Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Remembering Morrie Kjar

Posted: 1 July 2014
Updated: 26 July

On June 26 my brother Virgil sent an e-mail asking if this obit of Morris Kjar was the same man I'd asked him for a postal address earlier in the month. It was! And I was chagrined because I had had Morrie's name and phone number on my office whiteboard for over 3 years to contact him about bringing closure to a decades old, but still open family issue that he was involved with. I had been his student counselor in 1962-3 when he was LDS stake mission president of the University of Utah student stake when I was in graduate school.

Fortunately, I followed up on that action item on June 4, 2014, before it was too late, having last talked to Morrie in his home in summer 1975--almost 40 years earlier! His wife Marge answered the phone and asked me to call back later, since Morrie was napping. But when I identified myself, she changed her mind and said she'd wake him. I was pleased to be remembered.

Though groggy from having been awakened, Morrie wondered how I was after all these years.  I said I had some loose personal ends to tie up with him before either of us departed this life. He gave me his email address. I didn't think to ask for his postal address, having intended to send him some relevant personal records.

One of the items I wanted to discuss with him was a letter he'd sent to my ex-wife in summer 1975 after he and I had last talked, which I didn't find out about until almost 30 years later. This was because it was discovered by my son from my second marriage during his review of Betty's substantial correspondence for a family reconciliation project. Because of its content, this son could not understand why the family hadn't realized its importance.

On July 4, Eugene wrote...
It is important to me to bring closure the above matter not only for me, but for my family and all of my children. Early this morning I felt prompted to contact one of Morrie's children, who might help this process. When I asked Marge who might have access to Morrie's records, she mentioned the name of one of her daughter, who happens to be the current general president of the LDS Church Relief Society. Marge mentioned that they had received the package I'd sent to Morrie on June 9, which included the DVD of my Berlin experience and a CD of my 1992 performance for the Ventura stake Relief Society. I hope this daughter was with the family members who Marge said had seen the DVD and heard the CD.

Relief Society! How appropriate...

On July 5, Eugene continues... Shortly after talking to Morrie on the phone on June 4, I sent him the following email: 
Dear Morrie, It was great to hear your voice again after all these years! I think the last time we spoke to each other was early summer 1975… More about this below. I am writing because there are some loose ends for my personal records that need to be tied up for my family and for the U of Utah special collections library, which is collecting my papers. I hope you will find this letter of interest and are willing to fill in a few blanks.

As I said on the phone, your name and number have been on my office whiteboard for over 3 years, after having visited Oscar McConkie, Jr. in SLC to check his memory. Although Oscar is still in marvelous physical shape and was gracious during my surprise visit, he did not remember the issue I came to see him about, which is mentioned in item 4 below. That was disappointing and thus I did not have the heart to visit you at that time, fearing that you, too, would not remember. Vic Cline died before he delivered on his promise to give his side of the story and copy his professional records made in 1961 to my family. Those records were then shredded by his family.

However, our chat yesterday encouraged me to try again to communicate with you about one or two unresolved issues.

1. Some of the happiest, most meaningful times of my life in the Church were when I was your counselor in the U of U stake mission from 1961-63. I don't know if you remember, but when I had finished the first year of that stake mission (which was the normal length of service back then) you asked me to say on another year as your counselor saying "I'm tired of 'yes men'". That was a wonderful challenge and I felt free and encouraged to be myself with you. Here are some blog posts about those days, which hopefully you can open:

a. (First 'transpersonal' experience while at UC Berkeley.)

b. Speech of U of U (This is where I first met Oscar who virtually demanded to know what I was talking about at end of this 5-minute speech. It was shortly after this that I was called to serve a stake mission and thus met you.)

c. [Oscar's blessing] (Oscar's setting-apart blessing had two surprising promises: 1. "The Lord is aware of you and the hopes of your heart. He will step out of His regular pattern to bless you in an especial way."; 2. "You will know of a certainty what your work is before this mission is through...") d. [Spiritual work with dad] (This is the only thing I knew "of a certainty" before I was released in June '63)

2. Weeks after my dad died a year later (May '64), I had this experience, which to this day I believe came from him on the other side.

3. The next year (Sep '65) I became your house guest and spent the night of the autumnal equinox there, where I had a dream, which I did not mention to you. But, I had confided something else that I had feared to disclose to you. Your response was, "Time will tell, Brother, time will tell." It was after--if not because of--this that you arranged appointments for me with several of the senior brethren, including Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee. Do you remember this? My primary objective was to reach Pres. McKay, which became frustrated. In a subsequent letter, if you are interested, I want to share that above-mentioned September 1965 dream because of a significant figure that reappeared in a more recent dream in August 2010.

Unfortunately, Morrie died on June 20, before he could respond to the above email. (I hope this stuff didn't contribute to his passing!)

To continue my reminiscences of this memorable man, When Morrie asked me to be his counselor in June 1962, after I had already served the regular one year as a missionary to his University of Utah stake mission presidency, I felt encouraged to be as honest and straightforward. I was the only non-returned missionary among the student group of seasoned missionaries that had been called to serve U of Utah stake missions. I was to learn that that mission was probably the toughest mission in the Church, because that area beyond Church control, was not naive. I soon became Morrie's go-to guy when one of those 'seasoned' missionaries got into trouble with a hostile or challenging contact. I think that's why Morrie wanted me to stay as a counselor and in that role for another year.

In July 1962, a month after I had accepted a second missionary year with Morrie, I had a nightmare. This was a wake-up call, which was to set me on new spiritual direction. This was the first dream I can remember and recorded. See this blog post.],


To be continued...

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