This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Yard Sales and "Prophets"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Yard Sales and "Prophets"

Ok, this is a long post and it might start slow, but stay with me, I think it will be worth it.

So years ago I bought this vintage BYU Travel Study bag from a yard sale in Provo.

I believe it cost me $0.50 and it seemed like it would be a good carry on bag for well, traveling (duh). As it turns out it was a good carry on bag. I used it here and there but really not that much. It wasn't until recently that I have gotten some steady use out of it when I pulled it from my drawer o' bags looking for something that would hold all my seminary stuff. Incidentally, it's been the perfect seminary bag.

Now to switch gears for a moment. . . about 2 years ago I read an article in the Ensign (a church magazine) about Howard W. Hunter. I found the article interesting and really wanted to learn more about him. I downloaded some talks by President Hunter (for any non-Morms, he was our last Prophet before the current prophet, Gordon B. Hinkley). Seeing how President Hunter was a prophet for such a short amount of time (9 months I believe) and how I didn't know that much about him when he was an Apostle (I was in high school and not as 'churchy'), I really enjoyed listening to his talks and getting a better feel for him as a person and as one of the great leaders of our church. So as I've listened to these talks over and over, I still wanted to learn more about him and his life etc. This past summer, while in Utah, we went to Deseret Book and I asked about a clerk at the store if they carried President Hunter's biography. Turns out they're out of print and they don't carry them anymore. Oh well. SO, fast forward to this fall. I had forgotten about getting a copy of his biography until I started Seminary this year and was given a key to our ward library/media center. Lo and behold, they had numerous copies of President Hunter's biography. Perfect. So I grabbed me a copy, signed it out, and started reading. It was good. I finished it about a week and a half ago and returned it to the library.

So what does this have to do with my BYU travel study bag???? Well, as you may have noticed on the front of the bag, there is a little white 'tag' where one would write their name, address, and phone number. While I'm sure I had read it before, I didn't remember the name on the front. So I picked up the bag last week and was shocked to see the following:

That's right. . . The name on the bag says "Elder H. Hunter." What??? As in possibly, Howard W. Hunter? Now, I wouldn't have necessarily connected this BYU study bag with Howard W. Hunter (could have been a missionary right?) but as I said above, I just finished his biography and one thing I learned about President Hunter was that he was the Apostle put in charge of seeing the Jerusalem Center through from inception to completion. The process took over 10 years. However, I also learned that the Jerusalem center didn't open until 1987, and this bag looks a lot older than 1987. But still . . . he was involved with many, many church projects and this just seemed like a rather strange coincidence. So keep reading. . .

Upon further inspection, you may notice the address is listed as 50 N. E. Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. Perhaps his home address? Nope. As you may have already guessed that is the address of Church Headquarters (dundt, dundt, DUUUNNNDDTT). Elder H. Hunter AND Church Headquarters as the address? This was quickly leaving the realm of coincidence. Also this bag was apparently hand carried by a man named Mike Hansen (as is written under "tour"). Doesn't really seem like a missionary would have a bag hand carried by someone else.

Well B wasn't convinced. He thought it could for sure just be some missionaries bag . . . until I told him about the address being church headquarters. He agreed that was rather interesting. So I decided to make a few calls. I didn't really know who I was going to call, but I figured Church Headquarters would be a good place to start. After telling my story to a couple of receptionists and (and hearing an a couple "oh my goodness"es) my information was taken down by a Sister at the Church Historical society and I was told they would have someone contact me. I figured I would hear back in a week or two. . . well, more like 20 minutes. A missionary from the historical society called me right back. His opening line was "I understand you have a bag that you would like to donate to the Church?" Uhhh. . . well . . . um. I explained that I would be happy to donate it if it was something the church wanted, but initially I was just trying to find out if this was in fact Elder Hunters bag. Of course this wasn't something he could confirm over the phone, but it seemed plausible especially considering the address. He explained their process and policy about reviewing such items and it was agreed that the next time I was in Salt Lake (presumably this Christmas or this summer) I would drop the bag off and depending on the review of this item I would either sign it over for donation, or it would be returned to me. He told me he would be sending an email summarizing our conversation as a form of record. Here is a portion of the email:

I am a full-time missionary serving in the Church Archives and was pleased to talk to you this afternoon. From your description, it sounds like the BYU Travel Study Bag that you purchased at a garage sale a few years ago and have been using to carry your seminary class teaching materials may have previously belonged to "Elder H. Hunter" (it has his name and the 50 E. North Temple address on the name/address tag), and had been hand carried by "Mike Hanson" (name written on the bottom). We appreciate your willingness to donate your "find" to the Church Archives.
When you come back to Salt Lake City to visit, you could stop in at the east annex of the Church Office Building and drop off the BYU Travel Study Bag. It would be presented to a few of the Archivists in our weekly Acquisition Committee, and returned to you if it was considered unsuitable for our collection, which includes the Arhives, the Library, and the Museum. We appreciate you calling us to talk about your find.

Well, that's the end of my story for now. It may or may not be Elder Hunters bag, but I was pretty excited that it was plausible enough and of enough relevance that the church would actually want to review it for their collection. I have some thoughts on this experience, but I'll just say that it's somewhat a microcosm for how life often works in much larger and more important instances.

Thanks for reading.


  1. that is totally his bag. i just know it. but you should keep it and not give it to the archives. This is the perfect thing to start your own "Things owned by a prophet" collection

  2. Amy, what a neat experience. Seriously, the irony of this story is incredible!

  3. Have you called the number on the bag?

  4. How cool. I love garage sales.

  5. Bex--yeah I'm sorta hoping they don't want it. . .and that would be a good collection to have.

    Chels--yeah I called the nunber and a little boy answered, so I just said "oops, wrong number." How are you anyway? long time. . . (I would ask the same of you other 2, but I read both your blogs).

  6. Here's the thing, Ame. It wouldn't be a missionary's bag...what "elder" receives a Travel Study bag for his mission? Surely it is an elder meaning apostle. That is super cool!

  7. See Britty, that's what I think too . . . but I think it's strange that I never put it together before. Anyway, we'll see what happens if I actually decided to turn it over to the church.

  8. great post. awesome story. i have a plan to get all your tithing back you ever paid: put a tissue in there and scribble on some scripture notes. Then offer the church a few thousand for the bag and a tissue used by President Hunter.