we carry on, grateful to be in a place that feels relatively safe right now.  We don’t know how long this will last or how bad it will get.  We are praying for our friends and family out there in a world of panic that seems to be spinning out of control.

Sweet is the peace the gospel brings.

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Each of us is a Pioneer

Today important visitors arrived in Bamako.  Brother Norbert Ounleu from Accra and Brother Matt Heiss from Salt Lake City have come to gather oral histories from our Pioneer members here in Mali.   This is an exciting time for our members here.  Their stories and experiences matter and their faith will bless others for generations to come.

2020-2-14 Matt Heiss, Norbert Onleu Visit Bamako (2)

I think about these first generation members and the significance of their conversions.  My father was the first and only member of his family to accept the restored gospel.  Because of him, my life and the lives of my children have been blessed in innumerable ways.

Because of our first members here, blessings will flow through generations and through this country.

“It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.”
–President Gordon B. Hinckley

Here is the first verse of one of my favorite pioneer hymns:

They, the Builders of the Nation
Hymns, They, the Builders of the Nation, no. 36

They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of ev’ry day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!

Text: Ida R. Alldredge, 1892-1943. © 1948 IRI, Music: Alfred M. Durham, 1872-1957. © 1948 IRI

2020-2-17 Interview Adama Coulibaly (5)

Adama Coulibaly, Pioneer in Mountougoula, Mali

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A Gift of Christ: Often it maketh my bones to quake


Before leaving his disciples, Jesus promised them an incredible gift–a gift that would surpass any gift ever given. I thought about that gift in the dark pre-dawn hours on this Christmas morning as I waited in bed, listening to the prayer calls of the mosque out our window.

I thought about the reminder to pray for a long time this morning and I also thought about how LOUD that muezzin is with his microphone. We hear prayer calls several times a day, always loud and repetitive. I like being reminded, most of the time. Not so much at 4:00 a.m., but during the day it can be a nice reminder to give thanks for my blessings.

This has been an interesting Christmas season, here in Bamako. There are no Christmas lights, no Christmas trees, no decorations, no presents, and no carols being sung. The trappings of Christmas are not found here in these Muslim neighborhoods. We’ve had to create our own simple Christmas celebration.

Last night we read the Christmas Story from Luke and from Matthew. I thought about Jesus’s birth and His life and all He has done for us. I thought about how, at the end of His life he said to his disciples:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:16-18, 25-27, italics added).

He gave us this unspeakable gift, the Gift of the Holy Ghost–to teach us, to help us remember Him, to comfort us, to protect us, and to give us peace in a troubled world.
It’s the greatest Gift ever!

The scriptures describe the voice God uses. In the account of Elijah in the Old Testament, it says:

The Lord said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12, italics added.)

The prophet Nephi had brothers who would not hear. To them, he said:

Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words. (Nephi 1:45, italics added.)

When Jesus visited the people on the American continent after his resurrection, his coming was announced in this way:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.  And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:  Behold my Beloved Son, bin whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. (3 Nephi 11:3-7, italics added.)

The Holy Ghost communicates to us in much the same way–quietly. He speaks to our hearts and to our minds. He causes us to feel things or remember things. He cautions or prompts us to do or not to do certain things. He is our constant companion.

I love the description of the Holy Ghost’s communication to us in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832:

Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest. (D&C 85:6, italics added.)

This morning as I was awakened by the blaring reminder to pray, I thought about the Holy Ghost and the quiet messages I receive almost daily–Jesus’s gift to me. It’s the best gift ever. I don’t really need anything else, especially on this Christmas Day.

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Christmas in Bamako 2019 “Prayer is Better than Sleep”


I woke in the dark pre-dawn this Christmas morning to the cries of the muezzin at the mosque across the street, calling us to prayer.   These reminders come daily, every few hours, reminding us that there is a God in heaven and that we need to remember Him and worship Him.

Muslim Prayer Times

Muslim prayer times: pre-dawn, sunrise, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall.

People here simply stop what they’re doing to pray.  And they don’t pray without first  preparing to pray.  Every day I see religious young men sitting on curbs or in store fronts or just on the side of the road, preparing for prayer.   This preparation is called Wudu.  They are taught that they must be ritually pure before praying.  (If since your last prayer you have urinated, defecated, passed gas, bled excessively, or fallen asleep while leaning against something, you need to perform wudu.)

I watch these young and old men washing for prayers. They use their little plastic water pots and wash their hands, then they pull up their pant legs and wash what they can of their legs, then their feet, being particular about every toe. Then they wash their heads, their ears–inside and out, their eyes, their noses (they snort in water, then snort it out), they wash the inside of their mouths with their fingers, going around their teeth, then spit out the water. They do all of this so they are clean to approach Allah in prayer. It’s really amazing to watch this preparation. I see it every day.  In places where they have no water, they wash with clean unused dirt.

If they are not near a mosque, these men (and women) find a clean place to kneel.  Most use a prayer mat or rug, rolled up and kept just for this sacred ritual.  Sometimes they pray in groups, sometimes alone.


Bamako Prayer Time. Photo credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP via Getty Images

Muslims demonstrate their faithfulness by actively honoring the Five Pillars of Islam in their everyday lives.  Prayer happens daily and is the most visible expression of their faith.

The 5 Pillars of Faith
Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s most holy site, that all Muslims must make at least once in their lifetime.
Sawm: Ritual fasting observed during Ramadan.
Shahadah: Reciting the Islamic profession of faith, called the Kalimah (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”).
Salat: Daily prayers, properly observed.
Zakat: Giving to charity and aiding the poor.

Islam became the state religion in Mali in the 1300s. They say ninety-five percent of this country is Muslim.  I enjoy living in a Muslim neighborhood and country.  The people around us are religious, kind and respectful.

LDS Prayer

Members of my faith also have a strong tradition of daily prayer.  We pray just as often, but in a different way.  Prayers are most often private, but families also gather to pray together, with one member of the family praying out loud with the rest.  I pray all the time, and I try to always keep a prayer in my heart.

On this Christmas morning, I listened to the muezzin reminding me to pray.  The English translation of his prayer call is this:

God is Great! God is Great! God is Great! God is Great!
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Hurry to the prayer. Hurry to the prayer.
Hurry to salvation. Hurry to salvation.
God is Great! God is Great!
There is no god except the One God.
For the pre-dawn prayer, the following phrase is inserted prior to the final repetition of God is Great:  Prayer is better than sleep. Prayer is better than sleep.

I do not understand the Arabic sung and chanted by our local muezzin, but I understand the feelings of my heart, and the love I have for my Father in Heaven and his son, Jesus Christ, and I am thankful for them, especially on this Christmas Day, as we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’s mortal life.  Because of Him, I can learn how to live so that I can return someday to Their presence.





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Sometimes we try to keep too many irons in the fire.

2019-12-23 Bamako (26).JPG

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Grateful in Abidjan

2019-12-8 (57)

Today in Abidjan.

During this holiday season, I’m grateful for simple blessings like fruit and thundershowers.

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Dad’s Memorial Service 23 November 2019

2019-11-23 Paul at Dad's FuneralArthur Rudolf Laemmlen Memorial
November 23, 2019 – Selma, CA Ward
Paul Laemmlen’s Funeral Talk

Thanks for attending

There are many people to thank who have stepped in and helped with my dad over the last few weeks:
▪ Kris and her boys and my brother Eric, and all who cared for dad in his final weeks
▪ All of the visitors who came to see my dad over the last few weeks. (He was counting that there were at one point up to 50)
▪ Bishop McNaughton and the Selma Ward for their arrangements
▪ The Relief Society for their kind service
▪ The nurses and Hospice providers for all they have done to make my dad comfortable in hislast weeks

Paul’s family memories of dad

Growing up as young kids in the Art and Grace Laemmlen home was full of good memories. My mom was a third-grade teacher and my dad farmed the then 30-acre farm.

My brother and sister and I attended kindergarten through 3rd grade at the same country schoolhouse that my dad and his three brothers attended when they were young, a generation earlier. At school we would meet up with our cousins, Ruth and Mark, the Henry Laemmlen kids. We could walk 1/2 mile along the ditch-bank, past orchards and vineyards without passing a single house to get to that school.

We would come home and find my dad in his work jeans, red wing high top boots, his JC Penney gray work shirt and his hard-shell safari hat. In those days I never saw him use gloves much (they were for city-slicker lightweights) and he was as strong as an ox. He routinely smashed Black Widow spiders with his thumb!

He would often come in from tractor work and his front teeth were brown from either grinning out there or from breathing dust.

My dad was a do-it-yourself, design build expert. Built much of his own farm equipment (Sprayers, discs, spring-tooth, fruit-packing equipment and he even tried to build his own lawn mower).

He built a huge duplex – for dogs! – for our two German Shepherds – the dogs didn’t use it much so he got the idea to hoist it up into the palm tree 20 feet off the ground and make a tree house out of it – A tree house for bird dogs!

He fixed things himself – he made parts instead of buying a new item. Sometimes his repairs didn’t last as long as the new part… (I have already fixed two toilets yesterday and have a door to fix tonight!)

My parents taught us good, solid Christian principles.
My dad didn’t tolerate waste, laziness or dishonesty. If us kids started slacking, he would say “Get the lead out”, or “Look alive”. Living on a farm was no vacation. My dad taught us how to work.

The young men and women in our church do 18 month or 2-year missionary service, bringing the message of Jesus Christ to the world. Many 19-20-year-olds come home and we hear the old line: “it was the hardest two years of my life”. For me, getting off that farm to do a different kind of work was almost like a 2-year vacation! -It WAS work, but it was the Lord’s work.

We took very few vacations; They were always after harvest – Sequoia Lake, Carmel at Mrs. Wolff’s cabin, Death Valley. Those are the only real vacations I can remember.

Working together and spending time together as a family allowed my parents to know us so well that they could trust us kids to make good choices on our own. In my case they allowed me to do things not many parents would approve – mostly with my High School pal, Ken Charters:

▪ Dropping us off with loaded backpacks in the pouring rain

▪ Leaving us on the banks of the Kings River on a wood raft we built to embark on a three-day float trip.

▪ Dropping us off at Florence Lake to hike into the John Muir Wilderness and picking us up in a designated location 18 days and 125 miles later.

My parents didn’t micro-manage us. “They taught us correct principles and let us govern ourselves”.

We will miss his corny jokes like “It’s cold today but it’s going to be hot tamale!” – OR – the difference between an almond and an amond. (The almond is when it’s on the tree and it becomes an amond when it gets shaken to the ground and gets the “L” knocked out of it”. Dad would tell you the joke then he would look at you with that big grin, hoping you would laugh…

Underneath that tough exterior, there was a soft side of my dad. He was always interested in what we were doing and wanted to help us and teach us.

One time I was shredding grass along an avenue and didn’t see the concrete irrigation valves in the tall grass. I drove along, shredding it down not noticing I was breaking off every one of them. My dad found out and asked; “did you know you shredded off those valves on that back avenue?”
He didn’t blow up or cuss me out, he just said “come on, we’re going to learn how to repair cement valves”

He taught us about serving others by example. He spent many, many hours away from his own personal pursuits to help and lift others, whether they be fellow church members, family, friends or strangers. (with too many examples to mention here)

If my dad were listening right now (and he probably is) he would be saying to me: “You really know how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”

Dad’s spiritual side

A part of my dad’s life many of you are familiar with, but maybe some of you aren’t, is his spiritual side.

When we lose a family member, the veil between heaven and earth sometimes becomes thin. Our thoughts turn to God and heaven and we wonder what comes next. Earlier in his married life, my dad wondered these same things.

Art Laemmlen was a seeker of truth. When he first heard the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ he was touched by the Holy Spirit and knew there was something to it. He learned that it was a church structured after the same organization as the original Church of Jesus Christ, with prophets and apostles. After hearing the message, he asked these missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to explain it all over again, because the first time he heard the message, it rang true to him – almost like something he had heard before and it was now making sense. The Holy Spirit confirmed to him that it was the true.

When my dad discovered the truth about something, or was convinced about something, as many of you know, he was not afraid to defend it or speak his mind about it. He spent the rest of his life studying, serving, teaching and ministering to others, faithful to his convictions, but he quickly learned, as Boyd K. Packer said “If you are looking for a religion where very little is required, this is not the one”.

My dad learned that this religion was not one where he could rest easy. There is a lot to do. He quietly accepted leadership positions which he continued to serve in his whole life.

He learned from great examples and early church leaders in Reedley:

Carlos Beckstead (First branch in 1947)
George Leavitt Sr.
Floyd Champneys
Neil Frandsen
Dan Olsen
Doyel Riley
Buck Buchanan
Melvin Engstrom
Moire Charters
and many others.

My dad loved serving in the temple. He took temple service seriously and spent many hours there, helping many others by fulfilling the mission of Elijah, as mentioned in the last two verses of Malachi the Old Testament.

Being treated poorly by some in the community because he joined a different church did not deter him – he knew from the scriptures that that came with the territory. He knew what he knew and would not waver from it, and was faithful to the end.

He was a giver. He gave of his time and of his means – Paid balance off for building the Reedley ward building with Buck Buchanan

He taught his three children the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have followed suit and have done missionary service, sharing the gospel message in Germany, Spain, South Africa, Washington state and currently my sister Ann and her husband, John are serving in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in Africa.

All of Art’s grandchildren: Adam Lewis, Brandt Laemmlen, Janelle Laemmlen, Bryce Laemmlen, Riana Coombs, Katlyn Antior, Aaron Lewis, Daniel Laemmlen, Kortney Dennis, Claire Lewis

So, where is my dad now?

Our kind Heavenly Father has provided a wonderful Plan of Happiness for his children.

In mortality, the words DEATH and HAPPINESS don’t seem to fit in the same sentence, but in the eternal sense, they’re essential to one another. Mortality is only a temporary time for us. Life did not begin with birth – nor does it end with death.

Before we were born on this earth, we lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father. In that spirit world, we anxiously anticipated the possibility of coming to earth to receive a physical body. When we were born, our spirits entered that physical body that had a limit set to it, as if a clock were set, and a time given, therefore all living things on earth, move toward death.

We knew and desired the risks of this earthly life which would allow us to exercise agency and accountability, but we were not left alone; we were given parents to teach us, messengers to instruct us, commandments to guide us, scriptures to prepare us and covenants to protect us.

Passing from earth life to our Heavenly home requires passing through death. As with all life on earth, we were born to die and we must die to live. Mortality, temporary as it is, is terminated by death. After we die, we go to the first station of post-mortal life called PARADISE. This is the place where we rest, free of the aches and pains and sorrows of mortality. This is where Art is now.

It has been said that there is nothing as “permanent as death” but this is not so. The grip of physical death is temporary. It began with the fall of Adam, and ended with the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The waiting period in Paradise is temporary too – it ends with the resurrection, where our bodies will be restored to their proper and perfect frame. “All of our losses would be made up to us in the resurrection”. Isn’t that a wonderful blessing?

Our resurrection will not be an end, but a new beginning. It will prepare us for judgment by the Lord himself who said:

“As I have been lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works.” [3 Nephi 27:14]

After the judgment comes one of our greatest blessings – the possibility of Eternal Life – with our Father in Heaven. His Celestial realm is available to all who prepare for it.

So how can we qualify for that great gift?

The scriptures tell us:
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” [2 Nephi 31: 20]

I testify of the truthfulness of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness, that it is real and that He is the author of it.

Our hearts are tender today as we mourn the passing of Arthur Rudolf Laemmlen, my father. He lived true to his convictions and faithful to the end.

Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment as taught by Jesus who said:

“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the
loss of them that die” [D&C 42:45]

When we pass on, we are able to reunite with ancestors and loved ones who have gone before. A few months ago, my sister Ann was able to ask dad who he was looking forward to seeing again on the other side. He said he would like to see his dad. They are probably catching up right now.

We won’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now.

The message of comfort and hope for us this day,is that this life is not the end. The expectation of seeing our loved ones once again gives us great happiness.

Let us remember the reality of this wonderful Plan of Happiness provided by our loving Father in Heaven and the anticipation of joy that it brings to our future.

I am grateful for the comfort this doctrine brings, and I reaffirm to you that I know that it is true.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Art’s 3 brothers: Henry, Wilfred and Franklin Laemmlen

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Dad made it to the end of his row.

Laemmlen, Art irrigating

Early this morning, Dad went Home.  He made it to the end of his earthly row!  Oh, how I love him and oh how I’ll miss him, and oh how happy I am for him to be Home!

I didn’t get the news until this evening, and though we knew it was coming, it still felt like someone pulled the rug out from under me.  I felt like a Giant Redwood fell and we are left with the space it filled, and there is nothing there.

Laemmlen, Art portrait

Here is a piece I wrote about Dad several years ago for a class assignment.  It will be used as the eulogy at his funeral in a few days as a small way I can be represented there with the rest of the family.

7 November 2005
Biography on Living Family Member: Arthur Rudolf Laemmlen

My grandfather, Rudolf Laemmlen was born and raised in Grossgartach, Germany. His father and their progenitors were wine grape growers. Rudolf was a bright boy, and a good student. Of all the children in his family, he was selected to attend the Oberrealschule in Heilbronn, then an agricultural college in Hohenheim. After he completed his schooling, he read an article in the Landwirtshaftelichen Press: “Ein Moderner, Industrialisierter Landwirtschafts Betrieb.” (A modern Industrial Agricultural Enterprise.) He wrote to the chief of the operation, located 25 miles west of Berlin, and asked if he might exchange common labor for a learning experience there. He was invited to go. He was given many responsibilities there working with various agricultural experiments. At that time in Germany inflation was rampant. Rudolf became curious to know what farming was like in America. When he heard about Henry Ford’s $5.00/day minimum wage, he made plans to go to America.

In April of 1925, grandpa Rudolf sailed for New York. He worked his way across the country, experiencing farming in America first hand. Several months later he returned to Germany. The first person he saw as he left the train depot in Grossgartach was Elsa Schaefer. She had also traveled to America as a 17 year old girl, where she worked for six years as a maid for a family in Peoria, Illinois. When Grandpa laid eyes on her that day, he said to himself, “Here comes my woman, my bride.” They met, fell in love, and were married on September 28, 1929.

In November of that year, they set sail for America on the ship “The Seattle” which arrived in San Francisco after stops in Le Havre, Southhampton, and Trinidad. My father, Arthur Laemmlen, smiles today when he claims that he was conceived on this honeymoon trip as they passed through the Panama Canal.

On their first day in America, Rudolf and Elsa purchased a Model T Ford Roadster for $145.00 and they began their new life in search of farm employment and a new home. They drove to a town called Sanger in the San Joaquin Valley, where they found a 20-acre place to rent on Lac Jac Avenue. It was here that my father, Arthur Laemmlen was born September 20, 1930.

Arthur had dark brown, almost black hair and brown eyes, and was joined in the coming years by 3 brothers and a sister, who died from pneumonia at age sixteen months. Their family eked out a living, raising grapes for raisins, and peaches which were dried and sold for 3 3/4 cents a pound. Eventually the family saved enough to buy a farm of their own in 1934 in Reedley, a farming town near by. My father lived on this farm until he married and bought the farm next door for his own.

As a young boy, Arthur and his brothers attended Windsor School, about a half mile from their home. He tells of the challenge learning English when he started school, as German was spoken in their home. At this time there were many anti-German sentiments in the community because of the war. He was often ridiculed and called a “Nazi” as he struggled to make his way in school by doing the very best he could. He graduated at the top of his 8th grade class.

Arthur and his brothers worked hard to make the family farm a success. Using hand tools, they cleared the land of old orchards and planted new vines and trees. Their home was old fashioned with no real kitchen or bathroom facilities. They dug a cellar, built a barn for the work horses and milk cows, and they improved the home. Over time, with lots of hard manual work, their family prospered.

During the war our economy prospered. Grandpa Rudolf said, “I think I spent about $10,000 for relief between 1945 and 1946. I thought I didn’t want to be the one who made a profit out of the war prices. During the war, we got checks we didn’t expect because prices went up, up, up. So all that extra money went for relief.”

The Laemmlen family remembered friends and relatives in Grossgartach. Times were hard there. Arthur tells how for two years, every week they sent packages from the post office. Grandpa Rudolf was in charge of getting the names of people who were in need. He corresponded with relatives and church leaders in Germany who sent names and addresses of families in the community who needed help. The boys helped pack the packages, in assembly line fashion, and Grandma Elsa sealed them up. Many were packaged with cloth, hand-stitched closed. The packages contained things like raisins from the farm, home-grown honey, beans, meats they canned, flour, soap, tooth brushes, combs, clothing, feed sacks for making clothes and sometime a chocolate bar. During one Christmas vacation, 150 packages were sent. Overall they sent about 5000 packages.
Childhood experiences centered around work on the farm. There was little time for play. In time, tractors replaced horses, and orchards and vineyards filled the fields. Most of the farm work was done manually, with pruning, picking and harvesting filling their lives. In the days before cold storages, fruit needed to get to the market quickly, or it spoiled. Much of the peach crop was dried, and summers were spent cutting peaches and spreading them on wooden trays, placed in the sun to dry. Grapes were picked in September, with the raisins harvest going into the Fall.

The farm prospered, and the boys grew. All of them attended Reedley High School, Art graduated in 1948. He was on the championship basketball team there, and active in sports clubs, academic clubs, forensics, and was the commissioner of awards for the school. He played the clarinet in the school band for 2 years and graduated with honors, being the only boy in the graduating class of 149 students to have grades good enough to be honored for seven semesters in the California Scholarship Federation.

In 1945 at age 15 he was baptized in the First Mennonite Church in Reedley.

After high school in 1948 , he went to UC Davis, where he studied Agricultural Economics with a plant science minor. He graduated from there in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree, which included a one year residency at UC Berkley. He was on the diving team in 1952 and enjoyed being a member of an academic fraternity.

In 1950, while attending Davis, he met Grace Smuin in a cafeteria lunch line. Grace was from San Gabriel, California. She was studying Horticulture. She later transferred to UCLA but was quietly engaged to Art for the three years they attended different universities. Grace graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and later became a school teacher.

After graduating, in 1952 Art entered the voluntary service program of the Mennonite Central Committee, serving in Akron, Pennsylvania in lieu of military service. He became a unit leader for conscientious objectors in Pueblo, Colorado, and then was transferred to Topeka, Kansas.

When he was asked to accept the position of administrator of a hospital back east, he and Grace finally married in June of 1954 before moving to Hagerstown, Pennsylvania, where he worked at Brook Lane Farm Psychiatric Hospital. He continued his Mennonite service there for two years, while Grace taught in a local elementary school. When his years of service were over, Art and Grace took a trip to Europe, buying an used VW there, and they spent a summer seeing the sights and visiting family in Grossgartach.
When they returned from their overseas adventures, they moved into Rudolf and Elsa’s home for a few months, so Art could help with the farm work. In 1958 Art and Grace purchased the 30 acre farm next door to Rudolf and Elsa’s in Reedley, where Art continues to live to this day (2005). This was another farm in need of improving, with land that needed to be scraped, leveled and cleared in order to prepare it for irrigation and future crops. The early farm had alfalfa, cotton, corn, oranges, and then, in time, vineyards and orchards.

On this farm, Art and Grace raised three children: Paul was born in 1957, Ann in 1959, and Eric in 1963.

In 1961 after much study and consideration, Art left the Mennonite church and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reedley was a town predominantly filled with German Mennonites. It created quite a stir in the community when Arthur converted to Mormonism. (Grace had been baptized in the LDS Church as a child, but was no longer active when she met Arthur.) He embraced this new religion, along with his family, joining the small LDS Branch in Reedley. In April 1963 the family was sealed in the Los Angeles Temple.

In 1967, their old homestead two story farmhouse was torn down, and the Laemmlens built a new home in the same location. Art and Grace spent many hours designing their dream home which had all of the modern conveniences.

Art has been involved in many community and civic affairs, including Toastmaster’s International, 6 years as a PTA President, a member of the Community Chest, Reedley College Advisory Counsel, Reedley Community Farmer of the Year in 1979, and he served the Bishop of the Reedley Ward from 1978 to 1983.

In 1988 Art and Grace divorced. He later married Kristine Ankrum and Grace moved from Reedley to Orem, Utah, where she died unexpectedly on Halloween in 1998.

Art and Kris currently live on the family farm. Eric does the farming and Art spends a lot of time doing church assignments and working in the Fresno temple. Art is a man who’s life has been one of refining and perfecting. He is leaving a good mark.

2010 Lewis, Ann with Art Laemmlen.jpg


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Ancestors: Like cups on a shelf?


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