Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Legend of Stingy Myrtle

By Rodger Dean Duncan

In our regular District Meeting this past week, Rean and I were asked to provide some training based on chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel. The chapter deals with Christlike attributes. Rean talked about virtue. I talked about obedience.

I reminded the missionaries of the 46th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants. It deals with the wide range of gifts available to us. To emphasize the importance of using the gifts we already have, I told our missionaries a story that I've shared in many other venues. In our family, the story is known as The Legend of Stingy Myrtle.

In the panhandle region of western Oklahoma there’s a town – population of eight – known as Slapout. Seriously, that’s really the name of the town. Slapout. It got its name during the Great Depression when people would pass through and try to buy something at the local store. The storekeeper’s response to a request for something was often “I’m sorry, but we’re slapout of that.”
"Ya ain't getting no more 'til you stir whatcha got!" When I was about ten, my Dad took me on a trip. We stopped for breakfast at the small diner in Slapout. We watched as a truck driver ordered a bowl of oatmeal. The cook, a rugged-looking woman named Myrtle, slid the bowl down the counter like a bartender in a western movie. The truck driver opened the last packet of sugar and sprinkled it on his oatmeal. He then asked Myrtle for more sugar. Myrtle walked over to him and put her face practically nose-to-nose with his before announcing: "Nope, you ain't getting' no more 'til you stir whatcha got!" He laughed, apparently thinking she was joking. When she didn't reciprocate with as much as a half smile, he immediately complied by stirring his oatmeal. 

Decades later I still don’t know if Myrtle was joking. But I’ll always remember the way my Dad used that experience as a teaching moment. Each of us, he said, is given a set of gifts. Some of us may be inclined toward music, or math, or mechanics. Some of us may be good at writing, or speaking, or leading, or farming, or just helping people feel good about themselves. Regardless of our gifts, "we ain't getting' no more 'til we stir what we got!" Before we can expect to receive (or even request) additional heavenly help, we must discover and develop and use the gift we already have.

I was intrigued when Dad first taught me that principle, and was amused when he regaled others with the story from that little diner on that narrow windswept highway in western Oklahoma. The Legend of Stingy Myrtle is a lesson that has enhanced my understanding of my obligation to make the most of every circumstance. The lesson provides a good guide for mortality itself.
Blair and the MoTab

On Friday we received a call from our good friend Blair Garff. Blair was one of the young missionaries who first taught me the gospel 53 summers ago. We've kept in touch over all these years. Blair is from Salt Lake City, but has spent most of his adulthood in New York. After serving as mission president in Nigeria, he served as president of the Manhattan New York Temple. Rean and I visited him and his wonderful wife Sue on two occasions the past couple of years and loved staying with them in their apartment in the same building as the Temple ... right across the street from the Lincoln Center and only a short walk from Central Park. Great memories!

Blair's most recent activity was promoting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performances at Carnegie Hall. Click here to see a brief video.

Rean and I hope that our missionary efforts will still be bearing fruit 53 years from now.

At our Zone Conferences we take two photos: one in a "normal" pose, and one in a "goofy" pose. The latter 
because we so appreciate what Gordon B. Hinckley said: "In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life
is to be enjoyed, not just endured." Rean and I noticed that our poses are exactly the same in both photos. Does
that mean we are "goofy" all the time? (Note our buddy Kermit on the front row.)


  1. Your pose being the same in both pictures indicates that your level of enjoyment of the work is high without the need to be "goofy" but rather you receive your joy and laughter in a consistent way. :-)

  2. Stingy Myrtle! A story I will definitely be using in the future. Thanks for sharing. Tommy Bryan