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15 Unexpected Stories from General Conference


Pulling Teeth for Charity

A. Theodore Tuttle, "Service Saves," October 1977

What a sweet and humorous example these children are of sacrificing all they can to help others.

The last time I spoke from this pulpit I explained a special need to help local missionaries from some of the missions in South America. In most of these countries the annual income averages less than 10 percent of what it is here. I explained that these young people had already sacrificed much, and that they would need additional financial help from those of us who could easily share. I didn’t really appeal for funds. I outlined a need.

This is my first opportunity to express thanks to so many for helping these missionaries—even without being asked! . . .

A mother wrote, “After October conference, in family council, we decided to earn some money not to spend it for Christmas, but to send it to missionaries. The boys, ages five and six, gathered cans for refunds, stacked wood, raked leaves, vacuumed the car, and swept the garage. Two-year-old Becky stacked wood and set the table. Mom gave piano lessons. Daddy cracked his piggy bank of eight years. One boy lost a tooth, and Daddy paid him a quarter for it. He promptly loosened and removed two more for an additional fifty cents! We are sending our total earnings ($81.85). It’s been a pleasure.”

The shortest letter read, “Per your instructions last general conference. Sincerely. …”

Aside from some concern about possible toothless youngsters, I commend you all. Thank you, brothers and sisters.

One Little Match

Thomas S. Monson, "Obedience Brings Blessings," April 2013

I wouldn't have expected the prophet to confess over the pulpit to a felony committed years ago. I love President Monson's candor and sense of humor.

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When I was growing up, each summer from early July until early September, my family stayed at our cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon in Utah.

One of my best friends during those carefree days in the canyon was Danny Larsen, whose family also owned a cabin at Vivian Park. Each day he and I roamed this boy’s paradise, fishing in the stream and the river, collecting rocks and other treasures, hiking, climbing, and simply enjoying each minute of each hour of each day.

One morning Danny and I decided we wanted to have a campfire that evening with all our canyon friends. We just needed to clear an area in a nearby field where we could all gather. The June grass which covered the field had become dry and prickly, making the field unsuitable for our purposes. We began to pull at the tall grass, planning to clear a large, circular area. We tugged and yanked with all our might, but all we could get were small handfuls of the stubborn weeds. We knew this task would take the entire day, and already our energy and enthusiasm were waning.

And then what I thought was the perfect solution came into my eight-year-old mind. I said to Danny, “All we need is to set these weeds on fire. We’ll just burn a circle in the weeds!” He readily agreed, and I ran to our cabin to get a few matches.

Lest any of you think that at the tender age of eight we were permitted to use matches, I want to make it clear that both Danny and I were forbidden to use them without adult supervision. Both of us had been warned repeatedly of the dangers of fire. However, I knew where my family kept the matches, and we needed to clear that field. Without so much as a second thought, I ran to our cabin and grabbed a few matchsticks, making certain no one was watching. I hid them quickly in one of my pockets.

Back to Danny I ran, excited that in my pocket I had the solution to our problem. I recall thinking that the fire would burn only as far as we wanted and then would somehow magically extinguish itself.

I struck a match on a rock and set the parched June grass ablaze. It ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline. At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own. We panicked as we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. The menacing flames began to follow the wild grass up the mountainside, endangering the pine trees and everything else in their path.

Finally we had no option but to run for help. Soon all available men and women at Vivian Park were dashing back and forth with wet burlap bags, beating at the flames in an attempt to extinguish them. After several hours the last remaining embers were smothered. The ages-old pine trees had been saved, as were the homes the flames would eventually have reached.

Danny and I learned several difficult but important lessons that day—not the least of which was the importance of obedience.

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Get your own copy of this story in this beautifully illustrated children's book, One Little Match.

Burning Trucks

W. Craig Zwick, "What Are You Thinking?" April 2014

It's always good to remember to temper our words and to use the limitless power of language and communication to build rather than to demean.

Forty-one years ago I climbed into the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel semi truck with my beautiful wife, Jan, and our infant son, Scotty. We were taking a heavy load of construction materials across several states.

In those days there were no seat-belt restrictions or infant car seats. My wife held our precious son in her arms. Her comment “We sure are high off the ground” should have given me a clue about her feelings of apprehension.

As we made our descent over historic Donner Pass, a steep section of highway, the cab of the semi suddenly and unexpectedly filled with thick smoke. It was difficult to see, and we could hardly breathe.

With a heavy rig, brakes alone are not enough to rapidly decrease speed. Using the engine brakes and gearing down, I frantically attempted to stop.

Just as I was pulling to the side of the road, but before we had come to a full stop, my wife opened the door of the cab and jumped out with our baby in her arms. I watched helplessly as they tumbled in the dirt.

As soon as I had the semi stopped, I bolted from the smoking cab. With adrenaline pumping, I ran through the rocks and weeds and held them in my arms. Jan’s forearms and elbows were battered and bleeding, but thankfully she and our son were both breathing. I just held them close as the dust settled there on the side of the highway.

As my heartbeat normalized and I caught my breath, I blurted out, “What in the world were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed!”

She looked back at me, with tears running down her smoke-smudged cheeks, and said something that pierced my heart and still rings in my ears: “I was just trying to save our son.”

I realized in that moment she thought the engine was on fire, fearing the truck would explode and we would die. I, however, knew it was an electrical failure—hazardous but not fatal. I looked at my precious wife, softly rubbing the head of our infant son, and wondered what kind of woman would do something so courageous.