Why Wasn’t Cathy More Like Me?
When I turned eleven, my parents gave me a beautiful edition of a great classic. I read those pages lovingly, and when I turned the last one, I wept. I had lived through them. Carefully, I kept the book for years, waiting to give it to my own daughter. When Cathy was eleven, I presented the book to her. Very pleased with her gift, touched by it, she bravely struggled through the first two chapters and then deposited the book on her shelf, where it remained unopened. And I was deeply disappointed.
For some reason I had always supposed that my daughter would be like me—that she would like to read the same books I read as a girl, have a temperament somewhat similar to mine, like what I liked. The years have passed and I now have four daughters—none of whom are like me at all. I rejoice in this now. I didn’t then.
“Cathy is a charming, bubbling, quick-to-laugh, slightly mischievous girl,” her teachers told me. “Fun to be around,” said her friends. “Excited about life, quick to see humor everywhere, a sensitive soul,” said her father.
“It’s hard for me,” I said to my husband one day. “Her interminable zest for activities, her insatiable desire to ‘play,’ her ever-bubbly laughing and joking are overwhelming to me. I’ve never been like that in my whole life. Reading was the singular joy of my preteen years.”
In my mind I knew I was dead wrong, but deep in those recesses of my heart, I was disappointed. She was somewhat of an enigma to me, and I resented it.
Those unspoken feelings pass quickly and deeply to a child. I knew she would sense them and they would hurt her, if they hadn’t already. I agonized with all my soul that I could be so uncharitable. I knew my disappointment was senseless, but as dearly as I loved this child, it did not change my heart.
Night after night, week after week, when all were sleeping and the house was dark and quiet, I made my way alone to plead before my Father in heaven for understanding. Before him who had known and loved her for eternity, I bowed my head and cried for help.
Then one morning, very early, as I lay in bed, something happened. Later, trying to recall it, I thought perhaps I had been dreaming, but I knew it was no dream. I was awake. Quickly, passing through my mind in just seconds, I saw a picture of Cathy and me as we had been in the spirit world, before we came to this earth—two mature, adult women, arms linked, smiling at each other. A relationship more like sisters. I thought of my own sister and how different we were, and yet I would never have wished that she be like me. I saw Cathy and myself as we will be when we leave this life, mother and daughter, so happy together, dearest friends.
Forcibly the words came to my mind, “How dare you try to impose your personality upon hers? Rejoice in your differences!” Although it lasted but seconds, this flash, this reawakening, changed my heart when nothing else could.
Again renewed was my utter thankfulness, my gratitude. What I had struggled to do and could not seem to bring about myself—a change in heart—He did for me.
A Prompting to Fast
I had just spoken at a fireside one Sunday evening and was leaving for home when I felt a prompting to fast. I knew of no reason why I should do so and dismissed the idea. Yet, the following morning I awoke unusually early and was again prompted to begin fasting. The feeling was so strong, I could not ignore it, so I began.
During the day at the office, the still, small voice of warning whispered that the next day I would lose my job, but I was not to react angrily or panic but remain calm because the events about to transpire would turn to my advantage. Throughout the day, the voice repeated the message. I knew I was being prepared for a crisis.
I felt confused. I knew I was receiving revelation but could hardly believe it. People often commented on my qualifications for my work and the obvious security of my position. I liked my job as a rare book and manuscript librarian and did not relish the idea of losing it, but there was no denying the voice of the Spirit.
The next morning I had not been at work an hour when the director requested that I come to his office. He announced his intention of replacing me, on two weeks’ notice. It was apparent he had anticipated a scene, but the Lord had prepared me.
Since I was a state employee and could not be summarily dismissed, I was transferred to a different department to an assignment for which there were no duties. My superiors hoped I would resign rather than endure the embarrassment of a meaningless position. Remaining true to divine instructions, however, I made an effort to be useful and looked for work to do although the lowliest clerk in our office had more purposeful employment than I.
I tried to locate another job, but nothing seemed available in my field. Discouragement turned to despair. “Will I ever get a better job?” I asked daily in prayer.
I found comfort in reading the Prophet Joseph’s plea while in Liberty Jail, found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 121. I was being taught to develop confidence in the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and, through the Spirit, I was encouraged to remain patient. [D&C 121]
One day in April I felt inspired to visit a man of considerable influence at our local university. He received me kindly, and upon learning I was looking for a job he became interested in employing me. He suggested I remain at my job until the position he had in mind became vacant. My hopes soared.
I expected to hear from the man before long, but my trial of faith had not ended. Five months dragged by without a word. Many times at work I sought solace in prayer in the library book stacks. But when our ward bishopric was reorganized and I was retained as a second counselor, I felt sure brighter days were near. Sometime later, while I was praying, the quiet voice of the Comforter whispered that I should take hope, my tribulations were nearly over.
In late August I had a two-hour interview with my friend, but no job offer. Two days later he telephoned and requested I come to his house. Before leaving I prayed to express my gratitude for what had transpired and acknowledge my blessings. I arose, knowing the job was mine. When I arrived at the man’s home, he proceeded to explain the duties of my new job to me.
Looking back over those seven months of hardship and spiritual guidance, I know I passed through a crucible of affliction that strengthened me spiritually and taught me the value of living close to the Lord.
We Talked in Whispers
It was about a week after we had taken ten-year-old Wayne into our home through the Church Indian Placement Program. He was a bright, handsome little boy, but, of course, he had to prove himself to the other boys. He fought with them quite often, and he could hold his own with the best of them.
One day I received a phone call from his school teacher. The teacher informed me that he was having trouble with Wayne at school. Wayne was disrespectful to him and to other teachers. This was a blow to me. I had never had a problem like that with my own children, and it greatly upset me. Of course my temper flared, as it so often does, and I began to rehearse all the things I was going to tell Wayne when he returned home from school. “I must nip this problem in the bud,” I told myself.
To make matters worse, Wayne was late coming home from school because of a fight with a neighbor boy. They fought all the way from the bus stop. Finally they were on our front lawn. Both of them were fighting rough. I watched for awhile, until I was sure that the fight was indeed serious, then I stepped to the door and called Wayne into the house.
He ignored me. He was not about to back down from the other boy. As I watched, I became even more angry. I ordered Wayne into the house. I was so angry that I knew I could not deal with the problem while in that state, so I sent him into his room to read.
Shaking with anger, I slipped into my own bedroom and knelt and prayed. I prayed for wisdom in handling the problem, and I also asked that through the Spirit I would know what to say. As I stood up after praying, I felt a warm, calm feeling consume me. It started at my head and gently flowed to my feet.
As I opened the door to Wayne’s room and saw him sitting there on the edge of the bed with a book in his hands, a million thoughts raced through my mind. He looked so out of place sitting in that room; somehow he belonged outdoors where he could run free, as he was used to doing. In an instant my heart went out to this little fellow so all alone, a little boy uprooted from familiar surroundings and plopped down in a different world, to live by different rules. He had to prove to the other boys that he was just as good, if not better, than they.
I sat on the edge of the bed next to him, and put my arm around his shoulders. The first words I spoke surprised even me, for I said, “Wayne, forgive me for being so cross with you.” Then I told him of the phone call from his teacher and gave him an opportunity to explain himself. We had a wonderful talk; he confided in me, and as we spoke, we did so in whispers. This was much different from the tone I had expected to use before asking my Heavenly Father for help. It was a truly spiritual experience and it did more for the relationship between Wayne and me than any other thing.
Thank goodness we have prayer and the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us if we ask for it.
I Was a Bishop before I Really Learned to Pray
My personal goal had been to read the Book of Mormon at least once a year. At each reading I became greatly impressed by the experience of Enos—his forthrightness and persistence in seeking the Lord all the day and night, without ceasing, until he received an answer; his concern first for his own soul before he could be of help to others. I was moved by the great visions of the brother of Jared. His three-hour experience with the Lord in which he was chastened for not praying regularly was both exciting and sobering.
I, too, desired closer communion with my Father, but while my prayers were dutiful and regular, I had never made the effort of an Enos to really communicate.
Upon receiving a call to be branch president, I decided the time had come for me to achieve that closeness I so desired. I set aside a day and retired to the woods to spend the whole day and night in prayer, if necessary. Upon choosing my spot, I prayed with all the fervor of my soul. I really opened up and prayed, pleaded, suggested, and talked until there was no more left for me to say. I had said it all. I was empty of thought and word. Realizing that this effort had taken only a few minutes of my allotted twenty-four hours, I wondered what I should do for the rest of the day. Finally I decided that no revelations would come to such as I, and I returned home.
President David O. McKay knew well my type: “There are too many of us content to dwell in the slums of the intellect and of the spirit. Too many of us seek for happiness in the sunless surrounding of indulgence.” (Man May Know for Himself, teachings of President David O. McKay, comp. by Clare Middlemiss, Deseret Book Co., 1969, p. 186.)
Shortly our branch became a ward, and I became the bishop. At a stake meeting one of the bishops told how he had devoted an hour each day to prayer during the previous week. So moving was his spirit, so great his experience, that my soul desired this same joy. I vowed to myself that the next day would find me in an hour of prayer for myself, my family, my ward, and my job. But the next day was Sunday, and bishopric meeting was at 6 To arise early enough, I would have to get up at 4 A.M. My resolve vanished in sleep and fled to the corner of unfulfilled promises.
With my resolve renewed by a successful Sabbath, I set the alarm for Monday morning. As it rang, I sat up, put my feet on the floor and attempted to rise. At once, and with great force, I was grabbed about the shoulders by a king-size mattress that pulled me forcibly back into its warmth and softness. I struggled valiantly for perhaps five or six seconds before I succumbed to its invitation. Then I gave up and slumbered on. After all, I consoled myself, I had become a bishop without any great sacrifice. I had my Duty-to-God award; I’d been on a mission, married in the temple, paid my tithing, and had a temple recommend. How much additional spiritual guidance did I really need? I was a good, average, “natural” elder. (See Mosiah 3:19.)
The answer came from a young girl in our ward named Diana. She too had heard this talk on prayer and had put it to the test for an hour each day. One morning at a youth conference she bounded up to my wife and me, her face aglow and radiant with the light of the gospel as she bore witness to us of the greatness of a personal relationship and a daily communion with her Father. I thought, “How can I be a bishop of a ward if the members are praying harder than I am? How can I be a spiritual guide for them?”
The next morning found me in a small wooded area next to our home, where I poured out my heart to the Lord and meditated. Nearly an hour went by. The rewards were gratifying. As I prayed and talked and listened, a calmness of spirit and an inner warmth permeated my whole being, and my soul rejoiced. There were no heavenly messengers, no great lights, no visions or voices, but I felt myself lifted to new spiritual levels in that hour, and I knew I would never again be satisfied with a lesser effort in prayer.
Eventually, I retired to the meetinghouse each morning and there, with a chapter or two of the scriptures to stimulate my thinking to some serious meditation, I found myself pondering the things of the Spirit until I felt that I was ready to speak to my Father. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, I experienced the revelatory process Joseph Smith described, as strokes of pure intelligence entered my mind. Ideas for ward organization, solutions to family problems, new concepts for my seminary and institute classes, and a deep personal strength emerged daily and profusely from these prayers. I soon found a pen and pad of paper were necessary to write down the ideas as they came. The promptings proved valuable as we reorganized our ward auxiliaries and issued call after call to people who knew of their new callings before they were made.
My family also benefited as their husband and father in the home, a priesthood bearer, gave more inspired direction and counsel. Feelings of love and peace increased, and we rejoiced in new spiritual strength. My institute and seminary classes became more vibrant and interesting as I could see myself teaching more and more by the Spirit. The scriptures began to open up as never before, and I actually understood for the first time some of the writings of Isaiah that Jesus had told the Nephites were so valuable. (See 3 Ne. 23:1–5.)
But as great as was my joy, I found that I had not reached a final destination, but was on a long and beautiful road that would lead to the fountain of living water—to Jesus, the source of all our knowledge, our faith, our truth, our being.
Dog Lost in the Rain
I was enjoying the beauties of a storm brewing on a scenic autumn afternoon when Steve, my 14-year-old son, came running in, exclaiming that he almost got soaked coming from the school bus. In the same breath he asked, “Are the puppies here yet?”
Our two small dachshunds, Ché and Chispa, are an important part of our family. Chispa (Spanish for “little spark”) was expecting her new puppies any moment. She was unusually large for her small frame and short legs in this pregnancy, and we hoped the puppies would come without serious difficulty.
Time passed quickly as I worked in my kitchen, preparing the evening meal. Steve came in with an expression of concern and dismay on his face. “Chispa is gone!” His words tumbled out. “I’ve called and searched … she never leaves … she’s too heavy to go far … maybe the puppies are on the way … I can’t find her!”
The storm was on us now, and the rain obscured the afternoon light. Chispa had to be found and brought in from the wet or she would chill. We hurried out into the rain, forgetting our coats.
Calling and clapping our hands, we searched the yard. Steve got on his bicycle and rode to all neighboring areas, and I scanned the hillside and the steep ravines, knowing that Chispa could not possibly have descended in her heavy condition. Still, no responding bark from this small dog.
We got the father dog, Ché, to search the area. He sniffed diligently and always came prancing and wagging his tail to the same spot—the edge of the steep hillside in our yard. We could not see her; she would bark if she were there, and besides, she just didn’t go down the hill anymore; she was too big—almost dragging.
The rain was pelting us as we stood there, realizing the dog was gone. Perhaps she had run away to die; perhaps she had been hit by a car, or maybe the puppies had come too soon for her to return home. They would all die in the cold and rain. Even with the best care, in past litters, some had not survived. I saw the misery on Steve’s face with the rain dripping down his pale cheeks. “What shall we do?” he shouted through the wind and soaking rain.
“I think we had better ask for help,” I replied.
We went into the house together and knelt in prayer. In simple, urgent words we explained our need to be guided to find Chispa and save the new, delicate puppies soon to be born. Then we arose and went outside again.
It abruptly occurred to me that we had forgotten about the newspapers for Steve’s route, and they were unprotected in the rain. I grabbed my raincoat and ran through the water puddled in the driveway to drag the heavy bundle into the garage. In those few moments I was soaked through my coat. Picking up Steve’s rain jacket, I quickly ran into the backyard. He was nowhere to be seen. There was no answer to my calling and shouting.
Suddenly, in the dim light, I could see a yellow shirt coming up the steep hillside. There was the bedraggled boy. Wet, grimy, and smeared with mud, he was gently carrying a very dirty mother dog in his arms. He called to me now, puffing as he approached the top of the hill. His wide grin assured me she was all right. Chispa looked at me with deep, brown eyes, too weak to respond further.
Earlier, Steve had searched along the trees and the ditch with the heavy oak brush, but had not heard or seen her. This time, when he went back to look again, he heard the slight rustle of the dog tags on her collar and found her lying exhausted in the leaves. She had dug a small depression in the earth and covered herself with dirt and leaves, apparently to keep warm while she waited for the puppies to arrive. Yet even with her best natural instinct it would have been difficult for such tiny new pups to survive.
“I know Heavenly Father is my friend and I can call on him and he answers,” Steve said gratefully. “I couldn’t see her before … but this time I went right to the spot and there she was!”
As we watched the miracle of birth within the hour, and saw five sleek and shining healthy puppies squirm around their mother, Chispa looked up with grateful eyes and seemed to thank us as she licked the tiny puppies.
The wonder of new life and the gratitude for the perfect harmony of God’s beautiful creations strengthened my awareness of his love for us as I thought of the scriptures, “and not one sparrow shall fall to the ground … nor a hair from the head shall go unnoticed by me.” (See Matt. 10:29–31.)
My Mother’s Mission
In 1962, after completing high school in Samoa, I enrolled at the Church College of Hawaii. During my second year there, my mother passed away. (My father had died when I was a little girl.) I was very close to my mother and totally dependent upon her for guidance as well as for financial support. I had always faithfully heeded her counsel because she was always so wise and right.
When word came that she had died, I went to my Heavenly Father in tears and demanded to know why he had done this terrible thing to me. Why had he taken away the only person that I loved and lived for? Sorrow turned to bitterness and anger, and I told my Heavenly Father I would stay away from the Church until I got over this feeling. I felt alone, so alone that many times I wanted to die.
My feelings didn’t stop me, however, from following one of the precious teachings my mother had instilled in me. She had stressed to her children the importance of fasting and prayer. Even after I left home she kept reminding me of this great teaching in her letters, and her letters were many. Because of this, I got on my knees and said my prayers night and morning, and practiced faithfully the law of the fast.
But I did not attend Church meetings. I stayed in the dormitory on Sundays and slept all day or watched television. Because my mother had taught me to keep the standards of the Church, I had no desire to go out and do anything that would have displeased her, but deep in my heart I knew she would not have approved of my Sunday activities. Nevertheless, this went on for six months.
Then one Sunday night I had an experience that showed me the reality of missionary work on the other side of the veil. I dreamed—something I don’t often do—and in my dream I saw my dear mother standing before a group of people with a lesson manual in her hands. She was teaching them the gospel. The dream was so real I sat up in bed and wanted to run to my mother, but upon opening my eyes I found myself all alone in my room; no one else was there.
Something prompted me to reach inside the second drawer of my dresser, where I picked up one of my mother’s letters. I turned on the light, and for some reason started reading on the second page of this letter. I soon came to a part where my mother stated that she had been called to go on a mission. She said she would gladly do anything for the Church and the Lord, and she expected to leave in April the following year. Her letter was written near the end of 1963.
As I read this part of the letter, a light suddenly burst into my mind and gradually filled my bosom and my heart. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother left this life to fulfill her mission on the other side. You see, my mother passed away on April 2, 1964, the exact time she had expected to leave for her mission.
Holding the letter in my hands, I fell on my knees before my Heavenly Father, and, sobbing uncontrollably, I thanked him for the light he had given me and asked his forgiveness for my foolishness. I promised him that from then on I would do his will in all things and seek to serve him all my days.
It was the turning point in my life.
I Saw My Counselors Walk In
Two months after we moved to Keams Canyon, Arizona, on the Hopi Indian reservation there, our branch president called me to be Primary president. I was stunned by this calling: I had never worked in Primary before; our branch had no Primary; and organizing one among the Lamanite people, whom I knew nothing about and whose names I couldn’t even pronounce, seemed at that moment impossible. Then Nephi’s reassurance came to me that the Lord will give us no commandments without preparing a way for us to accomplish them. (See 1 Ne. 3:7.)
So I told my branch president I would accept the call, and he asked me to turn in names for my two counselors the following Sunday. He left me a list of about 15 Lamanite sisters to choose from. As I looked over this list I found I could pronounce only a few of the names and knew none of the sisters. I realized more than ever how much I needed the Lord’s help.
During the remainder of the week, over and over again I prayed and reviewed these strange names. Several names kept standing out in my mind, but by Friday I still hadn’t received inspiration from the Lord. I had a feeling of panic.
Saturday I fasted and prayed to the Lord that the two women he wanted for counselors would be at fast and testimony meeting the next day and that I would know which ones they were.
When fast and testimony meeting started the next day, very few members were in attendance, but as the meeting progressed the congregation increased. My anxiety grew, but I knew the Lord would not fail me; the two women would appear. Early in the meeting a sister came in and sat in front of me, and I was impressed that she was to be one of my counselors. But what of the other? Each time the door opened I looked, wondering if it would be the other counselor. Finally a lovely sister came in, and I knew she was the one.
After the meeting I told the branch president of the two sisters and asked their names. Their names were on the list and among those that had stood out in my mind. The Lord had again answered my prayers.