By Larry Barkdull and Janice Hall
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I’ve heard it said, “My decision is my own business. I’m not hurting or affecting anyone but me.” That is a lie of serious proportions.
Recently, my 95-year-old Aunt Helen Walker passed away. She was like a second mother to me. I spent a great deal of my youth working on the Walker farm. My cousins were like brothers and sisters.
Helen was the first of five daughters born to Porter Wane and Edna Tyler Hughes. My mother, Doris, was number four in the family. The Hughes and Tyler families were real live hillbillies from the hill country of Arkansas, where, in the early 1900s, folk remedies and superstitions abounded. That is where a miracle occurred in 1912. My cousin, Janice Hall, Helen’s second daughter, gave the following account:
“One day, two Mormon missionaries were trying to find someone who would listen to their message about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As they were wandering around this densely wooded area near Gurdon, Arkansas, they came upon a trail that went deep into the woods. One of the Elders had an impression that they should go down this trail, but his companion wasn’t sure that it was a good idea. After much convincing from his companion, he relented and the two walked into the woods that lead them to a small home.
“They knocked at the door and a lady, Great-grandma Hughes, answered and assumed that they were trying to sell books or something. She assured them that they were wasting their time, because she was not about to buy anything. They explained that they were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and told her a little about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before leaving, they gave her some pamphlets.
“The Hughes had never heard of this new church. They had been baptized into one of the local Christian churches, but they carried around a nagging question: How does one get the authority to baptize and preach the gospel?
“They had good reason to wonder. Their minister, Reverend Johnson, said that he had been called to the ministry, but the manner of his call was stupefying. We grandchildren would always beg Grandpa Porter, whom we called Pop,’ to tell us the story of Reverend Johnson, and we would laugh so hard that our sides would ache.
“One morning, Johnson got out of bed, walked out onto his porch and beheld an amazing sight. His donkey reared up on its two back legs and began to bray loudly, Johnson, go preach, go preach!’ We grandchildren never tired of hearing the story that Pop told us about his minister’s claim to priesthood authority.
“You can imagine why the Hughes family had serious questions about who could become a preacher and claim the authority to baptize. They couldn’t square Reverend Johnson’s call to the ministry with the scriptures, which state that a man must be called and ordained of God to baptize in his name.
“The Hughes family studied the Church pamphlets, and the seed of testimony took root in their souls. They found an address on the back of the materials and wrote to ask the missionaries to return and teach them.
“When the Hughes family accepted baptism, they began to share their excitement about the Gospel message with their neighbors and family, but to their disappointment, the people whom they loved turned on them. If the Hughes family didn’t stay away from the Mormon missionaries, they would be run out of town.
“But the family was undeterred and continued to invite the missionaries to teach. Porter was twelve years old. To blunt the threats of the mob and to protect the missionaries, he would tote his double-barrel shotgun to the end of the trail and escort the missionaries to their meetings.
“In 1914, the Church asked the Saints in Arkansas to move to a town called Barney so that the Church could be centralized. A branch was organized with Rufus Tyler as the Branch President and Joseph Hughes as 1st Councilor. These men were our great-great grandfathers. Porter was fifteen when he was called to be the Branch Clerk. Through much sacrifice and hard work, they built the Barney Branch Meeting House.
“It was in Barney, Arkansas where Porter Hughes met Edna Tyler, whom he called, “the most beautiful girl in the world.” They were married June 28, 1917, and later traveled to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. He was seventeen and she was sixteen. A year later, July 18, 1918, they welcomed a sweet little girl whom they named Helen. Ninety-five years later, when Helen passed away, she had seven children, 36 grandchildren and 127 great-grandchildren.”
The progeny of Porter and Edna are probably twice that number. Most of their descendants are active in the Church; most of the boys and some of the girls have served missions; most of their children and grandchildren have married in the temple. Their descendants have produced Church leaders who have served in ward, stake and General Authority callings. I supposed tens of thousands of people throughout the world have been influenced for good because two people made a right decision and stuck with it.
They said yes to leave everything behind to make a covenant, and they said yes to live the covenant throughout their lives; they said yes to cross the country to be sealed in the temple, and they said yes to live worthily of that sealing every day of their lives. They said yes to bring children into the world, and they said yes to rear them in the gospel. The first yes opens the door to blessings while the second yes qualifies you for exaltation.
Our family story is probably similar to your family story. Someone had the courage to choose right, and the effects have rippled across the generations and penetrated the far corners of the earth. One hundred years ago, Porter and Edna made a decision. I doubt that they had a clue that their decision would affect so many. By the world’s standards, their decision was unremarkable, but by God’s standards, it was of infinite worth.
What is the power of one right decision? I think Porter and Edna know. Their parents know. Aunt Helen and her husband, Lamar, know. Janice and Porter Hall, and our brothers and sisters and cousins and their children know. My wife Buffie and I know.
One right decision can create and exalt a nation.