Glory, Glory Hallelujah

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Outside a drunken mob milled restlessly, thirsting for blood. Inside friends gathered and waited, grim faced and determined. Each man was ready to give his life to protect their friend. The ranks of the men inside were thinned as their leader sent one and then another of his protectors out for an errand. Each time the mob prevented them from returning. The remaining men at length understood. Their leader was resigned to his fate, and wanted as few as possible to be killed with him. They were reluctant to go, but complied with their leader’s requests.

One of them was a feisty Welshman named Dan Jones. He was committed to die if necessary, but his friend and leader told him, “You will yet return to your native country and do a mighty work.”

Reluctantly Dan Jones left the prison, and later learned that his beloved prophet Joseph Smith and the prophet’s brother Hyrum had been assassinated. Dutifully he fulfilled the call he later received to preach the gospel in his native Wales. Many believed, were baptized, and came to America under his leadership. Being Welch, they came singing, across the sea, across the plains, over the mountains and into their Zion.

In Salt Lake City they joined others who loved to express themselves in song. The chorus grew, and eventually morphed into a singing group you may have heard of, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I was privileged to be associated with the choir for a number of years as a writer of “The Spoken Word” for their weekly broadcasts, and I also wrote other introductory material for their songs. I was offered the position of television and radio director of their broadcasts, but I chose to stay at Brigham Young University.

The Choir has given its many audiences inspiring moments. Those who have experienced these may not be aware of the planning and logistics required to present the magic.

My friend Bill Critchfield shared with me one of those moments and the negotiations it took to pull it off. Bill was president of Osmond productions at that time, and I was doing some writing for them. The setting of this story is Washington D.C., so already you suspect there may be skullduggery afoot.

The 1980 presidential election saw a surge of support for Ronald Reagan from some conservative churches. While the Republicans appreciated the support, they didn’t want to overemphasize it, and perhaps alienate other power bases of the party, so they ruled that no churches could be represented in the inauguration parade.

The Osmond organization had helped with Reagan’s campaign, and they wanted to have the Tabernacle Choir included in the parade. Bill was a fearless and effective bargainer. He told the Republican powers that the choir was not just the Mormon Choir. Reagan himself had dubbed it “America’s choir.” Bill rolled out his heavy artillery. The choir was born in the cowboy country of the old west, had performed for 10 previous presidents going back to William Howard Taft, consoled the country for the whole day on CBS radio when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. The Choir has won gold and platinum records, and a Grammy. It is an unofficial American ambassador to millions in other countries, has the longest running program in American radio history, and is the standard against which every performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is measured. He convinced them that the world and the inauguration would be bleak indeed without the choir in the parade.

The party officials capitulated, but with one stern stipulation. The choir could not stop to sing in front of the president’s box. Nothing would stop the parade.

Ironically, I had worked with Bill when I was president of America’s Freedom Festival at Provo. Bill was our parade expert since he had been an official at the Rose Parade in Pasadena California, probably the world’s premier parade. Bill was adamant with us that our parade have, no gaps, and certainly no stops. When the Republican bosses told Bill the parade would not stop, they were preaching to the choir (no pun intended)

But even people of integrity have to weigh one virtue against another. To build the massive float (actually one float the maximum size that would make it around the corners, then they hooked on a smaller trailer float to hold the rest of the choir), to transport the choir and their entourage to Washington D.C., bus them around, feed and house them, and then not sing “Glory, glory hallelujah” to the president was like writing the Declaration of Independence and not signing it.

Good fortune sometimes smiles on worthy deeds. Fortunately as the choir float came abreast of the president’s box its tow truck’s engine died. The driver jumped out, threw open the hood and worked frantically to correct the problem.

Fortunately he fixed it, just as the last, “His truth is marching on” echoed over the crowd, and president Reagan wiped a tear from his cheek. The truck engine roared to life, and the parade rolled on.

Fortunately the mechanical problem only cost $50 to fix. And fortunately the repair bill had been covered by an anonymous donor a few hours earlier in this exchange:

Anonymous donor, “How much to have engine trouble in front of the president’s box?”

Truck driver: “Fifty bucks should do it.”

Bill told me later that somebody blew his cover to Church president Spencer W. Kimball. The whistle blower apparently hoped to whip up a scandal. President Kimball listened then replied with a twinkle, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Your next installment is: Writing for presidents of The United States

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.