Clearly, it was time to stop renting halls and to build a church of our own. All we lacked was money.
At that time, local units raised 20% of the cost of a building, which was a huge sum for about 40 families to come up with. We held ward dinners, brought casseroles, and paid to eat them. We put on bazaars, made crafts, then bought them. We even held movies and sold ourselves popcorn.
One project involved selling fence posts we cut from the limbs of sage orange trees. The problem was, we ruined so many chain saw blades that we were going in the hole.
The task seemed impossible. We could see years ahead of us before construction would start.
But one week, a local physician woke up in the night with the thought that he ought to give us a three-acre parcel of land; he could use the tax deduction.
No one in our ward doubted for a second that a miracle had occurred. Not only did we have our land, but 80% of its value was credited to our share of the building costs. We were more than on our way; we could make it now.
It was time for a major push.
What we still needed was to bring in money that wasn't entirely from our own pockets. And that was when Bishop Jim Waite got the idea to open a bakery.
He had been a baker in the navy, and a local bakery was sitting idle. He negotiated a deal to use the place on Friday nights and to sell our goods on Sundays. We called it "The Saturday Bakery."
I was a baker, along with Bishop Waite, Jerry Adams, and George Hall. All of us were young, just out of college, and all but George were new to Warrensburg.
Our first night was a near disaster. Either the bishop was a little rusty on his skills or the yeast had lost its kick. The dough sat there and wouldn't "proof." (I learned the word that night.)
Time--and some added yeast--finally did get a rise out of the dough, but the sun was up in the morning before we finally took the bread from the ovens. We four bakers stumbled to bed, slept a little, then drove back to find that everything we had baked had sold. And not just to Mormons.
Before the bakery opened, members of the ward carried in their pies and cakes and cookies and added those to the bread, dinner rolls, and sweet rolls we produced in the bakery. Another crew staffed the store.
We weren't getting rich, but it was the best project we had found and virtually everyone was involved.
For many months, the operation continued. We produced hundreds of loaves of bread each week, dozens and dozens of sweet rolls, and our "dead seed rolls."
I need to explain these.
One night, when we had been rolling balls of dough for dinner rolls, we were all getting punchy. George, I think it was, was dipping the rolls in sesame seeds when he noticed a little chunk of something black in the bow. He made the offhand comment, "Hey, there's a dead seed in there."
And someone--I promise it wasn't me--said, "These must be dead seed rolls." It was late, and we were all extremely tired. We laughed until we cried, and the name stuck.
We raised money for our church, more by donation than by baking, but the bakery brought in a good deal of money.
And I got so I looked forward to those Friday nights. After spending my week with abstractions, I liked producing something by hand. But especially, I liked being there with my brothers, laughing and working together.
We built our church. And finally, the day came to move in.
That same week, George Hall's six-year-old daughter, Stephanie, was hit by a pickup truck and killed. Before we had a chance to hold a ward dinner to celebrate our achievement, we held a funeral in our beloved new building.
In our small ward, little Stephie had seemed a daughter to all of us, so everyone felt the grief. We gathered around George and Ginny and tried to share their burden.
I'll always remember a day, a month or two after the funeral, when George, quietly and stoically, told me what he was feeling.
Men don't talk as openly as we should, and we aren't very good at expressing our love, but I felt our bond that day. After, when we needed to laugh, we reminisced about the bakery, and we joked about the dead seed rolls.
Every now and then, I walk into a bakery and smell the baking bread--and it all comes back to me: The Saturday Bakery, the church we built, little Stephie.
I think of my brother bakers, the exhaustion and the devotion we had to our cause. I find myself longing for that kind of challenge again, just so I can feel that close to a group of people one more time.
Our love "proofed" the wholesome ingredients, and we made something fine out of the pain we shared.