Life History of Viola Lauper Johnson

Chapter 5

Gospel and Church

(See also: Most significant world event)

Tell about religion practiced in your home - faith promoting stories, etc.

My father, an adult convert, possessed as strong a faith as I have ever known in any individual. He doubted NOT. At a time in 1917, just following the birth of Mother's last and tenth child, Ralph, she was very ill. She gradually grew weaker and unable to take care of the many household duties to which she was accustomed, and there came a necessity for hospitalization. Our Father visited and received a diagnosis of Cancer, which was decreed following an exploratory surgery. He returned with a somber and worried countenance, but immediately called all of us to kneel in prayer, saying: "Now, if you want your mother to live, we must pray". Pray he did!! He prayed as if our Heavenly Father was within his voice, pleading on our behalf, and for Mother to overcome the heinous infection which had inflicted her. Gratefully, I conclude this story with the explanation that Mother did live. She outlived her doctors! To me, and to my siblings as well as our father, it was a MIRACLE in answer to Prayer. The incident has lingered indelibly on my mind, thereby establishing a testimony of that power.

What do you remember about your parents' church callings?

My father's lack of American education, and the fact that he immigrated as an adult, speaking his beautiful and treasured French language, continually inhibited his ability to speak without a bold accent - a situation which limited him throughout his life. Although he was well read and versed in Gospel principles and precepts, he was not asked to serve as a teacher, and rarely called to speak a sermon. Except for his continual service with his Priesthood quorums and service to fellow members, he never had a church calling. This remained a heartache to him.

Mother was always active in the Relief Society whenever she could possibly attend. She was a consistent Visiting Teacher and held office of secretary of that organization for many years. I can see her prepare herself and smaller children, and then go to rig up a horse and buggy to take her to the Ward house or to call on assigned sisters at their homes.

What do you remember about the day you were baptized?

Baptism was talked about in the home, as I most certainly went to Church, and loved my Primary and parent's teachings. But, in those days, little preparation was made for this sacred ordinance. I vividly remember my bapstion - the 24th of September, 1921. Sometime during the early afternoon, my mother called me from the outside yard, reminding me I was to leave for my baptism. Brother Marcel was to accompany me, so he brought Quince, the riding horse, from the corral, bridled her and gave me a 'leg up' which was our way of boosting each other to the horse's back. Then Marcel pulled the pony alongside the fence which helped him climb up in front of me. Away we galloped across country roads and fields to connect with our father who was to come from a field whereon he was working. We met at the flume connection of the large irrigation canal. (A flume is a sort of viaduct carrying one canal over another, with an opening spillway at the crossover. The point of the spillover, which was a deep and splashy part, was where I was baptized.) A ward member and the Ward Clerk were on hand to make it official. I went into the water in the same little gingham dress I had been wearing about for a couple of days, plus my underwear, and with bare feet. After the sacred ordinance, Marcel loaded me back onto our horse, and away we bounced toward home - my wet hair and clothing were flapping and swaying in the breeze. Both Marc and I went back to our chores. I will add that I noted little resemblance or similarity to today's baptisms, yet I know that the ceremony for me was just as valid as any that have taken place since or anywhere.

Did you go on a mission? Where and when? What do you remember about it?

Yes, a Stake Mission. While still young and unattached, my brother Marcel and I were called as Mission Aids to the California Mission President. Our calling was to head the Y.M. & Y. W. Programs as missionaries, while still living at home. Our mission area included as far up the coast as San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria, and stretched inland to Santa Paula, Fillmore, and even as far as Lancaster. We lived in Ventura at the time, so this was a heavy and wide area to cover on our weekends. Many of the branches that we visited were very struggling groups (actually that describes most of the mission in that time); so, we had much to do by mail as well as personal visits. Telephone communications were not used in those years. There were few Elders serving out of the LA Mission Home, so they appeared only occasionally. It was lots of effort but the need ever so great. The redeeming factor about our service was that THE CHURCH IS TRUE, then as now.

Is charity or serving others important to you? Did you grow up with examples of this?

Absolutely! From the beginning, I have been taught and seen examples of charity, com­passion, serving etc. by each member of my family. We learned this lesson as youngsters by sharing with each other. We knew of no other way. My husband was also a giving and serving person, making important efforts in this regard. I firmly believe a major purpose for our existence is to Serve One Another--wherever and whenever. Another firm belief is that SERVICE is an important and true form toward conversion to the Gospel.

Tell about your conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was born in the Covenant , and my first consciousness regarding religion told me I was a Latter-day Saint daughter, that I had certain standards and traditions and laws to live up to. This I knew as best as a child knows, but I was not tested nor challenged. Most of my high school experiences took place in Los Angeles school and in Ventura County where l knew no Church members. When I left home to attend Woodbury University, the situation was the same. What friends I made were non-Mormons. Fortunately, I had made some very good friendships with girls, nice girls, in both high school and college. I had avoided any strong relationships among boys, although I did date some. Upon completion of my college days. I returned again to Ventura, seeking employment. At Hickey Brothers, where I worked for 3 years, I became more involved in a non-Mormon social situation and dated some men with less desirable life styles. My mother observed my actions and was rightfully concerned. She questioned my actions, speaking words of wisdom and advice to me. I was awakened to a responsibility as to who I was and what I should be doing; thus, I cut off relationships with the circle of friends with whom I was spending time. This was a sacrifice of my social life inasmuch as there were few, and far between, candidates for dating within the small Church branch. I spent more time attending functions with my brother Marc, becoming a social partner to him. We served diligently in the branch and the Mission in positions of leadership, almost beyond our capacity, working hard to make a difference and real contribution. There is Conversion in Service. I studied, prayed, and served, and was blessed with an increase in faith and spirit. I am still striving for more of the same, and am so very thankful for my Heavenly Father's love and mercy.

Share a principle you have learned, or one you have taught.

During our early marriage, while living in Chicago, a friend called during the night and asked my husband to come help administer to his wife who was gravely ill. This was a disturbing call for we cared much about this couple. Joe dressed and left to do his Priesthood duty. I was very disturbed and paced the floor, worrying and thinking and imagining the worst about this dear friend, Marba Snow. "What if Marba dies??? How will Jonathan manage the young children???" I even read myself into situations that included my taking one or two of the children into my care. Upon Joe's return, he was dismayed that I was still up and troubled. I more or less smothered his report of her illness and condition with my expressions of gloom. Joe was disappointed in me. He said: "Now please know that I went down there and blessed that sweet sister to get well. She and I, along with her husband, have faith that she will do so. I am going back to bed and want you to do the same!" His reasonable attitude taught me of the purpose of a Blessing and emphasized the important factor of Faith. That night I learned an important lesson which I have never forgotten. Joe did leave us, his young family, early in his life, but he left us with many lessons and examples, for which I have been so very grateful.

Do you have a favorite book of scriptures?

I can't say that I do. It seems whatever I am studying or reading with any degree of comprehension is, at that time, my very favorite. The New Testament is the easiest reading. The Book of Mormon is most comforting and the most faith-promoting; the D & C is incredibly fantastic with its saga of happenings. Language is interesting. I like the way the revelations read in such a tender manner: "I beseech you", etc.

Do you have a favorite scripture story?

Ah me, I have many. I am a Moses-person, and love to read and remember stories of his mighty character, his leadership, and great example. But I cannot top my sincere affection for what I feel for the modern Prophets. First and foremost, there are the stories and testimonies of our Prophet Joseph, and the present Prophet, President Hinckley. He is a man for all times, and certainly these times, and is absolutely without guile. I cannot get enough of him and stories of his life and doings.

What is your favorite scripture?

I would have to say one of my favorites is D & C 112:10 - "Be thou humble and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." During a time when my brother Marcel was yearning for and studying for a mission call, he and I studied and conversed together. Coming upon this scripture, Marc internalized it, and I gained an appreciation of the great promise made therein.

What hymns do you find especially comforting or uplifting?

There are many....... "How Gentle God's Command", "Abide with Me'", "I Need Thee Every Hour", "Jesus Lover of my Soul", "Where Can I Turn for Peace", "The Lord is My Shepherd", "Though Deepening Trials". I enjoy and appreciate ever so many and partake of the comfort.

Who is the first Prophet that you remember? What do you remember about him?

President Heber J. Grant was ordained during the early years of my lifetime; and while I had no personal meeting with him, I did see him on occasions of his visits to Stake Confer­ences. We always, as a family, struggled to travel the 10 miles to the Delta Stake House to enjoy the frequent visits by the Apostles as well as those of the Prophet. His teachings, examples, and life stories were part of my early learning, so that at an early age, I learned that a Prophet was a Man of God who receives Revelation.

Who is you favorite general authority? Do you have more than one? Who and why?

My 3 favorite prophets are:

  1. The Prophet Joseph - He made so much possible for us.
  2. President Spencer W. Kimball - It was easy for me to relate personably to him. He grew up in 'relatively" similar circumstances. His background, although not marred by the poverty which persisted in my family, was very humble. His work, school, play, hobbies, even games, were much the same as those experienced by my brothers. His life story includes sad events, family deaths, illnesses; and he himself suffered grave illnesses, surgeries etc. He remained most humble and capable through all - willing to serve even after losing his voice. He learned to communicate through the use of a mechanical voice affixed to his throat. He was small in stature, unpretentious in appearance, and unassuming in manner; but to me he was a GIANT.
  3. Our present day Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley - What a man for today (and for all time really). He has such vision, such vitality for a man of 86 years, such a people-person, and with an ability to relate to all people--the rich, the poor, the native, the foreign, the indigent, women, children, and is a true favorite with young people. One of the characteristics I love and shall forever remember was his ability to demur to the ailing Prophets with whom he served as counselor. How he was able to do the work so ably, but never claimed the credit. His long service in the General Presidency is unequaled, and now as our Prophet and leader, he is making such a difference in the world and among all our people. He is without guile. He is wonderful! President Hinckley has visited more areas of the world than any other before him. He makes such a difference in the lives of our missionaries throughout the world--a true missionary himself.

    Did you have a special church teacher or leader with whom you have had special rapport?

    Not really, but I consider Lenore Johnson and her husband of Ventura Branch a strong influence for good. Although they have the same surname as I later inherited, they are no relation to my husband. It was while I was a young woman living in Ventura and serving with callings there, I became closely involved and attached to this fine family of a married couple with 2 children. There were few (and none active) L.D.S. young people in our branch. I associated with young married couples. They were special and remained dear, dear friends throughout their lives.

    Is there someone in your ward or community who has a special influence on you now?

    As of this date, May 5, 1997, I cannot choose one individual. True, I am supported by a very few, very special sisters within the ward; and several of the brothers are looked upon as very exemplary. Furthermore, I tend to easily identify with whomever is my current Bishop, with some being more favorite than another. But I would have to say that my family has probably been my strongest influence. Having been without my husband, my parents, and my siblings--one by one, the influence of my children and grandchildren is currently noted and felt.

    What church callings have you had? Which did you enjoy most?

    As a girl, I did my best as Ward Primary Music Director. As a young woman, I served as a teacher of younger women in MIA, and later, I was Ward YW President for several years. As a newly-married lady, I was a Relief Society counselor in 2 different wards. I then moved to the Primary organization where I served as teacher of various classes and in the presidency. This service was done in our Chicago ward as well as in the Bay Area. I would presume to say that my longest spurt of service, and probably the one with the most satisfactory measure of effectiveness, was with the San Francisco Stake Primary. I note that the association of my co-workers in that service was most enjoyable and long-lasting. Intermittently, I have served as a Sunday School and RS teacher, as well as spending many, many years of Visiting Teaching. I do believe in Service!

    Husband Joe as Bishop [additional memories added in 2005]

    Daddee Joe served in the Bishopric of Sunset Ward with Bishop Ritchie and George Aaron for a good time, and when the Ritchies moved from the area, Daddee Joe was made Bishop of Sunset Ward. Those were goodly days and hard-working days. We both had our hands full of doing, but that is the way it follows, only with different challenges and issues. A noteworthy happening occurred when the furnace at the Church house developed a faulty feature. One early Sunday a.m. as the men gathered for their weekly Bishopric meeting, Dad went below to start the furnace burning. It exploded. His hands and face were burned to the degree he was taken to emergency and then to Kaiser Hospital where he was detained for several days. His eye glasses were shattered but they saved his eyes from injury, which was nothing short of a blessing. He was in bed at home for a while and off work for time, but returned feeling mighty fortunate. His counselors, Ervin McDonald and Mark McGreggor were amazed, after having seen his blackened figure at the Chapel, that he was not mortally scarred.

    Write a Testimony of a precept of the Gospel

    Tonight I have been listening a bit to my tapes and reading some scripture and would like to try to express myself on the subject of The Atonement - a subject so hard for me to talk of without crying.

    Out of all the worlds the Lord has created, here I am on this little earth, one of the smallest planets in our great galaxy, and I am just one person on this small world. I feel a very unimportant person, with no special talents nor qualifications that would entitle me to attention from my Father in Heaven. - But He knows me! He knows my name; all my weaknesses, my good and bad intentions. He also knows if I am trying to keep His commandments; and He is there to hear and answer my prayers.

    And yet, knowing all these poor things about me. He willingly took upon Himself all my sins, so I could come to earth, be born of special parents, who tried to teach me to make good use of my life; that I could have a fine husband to love me and influence my life for good, for three wonderful children; and further, that I would be permitted to live quite a long time so that I can enjoy these children and their children, and all the other wonderful things around me. I also have the comforting assurance that I will be able to take up my body again after I have rested for a time in the earth, so that I will live forever and ever and ever.

    To know that this Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, so graciously, willingly, and generously came to earth and suffered as He did, for me - is extremely humbling. I cringe and shudder, when I think of this noblest of all noble men, a person who had never done the smallest wrong deed; who was pure in thought as well as action, bore such cruel punishment for me.

    Now I think I would die if some soldiers came and hauled me into court without the added insult of bystanders jeering at me, and spitting on me, being mocked and taunted, knowing the people hated me so much they were willing to trade my life for the one of a confessed criminal. This would be bad enough, but when I know this was only a very tiny part of His suffering; how He sweat great drops of blood, feeling this heavy burden; was hung on a cross in a most torturous fashion, then to give up His life for me - I weep and choke.

    How much more fair for me to suffer for my own wrongdoings, but only He could do this. He was the only one who could take up His body again; He was pure and born of an immortal Father. He gives me resurrection. I pray each day for more understanding of this; that my faith and testimony might be increased.

    The only possible thing I can do to prove my gratitude is to live as well as I can; to keep God's commandments to the best of my poor ability, and then, I have a small chance to see Him and hear Him above.

    Thoughts on the temple [additional thoughts from 2005]

    As often as I ever enter a Temple, anywhere, I find myself uttering these words: “HOUSE OF OUR LORD”. I am always made conscious of the fact that I am, indeed, entering the House of The Lord. And the words come to my lips either audibly or otherwise. I do continually pray that I am worthy to enter there, and I frequently feel lacking, although another prayer is that I will do some worthwhile missionary service while there, and that the service will be efficacious. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that the experience therein is as much for my learning as it is toward service for a proxy; so the entire time spent in attending a Temple Session is double-fold in its value.

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