When President Thomas S. Monson learned that he was to address members of the Presidents Club of Beneficial Life Insurance Co. at a convention at Grand Targhee in Wyoming on July 8, his thoughts turned to relatives in nearby Driggs, Idaho. It had been some 64 years since he had visited there.
President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances, attended the convention in Grand Targhee, where, at a banquet Saturday evening, he spoke of the Savior. Focusing on the Savior's sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes, President Monson quoted from the fifth chapter of Matthew:"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
"And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matt. 5:1-6.)
President Monson then added five more "beatitudes" for today's living, gleaned from the scriptures:
- "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Tim. 4:12.)
- "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." (1 Pet. 3:15.)
- "Be believing, and all things shall work together for your good." (D&C 90:24.)
- "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." (D&C 112:10.)
- "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48.)
President Monson also gave some advice: "Don't waste your life searching for it. `Live only for tomorrow, and you will have a lot of empty yesterdays today.' "
Among those attending the Beneficial Life Insurance Co. convention at Grand Targhee were Presiding Bishop Merrill J. Bateman and his counselors, H. David Burton and Richard C. Edgely.
Grand Targhee is 12 miles east of Driggs, Idaho, on the western slope of Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming. On Sunday morning, July 9, President and Sister Monson went to Driggs, where about 80 of his cousins were among the 1,019 people who met in a combined sacrament meeting of the Driggs 1st, 2nd and 3rd wards.
President Monson addressed the sacrament meeting, reminiscing for a few minutes about his only boyhood visit to his relatives' farm and recalling highlights from his relatives' role as "modern-day pioneers" in the area.
President Monson told the Church News that his grandmother, Maria Mace Monson, was a sister of Mary Ann Mace Waddell, who settled in the Driggs area with her husband, David Lambert Waddell, in the early 1900s. "Our family visited there when I was about 3 years old, on our way home from Yellowstone," President Monson said. "I looked in a family album and found pictures of me on a horse at the Waddells' farm." Other photos in the album show all except the two eldest Waddell children, who had married and moved away at the time President Monson's family visited.
"I had never been back to Driggs," President Monson told the Church News. As he was making plans to go to the insurance company's convention, he got in touch with Driggs Idaho Stake Pres. John A. McKellar and Driggs 3rd Ward Bishop Kenneth P. Price. Pres. McKellar, upon learning that President Monson had many relatives in the area, suggested combining the three wards in Driggs into one meeting so everyone could attend.
Family members calculate there are 692 direct descendants of David and Mary Ann Waddell, who had 11 children. The only two surviving children, Alice Mace Waddell Larsen, whose late husband was Clarence K. Larsen of Driggs, and Helen Mace Waddell Ingles, who is married to John Earl Ingles of Bountiful, Utah, attended the sacrament meeting.
"For me, the highlight of the meeting was feeling the strength that comes from revisiting your family roots and to note the product, if you please, in the posterity of faithful parents and grandparents," President Monson said. "They were really the salt of the earth. Many of their abundant posterity were there to meet their cousin from Salt Lake City."
In his sacrament meeting message, President Monson counseled the youth relative to missionary service, and gave them specific advice on how best to prepare for their missions. His comments to the youth touched upon such topics as gospel scholarship, getting along with others and keeping the commandments. As he counseled all members to keep the commandments, he quoted John 14:21: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me."
For many of the Waddell descendants, the sacrament meeting was the first time they had met "their cousin from Salt Lake City."
Sister Ingles told the Church News that she remembers the visit President Monson made with his parents, G. Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson, to her family's farm. "His grandmother was my mother's sister; that makes us cousins," she said. "My parents would visit Salt Lake City about twice a year and see all our relatives. I remember President Monson's father and mother very well. His father had a quiet nobility - you knew he was a great man. He was very nice, extremely courteous and very kind. His mother was a bundle of energy, and was such a fun person. I was living with President Monson's aunt (Jean Bangerter) when he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve. I remember the day very well; I was working in a bank when Tom's aunt came in to tell me the news. We were excited, and so pleased."
Rosalie Waddell Kaufman and her sisters, Janice Waddell Wilson and Caryl Waddell Hadley, sang a medley of hymns during the sacrament meeting President and Sister Monson attended in Driggs. They were accompanied by their mother, LaRena Waddell, who will soon be 85.
"We grew up knowing about our cousin in Salt Lake City," Sister Kaufman said. "Our parents lived there for a while, and served in the temple. Daddy would mention seeing President Monson at the temple or speaking with him at one time or another. Our brother, Dix, also spent time in Salt Lake City. He has known President Monson over the years, but Sunday was the first time I've met him personally. I know a lot of other family members had never met him in person. It was a thrill to have him come visit us.
"We've all had a lot of respect for him, and we feel it is an honor to claim him as a cousin."
Driggs Idaho Stake Pres. John McKellar referred to the day President and Sister Monson visited as "a banner day" for the stake. "We have a rich history of LDS tradition here, and this visit certainly will be one of the things that will be underlined in everyone's memory," Pres. McKellar said. "People will talk about this day for a long time to come."
Bishop Kenneth P. Price said: "Many members commented on what a wonderful meeting it was. There was such a wonderful feeling of the Spirit of the Lord being there. The other two bishops - Mark L. Wade of the Driggs 1st Ward and Robert W. Crandall of the Driggs 2nd Ward - and I divided up responsibilities for the meeting. I had the great opportunity to conduct the meeting.
"When I looked over and saw President and Sister Monson enter the chapel, tears came to my eyes. President Monson became a General Authority in 1963, the year I was baptized at age 8. I have admired him ever since I've been a member of the Church. It was a dream come true to be able to meet him.
"When I looked at Sister Monson, I felt the tears welling up again as I thought of all the years of service she has rendered in helping build up the Church, all the sacrifice she has made to allow her husband to serve as he has been called to serve. I felt this outpouring of gratitude for this wonderful woman who has taken care of the homefront for so many years, this noble wife who has stood by her husband's side.
"We'll never forget July 9, 1995. One member told me that she had never felt the Spirit permeate the whole room as it did when President Monson spoke. After the meeting, the whole crowd wanted to shake hands with President Monson. I don't know of anyone who wanted to shake his hand who didn't get that chance."