HISTORY OF CHARLES MERLIN JENSON
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I, Charles Merlin Jenson, was born of goodly parents on the 22nd of May in the year 1898 on a Sunday morning just in time for Sunday School, so I was informed. I was born in the town of St. Charles, Bear Lake County, in the State of Idaho. My Father, Charles Jenson, was born on 7 June 1869 in St. Charles, Idaho, Bear Lake County, to Anders Jenson and Ingra Olson who were born in Sweden. They had accepted the Gospel in that land and came to Zion to be with the body of the Church. They crossed the plains in one of the first ox-team companies. My mother, Nellie Marie Monson, was born on 10 February 1877 in St. Charles, Bear Lake County, Idaho, to Jeppa Monson and Nellie Mattsson, who were both born in their native land of Sweden and came to this country for the Gospel's sake, and to Utah in 1869.
At nine months of age I became ill with whooping cough and, according to Father and Mother's story, I had it very bad. They were unable to put me to bed. Instead, I was carried in their arms whether sitting or standing; and this continued for six solid weeks. At two different times the report went out that I had passed away. Father said I would cough so hard that I would choke, go dark, and then stiffen out. Many of the neighbors took turns helping my parents. On several occasions, I heard men say to my father, "Charley, that's the boy you almost lost.''
When I returned from my mission in 1923, I visited St. Charles, my old hometown, and was asked to bear my testimony and relate some of my missionary experiences. As I finished, Bishop Elijah C. Keetch arose and bore his testimony. In his remarks he stated that a prayer circle was held at our home at the time I was so sick and that the man who gave the prayer promised that I would live to preach the Gospel as a missionary. To him it was a testimony of the healing power promised to the faithful. I am not sure if he was the man who led in the prayer, but I do know that he was the Bishop of the ward at that time.
I remember a rather humorous experience I had with my Grandmother Monson when I was just a small boy. Mother had sent me over there on an errand; and when Grandmother saw me walk in, she thought I had run away. She didn't ask what I came for, but just told me that I had better go home. It broke my heart, but I went home. Mother asked, "Why didn't you bring what I asked you to?" I told her that Grandmother had just told me to go home. Then Mother went back to get what she wanted herself. Grandmother was sorry then, but she thought I had run away and was doing something Mother didn't know about.
One of the earliest things that I remember is Mother asking if I'd like a brother. It wasn't long after that that Milford came along. I remember that Father and Mother always took us to church. We drove a white-top buggy to church.
As a young boy, one of my chores was to carry wood to the house. We burned wood for heat. After the wood was split, all I could carry was one or two splits of wood. As I got to thinking, I noticed that there was an old dishpan that Mother had discarded. I went out to the straw stack, pulled some twine from out of the straw stack and made a rope. With this rope tied to the dishpan handles, I could load the dishpan with wood and pull it to the house, unload, and then go back for another load. My father noticed this situation, so on his next trip to the mountains, he hunted up some sticks that were curved at one end, and from these maple sticks he made two runners for a sled and then the rest of the sleigh was made from red pine. I used this sleigh practically all my boyhood days for various purposes. In the wintertime, many of the boys in the town who were coasting on the same hill wanted the experience of riding that sled.
I used to go out with Father to help with the chores. I remember one time when Father was sitting milking a cow and he allowed me to milk a nearly dry cow. I was soon finished, so I went to the other side of the cow that Father was milking and reached in to help. The cow quickly left us both. Father scolded me just a little bit and told me that I should never do that again. I don't remember too many scoldings, but I remember I was always taught how I should act and what I should do. At the time the cow walked away, I was not very big and did not have to stoop over to milk it. The cows were not in stanchions. We just went out to the corral and sat down to a cow and milked. Grandpa Monson only milked one or two cows and the rest he raised for beef.
We used to take the cattle to the canyon every spring and bring them back in the fall. When father moved to Smithfield, he had about eighty head of cattle.
As I grew up, I helped with milking the cows. Father's rheumatism settled in on him at a fairly early age and I had to do the chores. I was milking cows by the time I was eight years old. When my father first started selling dairy products, we sold milk for a period of time to the Lakers family, and they made cheese out of it. After that, we took our milk to Bloomington, then finally there was a milk hauler that hauled milk from St. Charles to Paris, and we sent it to Paris. Then we changed from selling milk to selling cream. We bought one of those hand-churn separators. We'd gather the cream for a week and then send it on. We would feed the skimmed milk to some pigs. We always had three or four pigs dressed for sale and always had a pig for ourselves.
I drove a horse as soon as I was big enough to carry the lines. One day while driving a team of horses on a set of harrows, I made too short of a turn and tipped the harrows upside down. I was out of the way so I was not hurt. After I got bigger, I drove the team on the plows and on the harrows. We used to put hay up with the push rake. We would have two horses that would walk about twelve feet apart, one on each side, and gather the hay up on this push rake. Then we would push it onto a stacker and then the stacker would raise that up and dump it onto the stack. The push rake had a bunch of tines out in front. There were about twelve or thirteen tines to a rake and they were made of wood. There were two wheels toward the back on each side about a foot in diameter that carried the back part of the rake, then there was a fence back of the wheels, and we would ride on a plank that stuck out. When I first started to run the push rake, I was hardly big enough to put enough weight on that plank to raise the teeth up so they would not stick in the ground.
I used to go out the day before they wanted to put the hay up and pile the hay in big push-rake bunches. I'd go up the row until I had all I could handle, then I'd back out and pull in front and make another pile, working all the time toward where we were going to stack the hay. The next day Father would stack, and another man and I would run this push rake and push the hay onto a stacker. At times I would run the stacker. It took a team to raise it up. The stacker was about ten feet wide and had a bunch of long arms. We would push the hay in on the tines of that fork that would raise up and dump the hay on the stack. We didn't do much pitching. Most of the hay we had was wild hay. We raised very little Lucerne there.
Father was not just an agriculturist, he also raised livestock. To raise feed for the cattle he, along with Uncle Henry, bought a ranch down in what they called the Bloomington Bottoms. This was about five miles north of Bear Lake. Uncle Henry took the land that was on the west side of the road and Father took the land that was on the east.
Each summer we would all go down to the Bottoms to put up the hay. Mother took the youngest children along, and we lived in a one-room log cabin. We'd stay for a week while we were putting up hay. All around the old bunkhouse, which was made of logs and with a plank floor, were badger holes that led under the bunkhouse. So we had badgers living under the building and we lived inside. These badgers were like small dogs for size and would come out usually in the evening. Badgers are broader and lower to the ground than a dog.
During this time, my job was to carry water for the hay hands. They used to say that when I came with water for the haying crew that all they could see was the straw hat bobbing up and down through the hay, and they knew I was on the way. When you had good enough land that you could get some Timothy to grow, it grew almost as high as the horses--about three feet tall. From a water carrier, I was elevated to drive the team on the derrick, then to run the mower and the push rake. These jobs continued even after the old ranch was sold and Father acquired land closer to home. While he owned the ranch, the hay was put up in stacks and then during the winter he would go out to the feed yard, feed the cattle, and then drive down to the ranch, load a load of hay and drive back home. I remember going with him when the weather was so cold that it would be necessary to walk to keep warm as the team pulled the load.
I remember that in the spring and fall, I used to go and help Father put in the grain. We always put in some fall wheat and then in the spring I had to help put in the oats. Father used to haul oats to Paris along with some baled hay for sale. A man by the name of Will Clark had a horse-powered baler. Hay was fed into a funnel on the top while horses went around and around to operate a plunger to pack the hay into a bale.
I remember as a boy how the neighbors worked together. When we had hay to get up, neighbors would help us, and in turn, when they had hay, we'd help them. On one occasion we were helping one of our neighbors, Brother James Bunderson. We had hauled hay to his place, and as we were there unloading hay, James spoke to Father and said, "Charlie, do you think Merlin will ever have beautiful horses with rings on them like you have?" Father said, "No, I don't think he'll have rings on the horses like I have, because when he has a horse, it will be an iron horse."
Every fall Mother used to have us take the old straw tick out, dump the straw out of it, then go over to the straw stack and pick out some bright fresh new straw, place it in the straw tick, and then we would take it back to the house. This was our mattress for the winter. We also carried straw into the house. The floor was native pine, and so in the fall we would put a layer of straw over the floor and then the handmade carpet over the straw to make matting. The carpet was homemade of rags.
Another job that would take place each fall was going to the canyon for our winter supply of firewood which amounted to seven or eight loads for ourselves and then, of course, each able-bodied man in the ward was asked to haul a load for the ward building and for widows in the ward. On these trips to the canyon in the fall, we usually left early in the morning before it was light. Teams were harnessed and hitched to the wagon. As we would travel up the canyon, we usually had a jug full of water and our lunch. I remember many times as we were going up the canyon that the weather was so cold that we had to walk behind the wagon in order to keep warm. That old jug, in which we had our water, hung on the bolster of the wagon, and many times ice was frozen in it by the time we got there. When we were there, father would cut down some trees. We would then cut them up in log lengths, place them on the wagon, and then put chains around them to bind them to the wagon so we could take them home. It would take practically all day from early in the morning until late in the afternoon to get a load of wood.
I remember on one of these trips to the canyon that Father, as we went through a particular grove of trees, said, "Here's the place where Joe and I saw a bear." (Joe was Father's older half brother.) They had gone through this grove of trees out through an opening and then over against the mountainside and had placed their wagon to load a load of wood. After they had cut their load of wood and partly loaded the wagon, they noticed that the team seemed to be very nervous. They just couldn't move them or quieten them down. They hooked the team to the wagon and decided they would go on home. When they looked around, they finally saw over by a group of trees a big bear. Father's brother stood upon the wagon with an ax in his hand and told Father to unhook the horses. After he unhooked the horses from the wagon, each of the boys took a horse and they rode the horses toward the bear. As they came toward the bear, he got off his haunches and went off into the timber. They went back to the place where the wagon was, finished their loading, and then proceeded to go back home. As they passed that group of trees, the horses could smell the bear and they could scarcely get the horses past that place.
Father used to have a bearskin fur coat that he had purchased. I remember as boys we had quite a lot of fun when some of our friends or cousins came to visit and to stay overnight. We would slip into that old fur coat and crawl into bed with them while they were asleep. Milford was the ringleader in this.
It was a custom of my grandfather to put up ice each winter so as to be able to make ice cream and also to drop a chunk of ice into their drinking water. I remember going with my father and my mother's brothers, who were also interested in the project, down to Bear Lake. We would drive with teams and sleighs out on the ice and then chop a hole in the ice. We would insert our saws into the hole and saw blocks of ice that would measure 12 to 15 inches. These blocks were loaded onto the sleigh and hauled to the icehouse where they were stored in sawdust to be of use the next summer.
Father was also a carpenter, having built his own home at St. Charles. He helped build other homes in other parts of the town. He was a good cabinetmaker and built cabinets or cupboards, as they were called, during the winter months. Our home was built out of native lumber. The woodwork inside was of planed lumber. The homes were warm, some being heated by potbelly stoves, but always heated with a cook stove. The stoves we had in our home, and that Grandma Monson had, stood on legs that were about 2 to 3 feet high. The fire was in front and the smoke would go under the lids where Mother would do the cooking on the top, then out the back and underneath to heat the oven, and then out the chimney. These stoves had to be shipped in and were usually made of cast iron. In the wintertime, doors on either side of the oven were opened giving the heat a chance to get out and into the room. Many times after Father would come in from feeding the cattle, he would lie down by the side of the stove on the floor, put his head on his hands, and lay there and have a nap. That is one thing I have inherited.
As for the tables and chairs in our homes, Grandpa Monson started out with chairs that were just stools with a piece of plank on top and legs set in for stools--some of them had three legs and some of them four. They were common homemade chairs. In our family home the chairs were purchased. The back was ovaled up, and two or three pieces went down from the top to the seat to form a backrest. Some of the chairs were more fancy with the seat being made of cane. We had a set of six of these in what we called the front room and which was used only for special occasions.
An old pedal organ sat in the front room. There was a stove in there, but there never was a fire in it in the wintertime except when we had a special dinner or something. This is where I went to practice when I was taking lessons on the organ. They never heated that room so it was so cold that I had to wear a coat during the winter months. When summer came, I had a job to do on the farm and I couldn't practice. That was the extent of my music lessons. Then I saved my money and bought me a squeeze box, and I learned to play the squeeze box. After I got so I could play pretty good on the accordion, Uncle Henry offered me a mandolin and I learned to play it. After Carrie and I were married, we often would sit outside in the evening while I would play the accordion.
I started school when I was six, but did not go beyond the ninth grade. I received my education in the elementary grades in the three-room schoolhouse at St. Charles, Idaho. I attended first year high school in Smithfield, Utah. School in the fore part of the year was always drudgery. I came to school after school had started since I always had to help on the farm, harvesting crops and getting the fall plowing done. Then in the spring I had to help with the spring work, so I only remember being in school for one final examination. I never remember graduating with a class until my first year of high school in Smithfield. The rest of the time I was out every spring and every fall helping with the farm work. My father was crippled with rheumatism, and from the time I was quite a small boy until the time he died, except for the time I spent on my mission, I was always depended on to carry the load.
I was always pretty good in arithmetic and there were not many people who could compete with me. When it came to history and language arts, it took a lot of work for me to get it down so I could go on. The only foreign language I learned was a little bit of Swedish. I think I satisfied my grandfather more than anyone else because when I was in the fourth grade, the teacher wanted us to memorize a poem each week. Every Monday morning there was a time when we would repeat these poems. We didn't have access to many poems at home, so I went over to Grandpa Monson's one time and asked him if he would teach me a poem in Swedish. I spent some time there and I think he enjoyed it as he taught me. When they asked for my poem, I got up and recited it in Swedish. The teacher stood and looked. Some of the children were noisy, and I remember the teacher complimented me on learning it in a foreign language.
The only schooling I had after the ninth grade was a winter course in Auto Mechanics at the USAC in 1918. This included blacksmithing, machine work, and repair of motors, electrical systems and various things.
We moved from Bear Lake in 1915. We hauled our furniture from St. Charles to Paris on sleighs, then we completed the trip in a railroad car. We had chickens, four head of horses, and two cows. We went from Paris to Montpelier, on to McCammon, down to Logan, and then to Smithfield. When we arrived in Smithfield on March 20, the weather was warm and there was no snow on the ground. People had been farming in Cache Valley for two weeks and Lucerne was four inches high.
Uncle Jim, my mother's brother, came to Smithfield a year before my family came. His wife, Aunt Selma, had wanted to get out of Bear Lake, and so they went down through Cache Valley to visit with Edwin Erickson, one of Uncle Jim's missionary companions, and his wife. Edwin Erickson's wife was of Swedish descent as was Aunt Selma. Uncle Jim and Aunt Selma liked Smithfield and decided that was where they would like to settle. They bought land on the north end of town.
Father had tried to get away from Bear Lake because his rheumatism was so bad, and doctors had advised that if he would go to Arizona or to California where it would be warm, he would be better off. When Uncle Jim moved to Cache Valley, Mother decided that possibly we should move too, so we did, partly because Uncle Jim was here and partly so that we could get into a warmer climate. Grandpa Monson came in May of the same year. I attended school in Smithfield the next year in the ninth grade. My teachers were Sadie McCracken, Jim Kirkbride, Jim Cragun, and Clarence Hurren.
Our cattle were left to graze in the hills above Bear Lake during that first year. They were brought to Cache Valley in the fall. The next year we took them up to Smithfield Dry Canyon and we fought cattle all summer long. This side of the mountains is so steep that it was hard to get the cattle to stay. They just did not want to climb those steep side hills up there. The feed was not as good as it was over at Bear Lake where the country was not as rugged; it was more rolling hills. I rode a horse almost every day trying to drive the cattle back and trying to keep them in the mountains. I got so discouraged because I would drive them up one day and turn around and drive them back up again the next. We just could not keep them up there. Then we moved our cattle from Smithfield Dry Canyon into Green Canyon where we found better grazing country, country that you could ride a horse over. We raised cattle several years in Green Canyon. We did have trouble with some of the cattle coming down into the fields because some boys would go up and chase the cattle and disturb them. We put a fence along the side hill of the canyon on both sides to hold them on the range. The first year we came to Smithfield my father had about 81 head of cattle and it diminished to about 60-63 the first year and each year we cut down on the herd until we finally sold what we had.
I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 5th day of August, 1906, by Elder James Bunderson of St. Charles, Idaho. I was baptized in the waters of Bear Lake just east of the town of St. Charles and was confirmed the same day on the shores of this lake by Joseph Bastow. He was the clerk at the time.
I received the Aaronic Priesthood on 6 January 1913 and was ordained a Deacon by Joseph W. Linford of St. Charles, Idaho. At that time I was also sustained as secretary of the Deacons Quorum and I filled this position until we moved to Smithfield, Utah, on 20 March 1915. Emerson Pugmire was our president. Our responsibility was to gather fast offerings and to saw and split wood for the widows. I remember more than once of being on a wood-sawing bee, and then at the close of our duty, playing hide and seek for a short while.
I was ordained a Teacher on 30 May 1915 by John H. Peterson, teacher to the Priests, and a Priest on the 20th day of November 1916 by Bishop William L. Winn. I received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an Elder on the 29th day of December 1919 by Bishop Lorenze Toolson.
I was called to fulfill a mission for the Church in the Northern States Mission from November 1920 to 22 May 1923. When I was called on my mission, I received from my Grandmother Monson the first $5 gold piece that I had ever received in my life. With that gold piece I bought a pair of gloves for my mission.
There were six states that comprised the Northern States Mission--Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. They sent me down to Southern Illinois as my first field of labor. My companion and I were at Springfield, Illinois, then we were sent over to Jacksonville, Illinois where we labored during the winter. We had one family of Saints there, Brother and Sister Francis. They had a daughter, Emma, and a son, Willie, at home, and a married son. They were the only members of the Church in that city. Jacksonville was a college town and a retired farmers' town, and the people were really not interested in religion. We worked there during the wintertime with some success and then in the Spring I was transferred to Mt. Carmel, Illinois, on the east side of the State and further south. I labored there until our conference. From that conference I was given a new companion. My first companion had been Elder James Usher Henrie from Panguich, Utah. My next companion was Adrian N. Warner from Rexburg, Idaho, and I was his junior companion. His father was a professor at the school in Rexburg.
We were assigned to work in Centralia. Because Elder Warner didn't have money to travel with, we shipped our trunks down to Centralia, then we went down through the country and traveled without purse or script. The first night we got into a town and Elder Warner wanted to hold a street meeting to see if we could get someone to take us in for the night. There was a concession or program going on during the day and we were unable to start a street meeting until quite late in the evening. We started the street meeting and everybody was going home and nobody had time to stop and listen so finally we asked for somebody to take us in and nobody came to our aid. So we walked out of that city and went on into the country where it started to rain. It rained until we were wet, so we decided to take refuge in a barn, which was to the side of the road. It didn't shelter us too well, but it was better than being right out in the rain. We made us a bed in some straw. It must have been barley straw because it sure made us itch. The next morning as we went out, we started tracting from one place to another. People did not want to come out because it was raining and they wouldn't take us in. We asked for breakfast, but by about eleven o'clock, we had had nothing to eat. Then as we were nearing another town, Elder Warner said there were Saints in that town and that all we would have to do would be to go to Brother and Sister Barlow and they would take care of us. So we went into this town and located the Barlow's and they did take us in. They kept us there for two days, probably because it rained and we couldn't do anything. The last day we were there, we helped them plant sweet potatoes. They grew sweet potatoes in Illinois and I had my first experience with planting them there. They were grown in sort of a hot bed first and then the plants were taken out and set in rows in the garden. I helped in the process of transplanting. We left there and went down to Centralia, tracting and traveling through the country. The country was practically dried up, so it was quite nice to travel. We finally got to Centralia and the weather had turned warm.
When we got to Centralia, we went to the rooms where Elder Warner and his former companion had lived. We had an upstairs room with a south window. There was no ventilation and the heat was terrific. We stayed there for a night or two, and then I told Elder Warner that I just could not stand that heat. We could not go to sleep at night, we would just lie there and sweat. So we decided to go looking for some housekeeping rooms. We finally discovered a room and the lady decided to take us in. Her name was Mrs. Romans and she had a son and a daughter. Her husband had been killed in the war. Sister Romans was good to us. We got a single room there, and during that summer we used the kerosene lamp on which to cook our meals, which consisted mainly of pork and beans, bread, and cold cereal with milk and sugar and bananas. We'd hold the can of pork and beans over the lamp chimney until they got warm enough to eat and then we'd divide them into two dishes.
From Centralia Elder Warner and I went out on several country trips. On one trip we were going to spend Sunday at Sandoval, Illinois, and as we were nearing Sandoval, the McIntire family was prepared to take us in for the rest of the week and keep us over Sunday. We stayed there until Saturday afternoon, and finally Elder Warner said that he felt impressed that we should return to Centralia. I said, "If you feel an impression to go back, I will go with you." The family was disappointed, but we left. As we got into Centralia, we stopped at the post office, and as luck would have it we had a letter there from President Tracy. President Tracy had been to Quincy and wanted to meet us at Centralia; but when our reports came, we were on this country trip and he feared that we might not be able to meet him. We took our country grips back to the room, washed and cleaned up and went down to the train and sure enough President Tracy stepped off the train. We went from there to a street corner and held a street meeting. At this street meeting, President Tracy and Elder Warner talked. We had such a crowd that the police came and said that we were stopping traffic and that we would have to close our meeting. The Salvation Army just across the road was holding another street meeting, and some of the people in the crowd said, “If you're going to stop these young fellows, why don't you stop them?" They let them continue their meeting, but we had to stop ours. President Tracy visited, delivered his message, got our report and then the next day he went on his way.
In all of my missionary experiences in Southern Illinois I did not see too many fruits of my labors. In the country work, it seemed that you would just see them once and then you would never see them again. Sometimes we would go out a different way entirely. But we would find people who had been visited by other missionaries and
invariably whether they had been visited before or whether we were the first ones to have visited them, we were always invited back. They seemed to recognize us as more than common preachers. We had something they did not know about. We baptized some people.
I remember once I went out with President Anderson after President Tracy was released. We were supposed to go down through the country visiting some of the Saints and friends who had been kept on record. I remember going into the city of Pinkneyville. President Anderson said he had no reason for going there, but to visit members of the Church. There was a man there whose wife had joined the Church. He didn't seem to believe in joining at the time, but when we came in and talked to them and visited with them, he decided that he wanted to be baptized and become a member of the Church too. So President Anderson and I held a baptismal service out in a little stream and baptized this man. There were other places where we had baptisms, but most of our converts came from our city work where we made systematic follow-up.
I was in Southern Illinois for over a year and a half, and then President Smith asked if I would accept the call as Conference President over West Iowa. He wanted word right away and I wrote and told him that as far as I was concerned, I would be willing to work. I said I would not have time to write to my folks to find out, but I would commit myself to whatever I was assigned. So I received a call very shortly to go to West Iowa to preside as Conference President. I took the place of Donald Smootz from Cedar City, Utah. My responsibilities as Conference President in West Iowa were to preside over the branch of Boone, Illinois; Des Moines, Iowa; Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Sioux City, Iowa. Besides that, there were people who were scattered through all of Iowa in different cities that I had the responsibility of seeing. Elders visited with them in the summer, as country work was done in the summer when the weather was warm.
I attended the East Iowa Conference at the time they changed mission Presidents. President Winslow R. Smith came there with President John H. Taylor who succeeded him and I went to West Iowa to visit President Smith and be introduced to President Taylor.
President Smith wrote and told me that they would like me to stay at least two and a half years if I became conference president. After that, President Taylor asked if I couldn't stay there for three years. I told him that as far as I was concerned, I was willing to stay, but I said I had no idea as to conditions in my home. I said my father had suffered with rheumatism and I didn't think my father was well. When I wrote and told them about my call here, my parents wrote and told me that they were not asking for me to be released, and that when I was released, it would be the Lord that would give me my release. I told President Taylor that when I would write and ask how things were going at home that they would ignore that question and not answer it. I said I had no way of finding out the true conditions at home, but if conditions were all right, I would have no reason for not wanting to stay until I was honorably released.
After having contacted me, President Taylor went to Salt Lake to a conference. While at the conference, President Taylor got in touch with, I think, Uncle Henry. Uncle Henry had been in contact with the folks and had seen conditions as they were. President Taylor wrote me from Salt Lake City and told me to be arranging my affairs, as when he got back he would have a man sent to the West Iowa Conference to follow up what I had done. He wanted me to take him around the conference and introduce him to the Elders and the people in the different branches. So when President Shaw came (he was from Paradise), we went around the conference. I notified the President that we would complete our trip by a certain date and my letter of release was there as soon as I got back. From there I went directly home on the Denver and Rio Grande. (I went out on the Union Pacific.)
As I traveled, I did not realize that conditions were as bad at home as they were. I thought I would never get another opportunity to go over the Denver Rio Grande, so I took that route home. I arrived in Denver early one morning and decided to stop in Denver to look around and then the following morning I would be able to go through the Royal Gorge in the daytime when I could see. That night in Denver, I never spent such a miserable night in my life. I knew there was trouble at home. I felt it; I just knew it. I couldn't sleep and I prayed, but there was nothing that I could do to get relief. The next morning as soon as it was light, I was off on the train. During that night before, my folks had sent a telegram that was read on every train of the Union Pacific telling me that my father was not expected to live and for me to hurry home. They did not realize that I was coming home on the Denver and Rio Grande.
I got into Salt Lake the next morning and as I walked out of the train station, there was nobody there to meet me. So I went to a telephone booth and called home. The first thing that Mother said was, "Merlin, come quick. Father is awful bad." I went to the streetcar and boarded immediately. Somewhere along the route, Vern Bush and his wife got on and sat right down in front of me. As they didn't realize it was me, I introduced myself.
I got off the train at Smithfield at Fourth South and Uncle Jim was there to meet me. He said, "Now Merlin, when you get home, go in and see your Father, just be there a minute or two, don't be there very long because he is very bad." So I went home and visited with him for just a minute or two, shook his hands, told him how glad I was to be home and to see him again, and then I went out and visited with the other family members. Father snapped out of it and he lived from then (the first of June) until December 23 of that same year. He had fair health during that summer. We took him on a trip to Bear Lake. We visited with Uncle Edmond and Uncle Henry and their families and with other friends around St. Charles. We took pictures up Logan Canyon and did various other things.
While I was on my mission, Milford and Father took care of the farm. After Father passed away, then there came a call for Milford to go on a mission. Mother came and sat down with me and said she had something to talk about. She told me that the Bishop had asked Milford to go on a mission and she said, "What can we do?" I told her that if a call came from the Bishop, we should let him go. Mother said, "How?" So I stayed at home and worked to keep Milford on his mission. The first year I was not married, but the second year I was married, but was still connected with the farm. I gave support to Mother at that time and from that time throughout her life whenever she had a serious problem.
I had quite a problem getting on my own. When Father passed away, he had given 20 acres of land to each of the three boys with the idea that we would give each of the girls a thousand dollars. We took care of our piece of ground and took care of the farm for Mother. I really didn't take anything off the land until Milford came home from his mission. From then on, I really went off for myself. I borrowed $2,000 from Grandpa Monson and started building our home. I had a hard time getting out of debt. People who got into debt during the days of the depression had a hard time. I could see that I couldn't make it, so I started hauling milk in 1933. I hauled milk for 14 years. We really struggled through that period of time.
In the spring of 1944, having been a milk hauler for some years, I went to Wellsville with a load of milk. After unloading, I was picking up the empty cans and placing them on the rack. As I was tying the cans on the top deck, I slipped and fell to ground. As I hit the ground, I felt as if I had been thrown. I couldn't raise my shoulders from the ground. I lay there by the back wheel of the truck until the man who was dumping the cans came around to the back of the building and called through the hole and wanted me to hurry up. Then he saw that I was on the ground, so he came to help me. Four men picked me up one by each leg and arm and put me into a car and took me to the doctor's office in Wellsville. After an examination there, they called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital. I was laid upon sort of a cot and there I lay for the rest of the forenoon and part of the afternoon. Finally they put me into a bed and there I remained for a period of two weeks before returning home. I was able to move around a little, but with a great deal of difficulty.
The thing that seemed to bother us most at this particular time was that our son, Charles, had run away and for two weeks we had never heard a word from him. So we made it a matter of prayer. We prayed every night and every day that we might find him, or know where he was that he might be brought back. Well, it just didn't seem that we were getting anywhere. Then one particular evening as we prayed, we asked that the Lord would let us know where he was, just where he was. That was all we asked. Then that very next morning a telephone call came and said that he had been found, and that he was in Springfield, Illinois. We have always felt that our prayers were answered because of this satisfaction of knowing where he was and that he was well. He had been gone six weeks when we received this call.
In 1948 I had an operation for a hernia. I mended quickly from the operation and was home within a week. On the following Monday morning, I went back into the hospital for an appendectomy. During this operation, the doctor discovered adhesions had grown so tightly to the intestines that it took time and effort to free them and pull them apart so they could gradually find the appendix. On finding the appendix, my bowels collapsed and I had no feeling. They expected me to be very sick the following day, but I felt pretty good and nothing was serious. During the next night I took terrifically ill and had a restless night and was very much distressed. The next morning when the doctor came in, and the nurses were there, they pumped my stomach and did various things to relieve the distress that was bothering me. They had placed tubes in my nose to wash my stomach various times. Following this, I was very sick and it seemed as though nobody came in. In fact, I understood afterwards that nobody was allowed into the room.
On this particular afternoon, Leonard Sorenson and Albert McCann were visiting the hospital and came there just as Dr. Noble walked out of my room. Dr. Noble said, “We've just lost a good man." Realizing he was talking about me, they went in and administered to me. They asked the Lord to let my spirit come back into that body, and they asked the Lord to ratify that blessing. That afternoon as I went to sleep, I remember having had a particular dream. In this dream I realized that my spirit was leaving my body, and I was just moving off into space. There seemed to be no obstruction. Then as I turned to see where I was going, it seemed as if two hands, one on each shoulder from the back, took hold of me and said, "Merlin, you can't go now, your time has not yet come." Then I realized that I went back and rejoined with my body. So I testify that there is life after death. I have heard voices from the other side. I know that they were there, and I know that the power of the Priesthood that was exercised in my behalf brought my spirit back, and I have yet lived to fulfill other duties that have evolved upon me.
Another faith-promoting instance happened just as Wayne was leaving for his mission. Wayne had been at the language training school in Provo for three months and was due to arrive in Salt Lake City to board a plane on the 24th of January. We had planned to go down to see him off.
As we were going to meet Wayne in Salt Lake at 7 a.m., I went out to do the chores the afternoon before along about 3 o'clock. As soon as I reached the barn, I turned the cows out and then went to get some hay down off the stack. We had been pushing the hay down with a stick, but there was snow on the ground and the bales were frozen and wouldn't move. I went up a ladder and onto the edge of the stack where we were taking off the hay, and I tried to pull some bales loose. The first bale I took hold of was tight. I made an exertion to move the bale and it still didn't move. So I braced myself just a little stronger, took another pull, my back facing the edge of the stack. The string broke and I went off the stack backward. I didn't realize anything for some time. When I came to, I felt as if I had been awakened from a sleep. As I looked around me, I could tell I was lying in the snow and there was a funny feeling about me. As I tried to move, a terrific pain struck me. I couldn't move my shoulders from the ground. I couldn't roll. I couldn't do anything. So I just lay there and I tried to call for help.
I knew that neighbors were close, but it was cold and it was hard for them to hear. I called and called and I almost gave up. I thought that perhaps they'd never hear me; but I called, and finally Bill Johnson who lived neighbors across the fence came to the fence and said, "What's the matter?" As Bill was too crippled to help me, he went back and got another neighbor, Mrs. Shaeffer, to run and tell mother. It wasn't long until help came and I was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital where it was found that a vertebra was broken. I lay in the hospital unable to move. The nurse had to help me move, and I had no power in my back to work. The thing that bothered me most was that Mother said the report was that I would never walk again, and one of the neighbors had offered to sell my milk cows and everything.
After about two weeks in the hospital, I was sent home. Then I realized how helpless I was and wondered what I should do. I made it a matter of prayer. I prayed that the Lord would make it known to me what I should do--whether I should sell the farm or what. After praying one evening, I went to sleep and had a dream. In this dream I was climbing up a ridge in a canyon. After I had climbed part way, I was tired and I sat down on a rock to rest. As I sat on that rock, an impression came to me that I should move. Just at the time of that impression, I heard a scramble in the brush in that ridge just like some animal had been there, and I realized that there was a wild animal of some kind. I went around the ridge to see what it was, but I could not see anything. Then I returned back to where the rock was, and I heard a voice just as plain as anybody could speak to me: "You were protected then, you will be now."
This very thing happened to me many years before when I was a young man. My father had sent me up on that ridge and told me I should look through all the hollows on the west side of that canyon. Father told me not to be in a hurry, but to watch closely, because if there were cattle there, we needed know where to go to find them. If there weren't any cattle, the country was too steep to look for something that wasn't there.
I was about 17 or 18 years old when this happened. As I sat on that rock, an impression came to me that I should move. Then I heard that noise--that scratching of something attempting to get away. That scramble in the brush frightened me, but I never saw what the animal was, whether it was a deer or a bobcat. It could have been a mountain lion. I have seen them in the canyon and I know what they can do. I have always felt that it was a mountain lion. The thing that was so impressive was that this dream showed me an actual thing that took place in my life when I was just a young man. When that word was spoken, "You were protected then, you will be now," I never worried any more. I didn't sell the farm; I felt the Lord would bless and take care of me. I asked the Bishopric to administer to me. When I started to get better, I got better in a hurry.
After I had been home from the hospital for some time, Dr. Bryner said he had wondered at the time if he had encouraged the right thing. Some people felt that Wayne should stay home from his mission and take care of things on the farm. Dr. Bryner said, "Let the boy go." Later he said he was worried as to whether I would ever walk again as only one out of 10 ever walk again with a break as high in the back as I had. When in England on our mission, I was sent to the hospital for an examination and they stood me up facing the camera, sideways and from the back. The doctor said, "Mr. Jenson, do you know you had a serious back injury at one time? You sure had a bad one." I know I was blessed with the healing power of our Heavenly Father.
Throughout my life, I have had many opportunities to serve my Heavenly Father. When Priesthood Meeting commenced in the fall of 1923 following my return from my mission, I was called to be class leader in the Smithfield Second Ward Elders Quorum. Harry Griffiths was President of the Quorum. I held this office until the division of the Second Ward on 21 February 1926. After the division of the ward, I was called to be First Counselor in the Smithfield Third Ward Elders Quorum to Walter Ray Moosman. Earl Gordon was Second Counselor and Joseph Johnson, Secretary. I also acted as instructor or class leader until we were released.
I was ordained a High Priest on the 28th day of August 1938 by Joseph P. Green while Smithfield was still part of the Benson Stake.
I was sustained as First Counselor to Bishop Richard H. Toolson in the Bishopric of the Smithfield Third Ward on the 18th day of November 1945 along with Alden N. Hodges as Second Counselor. I was set apart by Marion G. Romney. We were released on the 15th of July 1951. On the same day I was sustained as Bishop of the Smithfield Third Ward with William Clark Thornley and Alden Nelson Hodges as counselors and Joseph Timmons as Ward Clerk and Leo G. Low as Assistant Ward Clerk.
I was ordained as Bishop on 12 August 1951 by Joseph Fielding Smith and was released on September 18, 1955.
In the latter part of September 1956, I was called as an officiator in the Logan Temple by President George A. Raymond. I was set apart to that responsibility on 3 December 1956 by President Evan O. Darley. I was sustained as second counselor to Morris L. Hansen in the High Priest's Quorum Presidency of the Smithfield Stake on the 23rd of September 1956. Ephriam LeRoy Erickson was first counselor and Arlin R. Allred was secretary. At this time, Doane Chambers was released as first counselor as his employment took him out of the valley. This presidency was released on 13 December 1959.
I have worked in the following auxiliaries of the Church: I was sustained as secretary in the MIA in the spring of 1919 and served in this position until I left for my mission in November 1920.
Arriving home from my mission the last of May 1923, I was called as First Counselor in the MIA to John Max Toolson which job I held for two years or more as I remember. I was called to be a teacher in the Sunday School and was also called to be M Men Leader when the M Men program came out. After the division of the Smithfield Second Ward in 1926, I was called to be President of the YMMIA organization in the Third Ward with Willard G. Noble and Welling Roskelley as Counselors and Alden N. Hodges as Secretary.
I was also called to teach in the second intermediate department in Sunday School. Our lessons were the Book of Mormon history and its people. I labored as instructor of the Gospel Doctrine class in the Sunday School from 1930 to 1935, the first three years as assistant to Brother Leonard Sorenson.
I labored as Ward Genealogical Chairman just before the release of Bishop Roskelley and during the year following. I labored as Special Interest MIA class leader along with my wife, Carrie.
I was married to Carrie Eleanor Olson in the Salt Lake Temple on 9 June 1926. I was formally introduced to her in Council Bluffs, Iowa, while we were both serving missions for the church, I in the Northern States Mission and she in the Western States Mission. She was laboring in Omaha, Nebraska, and I was in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Once a month the missionaries from the two areas got together for a meeting and it was here that we were introduced. We both realized at the same moment that we had seen each other before in our hometown, and almost in the same breath we exclaimed, "Aren't you from Smithfield?"
When I returned from my mission, I did not go to see her. I had understood that she was to be married to another fellow. But later on, a Sister Vingaard came to visit me from the mission field, and she asked if Sister Olson didn't live in Smithfield, so I took her to see Carrie. It was at that time that I found out that she was uncommitted and I began seeing her shortly thereafter.
After we were married on June 9, 1926, we moved into Grandfather Monson's home. Grandmother Monson had died and Grandpa Monson had moved in with Mother. He was single for a while and then he finally got young and decided to get married again. He was 86 years old.
Mother wanted me to stay around this end of town because Milford was on a mission and I had the responsibility of running the farm. So after Grandpa wanted his own home back, Mother asked us to move into two rooms at her place. We had already bought the ground for our home and had begun to build. I planned on working during the wintertime to get it at least partly built. Then in spring, Mother needed the two rooms, so we moved down to Carrie's Mother's. Carrie stayed there while I rode the old Ford back and forth taking care of the farm. I would stay there at night when I wasn't chasing a stream of water or something.
We started our home in the fall and the next fall, 1927, we moved in. When we moved in, we had the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallway, and the breakfast room all plastered and the woodwork done.
We have been blessed with seven children - five boys and two girls. Charles Merlin was born on 6 February 1928. He spent one-and-a-half years in the army and 30 months on a mission to Finland. He now has his BS and MS degrees and has taught school at Lewiston Jr. High, North Logan, and Smithfield Elementary Schools. He presently teaches in Lompoc, California. He married Faye Thornley in the Salt Lake Temple on 14 May 1953. They have three sons and one daughter: Rulon Charles, Nathan Alan, Robert Bruce, and Eila.
Richard Milton (a twin) was born on 27 May 1930. Richard served two years active duty in the army and then in the reserve program. He has his BS and MS degree and is currently working on his doctorate. He taught school at the Smithfield Jr. High, at North Davis Jr. High in Clearfield, and at Utah State University. He then moved his family to Ogden where he joined the faculty at Weber State College as an instructor in the English Department. He married Colleen Hansen in the Logan Temple on 25 October 1951 and they have one son and three daughters: Richard Leon, Carolyn, Susan, and Deanne.
Robert Leo, also a twin, was born on 27 May 1930. He died at eight months of age.
The next, also twins, were a girl, Leah, and a boy, Leon, born on 1 February 1934. Leon lived about six hours and Leah, 13 years, 10 months, 19 days. Leah was buried two days before Christmas in 1947.
Marjorie, born 3 April 1940, spent two years on a mission to France. She earned a BS degree from USU. After her mission, she taught in the Business Department at Weber State College in Ogden. She married Kenneth Gordon Kraus in the Logan Temple on 24 June 1966. They live in Aurora, Colorado, where her husband is working as an accountant at the Air Force Accounting and Finance Center. They have three sons: Val Jeffrey, Garth Merlin, and Shawn Leon. (Janae and Brett Michael were born after this was written.)
Wayne, born 19 October 1947, spent two years on a mission to Brazil. He has a BS degree from USU and is teaching music at Bear River Jr. High School in Tremonton, Utah. He married Kathleen Hansen in the Logan Temple on 29 December 1969 and they have two sons and two daughters: Eric Wayne, Greg Ryan, Annette, and Sara. (Jonathan was born after this was written.)
All our children have a strong testimony and an abiding faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and we feel we have truly been blessed of God.
In May of 1970, Carrie and I were called to serve a mission in the English Central Mission. We enjoyed our labors there. We felt the inspiration of the Lord as we worked among the English people.
On one occasion, we were in our apartment and the telephone rang. The remarkable thing about this was that the telephone was supposedly disconnected because the landlord had failed to pay the telephone bill. When the call was answered, it was for me. One of our members was calling for help because he was being evicted from his home. He was out of employment and had no money to pay the rent. After appraising the situation we decided that it would be best to pay for his rent to give him a chance to get on his feet. He was later able to find employment.
We labored in two locations--At Banbury, Oxonshire, and at Sleaford, Lincolnshire. We had occasion to visit the London Temple twice during our stay in England.
On our way home from England we crossed the ocean in a Boeing 747, the largest plane made at that time. When we landed in Salt Lake City, there was such a gathering of people to meet the plane that no one was allowed to leave until the pilot investigated the situation. As we disembarked from the plane, we were greeted by Richard and Colleen, Ken and Marjorie, Wayne and Kathy and their families. All the grandchildren were holding a huge banner which read, "Welcome Home, Grandfather and Grandmother Jenson."