Jane McBride Choate, “Lucy’s Prayer,” Friend, Jul 2001, 40
Based on a true incident from a family history
The prayers of the faithful shall be heard (
“Lucy, I’m tired,” four-year-old Eliza complained. “I want to go home.” Home was a covered wagon in a wagon train bound for Utah.
“As soon as we fill our baskets, we’ll head back,” Lucy promised. She glanced at her brother to find him eating the berries as soon as he picked them. “Hyrum, stop eating those, or we’ll never finish!”
“Aw, Lucy, I just ate a few.”
His purple-stained teeth made her smile. At almost eight years old, he was only two years younger than herself. “If you eat all the berries you pick, we won’t have enough for pies!” she declared.
His and Eliza’s faces lit up at the mention of pies.
There hadn’t been much to smile about since Papa had died two years ago. When the Saints had prepared to leave Nauvoo, some people had tried to discourage Mama from joining them, claiming a widow with small children would only slow the others down.
Mama had ignored them and had used what little savings the family had to buy the wagon and supplies needed for the journey. Keeping up with the rest of the wagon train took so much of Mama’s energy that there wasn’t much left for things like pie-making.
When she suggested that Lucy take Hyrum and Eliza berry-picking that afternoon while the wagons stopped for repairs, Lucy had eagerly jumped at the chance.
A roll of thunder rumbled through the air.
Looking up, Lucy saw a funnel cloud approaching rapidly. Only once before had she seen such a cloud. When it had touched down, the tornado had ripped through their small farm in Nauvoo, destroying everything in its path.
With her heart pounding in rhythm to the roar of the thunder, Lucy took Hyrum by one hand and Eliza by the other and began to run for shelter. Eliza couldn’t keep up the pace, so they were forced to slow down. The tornado gained on them, a frightening monster that whipped dirt and dust into their faces and spewed up rocks around them.
“Don’t worry—Heavenly Father will protect us,” Lucy shouted over the roar to her brother and sister. “He won’t let anything happen to us.” She repeated the words over and over, partly to reassure them and partly as a prayer for help.
The words uttered by her father at the time of her baptism suddenly sounded in her mind. “Know that the Lord loves you. You are a choice daughter of God. Pray always. Look to Him for guidance. He will not desert you in your hour of need.”
There was no time, no place to stop and pray. But Lucy prayed as hard in her heart as she’d ever prayed on her knees, all the while holding onto Eliza and Hyrum. Please, dear Lord, let me know what to do. I need Thy help. We all do!
They stumbled their way through the blinding gusts of dirt. Eliza began to cry as Lucy tugged on her hand. “We have to keep going,” Lucy said, urging her little sister forward. “We can’t stop. Not here.” Not when the wagon train was still a distance away.
And then the voice came. She heard it as clearly as she heard the howl of the wind.
Lie down in the gulch.
Lucy shook her head, sure she must have misunderstood. Lie down here, with nothing but a shallow gulch for shelter? she wondered. She looked at her brother and sister, surprised that they hadn’t heard it as well.
The storm is sweeping up everything in its path. We have to keep going, she decided. She started to pick up Eliza to carry her when the voice came again.
Lie down. Now!
Lucy couldn’t dismiss the voice this time.
It wasn’t loud but held a quiet authority that wouldn’t be ignored. She pushed Hyrum and Eliza down and covered them with her own body. The ground seemed to tremble beneath them as the storm raged overhead.
Please, Heavenly Father, Lucy prayed silently. Protect us from the tornado. The words gave her strength even as the wind howled around them.
The voice came once more. Do not fear. I am here.
A sweet calm settled over her. Hyrum and Eliza quieted as Lucy whispered soothing words to them, promising that everything would be all right.
When the tornado had passed, they got to their feet again and started toward the camp once more.
When they arrived at the camp, Mama fussed over them, crying and laughing at the same time. When she had assured herself that they were all right, she fell to her knees and offered a prayer of thanksgiving.
After Mama’s prayer, Lucy shared her startling experience with Mama and Hyrum and Eliza as the four of them gratefully clung together.
[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young^ Back to top