Baseball, Singing, Penmanship, and Perseverance

For this family home evening, I put five objects in a brown paper bag – a baseball and a bat, a hymn book, and a pen and paper (you could also do a coloring book).  I had Caleb pick an object out of the bag, I told a story from President Heber J. Grant’s life that related to that object, and then we did a short activity with that object (we did the activity first with some of the objects because the kids were too excited about them to listen to the story!)


“Being an only child, my mother reared me very carefully. Indeed, I grew more or less on the principle of a hothouse plant, the growth of which is ‘long and lanky’ but not substantial. I learned to sweep, and to wash and wipe dishes, but did little stone throwing and little indulging in those sports which are interesting and attractive to boys, and which develop their physical frames. Therefore, when I joined a baseball club, the boys of my own age and a little older played in the first nine; those younger than I played in the second, and those still younger in the third, and I played with them.

“One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to the other. Another reason was that I lacked physical strength to run or bat well. When I picked up a ball, the boys would generally shout:

“‘Throw it here, sissy!’

“So much fun was engendered on my account by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play baseball in the nine that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.

“My mother was keeping boarders at the time for a living, and I shined their boots until I saved a dollar which I invested in a baseball. I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at Bishop Edwin D. Woolley’s barn, which caused him to refer to me as the laziest boy in the Thirteenth Ward. Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night. But I kept on practicing and finally succeeded in getting into the second nine of our club. Subsequently I joined a better club, and eventually played in the nine that won the championship of the territory and beat the nine that had won the championship for California, Colorado, and Wyoming. Having thus made good my promise to myself, I retired from the baseball arena” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [1969], 342–43).

When we are PERSISTENT we can accomplish things we never even thought were possible. It would have been easy for President Grant to say, “I’m not good at playing baseball” and just give up and try something else like swimming or something, but he didn’t. He made a goal and said, “I’m going to be one of the best baseball players in all of Utah!” And he did just that. I’m sure no one thought he could do it, but he didn’t pay any attention to their negativity. He became better than naturally gifted athletes because of sheer determination. Often, it is not talent that determines whether a person becomes GREAT at something, but persistence and consistency.

Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.

-Smauel Johnson

With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.

-Thomas Fowell Buxton

Some men succeed because they are destined to, but most because they are determined to.

People do not lack strength. They lack will.

Quitters never win. Winners never quit.

Follow through: stopping at third base adds no more to the score than striking out. –

-Alexander Animator

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.

-Thomas Huxley

We had Jared model how to hit the baseball and what to do when you miss.  Jared missed on purpose and said, “Hmm, what should I do?  Should I yell?  Should I throw the bat?  Should I get sad?  Goodness no!  I just need to try again.  I need to practice.  Then I will get better and better.”  We had Caleb and Daniel practice hitting the baseball.  If they missed, we stayed positive and happy and simply told them, “Try again!”   There will be failures, but we can’t let them ruin our mood and make us become a worse person. We should just smile and say, “Try again.”


“My mother tried to teach me when I was a small child to sing but failed because of my inability to carry a tune.

“Upon joining a singing class taught by Professor Charles J. Thomas, he tried and tried in vain to teach me when ten years of age to run the scale or carry a simple tune and finally gave up in despair. He said that I could never, in this world, learn to sing. Perhaps he thought I might learn the divine art in another world. Ever since this attempt, I have frequently tried to sing when riding alone many miles from anyone who might hear me, but on such occasions could never succeed in carrying the tune of one of our familiar hymns for a single verse, and quite frequently not for a single line.

“When I was about twenty-five years of age, Professor Sims informed me that I could sing, but added, ‘I would like to be at least forty miles away while you are doing it.’ …

“Upon my recent trip to Arizona, I asked Elders Rudger Clawson and J. Golden Kimball if they had any objections to my singing one hundred hymns that day. They took it as a joke and assured me that they would be delighted. We were on the way from Holbrook to St. Johns, a distance of about sixty miles. After I had sung about forty tunes, they assured me that if I sang the remaining sixty they would be sure to have nervous prostration. I paid no attention whatever to their appeal, but held them to their bargain and sang the full one hundred. One hundred and fifteen songs in one day, and four hundred in four days, is the largest amount of practicing I ever did.

“Today [1900] my musical deafness is disappearing, and by sitting down to a piano and playing the lead notes, I can learn a song in less than one-tenth the time required when I first commenced to practice” (Gospel Standards, 351–52, 354).

For our activity, we simply sang some of the boys’ favorite songs.


“One day Heber was playing marbles with some other boys when the bookkeeper from the Wells Fargo Company Bank was walking down the other side of the street. One of the boys remarked, ‘That man gets $150.00 a month.’ Heber figured to himself that not counting Sundays, that man made $6.00 a day and that at five cents a pair, he would have to black 120 pairs of boots to make $6.00. He there and then resolved that some day he would be a bookkeeper in the Wells Fargo and Company’s bank. In those days all the records and accounts of the bank were written with a pen, and one of the requisites of a good bookkeeper was the ability to write well. To learn to write well was his first approach to securing this job and the fulfilment of his resolve; so he set to work to become a penman.

“At the beginning his penmanship was so poor that when two of his chums were looking at it one said to the other, ‘That writing looks like hen tracks.’ ‘No,’ said the other, ‘it looks as if lightning had struck an ink bottle.’ This touched Heber’s pride and, bringing his fist down on his desk, he said, ‘I’ll some day be able to give you fellows lessons in penmanship.’ …

“He secured a position as bookkeeper and policy clerk in an insurance office at fifteen. About this he said: ‘I wrote a very nice hand, and that was all that was needed to satisfactorily fill the position which I then had. Yet I was not fully satisfied but continued to dream and scribble when not otherwise occupied. … I learned to write well, so well, that I often made more before and after office hours by writing cards, invitations, and making maps than the amount of my regular salary. At nineteen I was keeping books and acting as policy clerk for Henry Wadsworth, the agent of Wells Fargo and Company. My time was not fully employed, and I was not working for the company but for the agent personally. I did the same as I had done in Mr. White’s bank, volunteered to file a lot of bank letters, etc., and kept a set of books for the Sandy Smelting Company, which Mr. Wadsworth was doing personally. My actions so pleased Mr. Wadsworth that he employed me to do the collecting for Wells Fargo and Company and paid me $20.00 a month for this work in addition to my regular compensation of $75.00 from the insurance business. Thus I was in the employ of Wells Fargo and Company and one of my day-dreams had become a reality’” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [1951], 39–42).

“When Heber, still in his teens, was working as a policy clerk in the office of H. R. Mann and Co., he was offered three times his salary to go to San Francisco as a penman. He later became teacher of penmanship and bookkeeping at the University of Deseret (University of Utah). …

“At one of the territorial fairs in which he had not competed, he noticed the exhibits of four professional penmen. He remarked to the man in charge of the art department that he could write better than that before he was seventeen years of age. The man in charge laughed and said that nobody but a cheeky insurance agent would make such a remark. He handed the gentleman three dollars which was the fee necessary to compete for a diploma and sent for the specimen which he had written before he was seventeen and hung it up with the remark, ‘If you judges know good penmanship, when you see it, I will get the diploma.’ He walked away with a diploma for the best penmanship in the territory. He encouraged the art of good penmanship among the youth of Zion and offered many prizes for the best specimens” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 40–41).

For our activity, we had the boys draw on some paper.


The Tortoise and the Hare

Character is the ability to follow through with the objective or commitment long after the original motivation has passed.

-Larry Beckham

We kept this family home evening simple as we wanted time at the end to set some goals as a family for the Summer. We read The Tortoise and the Hare. We talked about how the turtle worked really hard. He didn’t give up even though it was hot and he was tired. He kept going until he finished. He accomplished something great even though he wasn’t as talented as the rabbit. The rabbit, on the other hand, gave up when things got hard. As soon as he got tired, he quit. Let’s say you are running a race from point A to point Z.  If you quit at the first sign of fatigue (say point G), then you never get to experience H through Z or come to realize what you could have accomplished and the power you have to do great things.

With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.

-Thomas Fowell Buxton

That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.


We shouldn’t be lazy like the rabbit. If we are lazy and quit whenever things get hard, then we’ll never finish things and won’t accomplish anything great. We won’t feel good about ourselves because we won’t have finished anything to be proud of. Jesus didn’t quit when things were hard. He blessed the children when he was tired and He suffered for us even though it was excruciatingly painful. None of the prophets ever gave up. They did what the Lord wanted them to no matter how many hard things came their way.

God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion. By work we sustain and enrich life. It enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience. Hard-earned achievement brings a sense of self-worth. Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires. (Christofferson, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Nov. 2010)


Why talk about goal setting in June instead of January?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was my husband’s idea.  He doesn’t want our kids to be lazy all Summer.  He doesn’t want them to just sleep, watch TV, and waste time.  He wants them to continue to learn, grow, and accomplish some amazing things.  Summertime is one of the best times we have to teach our children because they are out of school and home with us.  We can help them accomplish things they don’t have time to do during school.

Jared and I set some personal goals for the summer, goals for the family, and goals for the kids (Caleb helped as much as he could, but since he’s only 4, Jared and I set most of the goals).

What do you want to accomplish this Summer?  What do you want your kids to learn?  Do you want your kids to learn how to garden, mow the lawn, edge the lawn, how to cook some more meals, how to swim, how to quilt, or learn first aid?  The older our kids are, the more goals they can and should set for themselves, but we should also be making sure as parents that we teach them the necessary skills they will need to be a self-reliant adult.  The best part about all of this is that you can enlist other adults (grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, etc) to be the trainers for the kids.  For example, you could invite grandma down to come and teach one of your kids how to quilt.  This works especially well if you sense that your kid is going to fight you on learning a new chore/skill.

The goals for our children included educational goals, fun goals (learning to play soccer, etc), and learning how to do some new chores.  I have truly learned that kids don’t magically learn to do more chores or acquire new skills – these things need to be carefully planned out.  Family vacations also don’t magically happen.  We’ve had summers where we only went on one family vacation simply because we failed to plan some early on and realized, to our dismay, that the Summer had flown by, and we hadn’t gone on any vacations!  It was a great experience to plan our Summer so that, come September, we feel we have accomplished some important things.  We brainstormed some goals, cut down the list considerably, re-wrote the goals until they were S.M.A.R.T (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), and then made some charts.

Goal Setting and Boat Building


We reviewed the story of Nephi building a boat in 1 Nephi 17-18 (we watched the Living Scriptures video, but you could also read and/or act out the story). This family home evening lesson would also work great with the story of Noah’s ark.

Nephi had a goal to build a boat.  How did Nephi accomplish his goal?  First, he cut it into smaller steps to make it more manageable.  Here are some of the things he did:

1. Gathered necessary supplies – asked the Lord where he could find ore (1 Nephi 17:9)

2. Made a bellows (1 Nephi 17:11)

3. Made tools (1 Nephi 17:16)

4. Didn’t let others discourage him from working on his goal (1 Nephi 17:17-18, 50)

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
      But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
      At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
By Edgar Albert Guest

5. Got others involved (team effort) – family helped him (1 Nephi 18:1)

6. Worked diligently, did as much as he knew how, and then asked for further directions from the Lord (1 Nephi 18:1-3). One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is 1 Nephi 18:3 “…and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me GREAT things.”  That is the power of prayer.  Nephi didn’t know how to build a boat, but the Lord did and He showed Nephi how to do it through prayer.  Never underestimate the power that can come from a simple prayer.

Nephi’s goal was very ambitious. He set out to do something he didn’t even know how to do, but with a lot of hard work, determination, and prayer he accomplished the impossible!


After the lesson, we helped the boys accomplish a goal of building their own boats out of egg cartons, toothpicks and card stock. We broke up the bigger goal into smaller pieces — cut up the egg carton, tape on the toothpicks, cut out the sail, etc.  We talked about how each step helped us get closer to our goal.  Their favorite part was decorating the sails with stickers and then filling their boats with all kinds of passengers (various toy animals which made me think we should have done Noah’s ark!).

051 050



Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.

S – specific. If the goal is “I want to become better at the piano,” when can you check that off?  It is better to be more specific.  A much better goal would be: “I want to learn two new songs on the piano.”

M – measureable.  You want a goal to be something that you can check off as done.  There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you have accomplished something.

A – achievable

R – relevant

T – time bound

For our two-year-old, we set the goal of learning 3 new signs this week and doing singing time every day for 15 minutes. For my four-year-old we set the goal of working on the alphabet every day and he set a goal of learning to play soccer.  I found a really cute blog post with Goal Setting Charts for Young Kids. This helped me make my goals for my kids S.M.A.R.T, fun, and gave me a way to help them see their progress visually which I think is really important for younger kids.