Three Generations Later

Three Generations Later

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

Three Generations Later

. . .Remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

Moro. 10:3

My maternal grandmother, grandfather and their two oldest children joined the Church through missionary efforts in south central Alabama in the 1920s. They were never active.

My mother was baptized by the missionaries in the Conecuh River in Red Level, Alabama, when she was sixteen years old. She was never active.

To me, one of the signs of the true church is that they never lose track of their members.

When my mother married my father and moved to Vermont, the LDSmissionaries found and visited her there.

When our family moved from one dairy farm to another in western NewYork, the missionaries found and visited us.

I remember coming home from elementary school one day and finding the missionaries in the backyard talking to Mother. My first impression was: They’re so tall!

The missionaries visited regularly. One time they followed us children into the haymow and, still wearing their suits, swung from the fat rope that was draped over the rafters and dropped into the sweet-smelling hay below, much to our delight. Naturally, we accepted their invitation to go to church with them, while Mother stayed home and made dinner for them.

During one visit they gave me a blue paperback Book of Mormon to read. It was way over my young head, but I was most intrigued by the Arnold Frieberg pictures.

Because my only exposure to religion were visits from the Mormon missionaries, when my fourth-grade teacher asked my religion (which is illegal today), I answered, “Mormon,” much to her shock.

Relating the incident to my family at the dinner table that evening, my father slapped the table, arose from his chair and declared, “You are not a Mormon.” (No wonder my mother was inactive.)

Shortly thereafter, we began attending the Methodist church, in which my father had been raised. I liked the big, gray, gothic-looking cathedral and joined the choir. When the choir director ran off with the Sunday-school president, both leaving behind devastated spouses and children, my father declared, “If that’s what religion does to people, then we don’t need religion.”

He changed his mind when his five children became teenagers. The United Church of Christ had the best youth program in the county, so we started attending that church. My two older brothers and I were baptized and confirmed, and we served youth work missions in Puerto Rico, painting church buildings and clearing a church stadium. When the minister started flirting with the young women, we left that church too.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my mother was hit by a car while chasing her pet mallard ducks out of the road during a rainstorm. She lay in a coma for weeks while we prepared for her impending death.

One day, the LDS missionaries showed up at her hospital room door. I just happened to be there with my father. One missionary addressed my father: “Your wife is a Mormon; we heard about her accident; we’d like to give her a priesthood blessing.”

My father who had heretofore hated Mormons was desperate. His wife was dying, leaving him to raise five teenagers alone. We had tried and failed at two other churches. And here were the Mormons again. “Go ahead,” he consented.

I watched as the missionaries anointed and blessed Mother. She immediately awoke from her coma, made a full recovery and finished raising her children. She is seventy-seven years old at this writing.

Intrigued by the miracle I had witnessed, I began investigating the Church. I had a school music teacher, a former minister, who was shocked to learn I was investigating the Church and went to great lengths to convince me otherwise. Confused, I lost interest in the Church and left for prep school shortly thereafter.

While I was away, my younger sister investigated and joined the Church, and had four missionaries, twice the usual number, waiting to teach me when I returned.

Like so many investigators, I made appointments that I broke, or ran and hid whenever the missionaries arrived. They soon grew wise to my tricks.

One day when I was sewing at the machine that sat next to the stairs, up which I normally escaped when the missionaries visited, the missionaries came in and sat on the stairs, blocking my escape route, and began teaching me.

They told me the Joseph Smith story, which, surprisingly, made a great deal of sense to me. Of course, the ancient Church of Christ had dwindled with the death of the Apostles. Of course, all churches since have been the work of man. Of course, Heavenly Father and Jesus would return one day and call a prophet to restore the Church.

They told me about the Book of Mormon, which, also surprisingly, made a great deal of sense to me. Of course, God would preserve his scriptures, church and people by sending a prophet and his family into the wilderness just before his covenant people were destroyed. Of course, he would lead them to a promised land saved for the purpose of preserving the gospel and Church. Of course, those were the people Columbus found when he discovered America.

I had been visiting different churches with various friends since I was a little girl, and I had never learned anything so simple, so logical, so beautiful or so promising. I joined the Church. My sister and I were the first active members in three generations.

I attended Brigham Young University where I met and married a returned missionary whose family had settled Pleasant Grove, Utah, as converts to the Church from Denmark.We raised four sons in the gospel, who all served missions. (Our oldest son was one of the first missionaries in Eastern Europe.) Two of our sons are married and raising children in the gospel. Two of my four siblings joined the Church, married Church members and raised children in the gospel. After my father died, my mother became active, and we children took her to the temple, where we did the temple work for most of our dead relatives.

I often look back at the number of years and generations and missionaries it took before my family grasped the restored gospel and Church, and I marvel that God and the Church and the missionaries never gave up on us. I hesitate to think where I would be, where my family would be, without the gospel to guide and direct us, and marvel again that the Lord offered us that blessing. To thank Him, I never hesitate to share the restored gospel with less active fellow Mormons and non-Mormons (often to the embarrassment of my family). And, I have never lost the wide-eyed wonder I felt when I first learned of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

Oh that the whole world could know what we know, have what we have, and join in this marvelous work and wonder.

Peg Fugal

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