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Idaho Enterprise

Glenn Rawson and Matt Wray give Easter Fireside

Bob Crowther and Sharon Jenkins visit the Presbyterian church with Glenn Rawson

On Thursday of last week, which is observed as Maundy Thursday during traditional Holy Week to commemorate the Last Supper and the arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane, former Stake President Matt Wray and noted podcaster, storyteller, historian, radio host, and former colleague of President Wray Glenn Rawson presented a special easter Fireside to members of the Oneida County community.  Rawson had visited Malad earlier in the month at the invitation of Sharon Jenkins.  Jenkins felt urged to ask Rawson whether he and Wray might be interested in putting on a fireside, to which they both immediately agreed.

The two have a long history together, having worked within the Church Education System in Bingham County a number of years ago, where Rawson acted as a sort of mentor to Wray, who was new to the field at the time.  The sense of affection and respect between the two was obvious, and created an atmosphere that amplified their messages for those in attendance.  

During his speech, President Wray focused on the significance of the week as a whole, and how it resonated with his life and the lives of those around him.  He asked the audience members to think about which event during Holy Week they would have most liked to witness, and then take some time speaking with their neighbors about it.  As the warm sounds of chatter filled the chapel, the listeners became a part of the story being told from the pulpit.

Rawson focused on the final days of the week, from the betrayal to the resurrection and beyond.  His skills as a speaker were on full display, as he spoke about his personal experience growing up in a family that had left the church, and his own relationship with his father.  He explained how his faith had given him the conviction that someday he and his father would meet in the afterlife, with a different perspective on things.  

In turns passionate and humorous, Rawson’s strong faith was ground throughout by a deep knowledge of Bible history and the church doctrine, Rawson also spoke on the different insights of the Easter story provided by the Joseph Smith translation of
the Bible.

The event was a one of a kind chance to hear from a well-known media and church figure, alongside a familiar and admired one in the form of
President Wray.

Rawson visits historic sites in
Oneida County

Weeks prior to the fireside, Glenn Rawson was invited on a tour of the Malad Valley by Sharon Jenkins, and found it to be fascinating, a takeaway he repeated on his Youtube channel. “Every place I visit around the world reveals the values and principles of the people who live there in many ways--the cleanliness, the order, the infrastructure, etc. One of the things I look for personally is the preservation of their heritage and history. Those communities that value their ancestral heritage preserve it in history and sites,” he said. 

In all of his professional capacities, Rawson is a storyteller.  Whether the stories come in the context of his legendary skills as a seminary instructor, his many media endeavors, or in one on one conversations, it is clear that Rawson values a good story well told.  As he explains, “Stories can teach principles in a way that preaching cannot. Stories emotionally draw us in, like a good movie, and engage our feelings and desires. That is why they lift and inspire us. True stories have a remarkable power to move the masses, and like a favorite song, they will last long after a sermon or lecture is forgotten.”

As an expansion on the idea of the role of stories, Rawson also explains his belief that stories are communicated in a number of ways, not always through writing or speech.  History itself, he claims, is a story. “Our history tells us who we are. It is our story--our heritage. Knowing who we are, where we came from, whose people we are, defines us and gives us greater purpose and meaning. For me personally, I found a sense of belonging and pride when I discovered in my fifties that I had honored pioneer ancestors. When anyone loses sight of their history and heritage they are like a boat on stormy seas broken loose from its moorings--unanchored and drifting.”

Rawson was invited to tour Malad by Sharon Jenkins, among others, and was escorted to a number of sites by Luke Waldron and Bob Crowther.  “I came because I was invited to experience the history and pioneers of the area. I love it when people like Sharon and Luke and others love their history so much that they are willing to preserve it, honor it and share it,” Rawson says.

As Rawson toured the area from Samaria and its outskirts through Malad City, he says it became a different place to him.  “I will never see Malad and Samaria the same again. I will always remember the stories they shared with me and the love and respect they have for their pioneer heritage. I’ve been to Wales many times. I had no idea there was such a close tie and connection to the mother country in the Malad Valley. It’s like they take the best of both cultures and meld them together in one remote rural valley.”

Given his interest in the area and pioneer heritage, Rawson has visited many towns with similar claims to important legacies of early pioneer settlement.  “There were many similarities to other such towns across the pioneer west, but Malad and Samaria had gone the extra mile to preserve the past. They have preserved the heroes of the past more than most other communities. It is a beautiful thing! I recently went on a search of a major urban area in Utah. I went looking for the saved historical sites that should have been there. They were gone--all gone! Every significant place that I could take a tour group to to experience the history of the area was obliterated by shopping malls and urban sprawl. There was no one to tell their origins and no sacred place left to remember the deeds of the past. They become like the Bible itself--a beautiful thing we can look at, but we have no idea in detail how it came to be or who did it.” 

Part of what attracts Rawson to places like Malad is the practical, lived history of the people who worked to turn them into communities, and the struggles they overcame to do so.  “As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are taught the institutional history of the Church through such worthy books as the two volumes of Saints, but the institutional history of this Church could not and would not exist as it does without the contributions of ordinary people who are largely unknown. Church leaders sent ordinary men and women of faith out across the intermountain west to establish homes, farms, and communities. The sacrifices those families made are huge and ennobling. Most of those pioneers never lived to see a life of comfort, ease, and temporal security, but because of the foundations they laid, figuratively and literally, we live in comfort, peace, and safety. Those ordinary men and women sent out to sacrifice for future generations are the real heroes of this work of gathering. They may be unknown and unsung here, but they are honored and exalted over there. Blessed is that community that knows on whose shoulders they stand.”

Asked about his favorite discoveries during his time touring small pioneer towns, Rawson responded, “My favorite small-town discovery has been the pride and joy that the locals have for their ancestors and the community they inherited. Secondly, I love the stories they share with me. I publish and broadcast them around the world for other people to gather strength from. I will always be the historian of the little man--the history that only the families care about. Each little pioneer town has its heritage of forgotten heroes who have gone on to exalted rewards. They should be remembered.”

Rawson mentioned that he intends to attend this year’s Welsh Festival, and add Malad as a stop on one of his tours.

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