Saturday, December 22, 2012

Who Is Andy Williams?

A few nights ago, my self-proclaimed, favorite son-in-law, Nathan Brown was putting me down for the night. Nathan is a very patient, caring and good caregiver. He has actually earned his Dr. of Quad Abuse Degree. The only other person to have achieved such a lofty and coveted degree in caregiving and quad abuse is Jo Anne. You really wouldn't want me to reveal the curriculum and hands-on work required to achieve such a demanding degree. He gets me into bed most nights which is not a small job! I do appreciate it!

One evening, a while back, we were watching and listening to the TV while Nathan was working on me. A commercial came on, featuring the voice of Andy Williams singing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year…" I asked Nathan if he knew who was singing that song. He told me he had no idea, but that whoever it was, he had a pretty good voice. I agreed! Nathan has a very good voice as well, and so I thought this was quite a compliment he was paying to this vocalist. I told him it was Andy Williams, and asked him if he knew who Andy Williams was. He said he didn't have a clue, and that he had never heard of him before. I couldn't believe it. I tried to explain to him how Andy Williams helped make the Osmonds as famous as they were, and how wonderful his Christmas specials always were, and that there was even a large theater in Branson, Missouri named after him. I could tell it was not registering. Then I asked Nathan, if he knew who Perry Como was. Again, he said he had never heard of the man. I couldn't believe it! To me, Perry Como was the greatest, and his Christmas specials always seemed to capture the essence of the Christmas season. I didn't have the heart to ask him if he knew who Bing Crosby was. In his defense he kind of knew who Nat King Cole was, for which I was grateful.

The next morning, Chris Anthony came over to help get me up for the day. He comes over five mornings each week. He helps Jo Anne give me my range of motion exercises, helps dress me in the outfit for the day, and then helps to get me into my wheelchair. Chris is about Nathan's age, late 20s, and married with a little two-year-old son named Jacob. Chris seems to know a little bit about almost everything, and I truly enjoy his morning visits, and conversations about a variety of subjects. So, with great anticipation and confidence. I said, "Chris, do you know who Andy Williams is?"

I must preface his answer by telling you that when my grandson, Garret Stratford recently received his mission call to Antofagasta, Chile, not one of the family knew where it was or anything about it. The morning following Garret's receiving his call, I asked Chris if he knew where Antofagasta, Chile was, and he was able to tell me everything about it! Chris is a kind of walking Wikipedia, so I had great confidence he would know who Andy Williams was. After I posed the question to him, there was a brief silence, which is unusual for Chris, and then he finally said, in a kind of apologetic tone, "I've never heard of him!!" Grasping at straws, I hopefully blurted out, "I'll bet you know who Perry Como is!" I got a blank stare, and of course, the words, "I've never heard of him."

Later that morning I was telling Jo Anne about my conversations with Nathan and Chris. She reminded me that I was 74, and that these boys were in their 20s and that I should cut them some slack. She told me they could probably give me the names of about 100 modern-day singers and performers, and that I wouldn't have a clue who they were. I told her she was undoubtedly right, but that these modern-day performers weren't in the same class with Andy Williams or Perry Como!

Maybe some of you older senior citizens can identify with me. I keep forgetting I am 74, and that there truly is quite a generation gap between 20-year-olds and 70-year-olds. Our taste in music constantly reminds me of that fact. I was tempted to ask these boys if they knew who Robert Goulet was. They probably do, I hope, but I was too discouraged to ask them.

In our Van we have a contraption that will let you load six Compaq Discs in it. Two of the CDs are never taken out or changed. One of them is "The Best of Robert Goulet." When Robert Goulet begins to sing "Hello Dolly," or, "Mame," or "Life Is a Cabaret Old Chum," or "On a Clear Day," or "If I Ruled the World," or "There but for You Go I," or "To Dream the Impossible Dream," etc., it is like someone is scratching my back – although, I can hardly remember how that feels, but if my memory serves me right, it feels pretty darn good. Thankfully, Jo Anne shares my love for the voice of Robert Goulet! I'm thinking we shouldn't forget, or worse yet, never have known the Andy Williams, Perry Comos, or Robert Goulets of the world. Of course, not everyone would agree with that last statement, even though it is true.

The other CD that doesn't ever leave my CD player is entitled, "Songs of the West," sung by the male portion of the Norman Luboff choir. I hate to report that Jo Anne does not share my love or enthusiasm for this CD for some reason. She tolerates it, however, and I love her for being such a good sport. When these men, in their rich male voices, begin singing,"Oh, bury me on, the lone Prairie, where the coyotes howl, and the wind blows free… So when I die, you can bury me,' neath the Western skies, on the lone Prairie!"

Well, those lyrics stack up really well, in my mind anyway, with anything Shakespeare wrote. I always get a little misty eyed, when I hear that song and another favorite, which is,"I'm a Poor Lonesome Cowboy, and a long way from home. I ain't got no father, I ain't got no mother, no sister or no brother, to ride the range with me…" I know Jo Anne is probably thinking as she watches me listen to this great classical music, "How did I ever end up with this guy? What must I have done wrong in the pre-mortal life to have deserved this?"

You may not believe it, after what I have written above, but it is probably okay- in the eternal scheme of things- to not know who Andy Williams is, or not to really enjoy the "Songs of the West." There are some individuals that we must never forget, however. That is one of the main reasons that the scriptures have been preserved over the centuries, that we might be reminded of great men and women of faith, courage, and their love for and commitment to the Lord.

One of the "tender mercies," the Lord has given to me was when I began teaching Institute of Religion classes in the Los Angeles area in 1970. I was 31 or 32 at the time. One of the courses I chose to teach was Presidents of the Church. We were to study the lives and teachings of all of the prophets of this dispensation, beginning with Joseph Smith, up to and including the modern-day prophet. The lesson manual was very meager, but thanks to Paul King, a fellow Institute teacher, who had done a great deal of research on the Presidents of the Church, had created his own lesson manual which he eagerly and willingly shared with me. With that as a resource, I went forward to teach the class. I also began to do my own research, reading every biography available on each prophet, and in doing so, began to love and appreciate these great men more than I ever had before. A fire was kindled inside me to learn all I could about these prophets, whom I consider to be some of the greatest men who have ever lived.

We had three little children at the time, ranging in age from about 7 to 3. Every evening as we sat around the dinner table, I would tell them stories from the lives of the prophets. At the end of each set of stories, they would make me give them the previews or scenes (having picked this up from watching TV) for the next dinner' s set of stories. They were like little sponges, and eagerly soaked up these stories of faith, courage and goodness from the lives of the prophets. I like to think these evenings around the dinner table have had a lasting effect for good upon these three older children. I believe they have.

It's okay to forget, or to not have known, Andy Williams, Perry Como, or even Robert Goulet, but how tragic to forget or to have never really come to know the great men and women of the Scriptures as well as the prophets of this dispensation.

Little did I know at the time I was doing it, how my study of the Presidents of the Church would be such a blessing later in my life. When I had my body surfing accident at Laguna Beach, California, in August, 1989, three of the modern-day Prophets became very important to me.

Because of their continuing health problems from which they were never released in mortality, I came to identify and draw strength from the examples of George Albert Smith, and Spencer W. Kimball.

Because of his poor eyesight for most of his life, and his struggle with frequent bouts of depression, even while serving President of the Church, I learned much from George Albert Smith. Spencer W. Kimball's medical chart must have looked like a small set of encyclopedias. Most of his life, he suffered with bad health and physical challenges. Neither he nor George Albert Smith however, ever gave up or gave in. They had enormous faith in Christ and were totally committed to their apostolic callings and missions. They both endured well to the end, never being cured of their ill health and physical challenges. As I came to realize that there would be no clean, quick and done cure for my severed spinal cord, their examples became extremely important to me and I drew strength from their faith in, and commitment to, Christ. Their unquenchable desire to magnify their callings and build the Kingdom of God, come what may, gave me the desire to try to follow their examples.

Who was the third prophet that had great impact on my life after my accident?

We had living in our stake at the time of my injury, a very gifted artist by the name of Diane Pope Williams. She wanted to do something for me and as she prayed she felt impressed to paint a portrait of Lorenzo Snow. She completed it, brought it to the rehabilitation hospital, where I would spend the next six months, and told me she didn't know why she had painted Lorenzo Snow for me, but here it was, and she hoped I would enjoy it.

I was grateful that I was able to tell her why she was directed to paint the portrait of Lorenzo Snow for me. Over the years I had become very impressed with this great and spiritual man. His patriarchal blessing said that his faith would be similar to the faith of the Brother of Jared. I believe it was!

As he and President Wilford Woodruff grew older, he fervently prayed that President Woodruff would outlive him so that he would never have to bear the burden of being President of the Church, although he also prayed that he was more than willing to accept and do the will of the Lord. When he received a telegram from San Francisco that Wilford Woodruff had passed away in that city, he immediately went into the Salt Lake Temple to a special room to pray and to seek the assurance, confirmation, and comfort from the Lord that he indeed was to be the next Seer, and Revelator, to preside over the Church.

Lorenzo Snow's granddaughter, Allie Young Pond, writes about what happened next in her journal. "One evening while I was visiting Grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grandpa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser. After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grandpa when he stopped me and said: "'Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.' "'He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though he stood on a plate of solid gold.'
"Grandpa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful White Robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brilliance that they defy description." [From the Journal of Allie Young Pond]

I knew I would need his kind of faith to endure what had happened to me. Of course, never being able to approach his level of faith, his example nonetheless has inspired me over the years. As the great poet Robert Browning so beautifully wrote, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp, what is a heaven for?"

Diane brought the painting to the rehabilitation hospital in a plastic cover which was attached to the door of a cabinet which was about 3 feet from the left side of my bed. Many hours during the day and at night when I was on that side, I would look up at Lorenzo Snow and see his beautiful, loving, benevolent and faith filled eyes looking down at me. It was extremely comforting then, and continues to be so now. We brought the painting home, had it matted and framed, and for 23 years it has hung in my office. I still find it inspiring. I gain strength from looking at Lorenzo Snow, and wanting to try to be more like him and the Brother of Jared.

Of course, there is one we must never forget – Jesus the Christ. So important is it to each one of us to remember him that each Sunday we renew a sacred covenant, "to always remember him, to be willing to take his name upon us, and to keep his Commandments.

President Kimball referred to the Scriptures, and especially the Book of Mormon, as our Books of Remembrance. He referred to Helaman 5 as one of the great chapters in all of Scripture where the word "remember," or a derivative thereof is used multiple times. And what did Helaman want his two boys, Nephi and Lehi, to remember above all else?

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the arock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your bfoundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty cstorm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." [Helaman 5:12]

Who is Andy Williams? Truthfully, it doesn't matter the least little bit!


Editors Note: According to computer operating system file date/time stamps, this observation was last updated on December 22, 2012, (just days before Jack died) after the last blog entry entitled "The Way Out is the Way through" was published on Jack's blog several months earlier on October 5th. However, this observation was not published on Jack's blog until December 2015.