May 2022 Story #2 of An Ordinary and Heroic Mom: Anna S. Merrill Daines

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Today’s mom story for our Mother’s Day month of May is about Anna Stoddard Merrill Daines. Pictured above is her gravestone in the Provo UT City Cemetery. I happened upon this story about Anna and her husband, Robert Henry Daines II, in an old Ensign magazine, written by the famous Orson Scott Card. Yes, the same Orson Scott Card of Ender’s Game fame. He wrote this back when he an assistant editor of that magazine. The article, called “Neighborliness, Daines Style” is over here. I highly recommend you read it!

What’s so cool about Anna Daines? Here is a bullet-point summary of the article linked above:

-she was the wife a Rutgers University professor, Robert Henry Daines II. They had moved to New Jersey for her husband to get his PhD at Rutgers, with every intention of moving back to Uah when he was done.

-when her husband was offered a job as professor at Rutgers after he got his PhD, they accepted the offer, thereby staying in NJ. When they finally got the chance to move to Utah, decades later, she obeyed President David O. McKay’s counsel for them to stay in New Jersey

-she worked tirelessly to fight prejudice against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints In Metuchen, New Jersey during the 1930s and beyond. At first the neighbors wouldn’t even invite her children over to play with their children.

-instead of retreating against the prejudice, she won the people of Metuchen over through service. At first the YMCA wouldn’t let the Church rent a building owned by the YMCA to hold church meetings. Anna served in the Metuchen NJ YMCA mother’s auxiliary, and after a time of devoted service, she became the president. Then she kept serving and eventually landed one of the spots for women on that YMCA’s board of directors. She and her family eventually won over the people’s hearts with their service.

-she spearheaded an effort to change the way graduates from the local high school celebrated graduation. The typical party was for the graduates to spend all night at various homes and then drive to the beach at dawn. She felt uncomfortable with that tradition. She wanted her son to have fun, but in a safer environment, so she created an alternative. This was an all-night party, with dinner, dance, and swimming, held at the YMCA chaperoned by parents. Then the graduates could go home to sleep, with a planned drive to the beach the next day.

-she helped establish Zion in Metuchen New Jersey with the above efforts

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She reached out to the youth of the area with encouraging words, including Elder D. Todd Christofferson, who spoke about her in the October 2013 General Conference in his talk “The Moral Force of Women.” You can read it here and watch it below. In that talk, Elder Christofferson said this about Anna:

“My family moved into the New Brunswick Ward when I was a teenager. Sister Daines took notice of me and often expressed her confidence in my abilities and potential, which inspired me to reach high—higher than I would have without her encouragement. Once, because of a thoughtful and timely warning from her, I avoided a situation that would surely have led to regret. Although she is no longer here, Anna Daines’s influence continues to be felt and reflected in the lives of her descendants and countless others, myself included.”

May we each as women follow Anna S. Merrill Daines’s example to reach out to youth and adults around us, inside and outside of our homes, wherever we live, to exert our “moral force” as women, and create Zion. As Anna is quoted as saying in the article:

“Since we couldn’t go ‘back to Zion,’ they say, “we decided we would make a sort of Zion where we were.”

Elder Christofferson says in the conclusion of his talk:

“Dear sisters, we rely on the moral force you bring to the world, to marriage, to family, to the Church. We rely on blessings you bring down from heaven by your prayers and faith. We pray for your security, welfare, and happiness and for your influence to be sustained. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

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