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In the Book Episode 14: "A Mother’s 'Twig' in Rhodesia: Minnie Budd"

Episode Transcript

“A Mother’s “Twig” in Rhodesia” with Minnie Budd

Rebecca: [00:00:00] Minnie Budd met the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1950 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, now present day Zimbabwe.

Over 70 years have gone by since then, and Minnie has now passed on.

Cathy: We had a milkman and a bread man and a vegetable man that would come on their bicycles with things every day to get the milk and what have you; bring the full and take the empty. And she would talk to them about the Church and she would actually even give Book of Mormons.

Joy: There was one thing that Mom all the time used to say to us: we are all God's children.

Rebecca: We'll go back to her house in Africa with two of her daughters, Cathy Byrne and Joy Robb, and hear about how one mother single handedly built a church from her own home all because she read a book and prayed about it.

I'm Rebecca Devonas, and this is In The Book.

[00:01:00] This is a podcast where we flood the earth with testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

When the missionaries gave Minnie a copy of the Book of Mormon, she didn't feel anything particular about it and just put it away.

Then the family moved to Gwelo, Rhodesia, and she gave the missionaries the address of where they were going. Knowing there were no missionaries in Gwelo, one of the missionaries, an Elder Cook, kept in contact with Minnie, sending her Church materials from time to time.

Cathy: But once she got to Gwelo, she decided to read that the missionaries had given her, and to ask. And I'll tell you what she said out of her history: “When all my children were in bed and asleep, I decided to do what the missionaries asked me to do, and I asked God if this book was true. To my amazement, my whole body warmed up from [00:02:00] my toes to the top of my head. I knew it was God's answer to me, the book was true. It was a very dramatic and amazing experience for me, but from that moment I knew that what the missionaries had been telling me was true.

Rebecca: Usually I don't start an episode with what would normally be the climax, but this one is all about what happened after Minnie prayed.

Cathy: She knew it was true, but back then, the head of the house had to sign permission so my dad had to sign for her, and he wouldn't because he said, how could she know it was true, and he didn't understand the Spirit at all, did he? And he said, how could she know it was true when she hadn't studied any other religion?

And so she started to study other religions, and she studied them for seven years. And she went everywhere, and we were just laughing today because she went to the Methodists, and they [00:03:00] asked her to teach a Sunday school class, and she said only if she could use her own material, and she used a primary manual that Elder Cook had sent her from our church, and she used that to teach her Methodist Sunday school class.

She used to read the Book of Mormon to us every night.

She was trying to live the Word of Wisdom.

She started doing family home evening.

She knew it was true, and from that very moment she never wavered

Rebecca: For a while, Minnie ran church from her house, using what materials she had and following what the missionaries taught her whenever they were in town.

Cathy: And they told her to start a primary and she'd say, “What's that?” Well, that's for the children. And she started in her own home, so the neighborhood children would all come, and we'd have classrooms in the bedrooms, and she also ran a home bakery and she baked and there would be treats and I think the neighborhood people were happy to send their kids for her to [00:04:00] look after for the afternoon.

Joy: She was one of the few mothers that was actually home. A lot of women worked, and our house was always full of children

Cathy: full of children and then we'd have primary and have classes and the best that we knew how we weren't even members of the Church as such. But they told her to start a Relief Society and she did that also in her home.

Joy: Well we were teaching Relief Society when we were 12, because we had to take turns. I think we basically read out of the lesson manual. I don't think we were very good at it.

Cathy: After seven years, my dad signed and said she could get baptized, but he said he didn't want her to influence the children until they were old enough to make their own decision.

Joy: My dad worked for the Rhodesia Railways, and so we went everywhere by train, because it was free travel. And we were going to South Africa over the Christmas holidays. And we were on the train, and Daddy said, “So what do you girls want for Christmas?” We [00:05:00] didn't have a lot of money, so I mean it wasn't going to be very much. And we said, “We want to be baptized.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Joy: Mommy had gotten baptized in October. And this was December. And we got baptized in February.

Rebecca: The three oldest girls were all baptized in February of 1958 in the Royal Air Force swimming pool.

Cathy: I think that the Lord turned her seven years of studying religions to her benefit. And she could talk to anybody about any religion on their level. She knew what she was talking about. And I think it made her a very good missionary.

Over the years, my mom did anything she could to introduce people to the Church.

Joy: I'd say if there was a word to describe her, it's bold. And I just think, why can't I be bold? I've got [00:06:00] to try and be more bold.

Cathy: But she could also turn a topic of conversation to the church in two seconds flat. And we even timed her. It didn't matter if we were in the grocery store. It didn't matter if she was doing cake decorating lessons. It didn't matter what She was doing. It embarrassed us.

Joy: Yes, it did. As teenagers, we were embarrassed to have church in our living room. Because I remember sitting there on a Sunday morning, singing away, and our boyfriends would arrive. Rick and and Terry would come riding into the yard on their bicycles, and

Cathy: riding into the yard

Joy: …be singing.

Cathy: But we were embarrassed because we were teenagers and we were singing religious hymns at the top of our voices in our living room, all facing the dining room table. These boys, I mean, they're looking through the windows thinking we are loopy!

And so the missionaries would come [00:07:00] once in a while from Bulawayo, which was a hundred miles. It was a long way to come, but if they came, we would have sacrament. And if they didn't come, we would just have church.

Of course, there was no chapel or anything.

And she would turn the chairs around in the lounge, and the dining room table would be the pulpit. And she would fix it up every Saturday. Fresh flowers from the garden, and we'd clean that living room, it would all be nice for church, and then she would run church.

Anybody that was there on Sunday, my mom would feed them because it was Sunday school in the morning and sacrament in the afternoon.

And my dad was good with his hands, and over the years, he would help. He built a music stand for us and he actually built a pulpit as well so that we would have those in our home too, to have the pulpit instead of the dining room table and the music stand to put the hymn book on.

But she would give [00:08:00] talks and give a lesson, and she would help us to give talks, and we would just have our own little church every Sunday in our house.

Rebecca: Anytime the missionaries came from Bulawayo, Minnie invited dozens of people to come to the house to sing or play games or watch the church produced video, Man's Search for Happiness.

Joy: and I think we just knew it off by heart because we were warm bodies. We had to go and sit in there while hile she had other people come in. But I think we saw that movie, I don't know, dozens and dozens of times because she constantly invited people.

Rebecca: And many of those people who attended her Sunday services were baptized.

Joy: I mean, we added it up once and it was like, I don't know… A LOT. She brought a lot of people into the Church. But it never grew our branch.

Cathy: Well, our twig, because we were so small that they could go anywhere and they could go anywhere and have a bigger congregation.

Rebecca: [00:09:00] Cathy and Joy said that they're twig, as it was endearingly called, most often only had women and girls in attendance until Trevor, a Rhodesian who had joined the church in South Africa, came back home and looked up the Church.

Cathy: He looked up the church and it was Mum. He said, “Minnie was the backbone. We very few saints of the Mormon religion in Gwelo gathered at her home each Sunday, and often a few days in between, to share our joy and exhilaration in the Church.”

So he joined in Durban, and there was a branch there of 70 active members. And he said when he moved to Gwelo, “ was indeed a very intimate little group, which made our time so much more delicious. There was Minnie and her six daughters, her mother, and dear, gracious Jean.”

And so he just talked about the wonderful voices we had, how we could sing the hymns so nicely where there were so few of us. And he said, “I was the only consistent male, though a pair of missionaries would [00:10:00] sometimes visit. As a result, I was accelerated in the priesthood so that we could have a full sacrament.”

So, we had one priesthood holder

Joy: And then he went on a mission

Cathy: yeah.

Joy: He didn't stay very long!

Rebecca: The South African Mission president from 1960 to 1964, was aware of the tiny twig Minnie was running and had befriended the family.

Cathy: And so he said to my dad that my mom was the only female branch president in the whole country. And if my dad didn't do something about joining the church, he was tempted to put pants on her and give her the priesthood.

He was just teasing my dad, of course, obviously, but anybody that came, knew my mom, because she was the only one there.

Rebecca: Minnie and the girls and anyone else who joined with them eventually moved their meetings out of the house to various locations.

Cathy: We had to [00:11:00] go early and sweep up the cigarette butts and pick up the beer cans, and clean it up before we could hold our service.

But my mom believed there would be a chapel. And the entire time that she lived there, for 50 years, she had a cake sale every single month. And it was a chapel fund cake sale.

Joy: And she did it alone

Cathy: She did it at home, and she would bake everything, and then sell everything, and she would take out her costs so that she could buy stuff to bake for the next one, and the profit would go into the chapel fund. And for years and years and years, she had cake sales, and we all helped with cake sales. But we never got a chapel in Gwelo while she was alive.

We got a chapel in Kwekwe, because that was where there was priesthood. And so that was 40 minutes or 45 minutes from where we were. And so we started to go through there.

Between Gwelo and Kwekwe, the 5th Brigade had a camp [00:12:00] and they were renowned for bad behavior. And so we'd have to go in convoys to Kwekwe through those bad years. But we used to go, and we used to come back, we used to drive right past their camp and come right back, and we never had any problem, and it was my mother's faith. She just had unwavering faith that this is what she was supposed to do and this is where she was supposed to have her girls and we would go.

And through the Civil War years, my mom's faith was phenomenal. We were in Gwelo, there was nobody there, but there was a branch in Bulawayo, and there were youth. And she just believed that we needed to to associate with the other youth, and so if they ever had a Super Saturday or any kind of youth thing, my mom would drive us through to Bulawayo. And we would see cars burning, but we never ever saw any [00:13:00] action. Never used a gun. Never saw any terrorist, and went to those activities and came home safely every single time.

Rebecca: Not only was she willing to drive through danger, but Minnie faced persecution in her own town.

Cathy: And they were very harsh. My mom worked for the Women's Institute. And the Queen Mother was the head of the Women's Institute, and she came from England, so it was a really big deal for Rhodesia.

And my mom was very active, and very strong on the committees for the Women's Institute. And so they were going to have this great big tea for the Queen Mother and everything else. And they came to my mom and they said, “You can't come because you don't drink tea and we don't want

to embarrass the Queen Mother.” And so she didn't, she didn't go.

Joy: She did all the baking! She made all the cakes

Cathy: and she didn't quit the [00:14:00] Women's Institute. She just went at it as hard as she ever had. She just forgave people

Joy: She was extremely forgiving

Cathy: extremely, because there were some nasty things done to her.

Joy: And yet, I mean, there were people that were anti, but as the years went by, she gained a lot of respect. People loved her.

Rebecca: Minnie's husband was there supporting in different ways over the years, but wasn't interested in baptism. Minnie, however, never gave up on him.

A missionary who had served in the area mentioned Minnie's husband when he wrote about the buds in his journal.

Cathy: He said, “One of the great lessons I learned from Sister Bud was faith. She loved her husband and wanted him to enjoy the blessings of the gospel. For 20 years before I met her, she was active in the church and shared it with others. I'm sure every missionary that served in Gwelo taught Brother Bud at least one lesson. Sister Bud would suggest Brother Bud allow the missionaries [00:15:00] to practice discussions on them. I don't know how many fasts she organized on his behalf, but in my journal records, I have this. ‘After a fast on December 30th, 1970. I noted, Brother Bud has really softened since we fasted for him. He's been coming to Sunday school every week, and yesterday he volunteered to teach a Sunday school class. I think this is amazing, and I'm really thrilled about his progress. progress We're going to hold another fast on Saturday, January 23rd. Sister Budd is writing to all the missionaries she has known, and a lot of other people too, to join the fast.

“I remember Sister Budd commenting that an angel appeared to Elmer the Younger because of the prayers of his father, and that if we had faith, A similar miracle could be wrought in the life of Brother Bud. Now, some people would lose hope after one fast, one Sister Bud's [00:16:00] faith seemed to increase with her perseverance over the 20 years before I met her and the next 30 years before Brother Budd was actually baptized.”

Rebecca: Minnie's husband entered the waters of baptism at age 80, and shortly before he died, all seven children were sealed to him and Minnie in the Los Angeles temple.

As the daughters told me one story after another about their mother, Minnie Budd, I thought about how her testimony of the Book of Mormon was like the well that never ran dry for her.

This Rhodesian mother had read the Book of Mormon, prayed about it, received an answer, and then persistently did everything she could think of to build the Church year after year for the rest of her life.

Whether or not there were missionaries or other members in her town, she was going to worship.

Whether or not she had support, she kept the commandments.

Whether or not she had a pulpit, she would give talks. [00:17:00]

Music stand or not, she sang the hymns.

Her testimony was a part of everything. Every cake she baked, every person she talked to, and every decision she made on behalf of her family.

So what kept her going when what she was trying to build seemed to have so many setbacks?

Cathy asked her the same question over the phone one day.

Cathy: And she said, “I read the Book of Mormon, I knew it was true, and I tried to live it.” And so she was very firm in that.

And she said, “Cath, I'm an ordinary person that found it and loved it and lived it. Please don't glorify me.” I said, “I think you're glorious.” And she said, “Cathy, that's wicked. I couldn't do it without the Lord's help. I couldn't do it alone. I've had too many years of God's hand in my life to ever deny his power.”

And you know, her prayers were answered and we talked about it and we didn't have a lot of money.[00:18:00] We would pray at night when we went to bed and she would pray that somehow she'd be able to buy bread for our school sandwiches the next day. And no sooner than she finished her prayer, the phone would ring, somebody would be ordering a cake because she had a home bakery. And she'd make her cake and they'd come and they'd pay her and she'd buy a loaf of bread. We had our lunches the next day, and it was a common occurrence in our growing up lives. She just had faith, and she just believed God would help her.

Rebecca: Looking up the word faith in the index of the scriptures, Cathy turned to 4 Nephi 1:12.

Cathy: And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the Law of Moses, but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together [00:19:00] oft, both to pray and to pray and Lord.

She didn't walk anymore after anything that her brothers, her parents, her husband did. Once she knew, she walked after the commandments which she'd received from the Lord and she continued in fasting and prayer and in meeting after both to pray and to hear both pray and to

She fasted for my dad every single week.

Rebecca: Mentioning the funerals of a couple who had accepted the gospel after Minnie introduced it to them, Joy said,

Joy: Both times, the kids got up and spoke about how if it hadn't been for mom sharing the gospel with them, they would not have that truth and they would not have that [00:20:00] comfort knowing that God has a plan and that their parents are not gone forever and so the far reaching effects are quite amazing.

And then we feel reticent to open our mouths, and we think, what are we depriving people of?

Rebecca: When asked what they would say to someone who doesn't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, the daughters said,

Cathy: Just read it, and read about these people that came on the American continent and then ask really the only person that you can really trust who is God and ask him if it's true because that's the only way to find out

Joy: You've got nothing to lose. And you've got an awful lot to gain if you find out that it's true.

Rebecca: And Minnie Budd has shown that after the response comes, there is plenty of work [00:21:00] to do.

This is a Scripture Central podcast directed by James Dalrymple, and I produced this episode. I'm Rebecca Devonas, and you've been listening to In The Book.