In the fall of 1968 my wife, Betsy, our four-year-old daughter, Dee, and I lived in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver B.C. We wanted more children, but the prognosis was doubtful. I worked as a commissioned life insurance agent.
When I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eleven years earlier, I had a grade ten education. However, because of the Church’s emphasis on education and the admonition in my patriarchal blessing to get all the education I could for my “work in the world,” I eventually earned a high school diploma. One evening as I was driving home from work the spirit whispered that I still needed more education. Betsy urged me to follow the prompting and asked what I wanted to do. I paused for a moment and replied,” I’d like to go to university.” So, I applied to Brigham Young University and was accepted for the winter semester, 1969.
After liquidating our assets, including our house, we had enough money for at least one semester. We figured that since I had been inspired to seek further education, the Lord would “prepare a way for [me] that [I] may accomplish the thing which he commandeth” (1 Nephi 3:7). Then a shocker—Betsy was pregnant! Had we known this before selling out, we probably would have waited. But we had crossed the Rubicon. In a rare Vancouver snowstorm, we headed south with all our worldly possessions crammed into a $500, 1962 Rambler Classic.
Plans rarely progress without snags
At first, I felt out of place as a thirty-year-old freshman, but I soon adjusted. As the semester drew to a close, I was offered the assistant manager position at the iconic Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. Betsy and I were so confident in our future, we bought a two-bedroom, brick home in Orem, Utah for $100 down and a $67 monthly mortgage. I moved into the house and Betsy and Dee left for Vancouver to stay with Betsy’s mother until our baby was born.
At the lodge, I received the devastating news that my job had been given to someone else. The manager was extremely apologetic, but could only offer me the head desk clerk position, which paid a pittance and didn’t include accommodations for Betsy and the kids. When I phoned Betsy with the bad news, we decided that I’d take the desk clerk job for the time being. It was clear that I would not be able to make enough money during the summer to continue at BYU.
Betsy gave birth to a boy on June 13. Missing my family so much, I felt trapped and desperately prayed for guidance. The answer finally came. I should leave the lodge and find a job in Utah. Betsy approved. I mentioned my plan to a fellow desk clerk. “What kind of job could you find in Utah?” she asked. I thought for a moment before saying, “A commissioned sales job, perhaps in a store.”
Faith involves earnest prayer and bravely acting upon the promptings
Tears filled my eyes when I spotted Betsy at the Salt Lake Airport. She wore a pretty, yellow outfit. The baby was cradled in her arms and Dee clung to her dress. The next day, Saturday, we went to Deseret Industries and bought some essentials for our Orem house. On Sunday we attended the Orem 24th Ward and were well received. First thing Monday morning, I bought a local newspaper. My heart leapt when I saw a half-page Sears Roebuck want-ad for a salesman to sell big-ticket items on commission. I rushed home and told Betsy that I’d found my job.
It wasn’t that easy, of course. There were many applicants. A few days after applying I was informed that I was short-listed and was invited to fill out a questionnaire/exam. Then the short list narrowed to another man and me. The result was that they hired both of us on a one-month probation, resulting in me getting the job. It was great earning excellent money again.
By September I had earned enough to pay for tuition and books but not enough to quit working. Throughout the fall semester I both worked at Sears and attended BYU full-time. By Christmas I was burned-out. We had saved enough to carry us through the rest of the school year, so I decided to leave Sears. The personnel manager gave me a severe tongue-lashing for quitting after only six months.
At the end of the school year, we were running low on funds again and I began searching for summer work. Betsy suggested I phone Sears. I laughed, but she wasn’t joking. I was adamant that I wouldn’t ask for my job back. Betsy persisted. So, with great trepidation, I made the call and breathed a sigh of relief when the operator said that the personnel manager was on vacation. She connected me with the covering manager. The conversation went like this:
“Tom, when are you coming back to work?”
“Can you make it Saturday?”
“I’ll be there!”
For the rest of my time at BYU and on into graduate school at USU, summer-work at Sears, supplemented by scholarships, paid for my education. In the spring of 1973, I graduated from BYU with a BA in history and a teaching certificate.
Betsy was awarded a PHT (Putting Hubby Through) certificate. She had well-earned it. She had not only supported me unfailingly but had given birth twice while I was at BYU and was pregnant with our fourth child when I started graduate school.
Each person has a unique journey
As I look back on my BYU years, I am convinced that although personal revelation is often counterintuitive, if we trust and follow it rather than “leaning on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), the Lord will direct us to a better outcome.
“When the Lord commands, do it” (History of the Church, 2:170)