Today, we’re introducing a series of articles called, “If I Could Have Dinner With…” Each participating writer has chosen someone from scripture or church history who they’d love to have all to themselves for the length of a meal — to ask questions, to listen, to dialogue. Sister Dianne Maddox kicks things off in the following article where she imagines what it would be like to have Brother Alexander Cherry over to her home for dinner more than a century ago.
In 1904, the average life expectancy was 47 years. Fourteen percent of the homes had a bathtub and 8 percent had a telephone. There were 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads. The average wage was 22 cents an hour. Eggs cost 14 cents a dozen, and coffee was 15 cents a pound. Twenty percent of adults couldn’t read or write, and 6 percent of Americans had graduated high school.
During this time that now seems archaic to us, Brother Alexander Cherry was inspired to begin a missionary work that still continues to be a blessing to the church. In 1904, Brother Alexander established the Missionary Benevolent Association.
I invite you to go back in time and join me and Brother Alexander for dinner.
“Hi Brother Alexander, thank you for joining me for dinner,” I say as he enters my home.
He glances down at his boots. “Don’t worry, these dusty roads make it impossible to keep a clean floor. I hear that soon we may have paved roads like they do in Chicago!”
Brother Alexander smiles at me as he shakes my hand. “Sister Dianne, those things are not the important things of life.”
“I know, I get caught up in silly things. I should be more focused on spiritual things. Speaking of spiritual things, the elder in Monongahela said that you have begun a new missionary work, something called the Missionary Benevolent Association?”
“Yes, that’s correct. It’s time that we focus on our young people. This generation will soon be the leaders of our church, and we must to prepare them to be good stewards of the Gospel.”
I motion for Brother Alexander to join me at the table as I place a bowl of soup in front of him.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t afford to buy coffee. It’s up to 15 cents a pound!”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m pleased that you invited me to dinner. It’s good for the brothers and sisters to gather together and speak of the blessings of God.”
“Brother Alexander, there is one thing I want to ask you about. Sister Elizabeth Davidson will be the president of this new organization?”
He responds. “Hey, there’s talk that women will soon have the right to vote. They have a lot to offer the Church in the 20th century! Sister Elizabeth will do a fine job in leading our young people.”
Our conversation continues as we enjoy our soup, bread, and apple pie. Brother Alexander shares with me some of his ideas for the MBA. His hope is that many branches will have their own MBA, that the MBA will be an open door for all, not just for members of the church and that it will be a stepping stone for the young people to begin their walk with the Lord.
As we know, his hopes have come true. By 1941, 21 branches had formed their own MBA, and today, almost every branch has established an MBA through which many young people have become leaders in the church.
In 1967, Brother Isaac Smith was inspired to have the saints join together for a week-long campout, which now takes place every summer and has resulted in over 550 baptisms. Several offshoots of the MBA have been established: Youth In Action promotes missionary work for the young people; the Student Support Program supports our older students, while the Pin Program teaches our younger ones the Church’s basic principles, and the Kids for Christ program keeps in touch with our children by sending communications, such as birthday cards.
I am thankful that Brother Alexander followed God’s direction in creating the MBA. I wonder if he knew that we would be gathering each summer all these years later, enjoying the spirit of God under the sound of the Gospel, while also enjoying snow cones and a petting zoo! I am sure he would be delighted!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.