Funeral, Eulogy, and Memorial Talks




TRIBUTE TO COLEMAN WAYNE SMITH

[Talk given by John E. Enslen at the Prattville Ward Chapel on October 19, 2010.]

Being asked to speak at this funeral service for Coleman Wayne Smith is one of the highest honors I have ever received or ever expect to receive during my entire mortal probation. Although he was known by some of you as Coleman, C. W., Smitty, Brother Smith, President Smith, and Bishop Smith, I am mostly going to call him by his family circle name of “Wayne.”

In my eyes, Wayne is one of the most noble men I have ever known, and that is no idle funeral service statement. Please allow me to tell you some of the reasons why I feel the way I do.

In 1973, more than 37 years ago, when my wife Dianne and I were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wayne was the unpaid ordained minister of that small congregation which was called the Montgomery Second Branch. Wayne was one of only three members of the congregation that attended our Saturday afternoon baptismal service.

Wayne, whom we called President Smith at that time, was the main speaker at our baptismal service, and in a plain and simple way that made sense to us, he advanced our knowledge about the ordinances of baptism by immersion and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

President Smith and his wife Joan quickly became our friends. It was clear to me early in our relationship that I could trust Wayne. For one thing, he did not care one iota about fame or fortune or entertaining people from the pulpit. He was as plain, simple, straight-forward, and unpretentious as any man I have ever known.

President Smith wasted no time in giving me my first assignment in the Church—to serve on the building fund committee and plan a fundraising activity to help pay for the cost of adding a gymnasium to the back of our chapel on Carter Hill Road. He made sure that I had a positive experience with that assignment, and he helped me to feel successful, notwithstanding my labors raised little money.

Very early in my membership, I had a question about the office of a Seventy in the Church. I had read in the King James Version of the New Testament, Luke Chapter 10, Verse 1, about the existence of Seventies in the Lord’s Church, but from my prior religious upbringing I knew nothing about the duties and responsibilities associated with the office of a Seventy. On the evening that I made my inquiry, President Smith immediately stopped what he was doing, led me to a chalkboard at the back of the chapel, and explained the priesthood office of a Seventy, as revealed by modern revelation, to my full satisfaction. He nourished me with the good word of God.

Wayne and Joan were a major part of our support system. I could feel that Wayne had taken a special interest in me. He made a difference in my life, and there remained between us thereafter an unspoken bond based on the experiences we had shared and would continue to share.

Wayne was never flashy in speech or dress or grooming. His crew-cut most often looked like he had just climbed out of bed after a rough night of sleep. I never saw him try to impress anyone. I never saw him draw attention to himself or attempt to elevate himself in any manner, especially at the expense of others. He was not domineering or overbearing in his demeanor or associations with others. He was the salt of the earth and truly a man without guile. What was there not to like about Wayne Smith?

I never knew Wayne to be dishonest in any way. I never knew him to use tobacco or alcohol. He didn’t even drink tea or coffee. I never knew him to say a cuss word of any type. I never heard him speak ill of anyone else. I saw him serve other people, from quietly and privately giving counsel one on one, to traveling long distances throughout the Southeast to anonymously help those who were suffering from the devastating effects of hurricanes and floods.

Despite the financial obligations of a very large family, there was never a time when he was not a full 10% tithe payer in the Church, and he went beyond the 10%, contributing to the building fund and local budget requirements, and paying for six of his ten children to serve extended missions for the Church. He had faith that the Lord would supply his needs, and the Lord always did.

Before continuing, perhaps I should clarify some Mormon jargon for those present who are not familiar with some of our peculiar words. A “ward,” W-A-R-D, is just the Mormon way of saying “congregation.” A “stake,” S-T-A-K-E, is simply a group of about a dozen congregations in a defined geographic area. That group of congregations is supervised by a church leader called a stake president.

When President Frank Riggs was our stake president, Wayne was the senior member of our stake high council, and he was dependable. He regularly accepted and fulfilled assignments to arise early on Sunday mornings and drive to Alex City, or Andalusia, or Camden, or Clanton, or Demopolis, or Eufaula, or Highland Home, or Magnolia, or Ozark, or Selma, or Troy.

Notwithstanding his subsequent call to other church positions from time to time, Wayne would be recalled to the stake high council and through longevity would again work his way back to being our senior high councilor. Wayne was a pure plodder in the sense that he put his hand to the plow and moved forward in a straight-and-narrow path, and stuck to the task until it was finished. He was an institution in our midst.

Wayne served for five years as the Bishop or presiding church officer of the Prattville Ward which meets in this building. Since we do not have a paid clergy in the LDS Church, Wayne served without any pay whatsoever, working an average of 30 hours a week in administering all of the programs of the Prattville Ward.

On many occasions I have seen Wayne stand on his feet and declare his personal witness to the divinity of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom he loved. He knew that Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God who lived a perfect life. I have heard Wayne express in clear and unequivocal terms a deep and sincere appreciation for the Lord’s atoning sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.

Wayne’s belief in the reality of the Savior’s resurrection to a tangible, physical body was strong, and one of his favorite scriptures was the resurrected Savior’s declaration found in Luke: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honey-comb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” (Luke 24: 39-43) Wayne firmly believed that there was only one type of resurrection, and it was the physical resurrection that the Lord has provided.

There were times at work and out in the community when well meaning but terribly misinformed people would tell Wayne that he was not a Christian because he was a Mormon—a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wayne did not retaliate or become defensive. He simply smiled, ignored the comment, loved the one who made the unChristian accusation, and continued living his life as a Christian. In the final analysis, the manner in which a person lives his life is the only meaningful measure of what he truly believes.

I am grateful for the positive influence that Wayne has had on my life, and to have been strengthened by his simple but sure testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No man can decree the final judgment of another, but I am very comfortable in my personal assessment that Wayne endured to the end; he kept the faith; he finished the race that he was sent here to run.

Mormon or LDS funerals are usually divided into two parts. One or two speakers talk about the deceased, and the other speaker gives a spiritual message about the plan of salvation that has been made available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For a sermon, I was going to answer three of life’s greatest questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? And, where am I going? But Wayne has preached his own sermon. If any of you here would like to know the answers to those questions, then just ask any member of Wayne’s family.

I will close with this. I am holding in my hand a copy of The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is a companion scripture to the Holy Bible and proves to an increasingly disbelieving world that the Holy Bible is true. The Book of Mormon contains the witness of another nation to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, fulfilling the Lord’s promise that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2 Cor. 13:1) Wayne was a lifelong student of this book, and in this book Wayne read these words that were recorded by ancient American prophets:

[Quote] “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Ne. 25:26) O remember, remember, … yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ … And now, … remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … yea when all … his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built …” [Close quote] (Helaman 5:9; 12)

May we always remember the Rock of Ages, even Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God in the flesh, born of the virgin Mary, our Redeemer, our Savior, the holy and perfect one who worked out through his incomprehensible personal suffering the great atonement, which we must access through faith in Him and repentance from our sins, that we may quality for reentrance into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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