Mission Experiences and Testimony of Grandma Lavona Richardson
My mission to Mexico in October 1955 completely changed my life. I have a great love for the Mexican people and their dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was called to the Mexican Mission when there was just one mission in Mexico. Back in those days they didn’t have a MTC or a language training school so I arrived in Mexico not being able to speak any Spanish. My first companion could speak no English so after a couple of quiet days I learned to speak with the Lord’s help just from hearing it. I became completely immersed in Spanish and thought I would forget English because I never heard it spoken.
My first assignment was to serve in Tampico, Mexico, which is on the Golf of Mexico. We were the first missionaries back in the town after the flood and in the home where we lived you could see where the flood had risen up to almost the ceiling. My companion and I worked hard tracting and had lots of investigators. After a few months President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball who were then apostles visited Mexico to divide the mission and created the Northern Mexican Mission. Pres. Kimball came to Tampico for a special conference. We told our investigators that a man with the same authority as Peter, James and John was coming to speak to us so we had the building filled with our investigators. I was surprised when I was called out of the audience to come and bear my testimony with no advance notice. This will always be a special memory for me because the Lord blessed me to be able to express myself and bear testimony in Spanish. Our prayers were answered because President Kimball in his remarks addressed the concerns our investigators had and helped us so much with our missionary work. The next morning I was privileged to be with President Kimball most of the morning to translate for him and my companions as he interviewed them since none of them could speak English.
I served one year of my two-year mission in the Mission home in Monterrey helping to set up a new mission, serving as secretary to my mission president and directing the Relief Society, Primary and Young Women’s organizations in the mission. This was a special time because I was also able to travel with the Presidents and Assistants to open up new areas in Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregon, San Nicholas, etc.
The last six months of my mission I was able to return to full time proselyting and was sent to Aguascalientes. At that time we less than 25 in our branch and met in a home.
One morning as my new companion who had just arrived and spoke hardly any Spanish went tracting we had a special experience. Before we left in our prayers we had asked that we would be blessed in finding someone ready for the Gospel. I was directed to know just what street to tract. My companion who was keeping the tracting record said that we had already tracted in that area but I received the impression of just where we were to go. As we knocked on the door Sister Monjaras came to the door and invited us in saying that she had been waiting for us. We arranged to come back that same evening and teach her and her husband and nine children the missionary discussions in a home evening setting. She later told us that she never missed a morning going to the Catholic Church but that the morning that we knocked on her door she had some doubts about her church and had asked the Lord to help her feel good about her church or show her the church she should go to. She was just finishing her prayer when we knocked on her door. The entire family was baptized soon after I left the mission, which helped the branch grow. I am so grateful that I listened to the promptings of the spirit that day and was able to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing the gospel to this special family. This family now has several generations in the church and lots of great missionaries. I had many such experiences during the two years I served among the Spanish people in Mexico and was able to again use my Spanish in Nauvoo and Carthage where I also had many faith promoting experiences.
I want my children and grandchildren to know that I know that God lives and hears and answers our prayers. I know that Jesus is the Christ and our Savior and Redeemer and that through his Atonement me can again return to live with our Heavenly Father as an eternal forever family if we live worthy. Dear children and grandchildren, you are all remembered in my prayers several times each day that you will be able to withstand temptation and the evil in the world and live the teachings of Jesus Christ. I bear my testimony to you that this is the only way you can find happiness. I pray that each of you will be worthy to fulfill full time missions and be married in the temple and that for your entire life you will strive to build up the kingdom of God wherever you are. I pray that you will surround yourself with good friends and that you will be in tune to hear the promptings of the Spirit in directing His work. I am so grateful for my testimony that Christ’s Church has been restored in these latter days and for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . I am grateful that we can live at a time when the gospel is here in its fullness and temples dot the earth where we can receive the many great blessings that the Lord is anxious to give us. I am grateful that we can all receive personal revelation to guide us in our lives and that we have a living Prophet who lets us know the mind and will of God to us at this time in the world history. I am so grateful for a righteous posterity. Thanks to all of you for the great choices you are making in your life.
Lots of love,
Grandmother Lavona Richardson
July 30, 2008
MY BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCES
I was anxious to attend Brigham Young University with my sisters Nena and Leona. Leona and I had completed three years at Snowflake High and had taken most of the classes offered and all the classes needed to graduate so we decided to graduate from Snowflake High School in three years. We graduated in May 1952. I had my 17th birthday just after we graduated. We were admitted to Brigham Young University and started school there in September 1952. Nena went her first year to ASU in Tempe and transferred to BYU with us.
Daddy just had a high school education and he thought that was good enough for us but he agreed to let us go to BYU if we could support ourselves. I worked at various jobs during my years as a student there. My first job was in the BYU Laundry where I would iron lots of sheets putting them through the big mangle. I also had another job working at the Wymount Cafeteria early in the morning. We fed all the students that lived in the dormitories. Another job was to help with registration and anything else that I could do to earn a few dollars. I worked for a time giving out food samples at the grocery store and sometimes found a job doing housework for someone. I was always looking for more work. Another job I had as a BYU freshman was typing up a manuscript in the Religion department at the Joseph Smith Building for Sydney Sperry. I helped type his book, Paul’s Life and Letterswhich was first published in 1955.
My freshman year I lived with Nena and Leona and six other girls in the basement of the home at 610 North 1st East which was just across the street from the BYU Lower Campus. Some of the girls were much better off financially than we were. One of our roommates would spend rotating her clothes to find new clothes to wear the following week. I remember how amazed I was that someone would have so many clothes. My freshman year I took shorthand and sewing, a Book of Mormon Class and Symphony orchestra. My sewing and shorthand classes were at the lower campus but I had to walk up to the Joseph Smith Building for my Book of Mormon class.
I remember that I enjoyed going to the Matinee dances where I met lots of young men. I never seemed to lack for dates which were different for me because I didn’t date in High School, probably mostly because almost everyone in Snowflake was related to me. I loved meeting lots of young people.
I auditioned and was happy to be accepted into the BYU Symphony Orchestra as a freshman where I played cello. I was usually almost the last chair but it was great being with the group. Our director was Lawrence Sardoni, the brother of Dearwyn Sundwall who later was in our Tempe Fourth Ward. I enjoyed playing in the Symphony Orchestra most of the time while I was at BYU. I was able to be in the Symphony even when I was working full time using my lunch hour for orchestra rehearsal. I remember a BYU orchestra trip that we took to California where I had my first view of the Pacific Ocean. Another great memory of the BYU Symphony orchestra is playing in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake as we accompanied the Tabernacle Choir in their Easter Cantata.
When I first enrolled at BYU we had only one branch called the Campus Branch. I was excited to have a church job in the huge branch. I was one of many School secretaries. My job was to go into the room back of the Joseph Smith Building under the podium and choir benches to record the attendance of our School classes. Among others I remember John Groberg and Newell Richardson were leaders in the ward. I remember them dating their companions that they later married. The wards at BYU were not established until during my mission in 1955-1957. As a freshman at BYU the only buildings on the upper campus was the Maeser Building where we registered, , Heber J. Grant Library which is now a testing center, the Brimhall Building where I had science and the Joseph Smith building where we had our religion classes and our Campus Branch Meetings. This building has now been torn down and a new Joseph Smith building it in its place.
I moved to a different home in Provo every year and sometimes in the middle of the year looking for new roommates and new experiences. One semester Leona and I lived in Heritage Halls so we had the experience of living on campus. Other homes I remember are 343 North 100 East, and 801 North University. I had lots of roommates during my BYU years and learned from each of them.
My sophomore year I was blessed to get a job working as secretary for Jennie Campbell, a professor in the Elementary Education department. She was great to work for and so good to me. When I first started working for her she had an office on the second floor of the BYU Academy which is now the Provo Library. I moved with her up to the new David O. McKay Education building when it was completed. I didn’t have enough money for tuition so I stopped and worked full time for a year before continuing on in my education. When I worked full time for Jennie Campbell I helped assign the student teachers to the various elementary schools and compiled reports from all of them.
I enjoyed being involved in various clubs at BYU. I was a member of Lambda Delta Sigma in the Tau Chapter. I enjoyed the Arizona Club and loved to Square Dance. I liked any kind of dancing and even won a competition for “jitterbugging” because of a good partner. I remember coming out from the Matinee dance holding my cello when a student ran into me and my cello fell to the ground cracking it. He helped me repair it but you can still see where the crack was. One of the activities I was involved in as a BYU Freshman was painting the “Y” up on the mountain. This was the tradition for the BYU Freshman. Someone took my picture handing the buckets of white wash to the next person up the mountain and published it on the back cover of the BYU Alumni magazine. We had devotionals twice a week in the field house.
I was enrolled for another year at BYU when Mother and Daddy came up to conference in October 1955. During the weekend I changed from being a BYU student to being a missionary and entering the Mission Home which was then in Salt Lake to go to the Mexican Mission. I had my interviews with my Bishop and Stake President and was set apart by as general authority as a missionary. I served as a missionary first in the Mexican Mission and later the Northern Mexican Mission for two years returning home in October 1957.
I again enrolled at BYU and worked hard to graduate with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish on August 2, 1958. Ernest L. Wilkinson signed my diploma and was the BYU president during all my years at BYU. I did my student teaching in the second grade at Provost School. I had a great experience and was so excited to be a teacher. I liked my education classes and got A’s in all of them. My hardest class at BYU was Biology because I had no background from High School. Interestingly enough I married a man that loved Biology and Science and majored in it in College.
Travel in those days was not like it is now. I didn’t have anyone come to my BYU graduation. I am sure my parents were happy at my accomplishments but it just wasn’t important to be there at graduation. I remember being alone and asking a friend to take my picture for me in my cap and gown. Maybe this is the reason that it is so important for me to attend the graduations and other events of my children and grandchildren.
I was blessed to be offered a job as a second grade teacher at Edison School in Mesa, Arizona without an interview. I was hired because of my good grades and recommendation from my friends in the BYU School of Education.