A Prayer in the Parking Lot
One night I was filling my shift as an ordinance worker in the Dallas Texas Temple when another temple worker told me my wife had gone home with a headache. Just then my supervisor came down the corridor. I stopped him and explained the situation, asking if it would be all right if I went home early. “Yes, by all means,” he said. I quickly changed my clothes and left the temple.
I began to jog toward my car, which was parked on the northwest corner of the temple grounds. As I jogged I noticed a light-blue sports car with its dome light on. I could see a young woman sitting behind the wheel. I hurried by the sports car and was about halfway to my car when I suddenly stopped. At the same time, I felt a strong impression that I should go back.
I immediately walked back to the car and tapped on the window. I asked if I could help her and told her I would be happy to answer any questions she might have.
The young woman’s name was Mary, and she told me she had a friend who had given her a book about the Church. She held up a copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder and said it had answered a few questions she had. I smiled and told her it was a wonderful book and encouraged her to keep reading it.
Mary looked straight into my eyes and said, “What I really have been doing is praying. I pulled into this parking lot and prayed that someone would come out of that building who could answer some of my questions.”
I told her I would be happy to try.
“I would like to go into that building, but I know I can’t do that now,” she said. “What do you do in there?”
I began by telling her that we believe in being married for time and all eternity, and that was one of the things we do in the temple.
“Don’t you get baptized or something in there too?” she asked.
“Yes, we do. We do proxy baptisms in the temple,” I answered. I went to get a copy of the booklet Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and told her it would answer her questions about the temple.
She began crying. After a few seconds she composed herself enough to say, “There’s more to this story I should tell you.” Through her tears she said, “My husband and I have been having problems, and tonight he asked me for a divorce.” She explained that they could not agree on what they wanted out of life.
“Young lady,” I said, trying to offer her some comfort, “my heart goes out to you. I’m sure this is a very trying time for you.” I knew I couldn’t give counsel on her marriage, so I didn’t know what else to say.
Mary then began asking questions about the Church. For some time I answered gospel questions as she asked them. I quoted scriptures that I remembered only because I could hear my voice saying them. I told her that we encouraged people to study and pray about their questions and to ask God if the teachings of the Church are true.
Near the end of our conversation I asked her if she would like to meet with the missionaries. She said she wanted to study and pray some more on her own before talking with them. We exchanged names, addresses, and phone numbers, and I invited her to call if she had questions.
I asked her if she thought Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. She said she thought He did.
I said, “Mary, I know He does.” I explained to her that I had left the temple early that evening to check on my wife but had been impressed to go back to her car.
Mary began to cry again. “He does answer prayers, doesn’t He?” she said.
“Yes, Mary, He does,” I said.
When I got home my wife was fine and resting well, but I had to wake her and tell her about my wonderful experience. It was truly humbling to see firsthand how Heavenly Father can answer the prayers of His children.
Blueberry Stains on the Doctor’s Hands
The doctor’s waiting room was stuffy and crowded. Little ones with runny noses and coughs struggled with their mothers, the busy scene interrupted occasionally by a nurse popping her head from behind the door and calling a name. I was the only mom there not wrestling with her child. I held my 16-month-old son, Joshua, who stared at all the wiggling that was going on but didn’t participate.
After months of denying any difference in Josh, I finally had taken him to our pediatrician when he was 10 months old and was still not sitting alone or even holding his head up. We lived in California at the time, and our pediatrician had ordered tests and consultations. The earthshaking news had come from the chief neurologist of our health plan: Joshua had cerebral palsy and more than likely would never walk. The news devastated our family. We had four boys then, and I was pregnant with our fifth child. It had taken me several weeks to come to terms with the reality of raising a disabled child, but my husband seemed to be in a state of denial. He kept telling me Josh would be fine, but I felt he was kidding himself.
“Joshua.” The nurse’s voice jarred my thoughts. I gathered the baby’s things and followed the nurse into the doctor’s office. As is the case with many health plans, we saw a variety of doctors, and this time we happened to be seeing the pediatrician who had originally sent us to the neurologist. The doctor leafed through his chart, and I could see the gradual remembrance manifest itself in his eyes. He was a husky man and reminded me more of a construction contractor than a doctor. Suddenly he seemed aware of my gaze falling on his hands as they turned the pages of Josh’s records.
“You’ll have to excuse my hands,” he said. “I’ve been bottling blueberries.”
Being preoccupied, I hadn’t noticed the discoloration before he pointed it out. I realized his hands were purple-stained and rough-looking; they were not the soft hands of most doctors I had known.
A thought flashed into my mind that instantaneously formed into words. “Are you LDS?” I asked. I couldn’t believe the words had come out of my mouth.
“Why yes,” he replied. “How did you know?”
“There aren’t too many people who’d bottle their own blueberries,” I said. A smile stretched across his face, and we began discussing Josh’s condition and whether he would need a prescription for physical therapy.
“This is very unusual,” he said shortly, “but I feel that your son will be perfectly normal. The only prescription I’d recommend today is a priesthood blessing.” He went on to say that it was likely Joshua suffered from an unusual malady that manifests itself in delayed muscle growth and that physical therapy might not be the best approach for Josh’s problems. Rather, he recommended that Josh’s everyday life with his brothers would be the most beneficial.
I took Joshua home, a blessing was given, and he slowly began progressing. It was a long and hard journey, but at two-and-one-half years he took his first step. By age four he had caught up with his peers. I thank our Heavenly Father for Joshua. He has taught us much about the eternal lessons of patience, love, and compassion.
At Joshua’s first kindergarten conference, his teacher stared dumbfounded when I burst into tears as she told me he was a typical kindergartner. I had been ready for the challenge of raising a disabled child, and I am grateful that he was going to be OK. Joshua is now serving a mission in Indiana, and as I frequently express gratitude for all my family and our health, I thank our Heavenly Father for the helpful advice of a worthy priesthood holder with blueberry-stained hands.
“You Were My Anchor”
Over 40 years ago, I was a student at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine when I was called to serve in the bishopric of a new ward in Davis, California. I had been in the bishopric for only a short time when we held a stake conference in Sacramento, California. At that time, there was no stake center large enough to hold the conference, so it was held in a rented conference center. Attendance at the general priesthood meeting on Saturday evening was tremendous, and the large conference room was nearly filled.
One of the speakers that evening was a young man I had never met before, but I think his name was Brother Hamilton. He had been less active for some time and just recently had made a commitment to become active again. He spoke of an experience that had made him want to return to the Church.
Excited with my new calling and the opportunity to serve in a bishopric, I felt a special interest in Brother Hamilton’s story and listened intently to what he said. His nervousness in speaking to such a large group was evident, and he stumbled at times, struggling to say what was in his heart. When I noticed him glancing repeatedly toward the area where I sat, I thought he must be directing some of his remarks to a friend or relative. I began to feel a special kinship with this young man speaking, and I prayed silently for him to be able to express himself as he desired.
Brother Hamilton’s nervousness lessened as he continued his talk, and he closed with a strong and moving testimony. I am sure everyone present was uplifted by his story and the sincerity of his presentation.
On Sunday when I entered the large conference room with my wife, I saw Brother Hamilton coming in with his wife. I went over to him and said, “Brother Hamilton, that was a wonderful talk you gave last night. I want to thank you for it.”
To my amazement, he didn’t answer me but turned to his wife and said excitedly, “That’s him! That’s him! That’s the man I told you about last night.” Then turning back to me he said, “I want to thank you. You were my anchor last night. I don’t think I would have made it through the talk without you.”
I have never seen Brother Hamilton since that day, yet the impact of this simple experience has been with me through the more than 40 intervening years. There were likely several bishoprics, home teachers, and other members who spent countless hours working with that young man to bring him back into activity. Realizing that I helped support him in his activity by listening intently and praying for him was very rewarding to me. Brother Hamilton showed me, in a very positive way, that we should actively listen to our brothers and sisters who stand before us and testify of the gospel. We may never know the impact our response might have.
Tears of Joy
As I stood in the hallway outside the newborns’ nursery, tears streamed down my cheeks. I was something of a spectacle as I stood peering through the glass at the babies. A nurse soon came to my assistance. I’m sure she thought I was the concerned father of one of the premature infants born that weekend. Trying to calm my nerves, she offered me a sedative. I said, “No, thank you. Really, I’m fine.” If only she knew the source of my tears.
It had been almost six years since Melanie and I were married in the Oakland Temple. They say every child is a miracle of conception, but we had a special perspective of the miracle of birth. After our wedding we both sold our sports cars and bought a family car, thinking we would be starting a family soon. But after four years of marriage passed, we had not yet been blessed with children, and we began to question our ability and even our worthiness.
My younger brothers and sisters were having their second and third children. But even more frustrating, my office happened to be next to a pregnancy control clinic, and Melanie and I watched people facing unwanted pregnancies come and go (some even choosing to end their pregnancies). We wanted to share our home with one of Heavenly Father’s spirit children. We would have given anything to become parents.
Our doctor informed us that there were medical complications preventing us from having children. We went to other experts for more than one opinion. However, even after surgery, we were left with little hope of conceiving. The doctors advised us, “Relax and let it happen. Be patient and maybe your million-to-one chance will happen.”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day became particularly difficult for us as our large family would gather at my mom and dad’s house for celebrations of parenthood. We were not resentful toward my siblings. It just had become harder for us to be there. We wanted children so much.
Meanwhile, we continued down life’s road in other areas. The pressure of my work was constant, and most years I took classes at the local college at night. Church responsibilities also increased. I was called to serve as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency and spent many hours in meetings, helping with service projects, and doing missionary work and home teaching. I recalled what the doctors had told us about relaxing, spending time together, and reducing stress! Then the phone rang. It was a call to meet with the stake president.
Melanie and I met with President Woolsey the following Thursday, and he called me to be the elders quorum president. He explained at length the tremendous responsibility of the calling. As he discussed the considerable time commitment involved in “losing yourself in the work,” Melanie could no longer hold back her tears.
President Woolsey stopped the interview. He knew Melanie’s tears were not tears of joy over the position I was being called to that day. She explained the six years of waiting and wanting a family. She also explained the doctors’ instructions of spending more time together and reducing stress in our lives. After President Woolsey listened to us with great love and understanding, he still felt inspired to issue the call. Melanie asked for a blessing, and President Woolsey readily obliged. He blessed her that she might have the righteous desires of her heart on condition of her faithfulness and support of this new calling.
As I assumed my new responsibilities, we went forward with heart, might, mind, and strength. Imagine our joy and surprise and relief when, soon afterward, my wife found out she was expecting a baby.
Though many faithful couples are unable to have children for medical reasons, we were grateful that, for whatever reason, Heavenly Father had blessed us with a son after six years of hope, heartache, prayers, and persistence. That day in the hospital, my tears falling to the floor were not tears of sadness or concern but tears of joy, joy in the miracle of birth, joy in the power of the priesthood, and joy in the blessings of family.
Seeing Beyond Myself
Some time ago my husband and I prayerfully decided it was time for him to make a career change. So we sold our home to raise money to start a new business. Soon it became clear that the business was a failure. Our savings were gone, and we were in financial crisis. Besides our pressing and worrisome debts, we were concerned about providing for our children, two school-age and two preschoolers. Pregnant with our fifth child, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. It was a dark time in our lives.
One day the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “We have a family in need in our ward. Would you please take a casserole to them for their dinner tonight?”
Instinctively I said, “Yes.” Then I hung up the phone and cried. We had been discreet about our problems—perhaps too discreet. Few knew of our own troubled situation.
Through my tears I went to the kitchen and prepared a casserole from the sparse ingredients I found in my cupboard. Then I loaded the baby into the stroller, gathered the other children, and, balancing the casserole on the handle of the stroller, started the mile walk to the home of the family in need.
As we walked, I felt hurt inside. It seemed unfair that I had been asked to help someone else when my own need was also great. We finally reached our destination and were greeted by a distraught family member, who informed me that their child had just been killed in a tragic accident.
In an instant my perspective changed. As I turned to walk home, I was overwhelmed by the sweet spirit of the Comforter. I realized my adversity and affliction would be but a small moment (see D&C 121:7). My husband would find a job; we would get through this. I looked at my children running circles around the stroller. What a blessing they were! And how grateful I was for my good husband—worthy to hold the priesthood, trying so hard to solve our problems, and loving me so much! I had a home to return to, even if we did not own it. I had food in my cupboards, even if it did not provide the menu I would prefer. And I had caring family support.
But most of all, I was grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who, despite my own pressing needs, had extended to me an opportunity to serve another. How little I had given, and how much I had received.