Best Ward Ever : BYU Alumni Reflect on Campus Church Gatherings
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First Person

Best Ward Ever

Grads recall inspiring church leaders, meetings, and activities.

In this cartoon, a pizza delivery guy brings a huge stack of pizzas to a flustered young lady.
Illustration by Travis Foster

Eternal Pizza

By Carol Talley Roskelley (BA ’99), Missouri City, TX

My first year at BYU, I was called to serve as activities committee cochair. I attended a training where a leader stressed that we should spend all of the money in the budget by the end of the year. I was surprised at how much money I would need to use in such a short space of time, so I counseled with the committee and we planned a big activity with a DJ, dancing, and pizza. We later learned that BYU’s Spring Fling was scheduled for the exact same day. But we had already booked our plans, so we hesitantly pressed forward. Gulp!

At the activity, pizzas kept coming and coming. I spoke to the pizza delivery guy and discovered that somehow the pizza order had gotten mixed up, tripling the amount we requested. We ended up with 150 pizzas—far too many for our mediocre turnout! We sent students home with whole pizzas. I thought I had experienced the full measure of embarrassment when the night ended.

I only later learned my mistake: I’d come to a very erroneous conclusion—that the “year” ended in April with the winter semester!

My dad later met one of the men serving in that bishopric, and all he could say was, “Your daughter knows how to spend money!”

A few years later, I found myself back at that spot where we held the memorable “year-end” bash. This time, my boyfriend was taking me on a horse-drawn carriage ride to propose to me. I was relating to him the whole fiasco from years before when the man driving the carriage turned around and said, “Yep, I remember that! That was a lot of pizza!”

O Divine Musician

By Kathleen Pederson Whitworth (BA ’69), Valley Center, CA

During the late 1960s I lived at home and attended a ward in the women’s gym of Brigham Young Academy. Basketball hoops, pull-up bars, and climbing ropes were our chapel’s decorations. Its perfume was the smell of dusty wood, sweat, and socks from the locker rooms downstairs that mingled (most notably on fast Sundays) with the smell of fried chicken from the restaurant next door. However, the Spirit of the Lord permeated our meetings, helping us to forget the smells and décor.

One day mezzo-soprano Ariel Bybee (BS ’65), who later became a featured artist with the New York Metropolitan Opera, was a guest singer at our sacrament meeting. When she sang Gounod’s “O Divine Redeemer,” the room transformed. It was no longer a smelly, wooden-floored gym. It became a holy place, a piece of heaven on earth. She sang simply and prayerfully, and, for me, it was as if the Lord stood personally before her, ready to forgive all of us and to receive this offering from a true artist.

Shrimp and Bishop Barney

By Hanna Meinzer Low (BS ’13), Gillette, WY

When our ward council voted on shrimp skewers for a break-the-fast, I deveined probably 5 pounds of shrimp (seemed like 50 pounds at the time), silently dry-heaving when no one was looking.

Bishop Barney always found a way to be there, even in rough terrain.

The task seemed thankless, but I was inspired by the example of our bishop, Keith W. Barney (BS ’84), who was in a wheelchair due to a childhood accident. It would have been easy for him to fade into isolation, to make excuses not to serve, to be angry or bitter. And yet he was there every Sunday and at every activity, always smiling, making time to lovingly minister to each member of his ward. If our ward planned a camping trip, a river cleanup, or went to the rodeo, Bishop Barney always found a way to be there, even in rough terrain.

So when he asked me to prep seafood, I did. Because of our bishop’s exceptional example of love and quiet service, something as simple as prepping seafood could become something meaningful for me. He led by example, and we followed.

Elevated Meetings

By Janet Thomas (BS ’71, MA ’78), Holladay, UT

In this cartoon, three BYU students, dressed in Sunday best, laugh together as their elevator's doors open.
Illustration by Travis Foster

I was delighted that our student ward would meet in the Skyroom in the Wilkinson Student Center. I looked forward to soft chairs and being able to look out at the mountains through the picture windows as I enjoyed the services.

During the first meeting, however, I discovered one of the disadvantages of this location. The fastest way to get to the Skyroom was on the elevators. In those days, there was only a small barrier between the elevators and the meeting room. So every time one of elevators arrived there was a loud ding as the doors opened. If the group on the elevator was talking and laughing, it often continued until they realized that they were disturbing sacrament meeting. Naturally, we all tended to turn back to see who had just arrived late.

Gradually our ward did learn to be early to church so we could catch the elevators well before the meeting started. And we learned to ignore the dings of the elevator.

MVP in the HFAC

By Thomas G. Carter (BA ’02), South Jordan, UT

Early one Sunday in fall 1998, my friends and I made our way into the basement band room of the Harris Fine Arts Center for priesthood meeting. We were all pretty groggy thanks to a late-night football loss to Washington followed by a fun date night.

As we started singing the opening hymn, there was a bit of a commotion in the front of the room. In walked NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion J. Steve Young (BA ’84, JD ’94), who sat down in one of the desks.

After the prayer, the bishop, clearly shaken, asked if there were any visitors and, if so, could they introduce themselves. Steve got up and introduced himself and said he was in town visiting some friends. The bishop welcomed him, saying, “I usually tape your games to watch them on Mondays but I couldn’t find the one for today. I guess you must be on a bye,” he said. “We are,” Steve replied.

Then the bishop put him on the spot, asking him to share his testimony. Steve agreed and told how there were three other members of the Church on his team and they would read scriptures aloud and take the sacrament together on Saturday nights. It was clearly one of the coolest priesthood meetings held that day.

She’s Still Got It

By David L. Hixon (BA ’90, MBA ’92), Elk Ridge, UT

A year after my wife and I wed, I was called into the bishopric of our former singles ward. There had been enough turnover in the ward while we were gone that many did not know us from before. In sacrament meeting our first week back, the bishop announced that there was a 15-stake fireside that evening. Apparently, this announcement served as a cue for some of the young men to try to secure a date.

Sure enough, immediately following Sunday School, I watched a confident young man approach my wife and invite her to accompany him to the fireside. She glanced at me quickly, but my look let her know I was enjoying the show and was eager to hear her response. She politely declined, explaining that she was married to the new second counselor and motioned to me. The poor guy was embarrassed, but we laughed it off with him and let him know it was an innocent mistake. Even so, I couldn’t resist pointing out that my wife was also “with child” and reminding him throughout the year that he’d asked out my pregnant wife.

Call for Stories: Sweet Proposals

Did you create an elaborate scavenger hunt for an engagement ring or recruit a cast of thousands to witness the drama at a BYU event? Or did the question pop during dessert on a decadent dinner date? Share the most romantic, embarrassing, unusual, or clever proposal of marriage you’ve seen or been a part of at BYU. Deadline: March 17.

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