Ruth Stephens (d. 6 April 2013)



The Denver Colorado Temple
of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints



I received word from my wife just a few minutes ago that my mother-in-law has passed away.  (My wife spent last night with her mother in the hospital, and was planning to do so again tonight.)


Ruth had been fighting Alzheimer’s, or something like it, for probably about ten years, but her physical health seemed excellent until early this week, and, frankly, we had expected her to be around for quite a bit longer.  This has been a surprise.  She went into a coma and steadily declined.


She visited me and my wife in Cairo, and she was with us in the hospital room in Santa Monica when our middle son was born.  She and her husband visited with our family later, while I was teaching in Jerusalem.  She played the organ in the Denver Temple, served as a Relief Society president, supported her husband while he served as a bishop and in a stake presidency, fed us all while we were on the family houseboat down at Lake Powell, talked jazz with my jazz-afficionado middle son, and was the matriarch of a very close-knit though now geographically dispersed family.  Always interested in the arts, she and her husband went with us to the Utah Shakespearean Festival every summer for many years, even as recently as August of 2012.  Attending the plays there this summer will be a very, very different experience for us now.


Last night, I was privileged to participate, with two of her sons and one of my own sons, as her husband pronounced a tender priesthood blessing upon her, thanking her for her life of service and, effectively, bidding her goodbye.


I’ve always loved Karen Lynn Davidson’s lyrics, set to music by A. Laurence Lyon:


Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know,
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.

For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.


In a very real way, the grave marker depicted in one of my most recent blog entries captures my response to Ruth’s passing.  In fact, I was thinking about her when I posted it.  I’ve missed her, really, for years.  She is now free.  She is whole again, clear once more, and, I believe, very, very happy.



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  • Jeff Wild

    My prayers are with you and your family.

  • Bob L.

    Thank you for posting your thoughts about Debbie’s mother. Our prayers are with your family.

  • Scott Lloyd

    Dani, I mourn with you and your family over the passing of your good mother-in-law and, at the same time, rejoice with you in her newly attained freedom.

  • Julie Eldredge Colt

    She played the organ in my ward as far back in my memory as I can go. I can’t count the hours I spent watching her, especially her feet! I was amazed by that as a child. She assisted my mother in choir practice all those years as well. I remember her saying that she could never listen to music as background, she always had to pay attention. She was kind to me as a child and as an annoying teenager and interested in me as I attended college. And, last but not least, had the most beautiful hair that I loved to look at as a young girl. My prayers are with your family.

  • Rozann

    Another “Graduate, With Honors”. The passing of family members is a time of mixed emotions. My own mother’s passing was also unexpected and I didn’t get to say goodbye. But the knowledge of the Father’s Plan and Our Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection eased the pain. May you, too, have peace in your heart and continue faithful in your covenants to the very end. What a glorious reunion we can look forward to.

  • LBRussell

    Please add my condolences to Debbie and yourself. You wrote a lovely remembrance.

  • danpeterson

    Many thanks for the kind comments.