Friday, January 31, 2014

Bishop Kent Harrison: Second BYU Married Ward, Normalization

The small apartment we rented as our first married home quickly became unbearable. Our queen-sized bed touched almost all the walls in the bedroom. The second room was L shaped and quite skinny. The living room/dining room was good sized but the kitchen was a sliver of a space.

Behind the kitchen was the bathroom and we had to finagle a shower in the tub. We put up the shower panels and that is where I did my famous caulking job. Ever since that experience, almost 30 years ago, I have been banned from a caulk gun.

As newlyweds you have a different set of filters going into your first home. Now, having been married for a time, the wretchedness of this crummy place was too much. It was time to move.

We located an apartment way south campus abutting against I-15. It was a nice place with two bedrooms, dining room, and a kitchen that could host a washer and dryer. Eventually we purchased a used washer and dryer and felt as we had died and gone to heaven -- no more grungy old Wash Hut. This apartment had a large family room and the bathroom came with a shower, what a novel idea.

A new apartment that far from campus meant we would be in a new ward. The bishop of our new ward was Kent Harrison. He was a quiet man but very personable. Because the ward boundaries were so far from campus there were very few newlyweds. To replace the mound of newlyweds was a hoard of babies – lots and lots of babies.

In this ward we began to establish relationships, something we did not do in our first married ward. Irene and Keith Johnson were some of our closest friends and we still keep in annual contact with them. We also had callings. I taught the Family History class, something I would do several times in different wards.

It also had a handful of characters. One in particular was John Breaux. This was the ear of positive mental attitude and how to win friends and influence people. John was a missionary for the gospel of PMA. He was an exact opposite of me, gregarious, loud, over bearing, and the center of attention wherever he went.

We also became close friend with Milan and Debbie Malkovich. They were looked up to by most ward members because he had a real job in the Church Office Building in the Chapel Department. They also had three children and we were all impressed that they had survived while we were all struggling with our first. Debbie died in this ward. But that will be a story for another time.

Andrew was born and blessed in this ward and it was our last BYU ward that we attended as members. I remember worrying about leaving a ward where we both felt so comfortable and going to North Carolina where we knew nobody and had our doubts that we would ever find a ward to match Bishop Harrison’s.

As you will see as I keep writing about my different bishops is that a bishop really does set the tone of the ward. Sure, members make the ward happen, but the unity and community of the ward, or lack thereof, is typically a direct result of the bishop.

Bishop and Sister Harrison were perfect leaders for a ward filled with couples on the threshold of the adventure of life. Since moving back to Utah, we have seen Bishop Harrison on several occasions. Again, this is a relationship that we continue to treasure after almost 30 years. 

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