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26

A Great Locomotive

Mutual Improvement Association June Conference

Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

June 10, 1916


Amelia Flygare

Amelia Flygare. Circa 1910s. Flygare served as president of the Weber Stake Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association from 1911 to 1922. In addition to her YLMIA service, she also served as the first president of her ward Relief Society. She and her husband, Christian Flygare, were active in community organizations and city government. (Photograph in family possession. Courtesy Steve Coray.)

Amelia Margaret Hansen Flygare (1866–1948) believed that every person makes valuable contributions to the work of God, as she explained in her 1916 talk to Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA) officers. She was born in Brigham City, Utah, the daughter of Danish immigrants.1 She married Christian Flygare in 1887, and they had six sons and three daughters.2 Active in her community, she found ways to serve that were consistent with the circumstances of her family. When her children were in elementary school, for example, she was appointed first vice president of the Ogden kindergarten association.3 When four of her sons served in World War I, she supported local patriotic causes, including the Ogden chapter of the American Red Cross and the Ogden Service Star Legion, an organization for relatives of people in war service.4 She also founded the Weber County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, organized the Girl Scout program in Ogden, participated in the local Democratic Party, and chaired the Weber County women’s chapter of the Democratic Party.5

Flygare was active in her church assignments, both in her Ogden ward and in the Weber Stake.6 She served in the presidency of the Ogden Fifth Ward YLMIA for about seven years.7 She was a counselor to two different presidents in the Weber Stake YLMIA and then became stake YLMIA president for eleven years.8 The Weber Stake YLMIA was noted for its scholarly instruction. For instance, their stake curriculum in the summer of 1907 focused on famous musicians and authors and their works.9

Because of her local work and leadership, Flygare was also involved in YLMIA on a general level. Flygare and other stake leaders sometimes assisted in training local officers at the annual conjoint conference.10 By 1916, the year of the talk featured here, the YLMIA had grown into a significant organization with over thirty-four thousand young women enrolled and over eight thousand officers.11 The conference that year was held June 8–11. While some meetings were combined with Young Men leaders, separate training sessions were conducted on Saturday in the Assembly Hall by the YLMIA board members, with President Mattie Horne Tingey presiding. Flygare spoke to officers as part of a panel on the “Division of Responsibilities.” Additional presentations that morning focused on the Young Woman’s Journal, curriculum, and increasing enrollment. About seven hundred people were in attendance.12 Flygare’s five-minute talk was published with others from this meeting in the Young Woman’s Journal.

The subject assigned to me is “Responsibility of Officers”—musical directors, choristers, members of committees, and various other officers. Duty and responsibility go hand in hand.

I cannot help but refer this morning to the parable by our Savior that he has so beautifully given to us of the talents. He tells us in this parable that every member of this great organization has a talent. To some are given more than to another, but that does not signify that the one that has the least talent should not emphasize it and cultivate it and assume the responsibility of that talent. I won’t go into detail about the talents, because they are in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew—they are there for us to read—there for our benefit—but I will say: When the men to whom God himself had given the talents were brought before him, the one to whom he had given five talents came and said, “I have doubled my talents that thou gavest me.” Jesus said, “Blessed art thou; thou hast been faithful in few things, and I will make thee master over many.” He said this also to the one to whom he had only given two talents.13 That is such a stimulus to us, for whether we are called to the presidency, or to the counselor’s office, or to any office, our place in this great work means just as much as the greatest place.14 It can be compared, my brothers and sisters, with a great locomotive. Every little pin, every little wheel, every little mechanism, has its work to do in order to keep the whole machinery in harmony.15 In our church we have an individual place, and no matter where we are called to work, no matter what our office may be, we should do our part and do it cheerfully, and as we do one part, our responsibilities and talents will be added to, and we will go onward and upward as it is destined that we shall go.

I want to call your attention to the chorister, for instance. In the first place, officers, we are expected to select our workers, as has been told us so beautifully this morning by our president, with wisdom and with a prayerful heart, so that we may select those fitted for special places, those whom God has blessed with particular talents, and then, when they are selected, we must place the responsibility with them.16 Watch their progress or their failure, not saying, “Now we would like you to act in this capacity” and then turn around and say to someone else, “You see that she does it, will you?” Do you know that that weakens our strength and confidence and weakens the confidence of that particular member in us? If an officer can be made to feel that she is really a worker and that her position means something to that association, I believe she will assume her part.

I could not help, during this entire conference, thinking that it is almost useless for me to take five minutes. We have had example after example on this particular subject. We have had Sister Cooper lead us in singing.17 We all know and feel that she is just inspired when she leads us, and it has helped to inspire our choristers that they will go home feeling that they, too, must assume the responsibilities of leadership in that particular calling. When we have placed even a small member on a small committee, that position too should be magnified, and once in a while it will not depreciate us in their opinion if we will occasionally go to these officers and say, “Well done; you certainly have done well, and we expect you to do many, many more things,” and in that way, I feel that they feel that it would be a sin to betray the confidence that we have in them.18

I feel that perhaps it would not be amiss for me to tell you what I once heard President Woodruff say.19 To me, President Wilford Woodruff was as perfect as any man I ever met. He was a little, unassuming man when I was a child, and he lived away off in the country with one of his families, and I was taught to reverence and respect him.20 I do not know any other one man I was taught to respect quite so much. It was just in the time of my life when I yielded to that influence, and I heard him say in after years, when he stood at the head of this great organization, that he was blessed just as much as a humble elder in the church as he ever had been as president.21 To me, that is a stimulus through life, and I very often tell it in our organization. Never mind what position you have; try to realize that unless that position shall be magnified, you would not have that position—in fact, there would be no position for you.

We must remember that in our organization, our strength and our power are measured by the support we give it—we, as Mutual Improvement members. Our power is only measured in this great Mutual organization by the individual responsibility that we assume in it; and so on in the whole church. By the responsibility which the members assume is the power and the progress of the church felt.22

Now, my dear sisters, I do not know whether I have strengthened your faith in regard to this, or whether I have left one thought with you, but remember with it all that we are God’s children, and that we owe him everything that we can do in his service, and there should not be one position in it—not one—but what is worthy of our very best, and if we give our very best efforts to any calling that we are called to act in, the very best will come back to us.

May God bless this work and bless every earnest worker in it, that our influence may be felt throughout the length and breadth of this earth. I ask it in the name of Jesus, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Amelia Hansen, 1880 U.S. Census, Brigham City District 4, Box Elder Co., UT.

  2. [2]“Amelia H. Flygare Dies at Afton, Buried in Ogden,” Star Valley (WY) Independent, Aug. 26, 1948.

  3. [3]“Personal Mention,” Kindergarten Review 8, no. 7 (Mar. 1898): 483; see also Amelia Flygare, 1900 U.S. Census, Ogden Ward 4, Weber Co., UT.

  4. [4]“Amelia H. Flygare Dies at Afton”; “The Larger Outside Cities: Ogden,” Deseret Evening News, Mar. 10, 1917; Lilliebell Falck, “Lest We Forget”: Our World War Heroes (Ogden, UT: privately printed, 1927), 43.

  5. [5]“Funeral Rites Set for Mrs. Flygare,” Deseret News, Aug. 24, 1948.

  6. [6]Flygare became the first Relief Society president of the Ogden Eighteenth Ward in 1924. (Ogden Eighteenth Ward, Mount Ogden Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, 1924–1925, Sept. 2, 1924, 11, 77, CHL.)

  7. [7]Flygare was appointed first counselor to Bertha M. Eccles on September 8, 1901. She was named president on October 1, 1905. She concluded that service in January 1909, after she was asked to serve as a counselor in the Weber Stake YLMIA presidency in December 1908. (Ogden Fifth Ward, Weber Stake, Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association Minute Book, vol. 2, 1896–1904, Sept. 8, 1901, 299; Oct. 1, 1905, 41, CHL; “Officers’ Notes,” Young Woman’s Journal 20, no. 4 [Apr. 1909]: 196; Ogden Fifth Ward YWMIA Minute Book, vol. 3, 1904–1909, Jan. 12, 1909, 160.)

  8. [8]Flygare was appointed second counselor to Aggie H. Stevens on December 23, 1908. When Stevens was replaced as stake YLMIA president by Martha B. Cooley on May 5, 1909, Flygare became first counselor. Flygare was named president on April 23, 1911, ending her service in 1922. (“Officers’ Notes,” 196; “Officers’ Notes,” Young Woman’s Journal 20, no. 11 [Nov. 1909]: 571; Weber Stake Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association Conference Minute Book, vol. 5, 1904–1918, Apr. 23, 1911, 39, CHL; “M.I.A. Notes,” Young Woman’s Journal 33, no. 7 [July 1922]: 406.)

  9. [9]Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), 482.

  10. [10]Lucy F. Stringham, president of the South Davis Stake YLMIA, spoke after Flygare at this training meeting, focusing on the value of reliability. (“Officers’ Notes: The June Conference,” Young Woman’s Journal 27, no. 7 [July 1916]: 446; see also chapter 23 herein.)

  11. [11]Laura P. Nicholson, “Division of Responsibility,” Young Woman’s Journal 27, no. 7 (July 1916): 444.

  12. [12]Young Women General Board Minutes, vol. 8, 1914–1917, June 10, 1916, 55, 57, CHL; “Officers’ Notes: The June Conference,” 440–449.

  13. [13]See Matthew 25:14–30.

  14. [14]Just before Flygare spoke, Laura P. Nicholson, president of the Ensign Stake YLMIA, talked about the division of work: “Division of responsibility in Mutual Improvement work is one of vital importance and one upon which depends the success of any association. The work is so great that no president or presidency can carry it alone and make it a success. … Each member has a certain line of work to look after, and thus the responsibility is divided and the efficiency increased.” (Nicholson, “Division of Responsibility,” 444.)

  15. [15]A counselor in the YLMIA general presidency, Ruth May Fox, spoke after Flygare and used another metaphor to teach the same principle: “It is the spirit of the hive that accomplishes things. There is no seen force in the hive to direct, and yet every bee and every little community of bees knows just exactly what to do because of the spirit of the hive; and so, in our church, and in our organizations, it is the spirit that is the great moving power. It is necessary for us to understand and to put into practice all this detailed work, but we must rely upon the spirit of the work to do it successfully.” (Ruth May Fox, “Enlistment Work,” Young Woman’s Journal 27, no. 7 [July 1916]: 446.)

  16. [16]An earlier article in a church periodical also extolled the importance of choristers: “There is probably no reason why choristers should not feel as if they had a mission; why they should not be set apart to this end; or why, when so acting, that they also are the veritable servants and handmaidens of God, and of Zion and its prophets.” (H. W. Naisbitt, “Music and Her Sister, Song,” Contributor 12, no. 6 [Apr. 1891]: 237.)

  17. [17]Mabel M. Cooper, a member of the YLMIA general board and assistant music director, spoke earlier in the meeting about the new YLMIA songbook published by the general board. (“Officers’ Notes: The June Conference,” 441; YLMIA Song Book, Volume 1: Quartettes, Trios, Solos and Duet for Ladies’ Voices [Salt Lake City: Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 1916].)

  18. [18]Fox responded to Flygare: “As Sister Flygare indicated about the girl who had done her work dutifully, and to whom we should say, ‘You have been a good girl, you have done your work well, and I am going to give you lots of work,’ so we say to you, the more you do and the better you do it, the more you will be asked to do. And this will be so even in the kingdom—the greatest reward that the Latter-day Saint expects in the kingdom of God is that the Lord will say, ‘You have been faithful over a few things, and I will make you a steward over many things.’ … The more you do and the better you do it, the more you will be asked to do here and hereafter.” (Fox, “Enlistment Work,” 447.)

  19. [19]Wilford Woodruff was the fourth president of the church from 1889 to 1898.

  20. [20]Flygare may be referring to the time Woodruff spent with his plural wife Sarah Elinore Brown Woodruff at their farm in Randolph, Rich County, Utah. (Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991], 135, 222–227.)

  21. [21]Wilford Woodruff, “Discourse Delivered at the Weber Stake Conference, Ogden, Monday, October 19th, 1896,” Deseret Weekly, Nov. 7, 1896, 641. Before becoming church president, Woodruff was named general superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association at the general church conference held on April 6, 1880. (“Association Intelligence,” Contributor 1, no. 8 [May 1880]: 190–192.)

  22. [22]YLMIA president Mattie Horne Tingey opened this meeting with a discussion about the responsibility of officers: “There is no one thing in which you need to be more careful and more particular and in which you need to seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance more than in the selection of your class leaders. … Their influence over the girls is great, and you want to be sure that they are women of good, strong character and have the love of God in their hearts, the love of Mutual Improvement work in their hearts, and a thorough love for the girls and a desire to help them.” (Martha H. Tingey, “Greeting,” Young Woman’s Journal 27, no. 7 [July 1916]: 441.)