Working the Divine Miracle
by Richard D. Poll
Stan Larson, editor
Parents and Children
[p.49]The forty-three years of Henry and Alberta Moyle’s earthly partnership spanned eras of prosperity and hard times, war and cold war, New Deal and New Frontier. The day-to-day concerns of parenting required their attention for all that period, for the first child arrived before their first anniversary and the last married only two years before his father’s death. Because of Henry’s business success, only the first decade presented serious problems of matching needs to resources. Henry’s penchant for keeping money at work meant that there were sometimes cash flow problems thereafter, but the Moyle children realized early that they were economically favored. Living in a somewhat remote suburban location produced a family reliant on its own social and emotional resources. The traditional distribution of responsibilities—father as breadwinner and presiding authority, mother as homemaker and drier of tears-produced an environment remembered mostly with affection and gratitude by the women and men who grew up in it.
For the Henry D. Moyles, the first years were hectic. Henry’s law practice developed as well as could be expected, but income was erratic and expenses kept pace. A ham won at a state fair raffle meant meat on the table during one lean period. Until enough could be saved for a down payment on a home, Henry and Alberta made do with unfurnished flats in the Buckingham and Hillcrest apartments. Amid bedroom furniture given as a wedding present by her parents and odds and ends acquired elsewhere, Alberta waited for, and cared for, two daughters. Alice—named for her grandmother Moyle—was born on 26 July 1920. Marie ar-[p.50]rived on 22 January 1922. Both were born in the Dinwoodey home, where “Father Moyle” and “Nanna” still lived when they were not in Washington or some place else. Both little girls flourished. Their father beamed and their mother was very busy.
Soon after James H. Moyle moved the summer cabin onto Lakewood Farm in 1920, he gave sizable building lots there to Henry and his brother Gilbert. Whether Alberta was as excited as Henry about moving ten miles into the country with two small children and a third on the way is doubtful, but by early 1922 he was able and anxious to go. Plans were drawn by an ex-German missionary associate, Georgius Y Cannon, and a mortgage big enough to cover basic construction costs was arranged.1 Gilbert planned a home for his new bride and much of the construction proceeded concurrently on the two structures. Alberta had an automobile by now. It was a Nash, the first of several purchased during the years that the Salt Lake Nash agency was one of Henry’s law clients.
The big move occurred right after Thanksgiving. The two-story house at 5450 Highland Drive, with its high-pitched roof, and its foundation still largely exposed, looked naked in its immediate surroundings. The larger setting was beautifully natural, but the ground water level was so high that a lot of dirt had to be hauled in to bank the foundation before planting could be done around the house. This task went on for months as Henry and Gilbert could find the time and borrow a truck. The dream house stood in a sea of mud or dust during the first year, linked to the outside world by a gravel path from which Alice frequently wandered. The small accumulation of furniture was almost lost in the upstairs bedrooms and the downstairs kitchen, dining room, living room, and pantry. There was a garage for the car but no curtains for the windows.
A lonely time of waiting followed for Alberta. There were no near neighbors that first winter and no close friends within miles. Henry was far too sanguine when he wrote to a friend: “These two children are certainly a great joy to Mrs. Moyle and prevent her from becoming lonesome for a moment, either night or day.” When Henry was gone with the car—and he was often late and sometimes away overnight—Alberta was isolated except for the party-line telephone. A face at the window gave her [p.51]a real scare one evening; it turned out to be a curious boy from a nearby farm. Curtains gradually provided privacy as cloth could be bought and time found to make them. When Alberta’s mother Clara came to help her with the new baby, she bought blue-striped material for ten cents a yard and made drapes for all the downstairs rooms.
The child welcomed to Cottonwood on 25 January 1923 was a boy. Henry wrote to his newlywed brother, Walter: “You need only multiply your own excitement several times to in some way appreciate my feelings. We are certainly glad to have a son, and we have named him James Henry Moyle. … I think much to father’s satisfaction. … ” Unfortunately, “Jimmie the 2nd” was a frail infant. When Alberta went to see how he was sleeping on the evening of 10 December, she found him dead in his bed. The cause was never positively determined—pneumonia, perhaps, or “crib death syndrome.” Alice was old enough to remember the unaccustomed activity and the light burning late beside the telephone. But Alberta and Henry made no show of their grief. The loss of Jimmie was not permitted to cast a pall over the lives of their other children. That it may have marked a turning point in Henry’s life will be pointed out in another chapter.
Meanwhile the tasks of building a profession and a home continued. Gardens were planted each spring, and what Alberta did not serve fresh to her family she canned. Henry and Gilbert continued to haul dirt and gravel and then beautified the grounds. Henry’s appointment book shows that he was at the office many evenings and most Saturdays, but that when he was at home, he worked. One spring Sunday in 1924 he “planted six horse-chestnut trees and nine lilac bushes.” The James H. Moyles were nearby during the summer months and Henry delighted in taking Alice and Marie down for a visit and a boat ride on the lake. There were horses, cows, and chickens, too, cared for by a tenant farmer but accessible to the children.
By the time Virginia joined the family on 10 January 1926, Henry was doing well enough to provide Alberta with a temporary nurse and a live-in housekeeper. The house was partly carpeted and Alberta was beginning to implement a plan for decorating it with a French Provincial emphasis. The process continued for more than a decade. The result was a home of style and charm—a center for family living but appropriate for the entertainment of leaders from many walks of life. Chestnut trees, lilac bushes, flower beds, and rolling lawns—for which Henry personally installed a [p.52]sprinkler system-provided a gracious setting for gatherings too large to be accommodated indoors.
Alice started school in Cottonwood. By the time Marie was enrolled, however, Alberta decided it would be better for them to go to the Stewart Training School, the laboratory school at the University of Utah. Henry could take them on the way to his eight o’clock class at the law school and the return trip could be by trolley. The pattern was repeated with most of the other children. They all remember those rides with their father, and that, when they asked him for carfare, he often gave them enough for something extra. They also remember watching him kiss their mother goodbye each morning. Sometimes the children would count as they watched, and then it became a game between the generations. Janet remembers reaching one hundred before one fervent embrace was broken.
Janet Moyle was born on Father’s Day, 17 June 1928, in a home significantly changed by the fact that her father was not only a successful lawyer-teacher-political leader but also the president of the LDS Cottonwood Stake. Henry spent many evenings at meetings, and even when he was at home interviews and telephone business took much of his time. Alberta adjusted to the changes but was not entirely happy with all of them. When Henry dropped some of his social connections because they seemed to him incompatible with his church calling, Alberta was disappointed. And according to the children’s recollections, nothing put her more out of patience with her husband than a last-minute call saying that a social outing for which she was already dressing must be canceled for some business or church reason. The tiffs did not last, but they were serious enough to bring out—as few other things did—the diplomat in Henry Moyle.
The Moyle girls’ recollections from childhood are mostly of happy times: doing things with Gilbert and Helen Moyle’s children, vacationing at Brighton, swimming in the lake beside their grandparents’ Cottage, going to the train station to meet out-of-town relatives, and driving to Ogden to see Alberta’s mother.2 Alice and Marie went to California once with their father, partly to see the world and partly to keep [p.53]him company. Alice, Marie, and baby Virginia went back to the Henry Dinwoodey place once under unusual circumstances. It was winter and all three girls were severely stricken with fevers. Doctors still made house calls in those days, but Cottonwood was a long way. So Henry and Alberta arranged with Father Moyle and Nanna to convert their dining room into a hospital room, with hand-cranked beds and a nurse to help. Alice and Marie remembered it as an adventure. For their parents, it was a sobering experience.
A decision made on impulse gave a substantial new direction to the lives of the Moyle daughters. When the James H. Moyles were preparing to leave for New York to head the LDS Eastern States Mission, Nanna said to Henry and Alberta: “I’m going to be lonesome back there. Let me take Alice with me.” Nine-year-old Alice was willing and in a day she was off. She remembers sharing a Pullman berth with her grandmother on the long journey. So well did she respond to the new environment that she spent most of three years there, attending public school in Brooklyn, studying piano, seeing the sights, and enjoying the association with the missionaries. Marie shared one of those years with her.3
When Father Moyle and Nanna—then in their seventies—were with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, Alice, then Marie, and then Virginia spent one or two years in Washington, D.C. Alice graduated from high school there and traveled to Europe with her grandparents. Marie graduated, too, under her father’s warning that she would become “the number two servant” in the Moyle household if she failed to do so. By the time Janet was old enough to go to Washington, the grandparents were back in Utah. Possibly to give her the same kind of experience away from home, Alberta and Henry encouraged her to take a break from college to spend a year in Massachusetts with Alice and her family. One of the Harvard men Janet met became her husband a few years later.
The letters from Henry and Alberta show that memories of their own youthful travels reassured them when they were lonesome for their absent children. Henry wrote to his father after Alice had been gone almost a year: “We are impressed more and more with the fact that this is a real opportunity for her development, and we should not permit our own de-[p.54]sire to have her home to interfere with her best interests.”
Henry was the more frequent as well as the more didactic writer.4 Acknowledging Alice’s letters he wrote: “They are not only very interesting, but should be of benefit to you in improving your English composition.” To Marie he wrote: “I want to caution you again against spending too much time with the boys.” A glimpse of both Henry and Alberta comes through in his comment about a bathing suit that was in the mail for Alice: “I thought you would rather pick out your own, but your mother thought otherwise.”
The live-in maid was a more or less regular feature of the Moyle household as soon as it was economically feasible. When the house was enlarged in the early 1930s, a separate bedroom and bath were provided to give the auxiliary family member more privacy. At Henry’s suggestion, young German immigrant women were usually employed. On a room-and-board basis, their services required only a little cash outlay and they usually proved to be good housekeepers and helpers with the children. Their presence made the periods after childbirth more manageable for Alberta and travel more practical.
Johanna Ruf came to the Cottonwood home in 1929 and was there much of the time for the next decade. She moved to Salt Lake City from Vim, Germany, as a not-yet-baptized convert to Mormonism. As she often afterward told the story, she saw the employment with the Moyles as a happy accident until, after a short time, she walked down the path to the cabin by the lake. It was a scene from a dream that she had dreamed back home. “I cuddled little Janet in my arms and cried,” she recalls. Something more than an employer-employee relationship followed. Alberta helped Johanna to learn English and scolded Henry when he conversed with her in German. Virginia and Janet came to think of her in motherly terms. Henry confirmed her a Latter-day Saint after her baptism; it was really a father’s blessing, and at Johanna’s request it was spoken in German.5
Henry Dinwoodey Moyle, Jr., was born on the day that Johanna cooked [p.55]her first Christmas dinner in America.6 The day was disrupted, but the tidings from the hospital delighted everyone. At last there was a boy to assuage a mother’s six-year sorrow; a brother for four loving sisters to coddle; a son to bear a father’s hopes.
Hank proved to be a pretty baby; slightly built and curly haired. Some people said he was more Wright than Moyle. As his sisters and doting mother pampered him, his father planned for his future. Discipline and work were to be central in his tutelage as they had been in James H. Moyle’s teaching of his son Henry and in the teachings of the fathers before them. By the time Hank was old enough for chores, Henry’s farming interests were generating them. There were cows, pigs, chickens, and a horse, each with time-consuming requirements. As a youth, Hank sometimes chafed under the pressure but an episode well-remembered in the family suggests that his spirit was not broken. Once when Henry came quietly to the barn, he heard Hank singing “I Love You Truly” to the cow he was milking.
Obedience was expected of all the Moyle children and all recall bringing a willow switch to Alberta or Henry so that it might be appropriately laid on. The pain passed quickly and is generally remembered as deserved. Henry demanded something more from Hank, however, and the penalties were sometimes more severe. The protracted test of wills produced incidents that neither remembered with satisfaction. Time and periods of separation mellowed the relationship and Henry later spoke with pride of some of his son’s accomplishments. However, Hank always remained closer to Alberta, who had comforted him and sometimes interceded for him-even as Henry Moyle retained a special affinity for the mother who had done the same for him.
When Richard Wright Moyle was born on 7 July 1937, his father was prominent, prosperous, forty-eight years old, and about to be released as stake president to become chairman of the LDS Church Welfare Committee. By the time he reached his teens, only Virginia was at home, and soon she, too, was gone. His father was a member of the Council of the Twelve and the teachings and practices of the church were pervasive in his home environment. Henry urged Richard toward success as he had all his children, but he was more tolerant of shortcomings. For Richard, it was almost like living with a grandfather-traveling to many church con-[p.56]ferences with him and playing chess with him during some of the long evenings when Alberta was away visiting grandchildren somewhere.
Henry Moyle threw himself enthusiastically into the activities shared with his children. The girls remember sitting on his lap as he read the paper and the sons as well recall hikes, swims, and spontaneous picnics with makings that Henry brought home from the delicatessen. In the chess competition he was a good 1oser. His robust renderings of “Waiting at the Church” and some songs in Scottish brogue-learned from his grandmother-added a certain something to family gatherings around the piano. Alberta encouraged the children to study music, and Alice and Virginia responded well enough to be able to share their mother’s special pleasure when a Steinway grand replaced the upright piano on which she taught them their first scales.7
The children remember few structured gospel teaching sessions at home, but the “teaching moments” were not all spin-offs of transgression. As their father had more and more preaching responsibilities, he shared his thoughts about the scriptures at the dinner table and in the car. He gave each of the youngsters a dollar when they learned all four verses of the hymn, “O My Father” Alberta’s homemade ice cream was an after-church custom, and there were frequent family prayers in which each took a turn. “Mother had a beautiful way of praying,” Hank recalls. “Dad’s prayers were forceful.”
Travel provided some of the best opportunities for Henry to be with his children. His enthusiasm for the outdoors made the trips to the Deseret Live Stock ranches exciting. So were the rides themselves. “Daddy was a fast, determined driver,” Virginia remembers. A family outing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is memorable for the morning that Henry and Alberta disappeared without explanation. Eventually they returned laden with parcels. It was Alberta’s birthday and they had purchased presents for everyone in honor of the occasion.
Because he was gone so much on business, Henry Moyle developed the habit of asking one of the children to go with him, sometimes on short notice. When they were old enough to drive, they helped.8 With the girls it was Henry’s custom to see them safely situated before going [p.57]about his business. When they were “old enough,” he might just give them shopping money and turn them loose, meeting them for dinner and a show or concert. Toward the boys he felt a more formal teaching obligation. Some of their fondest memories are of train and auto trips in which he shared his personal philosophy and talked about religion, business, law, politics, and strategies for investment. Henry Jr. remembers that “once when we went to the Rangely oil fields we learned all about the different kinds of drilling equipment.” Ball games, hunting, and fishing outings sometimes accented these journeys.
Christmas was special. Alberta loved to give, and the gathering and sequestering of presents went on for weeks. Henry added his surprises. After breakfast the family trooped into the living room, where the filled stockings, festive tree, and other treasures were waiting. Henry usually received the smallest portion. Of course, he was the kind of Santa Claus who might come home any day with a toy, trinket, fur coat, or piece of jewelry for someone, just because it caught his eye. He gave five of the children diamond rings when they graduated from college, and then decided not to hold it against Janet that she opted for marriage before reaching that goal.
“If you want to please me, marry in the temple” was the advice Henry Moyle gave to all his daughters and sons. He entertained no illusions that he and Alberta were perfect parents or that their home had been trouble-free, but he devoutly believed what he told the congregation gathered for the groundbreaking at the Oakland, California, temple site in 1962:
Something comes into a home, something comes into the heart of a husband, and something comes into the heart of a wife, when they are sealed for time and all eternity, and that something brings an eternal love into the family circle here in mortality. The children sense it; they come under its influence; they partake of it; and to the extent that they do, they partake of the divine nature.
When Alice married a young man who was too recently baptized to be eligible for temple marriage, her father was so upset that he spent part of her wedding day planting trees. When Marie eloped after a movie-scenario courtship, Henry Moyle was deeply hurt.9 The other young Moyles [p.58]selected partners and paths to the temple that pleased their father from the outset. Three delighted him by serving missions. Virginia converted a European tour into a mission in France, where Henry Jr. was already proselyting. Richard later was a missionary in South America and his brother was the first president of the French East Mission. Both sons were set apart by their father for these callings.
When Henry Moyle was a relatively new member of the Council of the Twelve, his good friend Harold B. Lee wrote a Christmas greeting to “Henry and Alberta.” Among other things he said: “As I talked with young Richard during some lonely hours when his daddy and mother were away, I was grateful for the wisdom of you two who are still demanding of your own, individual effort and sacrifice through which comes growth and strength.” The Moyle testimony, with its emphasis on obedience, accomplishment, and growth, was by then being expressed on a worldwide stage before parents and children of many nations.
1. For architectural drawings of this house, see the Georgius Y Cannon Collection, Manuscript 252, Cabinet 2, File 25, Fd 2, located in the Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.—Ed.
2. Charles Wright died in 1924, when Clara was only fifty-two. Henry’s law firm handled the estate settlement and he served as guardian for Alberta’s youngest brother, Gordon, for the next seven years.
4. He also saw the girls more frequently than Alberta, since business took him to New York and Washington. Once he told a friend that he liked to take one or another of his good-looking daughters to expensive restaurants and cause the curious-minded to wonder what he was up to.