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Time Out speaker offers peek into prophet's life

SALT LAKE CITY — When Heidi Swinton read President Thomas S. Monson's journals as she was writing the LDS Church president's biography, she expected to "see church history unfold.

"His journals have very little of church government," Swinton said at Time Out for Women in Salt Lake City on Nov. 19. "But I found a great amount about people."

Nearly 4,000 women came to the first day of the two-day Deseret Book-sponsored event that included Swinton's first presentation at Time Out for Women; Sister Virginia H. Pearce, who served as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency; and actor and singer Dallyn Vail Bayles, who recently finished touring with "The Phantom of the Opera."

On Saturday, Nov. 20, presenters included singer/songwriter Hilary Weeks; Mariama Kallon, who shared her testimony of the power of a single hygiene kit; Linda Eyre and her daughter Shawni Eyre Pothier, who shared parenting tips; Brad Wilcox, who presented on grace and the Atonement; KSL radio co-host Amanda Dickson, who presented on maintaining hope; and author Emily Freeman, who gave suggestions for helping to see good days.

Organizers had hoped to put together 150 hygiene kits to benefit the Road Home shelter. Thanks to donations from participants, more than 700 were assembled, organizer Laurel Christensen told the group.

Writing about the prophet's life

When President Monson was a boy, it was the middle of the Great Depression. The people in young Tommy Monson's neighborhood didn't have much in the way of material possessions, but they did have each other, said author Swinton, who was asked by President Monson to write his biography.

She shared several stories from his life, including one from when he was a deacon and was serving as the quorum secretary.

The quorum members had found "Charlie the dummy," a kind of scarecrow that looked like a person. The quorum members would have fun hiding in the bushes, throwing Charlie into the road in front of cars and watching the drivers slam on their brakes.

When they threw Charlie in front of a bus, a member of the bishopric had had enough and put Charlie into the church's furnace. The deacons quorum demanded the return of Charlie or they wouldn't pass the sacrament.

As they sat on the back row Sunday morning as the sacrament was being prepared, young Tommy Monson realized something.

"This is wrong. This is the Lord's work. You don't put your own feelings in front of the Lord's work," Swinton explained. Tommy led the quorum up to the sacrament table.

"Do we follow him?" she asked.

President Monson also served the people of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain and helped build the church in those areas, eventually leading to a temple and missionaries serving in and from Eastern Germany.

President Monson would take extra clothes when he would travel there. During interviews, he would size people up and think about what he had. Many times, they would leave with a shirt or a pair or trousers or shoes.

He related to the people as he knew what is was like to have nothing but each other, Swinton said.

He also flew to Germany one weekend to help give a blessing to Henry Burkhardt's wife because that's what he felt like he needed to do.

"Some of us have a hard time going next door to help," Swinton said. "We all have a hard time doing visiting teaching."

President Monson made time for individuals and followed the Spirit's guidance in finding those to bless.

"Do we reach out and help each other?" Swinton asked. "When we follow the prophet, our lives change."

The value of one hygiene kit

When Mariama Kallon was fleeing the rebels in Sierra Leone, she grabbed her scriptures and the plastic bag with her hygiene kit in it.

She still has parts of the kit.

"It blessed the lives of over 25 women in three weeks," Kallon said of their time in the refugee camp. The women would line up and she would give them each a pinch of toothpaste. They used the bars of soap sparingly to make them last.

They didn't use the shampoo — it wasn't labeled and they didn't know what it was.

Kallon had lost family members during the civil war and ended up with friends who were members of the church. For some of the missionary discussions, she walked three miles to the chapel.

She later served a mission at Temple Square. She brought her scriptures, both changes of clothes that she had and the hygiene kit when she entered the MTC.

Later she was reunited with her little sister and nephew when a Lehi family brought them to the United States, she said during her at-times-emotional presentation of her conversion and the promises that were fulfilled to her.

"Heavenly Father loves each and every one of his children," Kallon said.

Grace and the Atonement

"What Mormon woman has mediocrity as a goal?" asked Brad Wilcox, an associate professor at BYU, as he explored grace and the Atonement.

"Grace isn't a booster engine," Wilcox said. "It's a constant energy source."

Think of it more as a mother paying for piano lessons for her children.

"Mom pays the piano teacher. Mom requires practice," Wilcox said.

The children aren't ever repaying for the lessons with money. Their part is to practice and to learn.

"Jesus doesn't make up the difference, he makes all the difference," Wilcox said.

Taking a time out

This is the second year the event has come to Salt Lake City and this is the last event of the 2010 Infinite Hope Tour.

Last year, Marilyn Pickett waited until August to try to get tickets for the November event. It was sold out.

This year, she got tickets in May just to be sure she, her sister-in-law Lisa Wright of South Jordan, daughter Jennica Welch of North Salt Lake and friend Patrese Burke of Riverton could go.

Her daughters-in-law had been to local ones in Tennessee, Florida and Alabama and had told her all about them.

"It's fabulous," Pickett said. "There is such a beautiful spirit."

"(Time Out for Women) makes us feel we're on the same page," said Angie Gardner, who was at her first Time Out for Women event with her mother, LeAnn Fazzio, sister-in-law Kristi Fazzio and Kristi's 5-month-old son, Dominic, all of Spring Glen, Utah.

"I love that they emphasize that you don't have to be perfect," LeAnn Fazzio said of several of the presentations.

Gardner and Kristi Fazzio had left their other children at home with their husbands.

"They are having fun without us," Kristi Fazzio said with a smile.

e-mail: rappleye@desnews.com

More online

For more on the Salt Lake event, including summaries of each presentation, go to MormonTimes.com and click on "Entertainment" and "News."

Tickets for the 2011 Time Out for Women events in 21 cities from Albany, N.Y., to Fresno, Calif., went on sale on Monday, Nov. 22. Several of the presenters from the 2010 tour will be back. New presenters include Stephanie Nielson, blogger and plane-crash survivor, and authors Jason Wright, Dean Hughes and John Hilton III. For information, go to www.deseretbook.com/tofw.