“Gold Mine of Love ,” Ensign, July 1993, 69–70
How lucky can we be?” Clayton Collins, eighty-seven, frequently asks this rhetorical question. He and his wife, Thelma, eighty-three, live in Nevada City, California, an old mining town spread over the pine-covered foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mother Lode country. Clayton worked as a gold miner all of his life, but in 1987 he and Thelma found something more valuable than gold—the gospel.
A casual visitor to their mobile home might at first be surprised that the Collinses consider themselves so lucky. Clayton, who has arthritis and wears hearing aids, is the care-giver for Thelma. For the last eight years, Thelma has seldom left her bed. Osteoporosis necessitated a hip replacement in 1983. Then in 1985, she fell and broke several bones. Concern for the probability of future breaks, combined with fibrosis of the lungs and a series of heart attacks, preclude an active life for her. Yet despite these challenges, Clayton and Thelma are happy beyond their wildest dreams. This is a home where visitors of all ages come, not just to cheer up the Collinses but to be cheered themselves.
The Collinses’ formal introduction to the gospel occurred about four years ago, when Jesse and Zelma Johnson, Latter-day Saint friends of the Collinses for more than fifty years, called from San Francisco to ask how Clayton and Thelma were doing. The Johnsons had talked to the Collinses about the Church over the years, but the time for the Collinses to hear the gospel message never seemed quite right. But when they told the Johnsons there was a Mormon church just across the freeway, the Johnsons knew that now was the right time.
The next morning, Elders Herman and Peterson visited the Collinses. From the beginning, Clayton and Thelma thrilled to the discussions, studied the scriptures, and kept their commitments. In a few weeks, they were ready for baptism. Thelma will never forget that day: 27 October 1987. Seated in a chair, she was carried down the steps into the font. When it was time for her to be immersed, the missionaries lowered her and the chair sufficiently to cover her with water and then lifted her and the chair back up. She remembers the feeling of elation and tears. She said, “I lit up like a light!” Clayton, too, was overcome and said, “Honey, why haven’t we done this sooner?”
They are now members of the Nevada City Ward of the Auburn California Stake. Since that time, they have received constant attention and love. Meals and homemade bread arrive regularly. Since Thelma can’t attend Church services, they listen to sacrament meetings via a telephone system installed by John Hight, their bishop at the time. Occasionally, Clayton and Thelma tape their own testimonies to play for the congregation at testimony meeting. Clayton has been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and Thelma serves as a visiting teacher, but the sisters she “visits” come to her. Every week the Relief Society tapes their lesson for Sister Collins. And the stake patriarch made arrangements to give them their patriarchal blessings at home.
Members of the Aaronic Priesthood bring the sacrament to them, and Clayton assists in administering the ordinance. This act of service on the part of the young men results in blessings on both sides. Some of them are now away at college or on missions, and they continue to keep in touch through letters, which Thelma treasures and keeps in albums. They are “Grandma” and “Grandpa” to a host of teenagers who love to “hang out” at their home.
When the Collinses yearned to go to the temple in 1989, friends made preparations to make it possible. They picked them up in a comfortable RV, so Thelma could lie down. Several friends accompanied Clayton and Thelma as they received their endowments, and the Collinses felt an outpouring of love they had never known before.
Clayton and Thelma never cease to show their appreciation for the gospel and their friends. They know their blessings exceed the luck of striking gold, and those who visit the Collinses and delight in their company might well say themselves, “How lucky can we be?”—Dorothy Varney, Grass Valley, California