The Three Bishops

Growing up in Woodruff was to know everyone in town. Even counting the folks out on the ranches outside of town, there were barely 300 people, most of whom belonged to the Mormon Church. But that didn’t mean they came to church.

The Woodruff Missionary Class posed on the steps of the church in the late 1930’s. Members of the church kept together and were usually close friends.

The Woodruff Missionary Class posed on the steps of the church in the late 1930’s. Members of the church kept together and were usually close friends.

Growing up in Woodruff was also to know who came to church and who didn’t. There was no anger or retribution for not coming to church, but it was no secret either. Church folks did their best to love everyone, inviting them all to church socials and extending the hand of fellowship to the most hardened soul. But still many chose not to accept the fellowship, and pitied the poor farmers who had to clean up in their Sunday best and go to church.

Bill and Velma Stacey with their two children at the University of Utah in 1949

Bill and Velma Stacey with their two children at the University of Utah in 1949

Bill Stacey left town in 1940 to go on a mission, returned for almost a year to marry Velma Dickson before going into the Air Force, and then moved back in 1945 to stay a year or two. In 1946 he and Velma were planning to move to Salt Lake City so he could go to school at the University of Utah but his dad had a stroke, which left Bill feeling responsible to help run the ranch. He announced he would be willing to defer school if necessary, so the bishop approached him to become the leader of the Adult Aaronic Priesthood.

It was one thing to go on a mission and convert people who had never heard of the church; quite another to go bother someone out on his ranch who belonged to the church but made it quite clear he didn’t want his life complicated by it. Bill found the whole project intimidating because it meant he would have to approach three impossible men: Bruce Frodsham, a nice guy but totally disinterested in the church, Keith Putman, an old high school friend who had quit going to church when he was 14, and Reed Cornia whom Bill had never seen in the church, and was almost surprised to know was a member.

Bill fretted over this for about a month, and then affairs at the farm improved. Realizing the brothers at home were able to manage without him, Bill was able to leave to go to the University. He still remembers

Velma's sister Maxine in front of their Airbase Village apartment building

Velma's sister Maxine in front of their Airbase Village apartment building

how pleased he was because suddenly he was relieved of the responsibility of fellowshipping the three hopeless cases, Bruce, Keith and Reed. Bill and Velma took their daughter Janet to where they lived in converted Army housing at and he attended the .

The bishop then gave Bill’s old job as leader of the Adult Aaronic Priesthood to a newcomer, Joe Vernon. Joe was happy enough with the job because he didn’t know how impossible the three men were, and he went right to work.

Joe Vernon was born in 1906 in Summit County, and died in 1993.  He is buried in Woodruff.

Joe Vernon was born in 1906 in Summit County, and died in 1993. He is buried in Woodruff.

Occasionally Bill and Velma went back to Woodruff for the Fourth of July Celebration or for Christmas or just to see the folks. One time they went back and were surprised to find there was a new bishop, and even more surprised to find it was Bruce Frodsham.

But the surprises weren’t over. After a few years, another bishop was sustained in the Woodruff Ward, and to Bill’s surprise, it was Keith Putnam. A few more years and another bishop was called. Unbelievably, it was Reed Cornia.

Bill learned we give up too quickly on God’s children. We may think they’re hopeless, but God never does. In fact, God provided the Atonement for every person, knowing it would be the means for much growth and change. His far-reaching plan made sure every individual could improve day by day, continually coming a little closer to heaven.

It’s we humans who are short-sighted. God already saw the end from the beginning and knew we could do it.