Saving the World

image0Bill Stacey began life in a little house in Evanston, Wyoming. His boyhood was spent helping on his father’s ranch after they had moved twenty miles west to Woodruff, Utah. When electricity came to Woodruff his family lived a mile out of town and had to wait an extra few years for lights in their farmhouse. He was near adulthood when the gas lamp in the kitchen was replaced by an electric light bulb hanging from a wire which dangled from the ceiling. Plumbing in the house did not take place until after he had moved out.

Modern machinery began to make its way to Woodruff in spite if its isolation. His dad bought a Model T Ford and then continued to upgrade. By the time Bill was sixteen there was a Caterpillar tractor to help with the heavy farm work. “I remember when we began to realize there were four-wheel drive vehicles,” said Bill. “Our whole world changed because they were so much better in snow and mud. Once I got stuck in the snow with Ray Cox’s first four-wheel drive truck. In the past we had to get the horses to get us out of those really bad situations, but this time we decided to see what four-wheel drive could do. We engaged it by getting out and turning the hubs. Then we got back into the truck and I started the motor. We just about got whiplash roaring out of the mud.”

image1Whiplash was a good way to describe the next few years. Quickly they were all propelled into a modern and dangerous world. While on his mission in Canada in 1940 he was very aware Canada and England were at war. With great interest he watched military parades and was exposed to the units of fighting Scotsmen, fighter planes and the renowned Sopwith Camels. His eager eye caught sight of three minute dots in the sky one day when he happened to have his camera with him, and he took a picture, maintaining those nearly invisible dots were Sopwith Camels. Modern imaging technology proved him right.

Later Bill said, “As missionaries we watched as Germany marched through France, Belgium and Holland; and then watched Canadian families send their sons and husbands off to war. We had one friend whose husband was in France when it fell. She didn’t know for a long time if he was even alive. He finally escaped the Germans at Dunkirk. Bill then heard Winston Churchill’s great speech on the radio:

*We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender. *

Imprinted in their minds is that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, while serving in Canada, the Elders saw the newspaper headline and knew that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. “Then we knew we would soon be at war,” said Bill. “The first thing I wanted to do when I came home from my mission was to enlist. I knew I would be drafted anyway, so, within a few months, I enlisted in the Air Force.”

image2 “It wasn’t easy to maintain my standards in the Air Force.” said Bill. “While I was at Williams Air Base (an advanced fighter pilot training school) in Mesa, we had to go to San Antonio, Texas for Central Instructor’s School. Planes were not used for commuting then, so we went on a train. That gave us a lot of time to entertain ourselves, and most of the men did it with cigarettes, alcohol and playing cards. I knew none of those things were for me so I pretty much stayed by myself for that ride. The other guys were used to my lifestyle, but we had a new lieutenant named Overholster who didn’t know me very well. When he saw me off by myself he came over and offered me a cigarette. I politely declined. After a while he came back and offered me a drink. Again I thanked him but declined. When the next card game began he walked to where I was sitting and asked if I would like to play, but I again said I didn’t play cards.

“They played cards for a few minutes, but he apparently couldn’t forget my repeated rejection of his offers for sociality. He stood up during the game and walked back to where I was still sitting alone. ‘Stace,’ he said, ‘How long you been dead?’

“Sixty years ago it was a challenge to stay clean and focused on doing the right thing,” said Bill. “But now with computers and internet it’s even more difficult. We have to make up our minds who we are and what our standards will be. Then we have to stick to it even when we’re alone, which is even harder than in public. The challenges for young people now are much greater. Their resolve to stand up as representatives of God, to serve in every circumstance will have to be much stronger.”

As the world continually grows more dangerous there will be challenges a young boy growing up on a ranch would never have considered possible. “I discovered the world was a scary place as I grew older. We never thought Russia would cease being the world’s greatest threat,” said Bill. “We couldn’t imagine that conflict ending without another world war. Now we image3wonder whether Israel as well as the rest of the world will be consumed by militants in the Mid-East. But God will use this situation as He did World War II to soften hearts of nations and people. At one time I couldn’t imagine being friends with the Japanese.

Personal experiences cemented Bill’s fear of the Japanese. Some people in town thought Con Eastman was the toughest guy in Woodruff. Con served in World War II and later was captured in the Philippines by the Japanese. He was in a prison camp for years. The Woodruff people sometimes wondered about him. Some of them weren’t so much worried about how Con would get along, but wondered if the Japanese would survive him. But they had no idea how brutal the Japanese were, and Con came home different. His health wasn’t good to the end of his life.

Bill reflected on the outcome of the war. “Amazingly, after the war the Japanese changed; now they’re our best friends,” he said. “And it will happen in the Mid-East too. God knows how to use conflict to bring people to Him, and we don’t have to be afraid of what’s ahead.”

Bill has learned through much experience the importance to individuals of holding on to their ideals and their goals no matter what they’re doing and no matter where they are. “Whatever you do for the right reason changes people,” he says. “They can’t help being affected by your goodness, even if they don’t like you or they’re being mean or manipulative. The best thing you can do for someone like that is to be nice to them. It really throws them off kilter. Every person who comes in contact with you will somehow be blessed by your desire to do the right thing and to follow the Holy Ghost instead of just reacting in anger or frustration.”

“When I was on a mission in Duluth, Minnesota there were just a handful of members–not enough even for a branch of the church. Now there are several stakes. The Lord’s work is growing and flourishing all over the world, even though it seems so slow we hardly notice it. That strength is the result of individual members doing the right thing, teaching the gospel and living the commandments to the best of their ability. The Lord’s work is growing steadily.”

It’s the only way to save the world–one person at a time.