1984: Kenneth W. Baldridge - And They Shall Cry From The Dust

1984: Kenneth W. Baldridge - And They Shall Cry From The Dust

K Balridge

A Founder of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society, Kenneth W. Baldridge used his interest in local oral history as the nexus of the twenty-second McKay lecture. Accepting an appointment at Church College of Hawaii in 1968, he received both his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of the Pacific in 1950 and 1957, respectively, and his Ph.D. from Brigham Young University in 1971. No stranger to Polynesian life, Baldridge had previously taught at Church College of New Zealand before coming to Laie. A convert to the Church, he has served as a high councilor, bishopric counselor, temple worker, and campus bishop. As founder and director of Brigham Young University-Hawaii's Oral History Program, Baldridge has energetically gathered data for a full history of CCH/BYUH on which he is currently at work. Highly visible in community and island affairs, he and his wife Delma have six children: Connie, Steve, Karen, Janet, Trace, and Doug.


Faculty, administration, students, and friends of the academic community, Aloha.

On being asked to present the annual David O. McKay Lecture for 1984--an honor for which I am very grateful to the Faculty Advisory Committee--I suppose it was only natural to think first about a certain English author who in 1948 published a book which shall go unnamed out of consideration to those who feel there has already this year been a considerable amount of overemphasis on the subject. Then there was also the temptation to follow up on the lecture presented by Dr. Kay J. Andersen back in 1968 when his topic was "The Church College in 1984." However, the assignment given the lecturers is "to present recently-gained insights in their field of study and their reflections on the gospel to the entire campus community."1 So this I plan to do and I will avoid any association with 1984 as a particularly significant year.

I would like to thank those who have helped me with this preparation today: Dennis Lisonbee for duplicating the tapes; Glenn Kau for his help with the physical arrangements and his finger on the tape recorder; Arthur Lo for making the photographs fit the slides; my secretary Adeline Fonoimoana for helping orchestrate this production and retyping the drafts; and finally to my wife, my favorite critic, who has the uncanny ability to believe that nearly everything I do is outstanding and the courage to tell me about those things that are not. I also would like to pay tribute to David O. McKay, that great prophet whose vision led to the creation of the two Pacific educational institutions with which I have been associated for nearly the past quarter-century, Church College of New Zealand and Church College of Hawaii, now BYU-Hawaii Campus.

Oral History

As some of you know, I teach history, a field of study which all of you at least recognize. A few of you may also know that I am involved in oral history. Here, however, there may be some confusion since the term is new to many. One of the best definitions of oral history is also one of the simplest. Willa Baum, director of the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley, described oral history as "the tape recording of reminiscences about which the narrator can speak from first-hand knowledge" (7).

Historians today describe the practice of oral history--less the tape recorder, of course--as dating back to the time of Herodotus, generally regarded as the father of history, as he gathered first-hand information for his writings on the Persian Wars in the fifth century before Christ.

Most of the current crop of oral historians credit Allan Nevins of Columbia University with having reintroduced the technique in modern times (Billington 288-293). Actually, there was a great deal of work done during the depression years of the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project, including some interviewing of former slaves.2 Even today there is some controversy over what is oral history and what is not (Moss 7). The Chicago journalist, Studs Terkel, is held in some disrepute because of the way he conducted the interviews for his highly successful books, Working (1974), Hard Times (1970), and Division Street (1967). Actually this is probably just jealousy because he is one of the few who have really been able to make money at this activity called oral history. In recent years, however, more than ever before, many historians have been coming out with new works based to a large degree on oral history interviews. One that I regard as outstanding in this area is the late Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1981), in which he interviewed dozens of military and civilian leaders of both Japan and the United States about the years immediately preceding the 1941 attack.3

How Oral History Differs

Oral history differs from the journalistic interviews which are so much a part of our current television fare. It also differs from the oral interviews carried out by anthropologists and folklorists. Whereas the folklorist has no concern whether a story is true or not, to the oral historian this is an absolute necessity if it is to qualify as oral history. Anthropologists often accept oral traditions which may actually be historically accurate but the oral historian is primarily interested in first-person accounts.

Some Historians Are Uncomfortable

Some historians are uncomfortable with oral history. They are somewhat aware of the shortcomings but unfortunately they fail to realize that oral historians are also very much aware of those shortcomings and take steps to utilize oral history material only within the confines of good, sound, historical practices. Newspaper accounts, letters, and even journals should all be used cautiously since they, too, can contain error and their own particular biases. Oral history can, however, provide the personal dimension often lacking in official reports or minutes. But oral historians realize that great care must be taken and crosschecking is an essential part of establishing the accuracy of an account. Let me give you an example from my very first oral history project.

First Oral History Project

Beginning in 1971, and continuing off and on since then, I have interviewed former students or "old boys," as alumni in New Zealand are called, about their days at the Maori Agricultural College (MAC), an LDS school in New Zealand. In 1913 the Church established the MAC at Korongata a few miles outside Hastings in the Hawkes Bay area of North Island. It operated until 1931 when a terrible earthquake hit the region. Shortly thereafter the Maori Agricultural College closed its somewhat battered doors.

The popular opinion in New Zealand even today is that the school was so badly damaged as a result of the earthquake that it was shut down. As I talked with former students I heard this same story time after time. However, as a result of reading correspondence between the New Zealand Mission president and Church authorities in Salt Lake City written before the earthquake occurred I have learned that the closing of the school had already been planned for several months (Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley to John E. Magleby, 23 October 1930; Heber J. Grant to [John E. Magleby], 14 February 1931).

The use of oral information becomes even more difficult when cross-checking is impossible. Police officers and newspaper reporters have long been aware of the conflicting stories told by eyewitnesses to the same event. The legend of the blind men and the elephant immediately comes to mind in which several blind men in turn describe the elephant as mighty like a wall, a tree, a rope, a spear, a leaf, or a snake, depending upon which part of the elephant they happen to touch. Eyewitnesses often have different perspectives. And so it is with oral history. My own practice is, if it cannot be checked I regard it with suspicion and will usually not use it. I am sure I pass up some great stories that way. Such an example comes from my MAC collection; in fact, it comes from the earthquake I just referred to a moment ago.

The earthquake hit just a few days before MAC was to open for the 1931 school year but there were several students who had already arrived. Although there was some damage to the buildings of the school there were no injuries there and the headmaster soon called the boys together to tell them they were needed for rescue work in Hastings just a few miles away. The boys piled into vehicles and soon were on the scene where they helped emergency crews pulling survivors and dead alike from the rubble of damaged buildings. Several of the "old boys" I interviewed have some fascinating accounts of their activities at that time. Perhaps the most dramatic is this:

Yes, we were still cleaning up; the dead, of course, took quite a long time. On one occasion we had to take brick by brick out to get at quite a number of people and when we did get them out, of course, they were all broken up, minced. Another case I can remember well, where we knew a girl very well who worked in a Mr. Roach's--this mayor's--shop. We knew the people very well--they were young girls--but it was impossible to get at them

--there were too many big concrete slabs in front and at the back and there was fire coming from the back, from the gas service station, and the thing had blown up, you see. The fire was getting closer and the water supply--it was nil because the river had been diverted by the earthquake itself. So we tried our best to get at these people. The girl was nearest us but we couldn't reach her, so the only other thing the doctor did was to put a syringe on a long apparatus--I don't know what it was. It looked like a bamboo or a pipe or something--then he shot this serum of some sort--morphine or whatever--which, of course, put her right out and that was it. In other words, I think his main idea was to--rather than let her feel pain from the fire--oh, that was something else! It was mercy. (Matthews 10-11)

Some Problems

Well, I think you can see some problems with that. There may be other eyewitnesses I could have interviewed had time permitted. I did not find anything in the newspapers I checked. That is hardly the type of situation on which the doctor might have reported at his next medical convention. Therefore, I can use the story only as a curiosity and an example; I am reluctant to describe it as history. Although I have no reason to doubt its accuracy I feel it would be professionally irresponsible to use it in its present unverified state.

There are also problems with the mechanics of memory. There have been occasions when interviewers have actually forgotten, or perhaps even worse, "remembered" events the way they wish they had happened rather than the way in which they actually took place. My colleague, Dr. Dale Robertson, likes to remind me of some of the less sophisticated possibilities such as this situation portrayed by noted illustrator Charley Schultz not so long ago:

I have beautiful memories of other summer nights just like this; my sweet babboo and I used to sit out here on this porch swing holding hands and listening to the music.

No we didn't:

Well, we should have!!4

Why Suggest the Defects

My purpose in referring to what might be considered defects in the practice of oral history is not to denigrate the technique but rather to point out that we oral historians do recognize some obvious problems and do take them into consideration in the utilization of oral history material.

Fascination and Lesson

Although the fascination of history is reason enough for its pursuit, there are even occasional lessons which the past provides for the present. I hope to share with you today not only some of those lessons, but also the fascination.

We will be listening in on a few messages from some of the nearly 200 oral history tapes and transcripts I have gathered over the years, mostly on Latter-day Saint history in the Pacific. And because these messages of hope, courage, enlightenment, and inspiration that I have selected are all from narrators that have passed away since I interviewed them, I have titled my lecture "And

They Shall Cry from the Dust," a designation that has also been applied to the Book of Mormon from which that scripture comes (2 Ne. 3: 20).

Some of the narrators will be familiar to some of you; some will not. By the standards of the world some of them would be counted among the achievers of this age; some, on the other hand, would be embarrassed to find themselves so regarded. The impacts of their lives have varied but one thing they all have in common--they are all children of our Father in Heaven and therefore our brothers and sisters and all of them have left us a message of value as they cry to us from the dust.

Church College in Hawaii

Thirty years ago Dr. Reuben D. Law was dean of the College of Education of Brigham Young University in Provo. In July of 1954 Dr. Law was asked to preside over a college in Hawaii that did not at that time exist. His first assignment was to come over here with two other educators and select a site for the location of the campus (Law Founding 33). This particular exercise had been carried out several times previously by other survey teams but these men were asked to do it again. President Edward L. Clissold presided over the Oahu Stake at that time and helped them in their research, the results of which may be read today in the archives of the Joseph F. Smith Library (Law Diary 26 July 1954-13 Sep 1954). But how refreshing it is to hear Dr. Law himself, the first president of Church College of Hawaii, tell how the selection of our present campus came about:

Dr. Reuben D. Law

Now, for reasons that President McKay knows and others do not, he did not tell us that it was to be in Laie. He may have just assumed that because the vision came in Laie that we ought to know that that's where it was to be. Had no way of knowing for sure. We hadn't been told about that and I certainly do not censure President McKay in any way for not having told us but did go to very extensive investigations of various possible locations. President Clissold wanted it in Laie, but he was a good sport about taking us to all the other locations that we wanted to be taken to. He was president of the stake at the time and he didn't hesitate to indicate that he wanted it to be in Laie but he was willing to help us in any of our activities. And we felt professionally obligated to make a thorough investigation and we made a very thorough population study and drew some population maps and so on and our conclusion was that just over the Pali from Honolulu would be a desirable place. There were several possible spots that we went and visited and had in mind and if you have read that committee report you find in there that we did recommend that as the location.

I furnished President McKay our report after we'd gotten back to Utah, finished writing it up and having it properly typed, assembled and so on, left it with him for him to go over carefully, which he did. The next meeting I had with President McKay he thanked me for it and thought our committee had done a fine job of that survey. He said, 'We're going to overrule you on one thing.' He said, 'The college is really to be at Laie; I know that's where the Lord wants it and that's where it's to be.' Well, that settled that. There couldn't be any question about that. (Oral 4-5)


The planning and construction of the school itself was another challenging assignment. But having someone with the interest, inspiration and influence of President McKay made it considerably easier than it might otherwise have been. We can be very grateful the next experience turned out as it did:

And the size of our building project: there was the time--I won't mention any names--when a subordinate to President McKay indicated that I had this planned altogether too large. 'Cut it in half,' he said, 'just cut it in half.' Well, it just broke my heart but I was obedient; I went home, actually went over to my hotel room, and worked it over. I knew that it shouldn't be done but I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed and trimmed. Fortunately, President McKay was in his office when I came back and he sensed that something had happened. He was entitled to inspiration, of course, as well as his own thinking--and he asked pertinent questions, and in order to answer honestly, it had to come out, what had happened. He said, 'Do you have the one here; do you have with you in your brief case the budget you had before you were asked to cut it in half?' I said, 'Yes, I do.' 'Well, let's get it out; spread it on the table.' And we did. And we had both sets of budgets there--I'm briefing it a bit, of course. He asked a good many questions and I had to answer them. He raised his head and he dropped his head, looking at the two budgets, and he put his hand on the one that had not been cut and said, 'Let's take this one.' We wouldn't have had these buildings if it had been up to some committee somewhere. That is, we wouldn't have had them to the extent that we did get them. So it did turn out to be quite an advantage. (Law Oral 6)

Nephi Georgi

We have had some fine people associated with this institution. Another who will be familiar to many of you here is Nephi Georgi. Although born in Germany, at eight years of age he moved with his family to Utah where he was raised and educated. He returned to Germany during World War II as an officer in the U.S. Army and there met the girl who became his wife. From a teaching position at the University of Utah he was hired as one of the original twenty faculty members to come to Church College of Hawaii. When I arrived here in 1968 Dr. Georgi was the academic dean, second in responsibility on the campus. Respected by the faculty and admired by his students, Dr. Georgi had established a rather comfortable niche for himself here in Hawaii. Then a change in administration brought Dr. Stephen Brower in to head Church College of Hawaii and soon Dr. Georgi was relieved of his duties under circumstances that were rather traumatic and which were considered unfair by some of his colleagues. He was fortunate in finally securing a position on the Provo campus and then after another change in administration was able to return to BYU-Hawaii where his introduction at faculty meeting was greeted with a rousing ovation. He was interviewed twice for our oral history program, once by a student in March of 1979 and again by myself in 1981 when he knew he was dying of cancer. I asked him in my office to evaluate his dismissal:

Oh, I think that the break was good; I know it was personally good for me. People don't realize how good a break like this can be. I got much too apathetic in my position. I thought, 'Georgi, you know, you've got everything. You just got everything. You got positions from town on various strong committees; you're going to be appointed a member of a cable-television outfit next year'--I'd already been asked by the lawyer from the outfit--and I was with the governor's commission; I was top dog in the army reserve and also on several mayor's committees with some zing to them; we were doing several things for the state and for the city and county. Things were going great and I just got too complacent. And I think the Lord saw that and I think He just figured, 'This is it; Georgi, you need a change; you've got to find out that you can fail and come back.' Anyway, it was that kind of reflection, I think, that finally made me realize that Steve's role was a very positive one in my life and not a negative one that it appeared. (69)

Soon after our interview he returned to Utah where he died 2 September 1982. Those of us who knew and respected Nephi Georgi can appreciate the wisdom of the counsel from that voice crying from the dust. Would that we might be as strong.

Samuel Kekuaokalani

Samuel Kekuaokalani was another associated with Church College of Hawaii. Although born on Maui he spent most of his life here on Oahu. As a child he lived for several years, beginning in 1924, in Kahana Valley about ten miles down the coast from here. In 1930, he began leaving the valley for school in Honolulu and later for employment at the pineapple cannery where he worked for 17 1/2 cents an hour. In 1941 he became an officer with the Honolulu Police Department. While serving as a police officer, he was called as the first bishop of the Kaneohe Ward and later served a second time in the same position for a total of fifteen years. He retired from the police department in 1969 and later joined our staff here as head of campus security before retiring a second time in 1978. In the meantime he had served in the presidency of the Hawaii Temple and as a patriarch of Laie Hawaii Stake. When I interviewed him in June of 1978 we talked somewhat about a far less complicated period, the time of his childhood in Kahana Valley. In this first excerpt he tells us what it was like to live off the land just over half a century ago. As we were talking he mentioned his mother and the strength she brought into his life. I asked him, "What did she do?"

SK: Well, no, she wasn't employed at all, but she would go out and do all kinds [of work]. If we needed anything in the house, she would go out and get some fish. Many times she would go up during the season when you have mountain apples; she and I would go up in the hills. She would carry--you know those kerosene cans, or big Wesson Oil cans? We would cut off the top; she would pad it with ti leaves, put the whole can in the sack so when you carry it you carry it in the bag, see, and you won't bruise the mountain apples. She would carry one can and I would carry one can. I think I was about twelve years old. As I look back now, you know, she was quite a hardworking person.

KB: Is this something you did fairly often, go up into the mountains?

SK: Almost every season. And we would bring the mountain apples down to the side of the road--there were tourists coming around--we would set it up like how you see it sometimes, and we would sell, maybe quarter for a plate, you know. I really did enjoy a pretty good income for that kind of money, you know, for that particular time. (6-7)

And in this passage about Kahana Valley the message we get is to look homeward, to look at our roots, and to share them with our family:

The heart is still there, you know. I get by there now and then; it is like looking at a childhood where you grew up and I can almost see the same place that I used to row the boat and catch fish and throw a crab net. That place where we used to go out on the boat and pull the fish is not plentiful as it was. Something has happened to the area where it is overgrown with brush there. I used to row the boat up the river and do it in the dark--you know what I mean; you knew the place so well. In fact, the river was my source of washing, wash my face in the river, brush my teeth (probably don't even brush) but it was just living out of the land. It was something that if I was to do over again I would enjoy doing it; I would really enjoy it.

In fact, I was planning to take my youngsters--my grandchildren--over there, put them on a boat and tell them a little bit about the river. If we were hungry we would get up and eat some guavas, not to get filled, but at least you would have a snack or something and go up and get some mangoes--we know just where the best mangoes are--mountain apples. We had papayas and bananas; breadfruit was plentiful and they planted their own taro, and a plumeria tree in the yard--so-- they can make leis. If you wanted cane, when the cane field was right next--to us--we go get--they won't hurt--broke the cane and chew on it. It was fun. (Kekuaokalani 26)

Shortly after our interview he and his wife Victoria went to Florida to visit their daughter and son-in-law and their family. Here he fell ill and returned home to learn he had cancer. I read now from the introduction to his transcript:

His activities were reduced as the illness increased in severity, but he always had a cheery word for those many friends who called to visit him, visitors who invariably left with themselves having received the most encouragement. Some days were better than others and on Nov. 24, 1978, he felt well enough to enjoy a brief outing to his beloved Kahana where he taught his grandsons about the river, the valley, and the bay. (iii)

That was to be his last outside activity. He was soon hospitalized in Honolulu and died January 15, 1979, at the age of 63.

Jack and Mary Sing

It was just five years ago, February, 1979, that Ishmael Stagner and I interviewed Jack and Mary Sing at Kalaupapa, the isolated peninsula on the northern coast of Molokai where, up until a few years ago, all victims of Hansen's disease, or leprosy, were confined. Mary had come to Kalaupapa as a young girl in 1917; Jack arrived two years later. She joined the Church before they married in 1931; Jack joined three years after that and served as president of the tiny branch for over thirty years.

In this first excerpt Dr. Stagner has just asked Mary what she

remembered the best at Kalaupapa:

Well, there's so many, so many wonderful things that I remember of the life that I have here, the living of the people--the good people that were living together, happy, and loving one another, and helping one another and, of course, after I joined the Church, I think that was one of the great highlights of my life because to get in, come to understand the Gospel and understand things that I didn't learn before and get in and working, doing the work of the Lord, service, serving the Gospel and serving other people, helping other people, through the work of the Relief Society. (4)

Eventually medical science improved and the Kalaupapa patients were given permission to visit outside and eventually to leave permanently. This was not always easy. Mary cries to us for compassion, tolerance, and patience with those less fortunate than ourselves:

KB: What was your impression when you first went outside and saw the rest of the world?

MS: Oh, kind of feel shame because the hand crippled and the legs not well and strong, see, and then went out to Honolulu and went to the temple; 1952, went to the temple.

JS: Yeah, I went temple two time and I went seal her in the temple, too.

MS: So you feel shame, you know; that's the attitude that I had; kind of shame, not used to be with the people, with the community, even with my own family because when I left home I wasn't in this condition. They thought all the time I look just the way I left home, see. Everything was normal, but some of them didn't see me for years and years, and when they saw me they was surprised. I feel so bad because I was kind of disfigured, you see.

KB: Did you live outside for any period of time or just. . .

MS: We go there, we spend two or three weeks with my family and sometimes with his family. They're very nice to us, not afraid or not ashamed of us. Very nice, so we stay with them.

KB: Now, during that time did you ever think that you might stay outside or did you always plan to come back?

MS: I never had the idea of going out and stay because when I went out one of my aunty told me, 'You folks coming out to live, not going back to Kalaupapa?' I say, 'We going back to Kalaupapa; we just came out for occasion.' So she said, 'Why should you go back to that place? You been there all these years; you spent all your teenage years in that place.' She said, 'Come home out here.' She has land; she said she would give me a piece of land and then I can build my house there and live and so I told her, 'No, there's no place for me in the community out here.' I say, 'Look at my condition now, no like when I left home.' So I told her, 'No.' I didn't want to go out; I didn't want to go out and live. She say, 'Well, that doesn't matter because other people are the same.' They have lots just like me, she say, but I told her that's right but they were not afflicted with disease, you see. Maybe they just come cripple or paralyze with a different kind of disease, but not leprosy. (16-17)

One of Jack's visits outside was to be honored in this auditorium with a Distinguished Service Award by this University in 1977. But, Jack and Mary lived out their lives there at Kalaupapa. Mary died just over a year ago, in January, 1983; Jack died last December 8.

Rudolph Tai

The next narrator to cry to us from the dust is a man I have never met. I have had the opportunity of conducting oral history workshops at various locations on Oahu and on the Big Island. I always give my students the assignment to conduct one actual interview. This is the result of such an assignment.

Rudolph Tai, according to those I have talked to about him, was a most unusual man. Unlearned in the academic sense, he had the ability to inspire devotion and dedication in others somewhat comparable to the intense devotion and dedication he himself possessed. Many of those who knew him did not realize the tortuous path he had trod from a non-Mormon Hawaiian-Chinese lad from Kauai to becoming such a stalwart in the LDS Church. He was, by his own description, a bit of a roughneck in his youth. In 1919 he joined the U.S. Navy in which he served for three years. He tells of being one of about forty Hawaiian boys on the old battleship, U.S.S. New York. There he had an experience that taught him humility.

It seems that Tai, then a cocky kid of twenty, rather unwisely picked a fight with another sailor who was quite a good boxer. As Tai put it, "I took a lickin'." He wanted to get even, however, so he and his Hawaiian shipmates took boxing lessons for two and a half months. I will let him tell you what happened next.

And immediately after that, when I knew I could defend myself, I went and pick a fight again with this boy. And after picking a fight with him, I figured that he didn't know that I was training and I figured I would use the element of surprise on him. And that's just what happened. Well, anyway, when I picked a fight he tell me, 'Oh, you Kanaka want to get a good licking, eh?' 'Oh, we'll see about that.' We went up and when the officer gave the word go, I just rushed at him there and gave him a boxing lesson that he never expected and that's what really happened. And he fell down and after that; but it was at that moment I think that I felt compassion for somebody, you know, that he and I became very good friends. (5)

Perhaps this was a rather unusual way to learn humility and compassion, but, remember, he was not yet a member of the Church. He did join about thirty years later through the influence of his wife. As he tells us about that day he cries to us that blessings came to him--as they can come to us--if we serve the Lord and keep our activities in their proper perspectives. Sometimes a bit of sacrifice is involved:

the callings in the Church has really build me up and has increased my testimony many, many, many times over. And I know that the blessings that we receive, that I have received with my family could not have been made possible if I was not active and faithful in the Church as well as my family. And we all enjoy tremendous blessings from the Lord, no matter where.

One of the strongest points that I like to point [out is] that I love my fish. Before I join the Church, I used to go fish a lot; since I joined the Church my wife said--the day that I was baptized, somebody stole my nets--and my wife said, 'Daddy, from now on you not gonna become a fisherman in the ocean, you going to become fisher of men.' (Tai 9)

And so he did. He served as bishop in three different wards--two on the same day, in fact--and at the time of his death in 1980 was patriarch of the Waipahu Stake.

Nothing Dangerous

While there has been considerable mention of death during my presentation please realize that there is nothing inherently dangerous about giving an oral history interview, although admittedly I have heard of some elderly people who have been reluctant to talk for fear that having done so, they will have fulfilled their final purpose on earth and would soon be called to that great archives in the sky. However, let me assure you that most of those I have interviewed are still very much alive and I am always looking for fresh prospects. I have, in fact, interviewed students here on campus, some of whom have been personally involved in my primary area of interest, LDS history in the Pacific.

Still, the thought of death does, I am sure, have an effect upon people in a variety of ways and oral history provides a unique opportunity for a particular type of immortality. Although these people have departed this life, through the discipline of oral history they still cry to us from the dust. Perhaps not all great individuals in the eyes of the world, those to whom we have listened today are, I am sure, great in the eyes of our Father in Heaven and are certainly worthy of our remembrance and our gratitude. We should be grateful for the lives they led. But besides the lives they lead, we should be grateful for the words of counsel they left behind, words that they might not have left had they not been asked to do so.


May we recall the words of Reuben Law providing us inspiring information about the establishment of this institution. Let us remember the forgiving and understanding attitude of Nephi Georgi as he was able to slough off a great hurt. Samuel Kekuaokalani cries to us of the simple days of his childhood and reminds us of the strong ties of the 'ohana, or family. Mary Sing speaks to us of the joy of service and also helps us appreciate our blessings. Rudolph Tai tells us that compassion, humility, and service are worth far more than being handy with our fists or pursuing worldly pleasures.

Edward L. Clissold

At this point I am inserting an excerpt that just became eligible. Less than forty-eight hours ago Edward L. Clissold, whom you heard mentioned in the President Law tape, passed away at the age of 85. He was a good friend of this University, in fact, a good friend to the entire Church in the Pacific. He presided over everything there was to preside over while he was here in Hawaii: the Oahu Stake, the Hawaii Temple, the Japanese Mission, the Hawaii Mission, the Board of Trustees of Church College of Hawaii, even Zions Securities, and he sat on the Board of Directors of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Some of these positions he held more than once; in some cases he held two or three presidencies at the same time.

He came as a young, newly married missionary to Hawaii in 1921, leaving his wife behind for three years. It was from this period that the following excerpt was taken. Having learned the Hawaiian language fluently while laboring in Kona on the Big Island he was then transferred back to Honolulu where he used to accompany Brother Patrick Maguire in visiting some of his Hawaiian contacts:

I remember one time we went to the house of a Hawaiian chiefess. And he introduced her to me as being one of the high chiefess[es], and that if royalty was in vogue that she would probably be on the throne. And he said to her, 'I'd like this young man to tell you about the religion I joined.' So I began talking to her in English and told her about the organization of the Church at the time of the Savior and the apostasy. But I wasn't getting much of her interest. Her eyes kept wandering out the window and around the room and I knew that I wasn't making any contact. Finally, I came to the passage in Revelations as to: 'And I saw another angel fly [through] the midst of heaven, [bearing] the everlasting gospel' [Rev. 14: 6] as a scriptural proof that the Gospel was to be restored in the latter days. But when I got to that, I had memorized that in Hawaiian. So when I got to it, unconsciously, I started out, 'A ike aku la au ke kai ana la ho elele ana e waina o kalani maika'i awana lio e maunaloa.' And her eyes opened a mile wide and she sat up and looked at me. 'Well,' I thought, 'I have your attention; I'll keep right on.' So I went right on in Hawaiian and I had her full attention until we completed it. And Brother Maguire congratulated me. And I said, 'Why congratulate? You're the one that should've talked to her in Hawaiian with that beautiful Hawaiian you speak.' And he said, 'No, it's to have a haole speak in her language to her that impressed her very much.' So it brought home the statement that every person should hear the Gospel in his own language and in his own tongue. (26)

We presented President Clissold an honorary doctorate in this auditorium a few years back; we will miss him deeply.


In closing, I have one more voice crying from the dust. Edward L. Clissold was a good friend to many of us here today. She knew she was dying of cancer when I interviewed her in 1979, the first of two interviews that I hoped to do.

She was born and raised on Maui and was only eighteen when she accepted a mission call to go to Japan in 1950 as one of the second group of missionaries to enter that country after World War II. Later, living here in Kahuku, she helped her husband, Dr. Guy Heder, as well as the North Shore communities and individuals in a wide variety of ways until she became ill in 1977.

This interview was conducted in her bedroom at the Heder home just after her husband had administered some medication in an attempt to ease her pain. He commented that my timing was unfortunate because the medicine might make her drowsy in thirty to forty minutes. However, she seemed to be invigorated by the interview and was still going strong after an hour and a half.

In this final excerpt she cries to us a great lesson of missionary service, of courage, and the wise reminder to always count our blessings. We had been talking about the impact of her mission upon her life. I had just asked her if she had occasion to recall her Japan experience very often:

Quite often, almost all the time. Even to this day, and now it's almost 25 years later, there's so many times when vivid experiences come back to me. I guess being ill, I think back of things that I need to recollect for strength, I guess you would say. I occasionally have reunited with missionaries accidentally, that I didn't know had been there after I had left, and we exchange notes and sit back and recollect some of the things that have taken place and have changed with these missionaries. But one that I recollected the other day that brought tears to my eyes was--I was lying here feeling sorry for myself I guess--and I remembered this one blind boy when I was laboring in Nagoya, who had to travel quite a ways to come to his meetings every Sunday. We used to meet in this old school and the building was so old that we had to watch where we climbed on the steps because the wood was rotten. And this boy, we used to wait for him every Sunday, and we would wait to hear his cane coming up the steps to make his meetings. I was lying here thinking about him the other day, how he was late coming to church one Sunday. And we were quite concerned because it was a beautiful day and he never missed Fast Sundays and we were in the middle of our meeting one day, and we heard him come up the steps with his cane. In this particular meeting Bro. Shumway's brother was there--Eric Shumway's brother was leading the music. [ Elder Shumway was a relative, but not a brother of Eric Shumway of Laie, Hawaii.] We heard this cane come up the step, and this brother was coming to his meeting and his face was all bashed in and bloody and his shirt was all messed up, and he came in--of course we were all concerned--and very quietly sat down. Then it came his turn to bear his testimony and he got up--blind--he said, 'What a beautiful day this is,' and apologized that he was late because somebody beat him up and stole his tithing money. I was lying here the other day feeling sorry for myself and I looked out the window and I thought--here I can see the beautiful day and I'm not grateful and this boy was blind, got beaten up, and tithing money stolen, and he was grateful for the beautiful day he couldn't see. These are the little things that I keep going back to that I'm grateful for my mission, you know, that makes me appreciate the things that we take for granted. . . .

I always think about him when I find myself becoming selfish or feeling sorry for myself, or when I see other people who take things for granted. I don't know, maybe I've become a little simple-minded with this experience, but he comes back to my mind quite often, this young man. (20-21)

Dr. Heder came in just as we concluded our interview and was pleasantly surprised at her condition. We talked about getting together again to discuss more about her life here in this area but the disease was unrelenting and she passed away June 9, 1979, before I could get back for the second interview. That we can recognize the validity of oral history and gain knowledge, insight, and inspiration from these voices crying from the dust is my prayer. And for your willingness to let me share these thoughts with you, thank you very much.


1Ed. Note. Although a version of this "charge" appeared in the published forms of individual David O. McKay lectures as early as 1971, the particular wording Baldridge employs here was first included in the printed version of Alice Pack's lecture in 1977. Back to Top

2Ed. Note. These Are Our Lives (1939) is one of the better known works to come from the still largely unpublished efforts of the Federal Writers' Projects. Back to Top

3Ed. Note. Other well known books based largely on oral history include Forrest Pogue's George C. Marshall: Education of a General, 1880-1939 (1963), William Manchester's The Death of A President: November 20-November 25, 1963 (1967), and T. Harry Williams's Huey Long (1969). Back to Top

4Ed. Note. The ephemeral nature of newspaper comic strips makes locating a specific comic either problematic or serendipitous. Neither Baldridge nor Robertson now recalls on which day this exchange from "Peanuts" appeared in one of the local Honolulu newspapers. Back to Top

Works Cited

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Clissold, Edward L. Oral History Interview, OH-103, by Kenneth W. Baldridge, 11 Feb 1980, ts. Archives, Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

Federal Writers' Project. These Are Our Lives. Chapel Hill, U of North Carolina P, 1939.

Georgi, Nephi. Oral History Interview, OH-66, by Kenneth W. Baldridge, 26 Dec 1981, ts. Archives, Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

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Manchester, William. The Death of a President: November 20-November 25, 1963. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.

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Tai, Rudolph. Oral History Interview, OH-121, by Helen A. Young, 22 May 1980, ts. Archives, Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

Terkel, Studs. Division Street: America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1967.

---. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.

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Williams, T. Harry. Huey Long. New York: Knopf, 1969.