The Easter Basket

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?


  1. My first church memory is my father helping me learn How Great the Wisdom and the Love in the old Sherman Oaks Ward in San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles). We moved when I was 4, so this is a *very* early memory. Must have been Jr Sunday School, but I have no other recollection than this song — which I still like very much.

    That’s hardly worthy of posting, but since you mention growing up in Logan, I’ll also give my first church-associated memory from Logan: my father was from Richmond, and when I was little his mother and Aunt lived just a block or so from the Logan Temple. So I remember as a 4- or 5- or 6-year-old roller skating down the sidewalks by that big temple lawn. Thus (unlike Saturday Primary cartoon deprivation) my early association of ‘temple’ with ‘adventure’ !

  2. When I was young, we attended a tiny branch in Minnesota. I remember my mom, as the Primary chorister, teaching us the Primary songs. I particularly remember a heart-shaped puzzle she made to teach us “Where Love Is”. Each piece had a picture on the back representing a different line of the song. Each week we’d add another piece or two. I’m not sure if I was aware at the time, but in addition to being chorister, she was also Primary president and often was the pianist as well. So many Primary songs remind me of my mother b/c she was there teaching us each week.

  3. Latter-day Guy says:

    My first memory was vomiting in church the first time I tried to fast. I’m still not a huge fan.

  4. Left Field says:

    My earliest memory of any kind is actually my brother’s baptism in the early ’60s. I was not yet three. We attended what was then the Madison Branch. I believe that Wisconsin did not yet have a stake, so when we first moved there, all the units were branches of the Northern States Mission. We met in a small building that now houses the Madison Institute of Religion. All I really remember of the baptism is that my brother and father walked down into a hole that opened up in the floor of the church basement. Later, I remember attending Junior Sunday School in the same room and looking at the cracks in the floor where the font was.

    I remember sitting in sacrament meeting, but mostly I remember the long drive. We lived about 45 miles from the church. We lived too far away for us to attend Primary during the week, so when I got old enough for primary, my mother taught me at home using whatever manual they had at the time. I seem to remember that one of the stories in the manual was the story about Thomas Monson shooting the ball at the wrong basket that he has told several times in general conference. I’ll bet Ardis could find that Primary manual and figure out if that story is really there, or if I fabricated the memory.

  5. My earliest memory of the lds church is watching “paint your wagon” with my mom. Or It is when I was a senior in high school and I told my mom I wanted to go to byu hawaii because the tuition was cheap and it was hawaii, and she said the school made people go on a two year pilgramage if you went to school there. My actual first time at church was when I was 20 at philmont scout ranch (where the lds chapel has a nice stain glass window) I went with a girl I was friends with and was asked to give the opening prayer. I explained I was just visiting and did not give the prayer. All I can remember otherwise was the lds chaplain explaining the sacrament and that we sang a song with the word zion in it which I had associated with a bad thing prior to that.

  6. Mine is sitting on a bench singing, Give Said the Little Stream. I remember a big female person sitting next to me. Smiling down occasionally. It’s a warm memory.

  7. StillConfused says:

    My first memory was singing “My Daddy Is My Favorite Pal.” Apparently that was the only song I knew the words to so I belted that one out. I can also remember when we were building the new wardhouse (back when you could do that). I got to pick up nails. I was maybe 5 or 6 then.

  8. I remember a little bit about nursery. Just a few scenes of walking around and playing with toys, and feeling like I was finally the “big kid” in the room.

    (I’ve sometimes questioned whether I could really have memories from that early. But I’m certain that I remember the birth of my brother just before I turned 4. I was only 6 months out of nursery at that time, so it’s not impossible that I could remember a little from nursery too.)

  9. Kevin, thank you for the Easter basket story. It really touched me.

    One of my earliest Church memories was in the Boise (Idaho) Third Ward when I was no older than four. As kids will do, I lay on the old wood pew of the chapel, and stared directly up into the face of an old man who stood to bear his testimony in the row just ahead of our family. It was Scott V. Brown, elder brother of Hugh B. Brown. I can still see his white hair, feel his fervent bearing, and recall vividly his story which I was too young to understand fully. He recounted something about being shot as a young man, the bullet in the neck, blood gurgling in the throat, and hiding beneath some floor boards. Was that his experience, or was he telling a story of his father or someone else? I’m sure of what I heard, but cannot say, from such a young age, exactly what it meant.

  10. When I was six years old, I got up in sacrament meeting to bear my testimony. When I got to the pulpit and looked out at the congregation, I was so petrified that I couldn’t speak. My father had to get up and bear my testimony for me. I haven’t borne my testimony on Fast Sunday since.

  11. I remember listening to a Mormon tape in the car in which a boy comes home from school to find that his mother had died.

  12. I remember the non-traditional chapel in Big Spring, Texas with the font under trap doors in a classroom floor. We drove from Colorado City (40 miles, pre-freeway) for church and some sainted family let us stay at their house for dinner every Sunday for the hours between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. Their youngest was in high school; my oldest brother was 8 and my parents had 6 kids already. I do not say sainted lightly. We moved away from there when I was 4. I have a few very clear memories of the house we lived in in Uvalde before I was 2, but none of the church there.

  13. Mark Brown says:

    Earliest memory of church:

    Although I do not remember misbehaving in sacrament meeting as a very young child, I must have been a handful for my mother. My father sat on the stand, and I remember that he often beckoned to me discreetly to come up and sit on his lap, which I was always very happy to do.

    I also remember a wonderful Primary teacher. I don’t know how old I was, 5 or 6 maybe, but she seemed to me to just radiate love for her students. She was a saint, and I have sometimes wondered how much of my response to the church today is a result of her influence.

  14. I have one fuzzy memory of the days before the coordinated block of meetings that I believe is my first memory of church. This was in Houston and we had been to Church earlier in the day and now it was evening (dark outside) and we were leaving the house to go back, presumably for sacrament meeting.

    I have earlier memories from playtime and preschool and family gatherings but this is the earliest church-related one that I can think of, and it is only peripherally related to church, i.e. the memory is actually at home but the focus was on church.

    I guess after that it’s pretty standard early primary memories in Dallas, sitting in sharing time and singing time, etc., getting disciplined for talking too much and getting taken out and delivered to my parents for misbehavior.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    I remember sitting in the car waiting to go home after evening sunday school.

  16. I remember seeing Brigham Young take on Joseph’s countenance.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    I remember seeing Arthur pushed out on his funeral bier by Bedivere.

  18. How many toes do you have, Stephen?

  19. My earliest memory is a ward picnic and people gathering around as they pitched plastic baseballs to me and I hit them. I was three.

    I know the sister of whom you speak Kevin. I am good frioends with her granddaughter

  20. I remember listening to a Mormon tape in the car in which a boy comes home from school to find that his mother had died.

    I remember this too, but vaguely. What the hell was that?

  21. What a wonderful memory, Kevin. It’s nice that time hasn’t lessened the sweetness of it for you. Thanks for sharing.

    I sometimes wonder if the feelings I’ve felt from other devoted, loving fellow Ward members hasn’t contributed to my staying in the Church. Thank God for the loving people who have appeared in my life at the right time.

  22. Researcher says:

    Regarding number 11 and 20, it was probably another in the series of rather execrable 1970s (?) productions, such as the one where the little boy agrees to give his sister a blood transfusion and he thinks he’s going to die… or the one where the alcoholic uncle has to sober up to take in his orphaned niece and nephews… or the one where … never mind. Those are memories I’d rather not resurrect.

    My earliest church memories have to do with seeing the last rays of sun angling in through the tall chapel windows as sacrament meeting finished with the comfortable communal feeling of the congregation singing “Abide With Me, ‘Tis Eventide” or “Now the Day is Over” or “Til We Meet Again.”

  23. My earliest memory was coming home from fast and testimony meeting and telling my Mom I buried my testimony. The chapel was located on Chicken Hill out in the prairie outside Poplar, Montana. The adults didn’t notice me standing and someone else bore their testimony right over mine, but I was still excited.

  24. 11, 20. I dunno but I think it’s the same people who made ‘Cipher in the Snow’

  25. My earliest memory is of my mom being called to say the closing prayer for sacrament, and for whatever reason (I’m sure it was a very good one) I decided to throw a temper-tantrum as she walked up, so she had to hold me, kicking and screaming while she said the prayer. I was probably around 2 or 3 at the time….

  26. I have three memories of an old-fashioned chapel where we met when I was four, but I don’t know which is earliest:

    1. The bathroom smelled the strangest, most suffocating smell of many years of an unpleasant disinfectant. The smell was clean, but awful.

    2. Junior Sunday School was held in the dark, painted basement. When my older brother’s class was graduated to Senior Sunday School, I remember turning around to watch him march up the ramp at the back leading to the stairs.

    3. It must have been a long, long, long Sacrament Meeting. When the final speaker said “Amen,” I responded with a “Yay!” and applause. My mother was embarrassed, but not mad.

  27. I remember being in the sandbox while my older brother poured sand down my pants or something like that. My mother saw this and, to startle my brother and get his attention, she banged her hand on the glass patio door.

    She put her hand through the window and severely cut up her hand, causing some nerve damage.

    Much of this memory is based on hearing the story through the years. What I remember is that while my mother went to the ER a neighbor took us kids to primary. Mostly I remember a bunch of adults asking me how my mom was, and how I was doing.

    The emotion of the event is much stronger than any of the factual/detail memories. I find that interesting that 30+ years later I still feel the combination of emotions better than anything else.

  28. Re: Ronan’s no. 11. My guess is that the song you were subjected to as a youngster is none other than “I’ll Build You a Rainbow.” (If we’re keeping a list of things that the Church should apologize for, this song has to be at the top of the list.)

    You can see a clip of this atrocity here:

  29. Mine is hearing that the prophet died sometime when I was still in nursery. After that, I have no memories until special primary activities. Thinking back upon my memories, I realize that I deeply love the ward I grew up in. I hope my children will still get to have a ward where people put down roots and nuture everyone.

  30. Uh…….wow!!! What a clip, Hunter!

  31. Mark Brown says:

    I nominate I’ll Build You a Rainbow as the next great sing-a-long hit. I want to send down sunbeams plum-full of love.

    Cynthia, I bet your kids are glad that you’re their friend (but not in a sissy way) and that you don’t spend your time going to fashion shows and bridge clubs.

  32. I too love my mother, but in an entirely sissy way.

  33. Mark Brown says:

    Readers are advised that clicking on gst’s link in # 32 is the equivalent of chugging a gallon of pancake syrup. How cool would it be if this production was the FHE activity for that family?

  34. Hunter,
    Wow. That’s it.

  35. You know the interim time at a baptism? While the person is getting changed? They showed that rainbow video at every baptism I can remember in my home ward. You know, to super-size the Spirit.

  36. We heard that “I’ll Build You a Rainbow” deal in High School Seminary and it became the source of a whole bunch of jokes that lasted for many years.

  37. Good thing I’m no longer ward mission leader–I would be tempted to show the video in #32 in the changing period.

  38. Latter-day Guy says:

    Hunter, gst,

    That was truly horrifying. Way worse than “Uncle Ben” or even “The Mailbox.” My testimony just died a little.

  39. Apologies to Kevin Barney for the “I’ll Build You a Rainbow” threadjack. My bad. Then again, listening to this song as a young boy – and the attendant emotional trauma – is actually one of my earliest church memories, too, so I suppose it’s not entirely off topic.

  40. As the webmaster of where the “I’ll Build you a Rainbow” song is posted, let me say that you’d be amazed at how many emails I get from visitors saying that they have always loved that song. It seems to be particularly popular with people from Latin America. The song has got to be the cheesiest Mormon musical production ever made, but it still has something of a cult following. :)

  41. To echo No. 22, I loved that feeling in the old days when I was just a little kid, when we had sacrament meeting late in the afternoon. The sun would be setting and the songs we sang for the goodbye hymn really meant something. Of course, I would watch the clock while the speaker droned because if we could get back home in time and get our jammies on then we could watch the Wonderful World of Disney.

    “‘Tis Eventide” just doesn’t quite resonate at 11:30 in the morning.

  42. Left Field says:

    Hey! What happened to my filmstrip story that was declared “AWESOME” by Steve Evans?

  43. Steve Evans says:

    it got zapped when we migrated servers. Repost it PLEASE!!

  44. Left Field says:

    But behold, what if it so be that evil men have altered my previous words so that they are contrary to what I caused to be written? Then if I shall write again, they they shall say that I have only pretended to write about glurgy filmstrips, and that I cannot write the same words again. Thus Satan hath stirred up their hearts to evil, that he might overthrow this great work. Behold I say that he shall not accomplish this evil design. Verily, I shall instead write the small plates of glurge, which contain the more spiritual part of rainbows, white ambulances, and not-sissy mothers who have yielded up the ghost.

  45. Left Field says:

    Ok, here’s the small plates version.

    The only previous time I encountered the Rainbow thing was in filmstrip form on my mission about thirty years ago. I had a district leader who absolutely loved the thing. He figured the more you saw it, the better it got. He came up with quite grandiose plans to show the Rainbow Filmstrip along with some other material as part of an elaborate projection system we constructed constructed for two county fairs. Sort of a mini Mormon Pavilion. (We actually got a picture of the thing in the Church News even though it mostly didn’t work very well.)

    I endured dozens, possibly hundreds, of viewings of the Rainbow filmstrip during the fairs and the long lead-up to them.

    One fast Sunday, the district leader came to the small branch where my companion and I served. He convinced the branch president to have the members stay after church to hear a presentation about our plans for the fair, with the hope that they would get fired up and want to help. Despite their hunger, they listened while he droned on and on about the fair and what a great and spiritual missionary opportunity it would be. Finally, he lead up to the great climax. We would be treated to the greatest family message ever to come forth from Salt Lake.

    After the filmstrip, he wiped away a few tears and then launched into the most drawn-out account that has ever been related of Gideon’s army. I’m afraid I have no memory of how he tied that story into his overall theme. After he finally got Gideon’s troops pared down to the faithful few who didn’t drink doggy-style, he announced that for us to be able to experience the full spiritual impact of Jamie and his Rainbow, we would see the filmstrip again.

    The audience, seeing their fast about to go into its fourth overtime, slumped visibly in their seats. My companion (bless his heart) observed that everyone was hungry and just wanted to go home. The somewhat deflated district leader finally dismissed the meeting, leaving us shorn of the spiritual high that no doubt would have accompanied the second showing.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Left Field, your comment was awesome again despite my Martin Harris-ing of it.

  47. Awesome.

  48. Mark Brown says:

    I testify that the small plates of glurge are true.

  49. Kevin,

    Where might I be able to send you a question via email completely off this subject?

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    Pemble, you may write me at klbarney at yahoo dot com.