Friday, August 12, 2011

Helen Keller and President Heber J. Grant ~ A Sweet Story by Emma Lou Thayne

This story caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Emma Lou Thayne was my husband's College English teacher. He has remarked to me on more than one occasion how much he treasured having her as his English teacher. She was such an inspiration to him.
We have a 8 year old blind granddaugher who is an inspiration to us. She has come a long way in her blind world; and we are grateful to have her as our granddaughter. She plays the piano by ear and we love it when she plays for us.

Emma Lou Thayne
The following is a vey sweet story out of the book, "A Place Of Knowing" by Emma Lou Thayne.
Many years into my adulthood, when asked by a Jewish poet friend why I stay in my Mormonism, I explained it with a story, the details recounted by my mother. It is my mother’s story transposed into an allegory about my believing.
When I was a little girl, my father took me to hear Helen Keller in the Tabernacle. I must have been about eight or nine and I’d read about Helen Keller in school, and my mother had told me her story.

Helen Keller
I remember sitting in the balcony at the back of that huge domed building that was supposed to have the best acoustics in the world. Helen—everybody called her that—walked in from behind a curtain under the choir seats with her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen spoke at the pulpit—without a microphone—but we could hear perfectly, her guttural, slow, heavily pronounced speech. She spoke about her life and her beliefs. Her eyes were closed and when it came time for questions from the audience, she put her fingers on her teacher’s lips and then repeated for us what the question had been. She answered questions about being deaf and blind and learning to read and to type and, of course, to talk. Hearing that voice making words was like hearing words for the first time, as if language had only come into being—into my being at least—that moment.
Someone asked her, “Do you feel colors?”
I’ll never forget her answer, the exact sound of it—“Some-times
. .. . I feel . . . blue.” Her voice went up slightly at the end, which meant she was smiling. The audience didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
After quite a lot of questions, she said, “I would . . .. like to ask . . . a fa-vor of you.” Of course, the audience was all alert. “Is your Mormon prophet here?” she asked. There was a flurry of getting up from the front row, and President Grant walked up the stairs to the stand. She reached out her hand and he took it. All I could think was, “Oh, I wish I were taking pictures of that.”

President Heber J. Grant
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“I . . . would like . . . ,” she said, “to hear your organ . . . play .. . your fa-mous song—about your pio-neers. I . . . would like . . . to re-mem-ber hear-ing it here.” All the time she was speaking she was holding his hand he had given her to shake. I liked them together, very much. I remember thinking, “I am only a little girl (probably others know) but how in the world will she hear the organ?” But she turned toward President Grant and he motioned to Alexander Schreiner, the Tabernacle organist who was sitting near the loft. At the same time, President Grant led her up a few steps to the back of the enormous organ—with its five manuals and eight thousand pipes. We were all spellbound. He placed her hand on the grained oak of the console, and she stood all alone facing us in her long, black velvet dress with her right arm extended, leaning slightly forward and touching the organ, with her head bowed.
Brother Schreiner played “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” each verse a different arrangement, the organ pealing and throbbing—the bass pedals like foghorns—as only he could make happen. Helen Keller stood there—hearing through her hand and sobbing.
Probably a lot more than just me—probably lots of us in the audience were mouthing the words to ourselves—
“Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. / Our God will never us forsake; / And soon we’ll have this tale to tell— / All is well! / All is well!” I could see my great-grandparents, converts from England, Wales, France, and Denmark, in that circle of their covered wagons, singing over their fires in the cold nights crossing the plains. Three of them had babies die; my great-grandmother was buried in Wyoming.
“And should we die before our journey’s through, / Happy day! / All is well! / We then are free from toil and sorrow, too; / With the just we shall dwell! / But
if our lives are spared again / To see the Saints their rest obtain, / Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell— / All is well! / All is well!”
So then—that tabernacle, that singing, my ancestors welling in me, my father beside me, that magnificent woman, all combined with the organ and the man who played it and the man who had led her to it—whatever passed between the organ and her passed on to me.
I believed. I believed it all—the seeing without seeing, the hearing without hearing, the going by feel toward something holy, something that could make her cry, something that could move me, alter me, something as unexplainable as a vision or a mystic connection, something entering the pulse of a little girl, something that no matter what would never go away. What it had to do with Joseph Smith or his vision or his gospel I never would really understand—all I know to this day is that I believe.
Emma Lou Thayne wrote Hymn # 129," Where Can I Turn for Peace ..."

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

 Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

 He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

My Blog Update:
I have been invited to have my blog Living Waters link added to the following Christian Devotional page which features the various blogs that have joined together with Devotional Christian to promote God-focused blogging that encourages other Christians in their daily walk with God. I am excited to have my blog included.
Here is a great site for good Christian resources and ideas for a Ministry for Children: 
http://ministry-for-children-com/  This site has great articles to help in raising children.  

I have moved my Inner City Mission Journal Moments to a new blog site which you can get to by clicking the button at the top of my side bar. We are enjoying our mission very much and I thought that when we complete this assignment I would want to have my journal published for our family. Thanks to all of you who visit my blogs. I have gainned many friends in the blogging world and I love reading all of your posts and I consider you very dear friends.
Keep on enjoying those moments!


singing/granny said...

What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! I have always been amazed at the story of Helen Keller. But I had never heard that she had any experiences with church leaders...or church hymns! I hope you don't mind me passing that story on. Blessings to you! Melody

Sue said...

Thanks for sharing that story, and you wrote it so beautifully that i felt like I was there.

It had to be one of those never-to-be-forgotten, purely inspirational life experiences.


Patty Ann said...

Oh, I love this story. It is beautiful. She is one of my very favorite people and I admire and look up to her so much. I like to think that she has accepted the gospel in her next life. What a beautiful story.

Mom of 12 said...

That is so exciting for you! How did you get involved in that link up?

Grammy Staffy said...

Thank you dear LeAnn for your testimony and for this inspirational post. I had never heard this story about Helen Keller. It touches my heart as well as yours. I called my hubby in so I could read it to him.

thank you also for the link to the Christian devotional page. I am sure that adding your blog to that site will be an asset. Your posts always inspire me.

I am so glad that our paths have crossed in blogland. I know that we would be dear friends if we could meet in real life. Your goodness, your strength, your love of God, family and your fellowmen, your willingness to serve on your mission, your testimony and your sweet nature shine brightly though your blog. You take the scripture..."Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" ... to heart.

Thank you for "shining" for all of us. Thank you for touching my life and letting me be your blog friend. I hope one day that we can meet in person. Hugs, Lura

The Adventurer said...

Leann I was tearful reading this story. Helen Keller is such a hero in my eyes, truly. You painted such a wonderful picture that I honestly felt like I was there with you on that balcony. It must have been the most moving of experiences so glad you got to see it (wish I had with you)

AlisonH said...

He was my great grandfather, and my son has played that organ. I know just how much volume it can produce in that room, especially at the console. Wow. Thank you for a story and a connection I had no idea existed.

Lynn said...

Thank you for what has turned out to be our FHE lesson tonight. Alison H is my dear friend, and I found your post from a link in hers.


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