Beulah Gardner Larson - Spiritual Experiences
Contributor: dswright Created: 3 years ago Updated: 5 months ago
by Beulah Gardner Larsen
The things written herein are sacred to me. To anyone who might read them, I can only hope that they consider them as such.
It was in the mid 1960s that I had gone to the ward library alone, and I sat reading an Instructor. There was a two page spread on faith-promoting experiences of Matthew Cowley. I felt a thrill in my soul at what I had read. As I sat meditating on how wonderful these things were, a voice of the Spirit spoke to me and said, “There is nothing more remarkable in these happenings than the experiences you have had in your own life.” For a moment I sat transfixed at such an idea -- then realization came that this could possibly be true.
My first answered prayer came when I was eight or nine years of age. I was in Knightsville visiting. My cousin Pauline begged and teased her mother to let her wear a very valuable pin to take (to) her music lesson. The pin was a fleur-de-lis, made from a solid gold nugget her father had found at the mine he was operating. Finally in exasperation, Aunt Bena let her wear it. Ruth and I went with Pauline, and on the way home, she discovered the pin was gone. We searched a long time before going home. Aunt Bena sent us back, telling us it must be found. After another hour of time, I began to ask myself, “Why didn't they pray about it?” We searched on, and finally I slipped behind a large boulder. Unseen I kneeled and prayed. I came out confidently, walked directly to the spot where the pin lay. There was a high swing along the trail at the foot of the mountain, and we had been swinging there. It was here in the thick dust we had spent most of our time searching. I have often wondered how the pin managed to be in full view on top of the deep dust, when I went back to look.
When Lois Elaine was a small child, she swallowed a Wilkie (presidential candidate) button. It had a longer than usual pin extending from underneath. As she began choking, her father ran with her, head down, to a neighbo's telephone. We had no car, and I realized it would be impossible to reach a doctor in time to save her life. So I earnestly begged my Father in Heaven for her life. I told Him I realized He and He alone could save her. As my husband reached the neighbors, Lois Elaine vomited, and out came the pin.
When I was asked to teach a ten-minute weekly lesson on the New Testament in Relief Society in the late 1930's, I had just begun to regain my wanted health. It was entirely upon faith that I accepted and hoped to accomplish it. In attempting to give a small memorized part in Relief Society months before, I had had to hold the sheet of paper before my face, because I could not look into the faces of the audience. I did not know how to outline or prepare a lesson, and I still could not find words to tell things. But I was determined to help myself by service to the Lord, knowing full well He would answer my prayers and help me.
I had one month to prepare my first lesson. In that month every help I needed was brought to me. My stake leader called me one day, and as she was walking out of the door to leave, she turned back and asked me if it would be helpful to me if she lent me the notes of the first six lessons which she had already prepared. I studied those notes, and learned how an efficient person compiled them. My sister-in-law Virginia told me that a speech teacher had taught their class that if they could give a speech looking in a mirror at themselves, they could look at an audience. This was very difficult for me, but I conquered it after much effort. A friend, Fern Brockbank, offered me the loan of a beautiful large map with which to teach, and by memorizing those ten minute lessons week by week, I made it. I was grateful for the long fringed table cloth on the table I stood behind, my legs trembled so.
After persevering for about seven months, the Lord blessed and rewarded me again. My legs no longer shook, and I discovered I could now use my own words to tell those lessons. I no longer had to memorize them. I remember one very special Saturday night when Apostle Ballard was our Conference speaker. The many problems I had had served to bring me very close to my Father in Heaven, for often I lived on the strength of my faith and prayers. This particular night, I came humbly to be fed by one of our very choice Apostles. He spoke for a full hour on the Priesthood of God. For at least the last half of the talk, I saw a lovely halo of light shine around his countenance, and I thrilled in my heart at his words. When the talk was over, I turned to a lady sitting by me and said, “Wasn't that wonderful!” To me, she just said, “Yes, it was a good talk.” I couldn't understand her being so complacent, and so I turned to someone else as we left the meeting, and they too answered in like manner. It was not until years later that I understood I alone had had the lovely experience.
When the day finally came that I was asked to teach Relief Society Theology, I could hardly believe that I had progressed so far as to be entrusted with what I considered their most important lesson. But the sisters were so kind in their praises of my efforts, I was encouraged in my acceptance. Here I would be occupying the same position as some of my college graduate friends. I could scarcely believe it had happened. Shortly thereafter Dr. Law from the BYU offered a three credit course in Teacher Training to be given at evening classes in our seminary building. Dr. Law outlined each two-hour class the first evening, and I decided to attend all classes except the last one.
The last one was to be on “New and Correct Methods and Procedures.” I had struggled to gain confidence in my teaching. I was afraid I would find myself so far afield that I would lose all assurance in my own ability. I argued back and forth with myself the week before that last class, only to realize I had to go and find out where I stood. It was an evening never to be forgotten. As Dr. Law gave these methods and procedures something unbelievable happened. I discovered I had been using all of his methods and procedures. Prayer and the inspiration of heaven had taught me those very things, and I could not help but feel I had received them in the preferable manner. Is it not better to be taught by the Holy Spirit than any earthly teacher?
It was in the early 1950s that I was called to be Junior Sunday School Coordinator. I was not feeling up to par; I had never seen the inside of a Junior Sunday School. (It was a fairly new organization.) We had no Sunday School board in our Stake from which to receive instructions, and I had never felt that I had the qualifications of an executive. So I came home and felt I would like to cry over the matter, knowing full well that I have never turned down a church appointment. We were at war, and I realized I had a son and sons-in-law that might well be called. I would be needing very special blessings from the Lord, and anyway I did not believe in turning down Church calls--they come from the inspiration of the Lord.
As I went to be set apart, I made a long mental list of all the many different needs and weaknesses I had in accepting the position. When they pronounced the blessing on my head, everything I had thought of in that mental list was promised in way of blessings. I could not drive a car, but my health immediately improved, and I knew an effortless feeling as I walked back and forth at my many new responsibilities. Once more, the Lord provided the way, the energy and health, and the knowledge to assist me.
However, I had a real problem for the first two years keeping my personnel. Then I read an article by Milton R. Hunter saying that positions in the church should be filled by fasting and prayer. I had not fasted for years. I had to eat every two and a half hours in order to keep up my energy, and I only went as far as my food allowed me to, but I determined to fast. I explained my problems to the Lord and told Him I did not care how hungry I became, if He would just give me the energy for Jr. Sunday School on Fast morning. Jr. Sunday School was my hardest day of the week.
Through the prayer of faith I received energy to keep the fast, but four months later on fast day, I forgot to ask my Father in particular for the strength to fast. I was sitting on a bench near the door during Jr. Sunday School preliminary, and I nearly fainted. As my head cleared, I realized my mistake and made my way out of the room, where I begged my Father in Heaven's forgiveness. It was indeed with difficulty I managed to keep the fast that day.
But after keeping the fast one year and a half, I realized all of a sudden He had given me another wonderful and unexpected blessing. My sister Edna invited me to go Christmas shopping in Provo. It was 10 AM and with only a few minutes to get ready, I forgot to take a sandwich. In the rush to get a long list of things purchased in an allotted time, I found myself at 3 PM very hungry but still on my feet. For the first time in nearly twenty years, I found I did not fold up without food. It was no longer necessary to eat every two and a half hours. What a relief not to have to carry food with me everywhere I went.
When Reed Ewing phoned from Bluefield that Geraldine was critically ill, I have never felt so helpless and hopeless in my life. There she was clear across the country, and we were here. I felt a desperate need to be there, (to) do something to help, and then I realized I could do the most important thing for her that could be done. I called my family and fourteen of us fasted and prayed for her. I found as I prayed I could not formulate the words to ask for her life. I could only pray that she receive the blessing she needed most. This she received. She passed away within the next twenty four hours after the fast, instead of lingering and suffering for many weeks. The doctors caring for her could not understand the sudden change and early death, but we as a family knew.
At the time I taught the life of Christ in the New Testament lessons, I acquired a great desire to go to Palestine. I became so familiar with Christ's life and travels that I had a longing to go and walk through the country where he had walked. One day years later at BYU Leadership Week, I heard for the first time the song, “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.” I sat entranced as Jessie Evans sang it as only she could, and the longing returned. As the words to this song became familiar to me later, I found myself mentally humming them one day in the Manti Temple. I was waiting in the Creation Room for a session to assemble, and as the sweet words and music passed through my mind, a voice of the Spirit said to me, “You will walk today where Jesus has walked.” I have known before that Christ visits His temples, but on this particular day, a testimony of it was given to me. I could feel, as I walked through those rooms, that I was indeed walking where he had walked. “As my feet touched each carpeted surface, and my fingers the rail of each stair, I knew that His feet and His fingers had hallowed the things that were there. And the old unsatisfied longing, that once in my bosom was locked, fled like the dews of the morning as I walked where my Savior had walked.”
From September, 1964, until May, 1965, was one of the busiest, most fruitful years of my life. After having accepted the presidency of the Spanish Fork Art Club in the summer of 1964, I was called up to teach a course of Project Temple in our own ward. I was ward librarian and theology teacher in the Relief Society, and belonged to the ward choir of which my husband was president. I was in charge of a Main Street Art Exhibit in November, and the bishop of Mama's ward put me in charge of organizing a program to honor her on her 89th birthday in January at Sacrament Meeting.
At Christmas time I was becoming very fatigued. I knew I needed to slow down and rest and was counting the days until the birthday program was over. I knew I had a trying job coming up for the big art exhibit in the spring. Two days after the meeting for Mama's birthday was over, my daughter Lois Elaine had a severe reaction to a drug prescribed for her for migraine headaches. She was hospitalized for a week and in bed at home for a week, and I took care of her family.
The weekend that I came home from Lois Elaine's, I was so tired I almost felt ill, and the bishop asked me to teach another session of Project Temple. I explained about the fatigue and told him I was fearful of many conflicting dates on my appointments. He was expecting me to turn him down, but this was a missionary call, and I did not dare to say no to such a call from the Lord. So I told him if the Priesthood would give me a blessing of health, I would accept the call. Again the Lord blessed me far beyond that which I had anticipated. I felt wonderful, and in some miraculous way, there was not a hitch in all of the appointments. All that I had to do fell into place like a perfect picture puzzle, and I was able to enjoy all of my labors and indeed felt blest.
In 1957 I had been feeling very despondent, because my husband had for years failed to honor his priesthood, and there seemed no hope of any change every taking place. I knew our Temple Marriage would not be in force in the great eternities unless he did change. So I talked to Brother Byron T. Gelison, and he made an appointment for the Stake Presidency (of which he was a counselor) to give me a special blessing. In the blessing, I was promised if I served the Lord diligently, the desires of my heart would be for my family. And although I worked diligently, no change took place within the next three years. Then my husband was stricken with sarcoma. When the tumor was removed, the doctor gave him six months to live. The children and I decided not to tell Walt he had terminal cancer. Heartsick, I went back to the Stake Presidency. I knew they were men of great faith. I told them my problem and asked them to offer a prayer that the Lord would determine whatever was to be my husband's fate, and that I would accept His will, whatever it was.
Then early the next morning, when we went into Salt Lake for x-ray treatments, I went alone to the Temple. There I talked humbly to my Father in Heaven. I reminded him that the promised blessing had not been fulfilled, for I had desired my husband to become active again in the Church. I also reminded him that nothing was impossible for Him, and I commended my husband's life and its length to Him as He should choose. Then I put Walt's name on the temple prayer roll. He was never bothered with cancer again, and his life extended for twelve years. In 1963, Walt attended the Project Temples classes in our ward by two priesthood members, and once more became active in the Church. Eight years after Walt's operation, I explained to him how the Lord had blessed him and spared his life.
My husband had tried for years to buy and pay for farm land and equipment but was unsuccessful. Then he went to work on the railroad. He made mention a number of times that he would have to work right up to his sixty-fifth birthday to get any kind of a retirement. In the spring of the year when he was 58, he had a decided break in his health. For six months he laid off at least one day a week. His salary was just barely enough to live on. Walt was really concerned, and several times he said, “Mama, I am not going to make it to retirement.” Then Bruce received a mission call, and irregardless of our financial situation, his father told him he could go.
I decided I would get a job and support him. When Bruce was set apart, Elder S. Dilworth Young told him his home would be blessed --and indeed it was. Walt's health immediately improved, and he never missed a day's work while Bruce was gone. When the mission was over, I fully expected the health blessing to end. However, Walt maintained his health until six months before his retirement was due. Once more his health failed in exactly the same manner it had done seven years earlier, and he was laying off frequently. He spent his last work day in bed, but he made it through to his retirement. Only the good Lord could bring us such a blessing, and bring financial security to us for the rest of our days.
Since my husband has passed way, I have been blessed in many ways by the Spirit of our Father in Heaven. I have dreamed dreams with a message for me. This is something I have never enjoyed previously, and at one time the voice of my husband warned me of impending danger. With my husband's failing health, the loss of his hearing, and the slowing of his body processes, he seemed to lose interest in everything the last two years of his life. He just sat by the window and listlessly passed the hours away. I sensed that he was neither happy nor content, although he was not one to complain about it.
After his passing, I prayed often that he might find things on the other side that would bring him happiness and satisfaction. Then I dreamed. It was lovely, the only clear-cut dream I had ever experienced. I dreamed Walt and I were walking hand in hand, and I was so happy. I said over and over to him, “We must do this often; it's so wonderful.” I was aware that he was gone and had just returned to visit me. As we neared the corner of a big building, he let go of my hand and disappeared around the corner. I felt very disappointed. I had forgotten to ask him how things were with him. So I hurried around the building, and he was still there. I took both of his hands in mine and said, “How are things with you over there, Walt?” And he answered, “They are just wonderful. I can do anything now.” Then he was gone, and I awakened to remember.
I have indeed been blest of the Lord. I feel His Peace in my home. He has filled my cup full measure and running over.
Autobiography of Beulah Gardner Larsen
Contributor: dswright Created: 3 years ago Updated: 5 months ago
“January, 1974 I, Beulah Gardner Larsen, was born of goodly parents, the 27th of September 1901. I was the second child in a family of ten, and the first child to be born in the red brick home my father built for my mother. It was located at 135 East on 4th South in Spanish Fork, Utah.
“My parents names were Brigham Evensen and Margaret Barclay Gardner. My father's occupation was farming. My brothers and sisters in order of birth were:
Harold Barclay Gardner24June 1899
Margaret Gardner21 Dec 1903
Archie Barclay Gardner 4 Mar 1906
Mark Barclay Gardner12 Nov 1908
Edna Gardner Christensen 4 Sept 1910
Reid Barclay Gardner14 Nov 1912
Blanche Gardner Pusey 4 Dec 1914
Neil Barclay Gardner17 Apr 1918
Elaine Gardner Wood30 Jan 1922
“We always had an attractive well-kept home. My advent came at the time when our drinking water came from a well, our wash water came from the mill stream across the street, kerosene lamps furnished the light, and washings were rubbed on a wash board in a galvanized tub. The tub was used on Saturday night for the weekly baths. Carpets were made from rag strips sewn and woven by hand. People rode in buggies, surreys, wagons, and sleighs -- all horse drawn. Nearly every family had a vegetable garden, berry bushes, a few fruit trees, a milk cow, a pig or two for fresh and home-cured meat during the winter.
“My grandfather kept bees, my father grew sugar cane for our own molasses, and Aunt Annie raised silk worms on mulberry leaves for the manufacture of silk cloth. Aunt Annie was my father's sister and our neighbor. She was the dry-good buyer for the Spanish Fork Co-op, the largest mercantile store in town. This gave me several advantages as a little girl. I owned the first pair of patent leather slippers in town, and the first fur fabric coat. The coat was of white curled fur and the envy of all. I also rode into Salt Lake City with Aunt Annie on the big black train one fall. We went to select the Christmas toys for the store. The top floor of the Z.C.M.I. was like a fairy land with hundreds of beautiful toys all on display. The train ride, the toys, the lunch in a real restaurant where each booth was curtained off for privacy was something I have never forgotten. I also rode in a Fourth of July Parade on the Big Co-op's beautiful float one year. This was a thrill.
“My earliest recollection was concerning my sister Margaret's passing. I was four years old when she passed away from the after effects of diphtheria. I remember the Relief Society presidency laying her out, placing bottles of ice around her body to keep her from turning dark. They also made her clothes. Mama helped me pick some pansies to put in her little hand as she lay in the coffin at home.
“My schooling began in what was called the beginner's class, when I was six years old. Jennie Rowe was my teacher, and school was held in a small adobe school house that later was torn down to build the new Thurber School. The adobes were white-washed, so it was known as the little white school house. A board fence surrounded the school yard. A hand bell was vigorously rung to call us to line up for school. We formed a double line, marked time--one-two, one-two, and marched into our classrooms. We sat in twos at double desks, and we girls kept a small bottle of soapsuds and a cloth to keep the top of our desks clean. At recess we played hop scotch, jump the rope, hide and seek, and guinea. I still wonder why the old game of skill called “guinea” has been lost and forgotten. It was a fine game.
“During the summertime I played house, made holly-hock dolls, and sewed for hours on clothes for five cent china dolls. We always carried these 4 inch dolls around in a match box.
“We had our first graduation after the eighth grade, then went on to four years of high school. It was during my seventh grade year that I paired off with my permanent crowd. There were four of us--Mary Snell, Alene Medrum, Laura Kay Lewis, and me. My pals lived about two blocks north of our house.
“My parents were devoted Latter-day Saints. We attended all church meetings without question. We knelt each morning around the breakfast table for family prayer. Each of us in time learned to take our turn to offer the prayer. As soon as we were old enough to earn money, we were taught to give a tithe of one-tenth of our earnings to the Lord.
“It was never hard for me to follow the teachings of my parents, for I can never remember of a time I did not have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the 3rd of October, 1909, when I was eight years of age, I walked the seven blocks to the old First Ward Church alone. I had a white towel and nightgown in a paper bag. There in the corner of a dim furnace room, I was baptized in a small cement font. I felt very timid and shy, but another girl's mother took me under her wing and helped me out of my wet gown and into my clothes. The following day in Sacrament meeting, my father confirmed me a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mother had explained the day previous the importance of my baptism and membership in the Church.
“As a small girl I always enjoyed a trip to Provo by surrey during the summer months to Aunt Bena and Uncle Sam Buckley's. It was a full day's trip to drive over and back, with several hours in between to play and visit. When I was about six years old, Uncle Sam moved his family to the mining town of Knightsville (located northeast of Eureka). Harold and I were allowed to ride the train to Knightsville for a visit each year with our cousins. Here I had many good times roaming the hills, picking wild flowers, and in wintertime a non-stop sled ride down the hill to Eureka.
“When I was seven years old, I fell into the moving wheel of a buggy-type vehicle we were riding in and broke my leg between the hip and knee. I spent all of June on my back in the front bedroom with my leg attached to 10 pounds of rocks hanging on a stretcher at the bottom of the bed. I spent all of July with my leg in a cast, and all of August on crutches. Mama was at this time expecting her fifth child. When my brother Mark arrived in November, he only weighed 3-1/2 pounds, and Mama nearly lost her life.
“During the summer after my graduation from grade school, I heard a religious sermon that had a profound influence upon my life. The sermon was based on the statement: “The glory of god is intelligence.” The testimony of the Spirit rang deep within my soul, and I determined within myself to earnestly seek intelligence. To me at the tender age of fourteen, knowledge meant intelligence. So I made a commitment with myself to make the most of my high school studies, to be an A student, and to go on and graduate from college.
“At this time I planned all of the subjects I would take in both high school and college. I had decided to take subjects that would serve a dual purpose. I would graduate in what was then called “Domestic Art and Science.” I would avail myself of everything that would train me to be an efficient homemaker and mother, and at the same time provide myself with a profession as a teacher.
“About this time I borrowed a pattern of Alene Meldrum to have my mother make me a dress. She unpicked the stitching on the waist several times, gave up, and laid the sewing aside. So I went and borrowed Alene's dress which was like the pattern, and managed to put the dress together. With this success I made several other less consequential items.
“When school opening came around, Mama informed me that if I wanted to go to school, I would have to do all of the sewing for the family. This was a big order for nearly everything we wore was made in the home. I had always been a dutiful daughter, so I set out to accomplish the almost impossible. I first went to the sewing teacher and convinced her I needed to take and was capable of the advanced sewing class. I also told her of my mother's ultimatum.
“I signed up as a freshman but went into class with the junior and senior students. Sewing during noon hour and every other available moment, I had the school year requirements completed by Thanksgiving time. Although many of the students in the class were three years older than I, at the end of the school year I was selected to go to the Utah State College for a week and enter the state sewing contest there. It was a fun week with students from all over the state. Mama's ultimatum paid off--I came home with first prize in sewing.
“The following fall so many young men had been inducted into the Army for World War I that our Utah-Idaho Sugar Company hired girls for the first time to work in their laboratory. Mama always ran on a very close budget, so she took me out of school to work in the laboratory. This was the termination of my school days. I made no protest at my mother's decision; from habit I had always done just what she said, but I cried many lonely tears into my pillow at night. I did not mind the work at the laboratory, but the dreams I had of gaining a fine education, and the goals I had set for myself left me feeling helplessly inadequate. How could I ever hope to be that person of intelligence?
“Mama never knew of the tears and the shattered dreams, for I silently buried them deep in my own heart. I also tearfully asked my Father in Heaven to bless me and help me learn to sew and cook well and make something worthwhile of my life.
“It was at high school dances that the young people learned to dance. This was an activity I was now not a part of. After high school, my friends started going to the public dances at Pack's Pavilion at North Main Street. So Mama had a very lovely pink silk dance dress made for my first dance. My brother Harold gave me a lovely lavilier with a small diamond and pearl in it for Christmas. I felt very dressed up and proud of my attire, only to realize I did not know how to dance. What an effort I had to try and learn that which my friends already knew.
“As a child I had tonsillitis often. Mama had great fear of operations, so we did not have the tonsils out. When I was eighteen my tonsils were so infected and diseased, I began to have rheumatics and long illnesses. I finally went to my uncle Dr. Hughes myself and made arrangements to have the tonsils taken out. I was operated on on our large kitchen table, as there was no hospital in Spanish Fork. I had no more tonsillitis, but my health was already impaired. After three dances, my legs were always very tired.
“As a teenager we had many fun times making candy, singing around the piano, sleeping parties on the lawn, or in our big hay-barn. In the summertime, we rode on hay-racks up Spanish Fork Canyon to a sulphur spring bathing resort called “Castilla.” We always had a wonderful time there, swimming, picnicking and singing as we rode home in the evening on the hay-rack. Then there were the Sunday night band concerts during the summer at the city Park. Boys from all of the neighboring towns came in on the electric train that ran through Main Street. There was plenty of mating and dating among the teenagers.
“I had my Patriarchal Blessing when I was nineteen. Among other things, it mentioned that I was to be a teacher. My teaching within the church began in my teens with the small children in Sunday School. Since then I taught religion class one year, Primary many years, Teacher Training, was on the Sunday School stake board, and taught Relief Society, Bible Project, nutrition, and Teacher's Topic on the stake board. I have also taught four different sessions of three months each of Project Temple. This was a missionary calling from the stake presidency, and I taught it in First Ward, Eight, and Ninth Wards. At the present time, I have been teaching theology in the Relief Society for twenty years. I was Jr. Sunday School Coordinator for six years, and I started a library for our ward 17-1/2 years ago. I have worked continuously at this, and at present I am the Meeting House Librarian for the Second and Ninth Wards.
“It was in September shortly before my twentieth birthday that I first met my husband-to-be. It happened one starry summer night at Castilla, the sulphur springs bathing resort in the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. Suzie Snell and I had been invited to stay overnight with Aunt Annie and friends who were camping in tents in the grove there. That evening when we heard the strains of dance music floating on the night air from the hostel, we could not resist slipping into a dark corner of the
ballroom to watch the dancing. There were just two young men from Spanish Fork among those dancers. They were Walt Larsen and Grant White.
“I knew Grant because I was in his class at school. Suzie knew Walt because he was her age, and they were both several years older than I. It was while Walt was dancing that he caught his first glimpse of me among the shadows and, knowing Suzie, he felt it would be all right to ask her friend to dance. Little did he realize he was approaching someone who was prim and precise on introduction, and that this would probably be our first and last meeting. Suzie, who was standing behind me, gave me a firm shove that sent me into Walt's arms as he asked for the dance. We were on the dance floor dancing before I could decline. Suzie knew what my answer would be, and she felt it would be silly for me to miss a perfectly good dance with a hometown boy. Speechless, I accepted, and speechlessly we danced. I was so taken by surprise that it was not until the dance was over that I managed a quiet comment and 'thank you.”
“Suzie and I slipped away as soon as my dance was over, but Walt did not forget me. The following Sunday evening when the townspeople gather for their weekly band concert at the city park, Walt came looking though the crowd to claim me for our first date. He had his father's car for the evening--one of the rare occasions during our two and a half year courtship that we rode rather than walked on our dates. To me it was a privilege for my father had never owned a car.
“Walt was never given to excessive talk, so I would never have known that it was love at first sight on his part had he not told his brother Max, “Keep looking for the right girl. You'll be like me--know her the minute you see her.”
“We were married the third of December 1923 in the Salt Lake Temple. I stayed the night before with my pal Laura Kay at the Bee Hive House Annex. Walt and I went alone to the Temple. We had a wedding at my father's home for the closest of the relatives. A large table was set the length of the living room, and a hot dinner was served to the guests. Among the gifts that we received, the one I remember best, was a large galvanized tub filled with pots and pans of all description and a washboard with which to do the family laundry.
“Walt did not have steady work, so we moved about considerable. We lived for three months in Los Angeles, California. A short time in Magna, Utah, and then my father gave us a building lot on his farm on South Main Street. Here we built the four room lumber home that I live in today.
“We had five children. Geraldine was born at my father's home, and the rest were born at our own home at 616 South Main in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Geraldine Larsen8 March 1925
Weldon Gardner Larsen20 October 1926
Margaret Larsen 4 November 1927
Lois Elaine Larsen12 June 1930
Bruce Gardner Larsen7 October 1932
“One of life's kindest gifts is “Not Knowing” what the future has in store for us in the way of trials. Thus, we hopefully face the future. Had I know that the first seventeen years of our marriage would be one of poverty, sickness, and death, my courage would possibly have failed me along the way.
“Walt's father gave him five hundred dollars as a wedding present for our furniture. Before he could find steady work so we could move to ourselves, the bank where the money was deposited failed and was only partially refunded. The home we built had no plumbing, and we could only furnish the two back rooms. In a day when rag carpets were a thing of the past, I decided to sew enough rags for a rug-sized carpet for our front room. I was so ashamed when company called and saw it bare. Mama gave me an old steel couch, we purchased one cheap unpainted chair, and I put my cedar chest in the room. Later on when Walt had work at the pipe plant, we bought a rug and furniture. But we had such a a struggle making the payments, we never went into debt for anything again as long as we lived. This meant that there was much we went without.
“We had been in the little house a year and a half when my second baby was born. Little Waldon became ill with bronchial pneumonia and passed away the 15th of December 1926 at the age of six weeks.
“My five children were all born within a period of seven and a half years. I was not the strongest physically, and yet I took in sewing and unwisely went back to the Sugar Factory Laboratory for a season's work, to help out the finances. Bit by bit my strength became less, and I found myself having influenza several times a winter. When Bruce came along and was three months old, he took bronchitis. I spent ten days applying mustard plasters and working around the clock to save my baby. By the time he was out of danger, my nerves and my strength gave out. I began to cry and to shake internally, and I was put to bed. I spent the next year lying on the couch or sitting in a chair.
“With no strength to work or even to enjoy reading, I found it difficult to maintain a good attitude. So to keep up my morale, I read small excerpts from a little booklet called “The Sunshine of Life,” and I either memorized or just used them as thoughts for the day. One that was to remain with me and give me drive throughout my life was from Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love life? Then squander not time; for that is the stuff of which life is made.”
“It was the days of the great Depression, little work was to be had, so Walt took care of me with the help of my young sister Blanche. Walt washed, ironed, kept house, and even baked bread. Our parents gave us farm produce such as flour, buttermilk, etc. There was pork when a pig was killed. How we loved my mother's good sausage and the scrapple made from the meat on the pig's head.
“My health did not improve, and a year later when I passed out with jaundice, they decided to operate, and I was taken to the Hughes Hospital. My vitality was very low, and I spent the night awake, with the realization that they did not expect me to live. I felt a very sweet peace, as though angels might be near, and I prayed again and again that the Lord would take me unless he could promise me health sufficient to care for my little ones. After the operation, the doctor told me I should be a like a new woman. But the wanted strength was slow to come, and I spent the next several years homebound with considerable illness.
“Bruce was three years old when I finally started back to church. I always selected a back seat, as my hair hung lusterless, my skin was blotched and sallow, my clothes shabby, and I weighed 104 pounds. I felt so inferior I never spoke to anyone until they spoke first. I remember watching my friend Alene give a lesson in Relief Society. She and Laura Kay had graduated from college as teachers. It seemed to me that day that to be able to give such a lovely lesson would be a most wonderful accomplishment. It was something I little dreamed I would ever be able to do.
“I remember the day when one of my brothers took Mama and me to Provo to visit Brother and Sister Keeler with whom my mother had once lived. Mama and Sister Keeler left me alone with my children and Patriarch Keeler. I explained how inadequate I felt because of my lack of education. He looked at me and smiled and said, 'Mother has as fine an education as a lady might desire. She has served diligently in the organizations of the Church, and the Church has educated her.' From that day on hope was born in my heart, and I decided that whatever the Church called on me to do, I would do it. I came home, reread my patriarchal blessing and decided surely I could teach little children again. I knew that through my extreme illness, I had lost my ability to tell or explain things to others, but I also knew I could have the Lord's help. Bolstered with the scripture from 1st Nephi 3:7, 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing he hath commanded them,' I went ahead and assumed many different positions in the Church. Always I was unprepared for the position but accepted on faith, faith that my Father in Heaven wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to, and that with his help, I could extend myself beyond my own natural abilities and succeed.
“Because my health was so poor, I prayed for wisdom and understanding to help myself health-wise, and I was asked to teach the very first nutrition lessons in the Church. Nutrition was just coming into the teachings of the schools. I have been nutrition conscious ever since, and I am sure this was the Lord's way of answering my prayers for health and strength. Now in my seventies, I enjoy more good health and far greater activity than the average woman my age, and I still have not a strong constitution. Along with nutrition, I have learned the great value of calisthenics, walking, and jogging, and so with self-discipline, I have been able to find and maintain good health so far. As I look back on the years of anxiety, worry, and over-work, I realize why I could not manage to gain weight and build physically. My children were grown and my daughters married before plumbing was installed in the home. So much sewing, hundreds of quarts of fruit and vegetables canned without the ordinary conveniences! I often felt if we ever reached the place where the bare necessities could be had without a struggle, I would be the happiest person in the world.
“Christmas was always a trying time. As soon as the children were in school and the September canning completed, I began going over the hand-me-downs from the relatives, and bargain hunting to try and supply my brood with a happy Christmas. When the big day was over, I was usually so tired I had another attack of flu. We were never without food, but I do remember once when Walt was away looking for work, and he had taken what little money we had with him. I found myself so hungry for some protein, I could hardly eat what we had. I took my little ones down to the City Park and sat and watched them play all afternoon. When I returned home, I found groceries on my table and among them was a perfectly beautiful pound of cheese. My mother had paid me a visit.
“ One day when things had been especially difficult, my mother told me that there had to be a turn in the road, and indeed it finally came. After seventeen years of hardships, my husband finally found permanent and satisfying work at the Union Pacific Railroad yards in Provo. Although the work was very strenuous, he loved the repair work on the trains. Gradually and slowly my health began to repair, but through the years I have never been able to indulge in a good cry. To cry always brought back the inward trembling that made me ill and stripped me of my strength. Almost tearless, I have had to lay away my loved ones.
“In the 1950s, we bought a Chevrolet car, and Walt and I enjoyed many nice rides through the fields. For years, we drove every Thursday to the A&W Root Beer stand in Springville and had our supper. We made about five trips by train to West Virginia to see our son-in-law Reed Ewing and the grandchildren. On one trip, we also went to Washington, D.C., and on up to New Jersey to visit my brother Mark. After Bruce's marriage in 1960, we always made one trip a year to Denver. Following my husband's unexpected passing in January of 1972, I had a lovely trip to Niagara Falls and the Church history spots in the East and Midwest. Bruce invited me to join his family for the trips.
“Some of the happiest times of our life were the Santa Claus parties we started to have for our grandchildren in 1958. We had a lovely Christmas dinner, and then Santa came and delivered gifts to all. After he was gone, the grandchildren exchanged gifts. Walt's mother and mine came as long as they lived and enjoyed the fun too. Grandma Larsen laughed and enjoyed 'Old Santa,' as she called him, just like one of the children. When our home became too small for the growing families, we had the party up in Lois Elaine and Dean's home. When they moved to Price we could no longer manage the party.
My children have all been happy in their marriages. Geraldine married Reed Taylor Ewing 31 Jan. 1947 in the Salt Lake Temple. Margaret married Mack Spencer Adams 1 Sep. 1948 in the Salt Lake Temple. Lois Elaine married Dean Lewis Brockbank 26 June 1947 in the Salt Lake Temple. Bruce Gardner married Donna Darlinda Coman 23 Sept. 1960 in the Manti Temple.
“ Geraldine and Reed moved to Bluefield, West Virginia, in June of 1953. They had three children. Geraldine passed away with leukemia October 20, 1953. This was indeed a sad day, but Reed married Mary Elizabeth Montgomery the following year, and she was a loving mother to his little ones. She has always been a very dear daughter-in-law. The children are all fine adults now.
“Margaret and Mack have 10 lovely children. Lois Elaine and Dean have six, and Bruce and Donna have five. My children are all devoted Latter-day Saints. They and my grandchildren are the joy of my life. Whatever hardships Walt and I had to face as we raised our children, we felt they were well worth the effort. They have repaid us over and over again in happiness, for we can be proud of each and every one of them. My son served his country in the Korean War and has fulfilled a mission for his church. Five of my grandsons have fulfilled missions and others are looking forward to the time when they, too, can receive a call.
“My family and my church are my joy and my life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a way of life--and what a glorious one it is! As Patriarch Keeler promised, I have received a fine education by serving my church. As a teacher, the Holy Ghost has no peer, and I am grateful and proud to have been so taught. I have a deep and abiding testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it grows deeper each year of my life. My testimony is my most precious possession. What peace and gratitude I feel to be led and directed by Jesus Christ himself through a living Prophet of God.”
Beulah's autobiography clearly shows what a gentle, loving person she was. Despite poverty, illness, hard work, and many limitations, she became a remarkable kind and wise woman. She was an island of strength and peace in a life that did not foster that with comfort.
In addition to becoming a master teacher despite being denied a formal education, Beulah became an accomplished painter. She was able to take art classes late in her life and, to her great pleasure, developed a latent talent. Among other paintings was a beautiful oil of the Neil Gardner family home that stood on the corner of the street where she was born. She gave it to her brother Mark because he was so openly delighted with it. She said she planned to give it to whomever liked it best. It hung in place of pride over Mark and Ruth's mantel in their living room and was featured it on one of their Christmas cards. It is now cherished by one of their daughters.