Blessing on the Battlefield
Rich and I were the only two Latter-day Saint soldiers on a patrol near the Laotian border in South Vietnam. Rich was a recent convert to the Church, and we often held gospel discussions during our four months together. He held the office of priest, and I remember telling him that I was an elder and he should remember that in case of an emergency.
The day hadn’t been much different from most others spent on jungle patrol, except I wasn’t walking point with Rich as I usually did. I had been assigned to replace one of the men on the rear security machine gun. In late afternoon we stopped in some deep grass along the trail to take a short break, and while others lit up their cigarettes, I leaned back on my eighty-pound pack and tried to rest my feet.
Suddenly the quiet of the jungle was broken by an explosion near the front of the patrol. There was a scramble for helmets, rifles, and ammunition as we ran for position around a perimeter; and yet during this excitement I began to feel the Spirit of the Lord as never before. Without seeing what had happened, I knew Rich was involved.
It was no surprise when the platoon sergeant shouted my name, with an order to get up to where he was in a hurry. I was surprised, however, to find that as I jumped from my position I had unhooked the belt that held my ammunition and extra hand grenades and dropped it by the other machine gunner. Running up the trail, I met the squad leader who was yelling, “Faster! Faster! Rich is hurt bad and he’s calling for you and saying something about ‘bring the oil.’ Do what you can for him.”
A few steps farther on I saw a scene that made me tremble with fear, and my heart pounded wildly. The point man had tripped a booby trap, and Rich had almost been standing on it when it went off. His clothes were in shreds, his face and arms were splattered with blood, and his legs were twisted forms of torn flesh and splintered bones. He was conscious as I knelt beside him. He said he couldn’t feel his legs, but he knew he must be hurt badly and asked me to give him a blessing.
The questioning look on our squad leader’s face as he crouched by us prompted me to a quick explanation about priesthood blessings. Then, as I placed my hands on Rich’s head, something took place that I find difficult to describe. I began to tremble again, not with fear but with the Spirit which filled my body. It was something similar to the trembling I have experienced in bearing my testimony in fast meetings, only more intense. I began to speak, but the words were not my words. The Lord gave Rich a blessing through me. I told him that he would live to return home to his wife and build a family. I uttered words of encouragement and a blessing for his wife to be patient and understanding.
A few minutes later we lifted Rich into the evacuation helicopter. As I turned away, the helicopter triggered a second booby trap, slamming a piece of shrapnel into my side, where minutes before my ammunition and grenades had been hanging. The exploding metal damaged the helicopter, causing it to veer across the spot where I was standing, but the force of the explosion had thrown me out of its path.
While lying on the jungle floor waiting to be evacuated, I was overcome by a most peaceful and relaxed feeling, and I felt I understood why the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter.
In a hospital in Japan, I saw Rich again. He told me of the immediate relief he had felt as I placed my hands on his head, and how grateful he was for the priesthood. Despite the loss of part of both legs and several bouts with surgery, he had begun to recover immediately. The doctors were surprised at his rapid progress between each operation, and it was never necessary to place him on the critical list. I know the power of the priesthood saved us that day.
Back in the United States, I was reassigned to Fort Hood to complete my tour of duty, and was reunited with my wife and daughter. We have a deep gratitude for the presence of the priesthood in our home, and for those who are called to conduct the affairs of the Church through its power.
I Wanted to Be Free
A year or two ago I was preparing to leave my job and go to another city to take a two-month course that was going to change my life. It was going to release me from responsibility, fears, guilt, morals, beliefs in anything and everything. In short, it was going to free me from all controls in my life. I was going to return a totally free and balanced person, with no belief-structure to tie me to right/wrong, good/evil patterns of living. I thought there were no absolute “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” in life. I was going to live the life of a natural human being.
One month before I was to leave, a dear friend asked me one favor: would I just come and listen to what her church had to say about life? For her sake, I went to her home to listen to the missionary discussions, but I was somewhat apprehensive. I did not intend to be coerced into anything. Yet I could see from the start that there were very basic, glaring differences between what I was planning to do with my life and the beliefs to which the elders and my friend were dedicating their lives. But I had promised myself that I would search honestly, so I did, as I read the assigned topics and more besides, and agreed to meet frequently to finish the discussions in a month.
During that first discussion, my memories of all the years of love and teaching of my parents flooded over me. I began to realize that I still knew God existed, and I still knew Christ was someone special. For the next week my spiritual self was in great turmoil with my natural self. I had a pounding headache constantly. I could accept intellectually all the missionaries were teaching me, but I had not yet allowed my heart to ponder and decide one way or the other—I had not really asked for the truth through prayer. I still clung to the ego-supporting notion that there was no absolute truth for everyone to live by.
As we read 2 Nephi, chapter 2, [2 Ne. 2] a testimony seemed to come to me all at once. I believed there was opposition in all things, and I believed there was a God who was everyone’s source. From those two basic beliefs (absolutes), I began to see clearly the opposing forces in my life—a true God and a real Satan, a right and a wrong way to live. Then I knew I wanted with my whole being to live the right way. At this point I began to pray, and my headache disappeared.
The realization of how blindly I had been living, how proudly and vainly, brought me to my knees in repentance. I had been depending entirely upon my own powers of reasoning, with my own tiny intellect. Now I knew the Book of Mormon verified all I had learned from the Bible and my parents, and I looked forward to the rest of our discussions.
At the same time, Christ’s infinite atonement became real to me. (2 Ne. 9.) Such an amazing plan to be made manifest among men—for One to live perfectly, then to suffer infinitely and die to answer the law of justice for us, with the law of mercy so that we might all return to God’s presence if we live according to his way! This was the most joyous realization of my life; and it never ceases to amaze me and humble me.
I knew I wanted to be baptized, to take upon me the name of Christ and the commitment to live according to his commandments, realizing it will be Christ himself who will judge me someday, according to how I have lived.
A Thief in Camp
There was a lump in my throat. Not a lump you could see or feel, but a lump of guilt that had been there for a long time—ever since that fateful day of temptation in the canyon.
It had all come about because my father hadn’t been able to obtain spring feed for his milk cows—cows that provided precious revenue to feed and clothe his large family. “Nowhere can I find anyone that has hay to sell,” he confided to Mother. He was desperate. Then one day he heard of the tall, thick grass growing in Bull-Pup Canyon. It was the answer to his prayer. We would have a wonderful summer of camping out.
I knew that providing for our large family kept my father under a great deal of pressure. As I watched the preparations for our camp-out, I remembered some books we had read in school in which the father of a large family had taken two of his children into the forest and left them because he could not stand to see them die of starvation. I figured my brother and I were going to be left in the canyon, so I resolved that at no time would I let Father out of my sight.
I saw Mother pack a big blue wooden box with bedding and clothing. Knowing we would be gone a long time, she quietly slipped a sack of candy in the side for special occasions.
How beautiful the canyon was! And it was peaceful, or it could have been, except for the constant vigil I had to keep. Then one day my father took me in his strong arms and held me close. “Dear, are you afraid we will leave you here? Is that why you stay so close to me?” he asked. I could never admit my fear, but somehow his love reassured me. From then on I relaxed and enjoyed the canyon, building steep, rocked-up dugways for my little red wagon, carving messages on huge slabs of sandstone, playing with my little brother.
The frequent assurances of my father’s love had dispelled all my fears and made me very bold. I thought often of the candy in the blue box and waited in great anticipation for a time when I would be alone in camp. The day finally came. And, sure enough, the candy disappeared.
Then came the dreaded day when Mother wanted us all to share in the little candy that was left. I hardly dared look up as she searched the blue box and found nothing. “Did you take the candy?” she asked. My eyes grew big with indignation as I firmly denied it. My father came also, putting his arms around me, and asked if I knew anything about the candy. Again I vehemently denied it.
But as the day wore on, feelings of guilt and remorse flooded over me. I was not only a thief, I was a liar, too. How could I have lied to the two dearest people in the world? That’s when the strange lump rose in my throat. It seemed to grow larger from day to day, until sometimes it was actually difficult to breathe.
The days went by. Our crops were in, and we had long since moved back home. As I walked beside my father one day, he put his hand lovingly on my shoulder. As I looked into his face, he said, “Dear, I hope you will grow up to be the kind of woman that we—Heavenly Father, your mother, and I—can be proud of.”
I could stand it no longer, and bursting into tears I declared, “But Daddy, I took the candy!”
Right there on the street he stooped and put his arms around me. “Didn’t you know that we knew you took it?”
Then the miracle happened. The lump, after all this time, was completely gone.
The memory of that occasion has remained with me for more than fifty years—a testimony of the miracle of forgiveness.
Several years before I joined the Church, I received from a great aunt a copy of a short, four-page pamphlet containing some brief information on the MacArthur family and related lines (Johnson, McKinvin, Love, McLean) in Canada and Scotland. This aunt was not a Latter-day Saint, but after I was converted I began to evaluate the information she had sent me to obtain leads for family research.
One address in the pamphlet was that of an early Canadian pioneer at the Love homestead. Although the address was 152 years old, in 1973 I sent a letter to the Love family at the address given, believing the Lord would bless me in my efforts to help those beyond the veil who had sacrificed so much for me.
When the postmaster in that area saw the letter, he recalled a man named Love who had lived on that homestead until 1943. The postmaster forwarded the letter to a nearby town, but since the man no longer lived there, the letter was forwarded three more times until it arrived at the home of Clifford A. Love of Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada. He is the sole surviving member of the Love family that originally settled on the old homestead over 150 years ago.
Mr. Love informed me that the name Love was originally McKinvin, a clan that some 570 years ago had lived on a farm in Kintyre, Argyllshire, Scotland. Since the letter to Canada had arrived at its destination, I decided that one to Kintyre might also, so I addressed a letter to the 570-year-old McKinvin farm in Kintyre. The postmaster read it and forwarded it to the District Council Office of Kintyre. It arrived the day of their monthly council meeting and was read to the council. The wife of one councilman just happened to be a descendant of the McKinvins! Not only do this man and his wife have a copy of an old parish register dating back to 1760, but they have promised to obtain information from an old churchyard dating back to 1516, where many of the McKinvins are buried.
My great aunt may not have accepted the gospel, but her pamphlet has opened the doors of salvation for hundreds of her kindred dead. May she share their joy!