Because Sally Smiled
Shortly after I moved into a new neighborhood, the local bishop sent a letter welcoming me to the ward and apologizing that my home teachers hadn’t contacted me yet. Although I appreciated and saved his letter, I rarely attended church and didn’t take the first step back to full activity until one Sunday morning several years later.
Feeling that I should go to church, I looked up the meetinghouse closest to me and headed off, alone and nervous. The parking lot was full. I pulled in, feeling like an out-of-place stranger labeled “less active.” As I approached the back doors, a woman ahead of me struggled with an unwieldy baby carrier while shepherding another child alongside her. Despite her full load, she held the door open for me with a smile and said, “Hi, I’m Sally!” Caught off guard by her friendliness, I returned the greeting. Sally continued down the hall, leaving me glad I had come.
When the bishop announced the blessing of new babies during fast and testimony meeting, I was surprised to see my new friend give the baby to her husband to take to the front. Her newborn was being blessed that day, and she had still taken the time to greet me! I sheepishly reflected that if I had just had a new baby, welcoming an unknown woman to church would be the last of my concerns.
Becoming active was a gradual process, but Sally and other thoughtful members continued to befriend me. Diligent visiting teachers set up appointment after appointment. Friendly ward members called to tell me about stake conference or changes in the meeting schedule. Single adult leaders consistently invited me to activities, even when they knew my polite “Maybe I’ll come” really meant “Don’t plan on me.” And eventually their efforts were rewarded.
Although Sally’s simple greeting took no planning and very little time, her kind act helped open the door for me to enjoy the blessings of Church activity. Many years later I still reflect often upon the results of Sally’s smile.
Although the scriptures are meant for all of Heavenly Father’s children, they can speak to each of us in a very personal way when we ponder them and apply them to our particular challenges. I found this to be the case several years ago when I faced a painful situation.
My husband and I were experiencing a challenging time in our lives. He had recently lost his employment, so we were struggling financially as we tried to survive on my meager salary. Fortunately, our difficulties were tempered by the love we had for each other and by the love of some special friends in our ward.
Then things took a turn for the worse.
One day at work a coworker phoned for me to come to his office. I went, assuming he wanted to see me about some of the projects we were working on jointly. To my surprise, he proceeded to express strong disapproval for an action I had taken. Although I apologized, he continued to berate me, pointing out some of my personal characteristics he said he couldn’t tolerate. I was dumbfounded; I had great respect for this man’s abilities and had thought we had a cordial working relationship. Moreover, I could not understand why he felt he had the authority to chastise me when I was a couple of steps above him in the company structure.
His ranting continued until I was reduced to tears. After the whole experience, I still couldn’t understand what had made him so upset. Apparently his own life had become filled with misery, and I was the unlucky person on whom he unloaded his feelings.
When I reported this to my supervisor, I received little satisfaction. The whole experience left me feeling discouraged, alone, and vulnerable. My husband and I were already worried about his not being employed, and now I wondered what would happen to us if I lost my job.
When I arrived home that evening and explained to my husband what had happened, he opened the scriptures and read from Psalm 37 [Ps. 37], commenting that he now understood why he had felt impressed to read it that day during his scripture study.
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath,” the psalm states. “Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. …
“The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow. …
“But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
“And the Lord shall help them” (Ps. 37:8, 14, 39–40).
Although I had read this psalm many times before, I was amazed at how much it seemed to apply to my circumstances. Had my husband not read this passage of scripture to me, I would likely have become angry and bitter because of my experience at work. However, the message Heavenly Father conveyed through the scriptures healed my heart as it taught me that I should be calm and free of bitterness. It gave me great hope to realize the many blessings I would receive if I heeded that message.
I returned to work the next day with joy and forgiveness in my heart and was better able to overlook the shortcomings of coworkers.
The spiritual growth that resulted from this experience has proven to be a valuable source of strength that I have drawn upon many times since. How grateful I am for both the universal and the personal nature of the scriptures!
“My Heavenly Father Loves Me”
Like most parents-to-be, we anxiously awaited the birth of our first baby. We acquired clothing and furniture and chose two names—one for a boy and one for a girl.
We also chose a special song to sing to our baby throughout the pregnancy. The song we selected was “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” (Children’s Songbook, 228–29). We sang these words often, imagining how wonderful it would be to have a baby in our family:
One morning my wife awoke covered with little red spots. We went to the doctor and learned that those little red spots were rubella. The doctor also gave us the disturbing news that since my wife was in the first trimester of her pregnancy, our baby ran a serious risk of being born deaf, blind, or disabled in other ways.
That night we paid special attention to the second verse of our song:
We thought about the future and everything that could happen. It was a time of much prayer and fasting to accept the will of our Heavenly Father. We had faith that the Lord would be with us, no matter what happened.
Our daughter, Alice, was born one month early. After her birth an endless array of tests began to determine the effects of the rubella. When nothing was found, someone spoke of a miracle. We, without a doubt, believe it was.
Alice is now seven years old, and she loves to sing her favorite song, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” We are eternally grateful, but we are also aware that difficult situations don’t always turn out this well and that trials are part of our mortal probation. But we have learned that if we trust Him we have nothing to fear, for as the song teaches, “I know Heav’nly Father loves me.”
Lock the Back Door!
Early in our marriage we lived in Anchorage, Alaska. One night I awoke from a deep sleep and found myself consumed with an urgent thought. I woke my husband and asked if he had locked the sliding glass door in the back of the house. He said he had. I tried to put the thought out of my mind and go back to sleep. I kept telling myself I was just being paranoid, but the feeling that I needed to lock the door persisted. Sleep would not come. Finally, I had a distinct impression: “Kelli, go lock the back door!”
I pulled myself out of a warm bed and walked downstairs. The glass door appeared to be locked. I started to walk away, but then I pulled on the door handle. The door slid open! The lock was set, but the door had not been closed tightly enough to engage the lock. I pulled the door closed, locked it securely, and went back to bed.
When morning came I gave little thought to my experience of the night before. But as I pulled the curtains open, something caught my eye. Large footprints in the snow led up to the door and then away again. The thought I had tried so hard to toss aside had kept an intruder from entering our home.
Blessed by Seminary
When I was 17, my friend July invited me to go to seminary in her ward in Lima, Peru. I had a passing interest in the Old Testament, so I agreed to go.
My friend’s aunt, Sister Rosa de Arriaga, was the seminary teacher, and each day she started class by asking someone to pray. As I kept attending I not only gained a greater love for the scriptures, but I also learned to pray. Then one day Sister Rosa asked me to lead the class in prayer. The experience was unbelievable. My bosom began to burn, and a feeling of warmth radiated throughout my whole body. I felt like crying.
One Saturday I decided to attend a youth conference. I met a lot of young people and had a great time at the activity. When I showed up for a meeting later that afternoon in jeans and sneakers, I was surprised to see others wearing suits and ties. I felt uncomfortable, but one of the men smiled and signaled for me to come in. As I listened during the meeting, everything seemed very familiar to me.
Afterward, I went to Sister Rosa’s house to tell her what had happened. Sister Rosa’s son told me with a smile, “You won’t be able to dress like that tomorrow at the Sunday session.”
The next day, I walked into the meeting wearing a tie for the first time in my life. I was impressed by the orderliness of the meeting and the friendliness others showed me. Once again I felt that warm feeling in my chest, and the feeling continued throughout the entire meeting. When the choir sang I felt like crying. It was such a wonderful feeling that I wanted to have it all the time.
One month after my first seminary class, the missionaries began teaching me the discussions, and on 28 April 1996 I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mom and sisters were baptized six months later and my dad one month after that. On 31 January 1998 my whole family was sealed in the Lima Peru Temple.
Later I served full time in the Perú Lima North Mission. After my mission I taught in the Perú Missionary Training Center for three years. Wearing a tie—which had once seemed so unusual—became an everyday occurrence.
I will always be grateful to my friend July and to my seminary teacher, Sister Rosa, for their role in helping this chain of blessings come to me and my family.