This past Sunday I spent several enjoyable hours reviewing video from a 2015 trip to Edinburgh. Grandpa Stout, as we know him, was born in the fabled city.
We spent a day away from the tourist attractions to retrace the haunts of his youth before post-war economics forced the extended Stout family to leave Scotland’s verdant hills for Zion’s mountains.
Through a series of timely miracles, three generations of extended family arrived in Salt Lake, taking up residence in a basement apartment. Grandmother, Grandfather, Mother and Father, two teenaged sons, and Mother’s two spinster sisters. When a home on the other side of South High went on sale, Brother Stout went to a local bank, seeking a loan. But as a new immigrant, he lacked any collateral (“What is ‘collateral’?” he asked.)
A capstone miracle occurred as the Stouts were leaving the interview with the loan officer. The Bank Manager came in and noticed the Stouts. “Why, Brother and Sister Stout! I haven’t seen you in years!” The Manager had been a missionary in Edinburgh. After a bit of talk, the Bank Manager learned the reason for their visit.
“Why, I’d be happy to co-sign the loan for Mr. Stout,” the Bank Manager told the loan officer.
So the several members of the extended Stout family relocated from the basement apartment in a ward that had welcomed them with open arms to a lovely little home two blocks away, in a new ward and new stake. And here’s where the confusion began.
The Stouts were willing to attend their new ward and stake. But no one came to greet them. In Edinburgh each trip to and from Church had taken at least 45 minutes. So when Sunday came, the Stouts decided to walk the two blocks to visit their “old” ward one last time.
But one last time became another time. And another time. What was only two blocks to walk on Sunday, compared to three hours each Sunday taking buses and walking to get to and from the two Sabbath meetings back in Scotland? Besides, no one from the new ward and stake took the time to darken their door.
As the years passed, the Stouts only heard from the new ward when there was a fundraiser. A perfunctory knock on the door and a curt request to donate was the extent of “fellowship.”
Grandpa Stout became a popular fixture at South High and was eventually elected Senior Class President. Still no one visited.
Then Margaret Andrena (or Rena to family) came to Utah to visit her three sisters. For some reason, Rena was waiting at the bus stop near the house. A stranger joined her at the bus stop, and apparently noticed her looking at the Stout home.
“You see that house there?” the stranger asked.
“Yes,” Rena replied.
“Polygamists. One man. Three women.”
Rena did not laugh. Rena did not correct the stranger. But when Rena got home later that day, the Stouts had a great laugh about being taken for polygamists. And as Grandpa Stout walked the streets of his childhood, the story was trotted out again.
I imagine there was an entire ward, maybe an entire stake, convinced the folks living in the house next to South High were polygs. Cohabs. Filthy sinners. The ward members may have imagined they were being magnanimous to risk knocking on the dreaded door during the fundraisers.
But what they thought they knew wasn’t really so.
As for young brother Stout, mister Senior class president, he ended up falling in love with a blonde beauty from the ward which had so loved the Stouts when they were a poor immigrant family living in a basement. Young brother Stout and his beautiful blonde bride raised a family of attractive blonde kids. The oldest of that passel of blonde kids grew up and became my husband.
Meanwhile, young brother Stout became Professor Stout and then Dean Stout. Though these days he’s mostly known as “Grandpa.”
But I wonder if there aren’t still tales told in other families, of a time when there was a family of polygamists living next to South High.
And I wonder how often we create a fiction about those around us that prevents us from embracing them as brothers and sisters, fellow children of God.
For if we think of our fellows as anything less than fellow children of God, then what we “know” isn’t so.