A Last Minute Calling . . .
As told to me many times by my father (Parley M. Neeley) . . .
The early 1930s were severe drought years in Utah (and the nation) and a dam was desperately needed. Funds were appropriated and the Bureau of Reclamation called on one of their dam engineers -- Grandpa (Parley R. Neeley) – to be the construction engineer. Grandpa was a dam engineer :-) and a dam engineer has to go where the dam is and not the other way around.
My dad explained how this would happen: When a project was done, or nearing completion, ‘transfer orders’ would come and Grandpa would have to move to the new project site, ahead of the family, to start work immediately. ‘Down time’ waiting for a new assignment was usually only a couple of weeks – the Bureau couldn’t afford to have talent sitting around unused.
And so in 1934, grandpa and grandma and family moved to Ogden so the grandpa could work on the Pineview Dam Project . . .
. . . Work proceeded on the dam and in 1937 was finished or nearly so when grandpa got a call from the his ward bishop. Could he come to see him? Grandpa met with the bishop and the bishop explained that he needed a new counselor, that he had prayed considerably about the matter, and had been impressed to call grandpa to that position. Would he accept? Grandpa explained that he would gladly serve but that the project was finished and it would only be, at most, a couple of weeks before transfer papers came to his new assignment – he had very little time left in Ogden. The bishop, somewhat taken back, said that he must have made a mistake, that he was sorry to have bothered grandpa about this, and that he certainly couldn’t call a counselor for such a short-term calling.
But a few days later the bishop called on grandpa again to explain that he had gone back to the Lord in prayer and that grandpa was the man. Would he accept? Grandpa accepted, was sustained, and attended his first bishopric meeting where a topic of much discussion was the roof on the new children’s primary (Sunday School) addition to the church house – it was leaking already – and it was planned to be used that Sunday for the primary children’s meetings. The Bishop and other counselor expressed frustration but were leaning towards calling the contractor within the next week or so -- the leak could be controlled with buckets and wouldn’t interfere too much ‘til then.
But grandpa, an experienced engineer, was gravely concerned. Further, being a ‘take charge’ and ‘what’s wrong with right now?’ kind of guy, grandpa left the meeting to find a ladder and crawl up into the attic of the new addition. He was shocked and horrified. The roof trusses were installed incorrectly, nails and fasteners were already pulling free, and the structure was in failure. Grandpa hurried down to advise the Bishop who immediately condemned the addition, held primary in the old area, and with grandpa’s help promptly got the contractor and inspectors over to correct the situation.
Grandpa wondered over the next few weeks
'what could be keeping the transfer from coming in?' – it was so late, even
his Bureau bosses couldn’t understand the delay – but then the papers came
just as the new addition was fixed and made ready under grandpa’s watchful
eye. And he was gone . . . to the
next assignment (Glendive, Montana).
In total he had been a counselor only a
few weeks. Just long enough to
realize the danger, diagnose the problem, keep the primary children from being
hurt, and supervise the repairs. No
one ever knew why the transfer papers had been delayed but the Lord knows and
had a plan to have the right person in the right place at the right time to help
his bishop . . . and the children.
The rest of the story . . .
We lived in West Valley City for a time. One day the neighbor came to my wife and asked whether we knew anyone named 'Parley Neeley'? The neighbor has been reading her grandfather’s journal and had come upon a strange story one of whose characters was a ‘Parley Neeley’. Yes, it was the same story, only from the bishop's point of view – the bishop had been her grandfather. The journal detailed his struggle to find a counselor, his frustration at receiving the answer of calling a man who could only serve for a couple of weeks, etc. And his relief that he had listened to the Lord, followed his direction, and gotten the help he desperately needed, but didn’t realize he needed, to counter a hidden, but critical danger.
“Remember the former things of old:
for I am God, and there is none
else; I am God, and there is none like
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done . . .”
Isaiah 46: 9-10