This archived article was written by: Kellie Henderson
Former institute instructor Legrand Black and his wife Marsha visited the College of Eastern Utah’s Friday Forum to relive memories and share stories on Oct. 2. Marsha, who attended CEU and supported her husband as an institute teacher for many years, first shared her insights and tales of college life.
As a student, Marsha was part of the forensics team and visited Nebraska for a national competition. One of the participants was losing debate points because of his long hair and asked Marsha if she could cut it. After assuring the young man of her abilities, she reflected that she had never cut hair in her life but decided to give it a try. “For the first time in my life, I cut his hair in the motel room with a pair of paper scissors and he did real well, despite his haircut,” she remembers amusedly. This experience, however, would later save her countless dollars on haircuts for her six sons.
Aided by her faith and love of living, Marsha encouraged the students to have courage, “Sometimes young people, and old people like me too, are hesitant to go into uncharted territory or accept the challenges or new opportunities because we’re fearful … We gotta get to the point where we ask ourselves which of these problems can we really do anything about right now, and which are just for our recreational anxiety so that we can drive ourselves crazy. We put so much energy into it that we don’t progress.”
Though the burden of worry must be set aside in order to “seize the moment,” Marsha recognizes the difficulty of doing so. She advises, “I know one mother who tells her children, ‘Every night I turn my fears and worries over to God, cause he’s gonna be up all night anyway.’ ”
One of her favorite memories of Price was of an institute student, Matt. He was full of good qualities, but was afraid his sweetheart, Bonnie, would only marry him for his money. Her husband advised, “When you get ready to propose, just be sure her motives are pure and undefiled.” Although the suggestion was given partially in jest, Matt begged for specifics. He must convince Bonnie, LeGrand counseled, that he was “a man of humble means” and suggested, jokingly, popping the question to her in their old family van. Taking him quite literally, Matt asked to borrow the ’73 Dodge Van on the evening of the proposal.
Marsha and the family worked hard to prepare their vehicle for this grand occasion. “I remember cleaning that van the best I could for Matt’s big night. The van was really ugly, but I tried to spruce it up the best I could. I dutifully replaced all the duct tape that was used to keep that interior from falling in on us … the kids sprayed perfume in the van. It was a beautiful thing; so romantic.”
As a final touch, the Black family taped a sign to the back of the van reading, “Honk if you think Bonnie should marry Matt.” Oblivious, the proposal carried out as planned, although “[Matt] reported later that the whole night people waved at them and honked and he could not figure it out, it must be a sign from heaven.” Bonnie accepted the proposal and they are married with a family.
Marsha concluded, “I pray that each of us will the courage, ambition, the gumption to look around us to see what interesting experiences are in our wake … That we’ll seize the moment, that we’ll take advantage of callings and opportunities that count.”
After Marsha’s conclusion, LeGrand spoke about his experiences teaching institute for the college. He taught the missionary-prep course and would award his students with a polished stone after receiving their mission calls. These stones, first discovered when Marsha’s great grandfather worked blasting trails through rock, were polished marbles that came out of a wall of sandstone. Some material was deposited into the wall and millions of years of erosion and weathering caused them to become exposed and fall down the mountainside.
The most beautiful, polished stones are the ones that fall in the water tanks, “There are natural water tanks all over that slick rock hill, and they’ll rush down and get stuck … and spin those rocks just like a washing machine, and over years they become perfect, and you can even play a game of marbles.” LeGrand uses these stones to illustrate the covenant of baptism with his class.
Another rock is used to encourage the missionaries whenever they are frustrated, reminding them that, “refining was never meant to be discouraging it was meant to be purifying.”
One of his beloved memories was the institute trip to the Hole-in-the-Rock. This expedition covers a steep, narrow trail between two walls of rocks originally traveled by Mormon pioneers. For this journey, the stones were used as symbols, “on this trip we always pass out a necklace, and engrave little messages of inspiration.”
Despite the obvious challenge, LeGrand required an extra effort from his students. “Before you can take a trip … with me you have to be willing to make a covenant.” The engraved rock necklaces bound the students to “maintain a cheerful disposition throughout the duration of the expedition,” and he added bemusedly, “How mean is that?” This experiment, he believed, would reveal the true character of the students. In fact, one engaged couple who embarked on the trip actually broke up after seeing each other in their “true light.”
Friday Forum is a weekly institute class, at noon, open to the public in the red brick church on Veterans Lane. This week will feature Elder D. Frazier Bullock, and no class will be held on Oct. 17. A tail gate party is on Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. in the BDAC as well as an October Bash on the 24th at 8 p.m. in the forum church.