(I have been a little slothful in maintaining this thread of posts. Here is the first in the repentance effort.)
When Teresa and I moved to Utah back in the early 80’s, we were a little worried about the reception we would receive. Both of us were small-town grown and not familiar with what life would be like in the ‘heart of Mormondom.’ Our experiences in California and Arizona had given us an expectation that we worried might not be found in such a Mormon-centric environment.
Our first Sunday in Utah found us attending a small ward in the heart of the new community of West Valley City (The city had recently been incorporated but the homes were from the 50’s and 60’s construction booms). The congregation was small, by our expected standards, and we wondered if there was some event that took the members away for the Sabbath. We soon discovered that we had a Utah anomaly on our hands – a ward that was small and in need of new membership (not much has changed in the last 30 yrs.).
At one of the early meetings we attended (I don’t remember if it was the first week or sometime after) a distinguished couple came forward to shake our hands. They both spoke in distinctively British accents and politely inquired about our status regarding family, work, church experience, and all the other attending phases of life. They were delightful and introduced themselves and Bertram and Victoria Merrell. We did not know it at the time, but this wonderful couple was about to have a great influence on the lives of two young people in the beginning stages of marriage.
Over the years, we have enjoyed many experiences with the Merrell’s and have often considered them as one might an older brother and sister. Their children were somewhat older than ours and we watched their experiences, counting them as a benchmark to peek into the future as our young family grew up. There were innumerable ups and downs for our friends and we constantly felt of the despair and joy they had in the challenges of family life. And through it all, we witnessed something that has given us confidence in our own efforts to make and keep an eternal family.
Through the whole of their experiences, Bertram and Victoria have always been completely faithful to each other, their precious children, and the God of Heaven who guides them in their search for happiness. Their example of peace in the face of great disappointment and sorrow has etched in our hearts a desire to be less judgmental toward the ‘failings’ of others. In all the years we have been friends, it has become clear to me that the Merrell’s have accepted the charge to become more like the Savior in the way they treat God’s children.
They are true disciples of Christ.
Now that many years have passed, life for the Merrell’s has changed. Their children are grown and have kindly supplied them with a bevy of grandchildren. Age has taken away many of the things they love to do but there is still that air of confidence that comes when the future holds no fear. Bertram is struggling a little and Victoria bears much more of the burden that used to be shared equally. But they do not complain. They are happy in the face of their changing circumstance. And they are (and I believe always will be) faithful to the same God they have worshiped since their conversion to the Gospel of Christ.
These are our friends. We love them for the road they blaze as we follow along their path. We are much better people because of the example they have given. And we will always be grateful for the encouragement, confidence, and love they have offered in the years of our friendship. We couldn't ask for better guides through the experiences of mortal life.
The Merrell’s truly are GOOD PEOPLE.