(The conversion story of Emmajean Clarine, told via letter to her son Joel, Clarine, shard with us by her ganddaughter Brenna Clarine. Keeping up?)
As I have been thinking of ways to put into words our story of joining the church, I only hope it will be meaningful to you.
Looking back for many years before we joined the church I think of three things that happened concerning the church. 1) When I was about 12 years old my mother, dad, and I traveled through Salt Lake City. We did not tour the temple area. I don’t even know if they were doing tours at the time. However, I remember looking at the temple through the large gates and telling my mother that someday I would go in there. She then told me that would not be possible as not even all Mormons could go in there, but I did insist that someday I would go into that temple. We did on a spring day in 1968. This was a great day for our family and a step that has had a great impact on all of us, and for the good of all. 2) When David was about three or so and Steve younger, they and I were visiting two of my friends in Cohasset, just a few miles from where we lived in Grand Rapids. The subject of the Mormon faith came up and various parts of their beliefs and of course the subject of plural marriage came up, and for some reason, I found myself defending every part of the religion that was brought up and feeling good about it.
These stories are not shared openly because many times people do not believe them or at times it is just best to have your own memories. The third story I will share later on in this writing.
As I grew up, I was raised a Lutheran, and at the times, when I was in school in Grand Rapids, I did express a desire to go to the Catholic church, as the majority of my friends went there. My parents were very nice about it and said when I got older I could make that choice but as you know, I never did do that. Just before my junior year of high school, we moved from Grand Rapids to Pillager. My mother always says the only good thing for our family that happened in Pillager was my meeting your dad. While we lived there, I was active in the Lutheran church and had friends that went to the Assembly of God church, so I knew some of their teachings also. When I moved to Minneapolis to go to school, I guess I just got out of the habit, which is not a very good idea. When we would go back for weekends I would go to church. Because of my dad’s work, they left Pillager, and when I was out of school I went to work for him in Maine. Your dad came out there and we were married in the Methodist church.
Now as you can see, there was a lot of exposure to many different faiths already, but on dad’s side there were also other religions. Joe was a member of the Assembly of God, Chet and Dad Clarine never went to church but Millie was a Baptist, and Jack and Lorraine were married in the Baptist church. Geri turned to the Jewish faith, Mary was Catholic, Elaine married a Catholic but did not believe their teachings, and Lorrayne was a Presbyterian. Of all of these, I guess your dad preferred the Presbyterian faith but was not active in it.
We both knew there was a god, don’t get me wrong on that score, and knew a lot about the teachings of the Bible. In fact, I can also remember arguing with my parents when I first read the Bible and it said let Us make man in Our image – logic – we look like God and He had to be talking to someone. That was put to rest, but never ever answered to my satisfaction.
When David was born, it really bothered me that he was not baptized (something else we discussed at the home in Cohasset and at the time I said no just God would banish a baby from heaven simply because of their parents neglect to do what is right), but being raised a Lutheran I still felt it should be done. We lived in Brainerd, moved to Ashland, WI., then to Grand Rapids, and then to Mountain Iron, MN. We had never been active in a church and your dad sure wouldn’t go to the Lutheran church, so in Mt. Iron I started going to the Presbyterian church and was in Ladies Aid and such, didn’t really require any sacrifice, there was always coffee at our meetings during the week and plenty of ash trays. After Dan was born, all the boys were baptized and I must say, at the time, it did make me feel better.
We moved to Brainerd in 1963 during Easter break. It was a lot of fun starting a business and having two new babies that winter. I really don’t remember when the missionaries first started coming. I only wish some how I could ask their forgiveness as we would tell them they could come over at a set time and we would not be there, usually we would be nice enough to leave a note anyway.
We moved to Baxter and they did not come back, guess they just either gave up (which is probably what I would have done) or did not have a way to come out there. My parents were living in Salt Lake City and Mother had not been well and on occasion she had a cleaning lady. Well, it seems this cleaning lady had a son on a mission and would you believe it, of all the places in the world he could be serving, he was in Brainerd. His mother sent him our name and my mother wrote to tell us he would be coming out to see us. So what could we do, mother was having this young man come out, we had to be nice to him and it was so easy to be nice, they were such great young men. And as you know, this year is the first Christmas we have not talked to each other since that time and that is because we are now on our mission. We were able to visit with D. Mudraw and his mother before leaving Utah. We also got to see his wife and it was great. They had Paul over several times while he was on his mission also.
Backing up just a little it was kind of strange when we did live in Brainerd as Jack & Lorraine had the missionaries over so many times and Lorraine used to do some of their laundry for them. But when they moved out where they are now they got involved in the church in Nisswa.
Those two young men would come out often and had many great lessons to teach us. To be honest with you, I don’t remember a great deal of the actual lessons but they used a flannel board to show stories on, and some where in the back of my mind I kept hearing this voice say, “ You have seen these stories before”, and that really bothered me because I knew we had never had the missionaries show us anything like that before, but still I had this feeling that this was not new to me. 3) It was a long time before I was to remember the stories and it was my mother who helped me. When I was young, during World War II, my dad had gone to work on defense work (meaning work at Army bases and such in the construction of any type buildings they wanted done). Anyway, at one time, and I remember the places we lived and such as I was not that young, we lived next door to one of the men who worked for my dad. They were very nice people, an older couple (at least old to me at the time) and as the thoughts began to surface, I can remember her showing me those same stories with cut outs and placing them on the flannel board as she would tell stories to me. After we joined the church, I wrote her and still have the letter she sent us back. She and mother had kept in touch through Christmas cards so I knew where she was. In fact, when we made our trip to Arizona and up to Utah, you remember the one I am sure, when Gina lived with us. Anyway, on our way to Utah we stayed overnight in St. George and Dad, grandma and I went to visit with her. She was in her 90’s then and still going to the temple at least three times a week. She has since passed away.
I kept getting off on these little side trips of mine so please be patient, one of the signs of getting old.
The missionaries worked with us for a long time, well over a year before we ever went to church. They were out to our home at least once a week and sometimes more. What they were telling us answered a lot of questions but surly did not agree in any way with anything I had ever been taught. In many ways, I feel that at the time it was just hard to admit that what and how I had worshipped all my life was really not the way God had intended it to be. I was raised a Lutheran and baptized and confirmed in that faith and even though I did not agree with a lot of the teachings, giving into such a complete change did not seem that easy. Satan was there also with his little prompting and there were many people who gave both of us advice not to join the church. Some said it would be very bad for our business, some used examples of plural marriage, still others said we would lose many of our friends, we were told the life style was too strict, we were also told that Mormons did not believe in the Bible at all. I was to find out later that it was said we sold all our Bibles for five cents each as soon as we joined the church.
There were several reasons of our own that were a hang up also: coffee, smoking, drinking. All three were part of our way of life; coffee and especially smoking were what I had a problem thinking of living without. Still, they (the missionaries) kept on coming back and teaching and visiting and setting the example of brotherly love. Questions, we did not know anyone who was a Mormon except George Evans, Sr. thru him owning the Hub café, we would have to live a different life style, and we would have to pay tithing, attend meetings, which we had not been doing. It seemed Sunday was a real good day to sleep in. The question of being able to afford to pay tithing was brought up to the Elders. They put it very plain, no smoking or drinking, that savings will more than pay your tithing! Simple answer!!
We liked to go out, our family was not neglected because of it, and the people we knew also liked to either go out or just get together on occasion. You know the funny thing about this part is that after we joined the church, and did not drink or smoke, it never bothered us to be around people who did but it bothered them somewhat that we had made the commitment and were sticking to it. Fritz has always been a good friend, and one who would always stand beside his friends. And of course all of the others found out we were not going to hell.
In all honesty, I must say the very best point the missionaries kept bringing up was the family and how important it is and how much the church taught and thought about families being close. I did not need to be taught how to love my children, they have always been the most important thing in my life, even as many errors as I made as a parent, I can honestly say I don’t know of anyone who loved their children more than I love all my sons.
Finally these young men talked us into going to church. I will never forget that day!! It was testimony day and I doubt if there ever was a day that there were more tears in that Crosby chapel. I remember setting in the back row, Dave, Steve and myself. People were friendly but we sure were not used to the noise. There was no carpet over there then or any platform up front and those metal chairs, so every time someone breathed it made a noise. There was a little girl pushing a chair up and down the isle also that day, cute little blond, it was Michelle French. Anyway, friendly people or not, when we got home all three of us said once was enough. I said they do more crying and carrying on than the “Holy Roller” ever thought of. It may sound strange but that day is really clear in my mind. Dad had stayed home with the three other boys and had lunch ready when we got home. For sure, once was enough!! Again those clean-cut young men came back, how sweet they were. Had I been them I most likely would have said, “well, we tried”. But they never gave up. George and Della Evans done some fellowshipping with us. The first Peter Sellers movie we ever saw (Pink Panther), they took us to, and then over to the café for steak dinner. It was closed for the day, so we had the whole place to ourselves. They were very nice and always nice when ever we came into the café. Dad ate there at least once a day for a very long time, I think until George died.
Well, getting on with the story, I think it was a couple of weeks later dad decided to go and the service was normal, noise abounding, but normal. Then the next Sunday I went and we took turns going and the other one staying home with part of the kids. We did this only for a short time then we all went to sacrament.
Your dad was in the hospital for 22 days somewhere along [this time] and done a lot of reading and the missionaries came to visit him a lot. He was too sick to get out of bed so they had a captive audience of one. He will always give that stay in the hospital a lot of credit for his conversion.
Now we had learned the names and faces of a lot of the people (full house was about 30 members) and knew a little more about the church, had been taking the whole family with us. It was time to move left or right, no more balancing on the middle!! It would involve changing friends, there were a lot in the world but just some friendly faces at church, changing a way of life to one that we were always reminded was an extreme and a very difficult way to live and a commitment to another faith. I will admit it was not as easy for me but I will not take all the credit for us taking so long. Yet, I guess I should. I really had to know that it was the right thing, not only for me, but for my children, also.
Make the decision, once and for all – move it or lose it!! We had the parade of young men coming to visit, they were always clean cut, kind and very respectful and the type of young men that any parent would want their children to look up to and an example to follow.
The decision was made, the date was set and on April 15, 1966 your dad, myself, Dave and Steve were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Next month that will be 23 years ago.
It has been a decision we have never been sorry for making. I truly feel it has made us all better people. I know that we did not always do the right things we should have done and many times we have needed a nudge from you boys to put us in the right direction.
The little chapel over in Crosby was too small as the branch grew but you know, there are so many happy memories that have come to my mind while writing these thoughts down, we all grew up there. There were a lot of jobs to be done and everyone was needed. I think I could write a book about all the trips we used to make over there every week; R.S. Tuesday, YM-YW Wednesday, Primary on Thursday after school, and as soon as we joined, we started driving two cars on Sunday as dad had a calling the following Sunday, also the dinners, the parties, the happy and sad things that happened there, but that is another story.
Joel, I hope this will be of worth to you, when you get home and we can talk about it. I am sure there will be new things to add, things that have slipped my mind as I write this.
May God always bless you and may you always find comfort and strength in the church and the scriptures. Thank you for being my son.
Love, Mom (Emmajean)