Don Sparhawk

Don Sparhawk

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Today is the second Friday of the month. That means Upper Valley Life should be inside today’s Standard Journal.

As a casualty of the economic effects of the coronavirus, Upper Valley Life was not published. As a way for the newspaper to save money during these trying economic times, the monthly publication has been put on hiatus. The good people who have to worry about keeping the newspaper doors open were forced to make cuts. When times get better, they hope to bring Upper Valley Life back.

The first issue of Upper Valley Life (then called Upper Valley LDS Life) came out 16 years ago in April 2004. Rich Ballou was the publisher, Joyce Edlefsen was the managing editor of the Standard Journal, and Kendall Grant, an English professor at BYU-Idaho, was the editor.

Although I was working at the newspaper as a part-time feature writer, I wasn’t involved with LDS Life until about two years later when Kendall stepped down to spend more time with his family.

In the first issue that I worked on, we ran a story about Rexburg native Andrew Wolford, who had returned to his hometown to oversee work on the Rexburg Temple that was being built; John Groberg, who was serving as president of the Idaho Falls Temple; and six eastern Idaho couples who had served as temple workers at the temple in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where Blair Pincock of Sugar City had served as temple president.

Fourteen years later in 2020, I was still writing and editing the publication. Last year we dropped the initials LDS from the newspaper’s name in response to Church President Russell M. Nelson’s request to phase out the use of the terms “LDS” or “Mormon” when referring to the church.

When writing last month’s issue, I had no idea it would be my last – at least for a while. Not a word about the coronavirus was in the March edition. We featured stories about Elder Nathan Fullmer who was serving a mission in Africa, a story about Argentinian artist Jorge Cocco Santangelo who had opened an art show at BYU-Idaho which was still open, and I wrote a column about an old family letter written by my grandfather in 1935.

How suddenly things changed. Soon the church doors closed and we were worshipping in our homes on Sundays. Missionaries were coming home from around the world. Students were sent home and teachers were developing online classes. People were rushing to stores to stock up on food and supplies. People suddenly stopped driving so much and gas prices plummeted. Restaurants and other businesses closed their doors.

And worst of all, people began getting sick and we started hearing stories of people dying. First it was a just few, then thousands around the world were dead. When the Rexburg Temple closed its doors, I knew something was terribly wrong in our own community. It was time to take this very seriously.

Being in the over-65 age group ourselves, my wife, Marsha, and I decided we needed to protect ourselves. We stocked up on a few things and decided to close our doors. We put a sign at our front door that said we were not answering the door, but we’d welcome phone calls.

Our son, Andrew, who was living in South America, flew home with his family. They left everything in Colombia, planning to go back as soon as things get better. In the meantime, they are living with his in-laws in Wyoming and unfortunately can’t come to visit us because of fears of spreading the virus.

Since being sent home from school, our daughter, Katie, who teaches school in Bonneville County, has been busy figuring out how to teach her talented and gifted students online.

Our daughter, Sara, is pretty much confined to her one-bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle. She’s as busy as ever, working from home. The other day while on a conference call, she said she would be taking next Friday off. One co-worker asked if was because of Good Friday. Another asked if it was because of National Mormon Day. A bit puzzled, Sara realized she must be talking about the worldwide day of fasting. After explain fasting to her non-Mormon colleagues, several said they wanted to participate.

And our other son, Adam, and his family has been confined to their home north of Seattle. Like Sara, Adam also works for Amazon and says he hasn’t missed the long commutes to his office in downtown Seattle. Their daughter is a first-grader in the first school district in the country to close its doors, so she has been home for five weeks. Needless to say, they are going a bit stir-crazy in that home!

As for my wife and me, we’ve mainly been working on family history projects. If one good thing has come out of this whole nightmare, I’ve learned that I need to slow down and refocus my life on what is important. It seems that I was doing an awful lot of unnecessary running around. The best things in life are right here at home with my family.

Last night as we were holding family home evening, we came across a beautiful song performed last year by the Norwegian soprano Sissel and the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. The song is entitled “Slow Down,” and can be found on YouTube. As we all worry about what the future will bring, I will leave you with these comforting lyrics by Chuck Girard:

In the midst of my confusion; in the time of desperate need; when I am thinking not too clearly; a gentle voice does intercede.

Slow down, slow down, be still; be still and wait, on the Spirit of the Lord; slow down and hear His voice; and know that He is God.

In the time of tribulation; when I’m feeling so unsure; when things are pressing in about me; comes a gentle voice so still, so pure.

Slow down, slow down, be still; be still and wait, on the Spirit of the Lord; slow down and hear his voice; and know that He is God; and know that He is God.