The other day I was trying to think of what my very earliest memories involving church were. I was born in Logan and lived there until I was five. I have a few memories of Logan (watching Superman and Mighty Mouse on our old black and white Zenith; my father cannibalizing the old barn out back for firewood; occasionally being able to get one of those packs of white powdered mini-doughnuts at the day-old bakery down the street), but none of them relates to church.
When I was six we lived in Greeley, Colorado. I have a few, very vague memories involving church there. I think I can remember taking the sacrament in junior sunday school. And my main church memory was of this girl (I think her name was Marilyn) who always sat in front of me and had beautiful long, straight brown hair. I of course had a crush on her. She was an angelic vision of loveliness with that hair of hers.
In the Spring of 1965 my family moved to DeKalb, Illinois, where I would grow up. It would still be a few months before I turned seven. And it was there that I experienced my first really substantive memory involving church.
Back in those days, we didn’t hold Primary on Sundays, but on some other day of the week. I think that the practice at the time, which may have been local, was to hold Primary on Saturday mornings. (I remember lamenting that schedule, since it interfered with Saturday morning cartoons.)
The very first time I attended Primary in my new ward, it was Easter time. The class was very small; there were maybe two or three other boys roughly my age.
What made a life-long, profound impression on me is that the teacher had made Easter baskets for each of us. There was one there for me, with my name on it. To my six-year old mind, this was a miracle. This woman had never met me before; she didn’t know me from Adam. And yet here was a lovely Easter basket, with that fake plastic grass and a chocolate bunny and eggs and jelly beans and whatever else you would expect in such an offering.
I can’t tell you what a huge impression that Easter basket made on me. To receive such a gift on my first day at Primary was beyond what I could have imagined. I have remembered and appreciated that Easter basket my entire life.
I would soon learn that my Primary teacher was Christ-like Love incarnate. She loved me as if I were her own son. But she loved everyone that way. She’s still alive and sharp, well into her nineties, and she still greets people with a hug and a kiss. (Anyone who spent time in northern Illinois back then will know immediately of whom I speak; she and her husband were the rock of the church in that corner of the vineyard at that time.)
Eventually I would come to appreciate the way she loved others as an abstraction. But what made the most powerful impression on my six-year old little boy brain was that Easter basket, a totally unexpected gift that I have remembered with fondness for my entire life, almost a half-century later.
What are your earliest memories involving the Church?