Monday, September 7, 2009

38i - Part 1 - The House of Israel, Shall Be Gathered Home Unto the Lands of Their Possessions. John C. Begay's Life Summary.

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Jacob (Israel) Blessing Joseph -by Harry Anderson
The blessing given by Father Jacob who is also known by the name, Israel, included the promise that Joseph's posterity would continue throughout the history of the world. The Nephite Nation is descended from Joseph, a great grandson of Abraham. The prophet, Nephi, son of Lehi made the prophecy below in the name of the Lord regarding the descendants of Israel (Jacob), Joseph's father. This includes the descendants of the Nephite Nation in our day - the Lamanites, which includes, among many others,  American Indians:
The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 29:14
14 And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God,
and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
(emphasis added)
The Lamanites of our day, also known as Native Americans, and by various other names, are indigenous groups of citizens of Western Hemispheric nations of our day and time who are presently being gathered in by the Lord as they are willing and prepared. Also gathered together to make God's word unified, are the Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon was translated in our day by the power of God so it could function side by side with the Holy Bible.
Before I begin the main portion of this blog post I desire to pose a question to those of you dear readers who may have met someone who alleges that The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, was just made up, fabricated, by Joseph Smith, or by someone else before it was first published in 1830 in Palmyra, New York, U.S.A.
The question I pose is this: Why would any such imagined deceivers go "out on a limb" by including in such an account, amazing prophecies which state that the modern day descendants of a formerly righteous people would be restored to the exceedingly righteous state their ancestors had previously enjoyed and then lost.
According to the Book of Mormon those ancestors fell spiritually and temporally after having lived for two and a half centuries (A.D 34 to about A.D. 284) in a very righteous manner, which they were able to do after having been taught personally, through both precept and example, by our Resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who visited among them in their homeland in the Western Hemisphere in A.D. 34.
This record prophetically tells us that the descendants of this people would subsequently, in the Latter-days (in our day and time), be gathered back into the fold of Christ by a righteous people who possess the book written by the ancestors of that chosen people.
Before it is studied carefully, true history can often appear to be more unbelievable than fabrication can appear to be!
That history and those prophecies are true. They weren't made up by deceivers! I suggest you humbly ask the Lord about the truthfulness of the history depicted in these pictures. He will tell you!

The truth is that the fabrication theorists are wrong! Joseph Smith, was specially prepared by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ,and one of His angels. That angel, Moroni, delivered the record to Joseph who then correctly translated the entire Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ into the English language. The guidance and inspiration provided by that book is sorely needed by those of us living in these difficult days and serves as a strong support to the Holy Bible!
Today's descendants of that formerly very great but then fallen nation, have been and still are right now being gathered by the Lord through the instrumentality of His only authorized church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they most likely number, counting both the living and those who have since died, in the hundreds of thousands! The prophecies made of this in the Book of Mormon have been and are continuing to be fulfilled!
I have had the privilege of showing in my past ten blog posts that which has actually been happening among a good number of Native Americans living in the U.S.A! They are marvelous descendants of Book of Mormon prophets and their people, who have been and continue to be, recovered by the hand of the Lord from their fallen state (living without the Gospel of Jesus Christ) which was brought about by the apostacy of their forefathers.
Now you will have the privilege of reading another actual example of the "Gathering of Modern Day Israel" in this post. The Book of Mormon was truly written by inspired prophets who constantly used the Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation to fortell the future for their descendants' and our benefit!
Today's post (38i - Part 1) and the next post (38i - Part 2) give us an example of a Native American couple of our day who were lovingly and tenderly gathered in by the sure arm of the Lord, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Their's is an additional example of the fulfillment of the prophesy given in the 49th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

49: 24 But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.

25 Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.
John C. Begay and his wife, Ilene Touchin Begay


The upbeat LDS Seminary Coordinator at the Intermountain Indian School located at Brigham City, Utah was temporarily perplexed on the first day of class that fall of 1955 or 1956. He had four John Begays in the class. Then inspiration struck! He pointed out the John on his left and stated, “My young friend, you are John A. Begay!” Then, looking across the row, he indicated, “John B. Begay is your name!” The John on the back row left was designated John C. Begay, and finally, the teacher’s eye settled on John D. Begay in the red shirt immediately to his right.

All four Johns happily accepted their teacher’s creative method of distinguishing between them. Hopefully, the other John Begays benefited as much as John C. from this teacher’s instruction and special interest in them.

Elder Boyd K. Packer Loves the Book of Mormon
This impactful teacher was Boyd K. Packer whose reputation as a unique instructor is legendary among the approximately 14 million members of the LDS Church.

In addition to the regular weekly religious curriculum, John C. Begay and other Indian seminary youth were warmly welcomed into their teacher’s home on many weekends for joyful family fellowship and a strong righteous example. John C. remembers,
“After the Sunday meeting we would go to their home and they would feed us real good. Elder Packer and Donna treated us like their kids and we would spend the whole afternoon with all their family.”
In his early gospel learning from Boyd Packer, four things stood out for John C.:
A. “He advised me about dating and marriage. The most important thing I remember was his counsel to be spiritually prepared so that when the right young woman came along I would know it and feel it.”
B. “Second, he taught me the importance of tending to business before pleasure. If I had work that needed to be done, get it done first and then it was okay to play.”
C. “He talked a lot about having a good attitude, saying that my success in life was based upon keeping positive and not getting discouraged.”
D. “The fourth teaching I remember was about leadership ability. He gave me a lot of hope when he told me that I had leadership ability and a strong potential for succeeding in life.”
Many seminary students are impressed by the teachings of their mentors. Although young John C. Begay didn’t know the meaning of a paradigm shift in behavior, these insightful words caused a mighty change in him. Elder Packer’s teachings left a King Benjamin-like impact on this youthful student’s heart and mind, which, except for a short period, has lasted throughout his life.

Progressing at the Intermountain Indian Seminary, he was baptized by Bennie C. Joe, the student body president of the school and confirmed by Don Hunsaker, another golden Seminary man whose later stewardship was mission president in Navajo Country.

Dean L. Larsen, who served as a member of The Seventy and George Durrant, the respected author, were other prominent Seminary influences.

Another early significant role model was USU student and returned missionary, fellow Navajo, Bahe Billie, who came every Sunday to assist with the Aaronic Priesthood responsibilities of the Lamanite branch at the school. John C. states,
“We learned a lot from him and it was important for me to see a fellow Navajo doing well in the gospel.”
At that time young Begay welcomed Mormonism’s unique perspective with the passion that a daffodil or a crocus might welcome the first warm sun rays of springtime. And once he had firmly grasped that bright nourishment he let it unfold into full blossom. Grabbing hold of the gospel plow, he passionately held tightly to it wanting it to be his anchor for the rest of his life.

John C. would find that spiritual dreams are often thwarted for a time by the ups and downs of living found in the turbulence of reservation life.

On the far western corner of the Navajo Reservation south of Coppermine, Az., in the memorable year of the Pearl Harbor attack, Oct. 16, 1941, a baby boy was born into the home of Cecil B. Begay and Susie Neztsosie.

John was the seventh child of twelve Begay children whose extended family seemed to include about 100 sheep, 50 cows, and 20 horses.

The parents were raised before schools arrived in their part of the reservation thus they lacked educational opportunity and failed to learn English. Being parents of superb character and above average self-discipline they were able to eschew and disdain alcohol and gambling, two of the chief corrupters of residents in that area of Navajoland.

Cecil Begay served as medicine-man who three or four times a year sojourned off the reservation to earn the welcome salary on the Santa Fe Rail Road. Tasks such as water-man, flagger, and replacer of worn-out railroad ties became his daily duties as he survived in the Anglo world despite knowing little English.

Father Begay, a noted local free-enterpriser, was also a part-time moccasin maker. Mother Begay had a reputation for her weaving prowess. Her forte was ability with the difficult, unique, double weave. Assisted by her sister they would produce four or five smaller rugs or one larger rug (either 8x10 or 8x12) in one year.

The Begay family was blessed to own one of the choice farm sites in the western Navajo lands. Located on their ranch was that most precious of all desert blessings—water, yes W-A-T-E-R—almost in abundance. In a section of their ranch was a verdant, serene canyon—a spot of greenery- where Willow Springs is located. Its waters flow all of the year around. How the family loved to gather there!

It is not surprising that John C.’s first youthful memories relate to this idyllic place.
”As a very young boy about the first thing my mind can remember is doing the hoeing and irrigating work in the corn fields. Having three reservoirs and our beautiful stream I remember feeling really blessed. We raised corn, squash and my favorites—the green melons.”
Secondary memories, not quite as pleasant, included herding the sheep, gathering the horses in the morning, taking the same animals to water later in the day, and hauling the drinking water by wagon team from the windmill.

Though his association with the church spans nearly 50 years, brother Begay’s first contact with the church actually occurred when he was at the age of twelve.
“I was staying at Willow Springs with my grandma, Winona Sagannisto Nez Tsosie when two LDS missionaries came to our Hogan. They told us if we would be faithful Mormons, we could own a lot of sheep. I never forgot that. They also showed us a Book of Mormon. This was the first time I’d heard anything about it.”
Some may wonder why young John C. began his formal education so late in life. Was it because of his love for the farm-work and serene setting of Willow Springs? Was it because he felt safe and secure at the Begay ranch and wasn’t quite certain what strange surprises the schools and activity of the dominant society might bring? Or was it because his spirited work ethic and optimistic attitude were much respected by his grateful parents who strove to keep him around the ranch as long as possible?

Intermountain Indian School was chosen because of the curriculum which featured high school graduation while taking courses in English and a five or six year vocational program for over-age students offering training in welding, heavy equipment, carpentry, and warehouse skills.

John C.’s older brother had attended Intermountain previously and had already been baptized. As a spiritual bonus for John, his discerning mother had enrolled him in LDS seminary, but he had not yet attended as he went with his friends to Catholic and Nazarene services as he adapted to his new scholastic environment.

One day his class was interrupted by a knock, and an embarrassed and puzzled John C. Begay was told by his teacher that a gentleman in the hallway wished to speak with him. Worried about which school rule or law he might have broken, he meekly left the room. He felt a king-sized relief to see a smiling Bilagaana (white man) awaiting him! Following a friendly introduction, warm handshake, and cordial invitation to attend class by branch president Don C. Hunsaker, his church education began with John C. assigned to the seminary class of Elder Boyd K. Packer.

“That’s where I was converted to the LDS Church. My mother had secretly signed me up for Seminary which became my favorite class along with P.E. What do I remember about their teaching? It was mainly from the Book of Mormon. I recollect a lot of stuff about Lehi and Nephi and the bad wars. Our teachers showed us a lot of film strips with dead bodies lying around. We had color slides about the prophets too. And I got involved with the beginning of the Tom Trails film series. My favorite seminary lesson was about Jesus appearing at the Temple in Bountiful.”

“I was twenty years old when I graduated in 1960 and headed to Window Rock for my first real job. Because of my warehouse training, the Navajo Tribe offered me a position there.” He and three other young Navajo friends shared a humble Gallup apartment and he attended a local Gallup LDS branch where he served in the Sunday School Presidency. Then he missed attending a few Sunday meetings and before he knew it, the dragon of church inactivity became his mentor.

Wanting to be closer to home and have a better wage, he transferred to the tribal warehouse in Tuba City for about ten months where he was mostly a devout non-churchgoer. His happiness revolved around the weekends spent at his boyhood home near Coppermine.

When asked about his dating, John explained, “I didn’t do any of that dating thing. I was pretty shy around the women.”

The employment outlook changed. “I left Tuba (City) and came home to Coppermine because there was a reduction in force at the Tuba warehouse. I could have stayed, but I chose to leave, I didn’t like the warehouse job that much. What I really wanted to do was drive trucks—the bigger the better.”

“Trucking became exciting for me while I was working in Window Rock. The foreman would send me out with big loads, hauling pre-fabricated houses and things like that. On the way back, the drivers would often jump out in Gallup and have me drive the eighteen- wheeler back to Window Rock. I liked doing the driving a lot. So, I quit the warehouse to get into trucking.”

“Romance, true love and marriage is the thing which happened next in my life. At age twenty-five I had talked with and kind of had my eye on Ilene Touchin from the neighborhood. I remembered what Elder Packer had said about courtship and dating, stating that when the right woman crossed my path I would ‘know it and feel it.’

I hadn’t really talked seriously with Ilene to find out if she was the one or not. One day I walked over to her and we started making a conversation and something wonderful happened to me just like Elder Packer had promised. It was like a little earthquake inside of me. I guess my heart quaked and tossed as if a herd of buffalo had stampeded through it.”

Another factor in the marriage revolved around John C.’s parents and their worries about his lack of church activity and some of the bad habits he had picked up in the meantime. His mom and dad knew he needed a good strong woman to reactivate him and keep him on the straight and narrow.

Ilene Touchin was the woman to do the job. The Begays offered the Touchins several cows and various turquoise necklaces and Concho belts and five days later the marriage was performed.

The Mesa, Arizona Temple

John C. remembers: “Both sets of parents were happy with our friendship, so we got married, first in Coppermine, and then later in the Mesa Temple. Our first home was the one we live in right now.”

While the marriage was mostly wonderful John C. continued to drink occasionally through the second year of marriage much to his new wife’s disgust. She expressed disappointment and anger to her parents and even vowed to leave him if he didn’t stop the behavior. In the winter of 1967, after a short drinking binge he wrecked his pickup in the snow and totaled the vehicle. He was fined and jailed overnight. Coming home in deep despair he promised he would never drink again.

 “I prayed and asked the Lord for forgiveness. I realized that through the Atonement I could be clean and a new man again.” The next Sunday he was back in Church with his wife and little daughter armed with a personal commitment that he never broke. John C. found a job driving a flat-bed truck with the Home Improvement Department of the Navajo Tribe, hauling construction materials.

“It was a good job for which I was paid by the mile. In 1970 I joined the Teamsters Union which increased my salary more.” Progressing in his career, he then drove truck for several of the big trucking firms which were doing highway construction on the reservation.

After working for about 30 years, John C. developed back problems and in 1996 was forced to retire. Driving the big units still has a lot of meaning for him “I really miss trucking! I think about it all the time.”

The Church callings of John C. Begay make an impressive list which demonstrates a valiant religiosity above and beyond the call of duty. After his reactivation early in the marriage he served as MIA counselor, Sunday School counselor, and Elder’s Quorum counselor, before being called to be the branch president of the Coppermine Branch.

Page Stake High Councilor was his chief duty for the next three years followed by service as branch president in the Cedar Ridge Branch, 35 miles distant, for two years. He served in that position for two years. Next, he returned to become the Coppermine Branch President, with this tour of duty lasting for five years.

His next challenging calling was as first counselor in the Page Stake Presidency to J. Ballard Washburn, a prominent medical doctor. Gifford, the other counselor was a dentist, and a lawyer served as the stake secretary.
“The stake presidency seemed like a group of very powerful men to this former truck-driver. In our meetings, there were times I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but afterward, President Washburn would summarize to make sure I understood everything, and again the Seminary teaching of Elder Packer would comfort me as I remembered his kind words about my leadership ability and excellent potential, and his idea that my attitude—keeping it positive, was the key thing.”
After several years of stalwart service Begay was once again a stake high councilor, followed by being appointed the first bishop of the Page Fourth Ward, the Lamanite Ward.

In many cases John C. served in multiple callings, serving three times as High Priest Group Leader and three times as Ward Mission Leader, concurrent with being the Page Stake Mission President.

Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah (U.S.A.)
A Close-up View of the Tabernacle on Temple Square 
John C.'s longest and possibly most demanding calling has lasted for twenty-eight years. This has been his ongoing opportunity to attend every general conference and translate the proceedings into the Navajo language. "The translation job is a lot easier now, Conference used to be held on Friday also." General Conference was held in the Tabernacle on Temple Square for many years.

When asked about the almost impossible job of researching Navajo genealogy, John acknowledged,
“I’ve done a lot of it. Serving under Pres. Washburn I was given the responsibility over the Temple and genealogy work. I realized if I was going to get anyone else to do this important work, I would need to do mine first.

I looked at census records at the Navajo capitol in Window Rock, and in Tuba City. I talked to elderly relatives, toured graveyards and cemeteries, and I even read through Jacob Hamblin’s book looking for names. I was able to find information four generations on both sides. On my father’s side I go back to a grandfather named Old Arrow. On my mother’s lineage, Hosteen Nez Tsosie is my grandparent.

“Doing Family History research has been a very spiritual work. As I have been searching and praying to find a name, the name just comes to me. I have done about fifty names of my kindred dead.”
Is it possible that you have submitted more names for Temple work than any other Navajo, John was asked? “I don’t’ know. I do have seven more names to turn in.”

The St. George, Utah Temple
John received a new calling about one year ago. “I had been serving as an Ordinance Worker in the St. George Temple for the past six years. Every Friday my wife and I would drive the 130 round-trip miles, participate in some sessions, stay overnight, and participate in other Temple services on Saturday morning and then return home. A year ago the Temple president called me into his office and extended a call to be a Temple Sealer. Elder Jeffrey Holland set me apart.”
“My favorite and most spiritual calling in the Church has been Temple Work.”
“I was officiating in a session when four Navajo relatives in traditional dress entered the endowment room and seated themselves on the back row.

From photographs I immediately recognized one of the ladies as my deceased aunt who had passed away in 1942. The others present were her husband, mother, and father. They appeared to be middle aged, about forty. They remained seated during the whole time.
Afterward, I asked Patty Etcitty, who was assisting with the session if she had seen them. She had not.
John talked about his very unusual hobbies.
“I often think of Elder Packer’s counsel about business before pleasure. There are three change of pace things I love to do. First, I love to visit people--especially the drunks and heavy drinkers who hang-out in Page. I love to go sit down and talk with them. A lot of people don’t want to be around people who are drinking but I do. I try to give them hope by counseling them that there are turning points in their lives and that they can change."
“Sometimes drinkers beg me for money but I never give out cash. One brother begged me for gas money so we went to the service station together and tried to fill his tank. Guess what? It would only take thirty- seven cents worth. When they say they are hungry I take them to a restaurant and buy them a meal."
“Another thing I love is missionary work. I am the mission leader and Rex Lane, my brother-in-law and I take turns going around with the missionaries.”
“I also love spending time with the others who work in the Temple. Many of them are professors, lawyers, and school officials who have impressive resumes. But there in the temple, all dressed in white, there is a great fellowship, and we all feel equal.”
“Of all the places in the world, my favorite place is Salt Lake City. I have no intention of ever leaving the United States. I love Salt Lake City because of General Conference and Priesthood Leadership Meetings, and the spiritual atmosphere there.”
When John was asked about his philosophy of life, he remarked. "Obedience is the most important philosophy of life. Life is good; I love every minute of it! My health is good except for a little blood sugar thing."


A wonderful combination of little things coalesced in the life of a first year Indian seminary student which changed his vision, ideas of life, and his, until then, mostly meager spiritual outlook. “And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” D. and C.: 64:33

As Elder Boyd K. Packer changed the name of John Begay to John C. Begay it had many more implications than that of merely adding one letter to a young man’s identity. This simple and subtle act was the first in a series of happenings, influences, and examples that touched a young, impressionable, Navajo boy’s heart and thus transformed his life.

The seminary teachings about finding the right young woman to marry, business before pleasure, the crucial importance of having a positive attitude, and the concept that he had leadership ability and a keen potential became both a Liahona and a source of self-confidence for John C. Begay.

John’s many mentors, examples, and experiences have molded his sterling character. He has lived a life of service and obedience. Few church priesthood holders throughout the world have had such a myriad and quantity of callings. His accomplishment in serving as a language translator of general conferences during a tenure of twenty-eight years is also remarkable.

In 2006, John C. Begay was called as a counselor in the Arizona-Phoenix mission over the Southwest Indian Reservations.

As a footnote, this blogger, J. Neil Birch, mentions that he had the special privilege of serving as a teacher during the 1962-63 school year in the LDS Indian Seminary that served the LDS Indian students studying at the Intermountain Indian School. I served under Indian Seminary Principal, George Durrant. I then accepted a transfer to Farmington, New Mexico to coordinate the Indian and regular early-morning seminary programs functioning in that area. I was privileged to meet a good number of Indian Seminary students and see them grow spiritually.

This life story you just read was used with the permission of Dale and Margene Shumway, Authors of the book, Blossoming II. which is available on entitled The Blossoming II: Dramatic stories in the Lives of Native Americans. Also both Blossoming books are available by contacting the Shumways by email:, by mail 486 W 40 N. Orem, UT 84057, or by telephone 801 235 0986.

The retail cost is for book I $12.95 and for book II $14.95 plus postage. As for the Blossoming II books. They are available on titled "The Blossoming II: Dramatic stories in the Lives of Native Americans." Also both Blossoming books are available by contacting us by email:, by mail 486 W 40 N. Orem, UT 84057, or by telephone 801 235 0986. The retail cost is for book I $12.95 and for book II $14.95 plus postage.

The following link, when clicked upon, will allow you to view a special Mormon Messages Video. It is a very special Easter Message.

As we come closer to this Easter time in April 2011, you will find it very inspiring!  And even afterwards!   Mormon Messages


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TO ACCESS NEIL BIRCH'S BLOG INDEX: To Either Read the Full Index Item Which Refers To This Blog Post, (Or To Search The Index For Any Other Blog Post You Desire To Access), After You Have Read All of This Paragraph, Please Scroll Back Up And Click on the Following: (Present Day) Lamanites, Such as John C. Begay Have Been Blessed By Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Post 38i. - Part1. When The Picture of Our Savior, Jesus Christ Sitting Next To a Little Boy Comes Onto Your Screen, Please Scroll Down In The Index To Your Target Item Or Use the Alphabetical Scrolling Device (When It Has Been Installed).


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