We must have been a pathetic sight—me in my Hawaiian muumuu with wilted leis still around my neck, and three blurry-eyed, very tired children, the oldest barely five. It was 2:30 A.M., and the huge San Francisco airport was nearly empty. I felt totally lost and so alone.
I asked a man at one of the service counters how far it was to town. He told me that the last bus was just about to leave, helped me with our luggage, and stopped the bus just as it was leaving. I didn’t even have time to thank him.
The station at the end of the line was dark, the other passengers quickly scattered into the night, the empty bus pulled out, and I stood there with three small children, four suitcases, and two small trunks on a sidewalk somewhere in San Francisco.
I was beginning to panic when a custodian came out of the bus station, locking the door behind him. I asked him where I could find a cab or hotel. Blessedly, he knew of a clean little hotel about six blocks away, and even wheeled our luggage down on a furniture dolly. By 4 A.M., the children and I sank into an exhausted sleep.
We spent the next two days just recuperating, eating at a nearby restaurant and playing in a little park two blocks away. The children frolicked without a care in the world—I was thankful that they were too young to realize the situation we were in.
We had spent the last two years in Hawaii where my husband was a student pastor in a small church. But because he misinterpreted the scripture “the blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil” (Prov. 20:30), his discipline grew more and more severe. So after much soul-searching and prayer, I knew I had to leave him. I could not go to my parents. They were having financial problems and my father had recently suffered a major stroke. I didn’t know what area of town would be suitable to live in; I didn’t know where to begin to look for work; and I didn’t know what to do with the children while I worked. If we stayed in the hotel much longer, my money would be gone. I didn’t know a soul. I’d never felt more alone in my life. But on the third day, I knew I had to make some decisions.
I telephoned three different ministers of the particular church I had been associated with, and assured each that I was not asking for money, only advice. Each man asked me the same question: “Are you a member of our faith?” I answered honestly: I was so bitter and confused at the moment that I wasn’t sure what faith I had, if any. Each one gave me the same response: they couldn’t help me because they had too many of their own people to take care of.
My bitterness grew deeper. Where could I turn for help? I was desperate and remembered the farewell of a friend who had seen us off in Hawaii. “If you ever get in a bind and need help, call my church,” he’d said. “They’ll help you.” He was an inactive Mormon.
I knew absolutely nothing of Mormons except that they had a fine Tabernacle Choir and had practiced polygamy. I did not like the idea of begging for help, least of all from some strange church, but there seemed to be no other choice. I looked in the phone book, where the endless number of Mormon churches and listings confused me. Finally I called a “mission home.” That seemed to be the most likely place to call for help. A young man answered the phone, and I told him pretty much the same thing I had told the three ministers: I did not need money, but desperately needed advice. He answered that he was quite new to the area and couldn’t help me himself, but he’d have someone else call me. I hung up, half-convinced it was a put-off.
To my surprise, within ten minutes I received a call from a lovely lady who listened to my story, told me to get all my luggage together, call a taxi, and meet her in thirty minutes at the Berkeley bus terminal. After she described her car and what she would be wearing, she added, “By the way, are you a member of the Church?”
“Here it comes again,” I thought cynically, but I said simply, “No, I’m not.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I just wondered. See you in half an hour.”
I hurried my things together, spruced up the children, checked out of the hotel, and headed for Berkeley. I was surprised and a bit suspicious at the woman’s willingness to help a total stranger, but at this point I was willing to take advantage of any offer.
The first thing she did was to treat us to lunch. I learned that her husband, O. Leslie Stone, was something called a stake president. She got us settled in a boarding house and promised to get me the names of some potential babysitters. I couldn’t get over it! I had emphasized my strong bitterness toward churches of any kind, and my intention to stay that way. But she didn’t get upset at my antagonism. She didn’t try to convert me. She didn’t criticize me. She even seemed to think I was doing her a favor by letting her help me. A Bible verse kept echoing through my mind: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35.)
Sister Stone came every day. She did, indeed, find me a babysitter, a woman from her church. She helped me find a small furnished apartment and helped us move into it. She even gave me the name of a man to see about a temporary job. And she never preached.
In the apartment, I found a small book entitled Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. I never knew if Sister Stone placed it there, or if it had been left by the former tenant. I began reading it after the children were in bed at night, not because I was interested, but because there was nothing else to do.
During those first few weeks, not a Saturday went by that Sister Stone didn’t stop and ask if we would like to go to church with her on Sunday. I would politely refuse; and she accepted the refusal pleasantly and just as pleasantly asked the next week. All the time this was happening, I was becoming more and more engrossed in the book. I had never heard of the things I was finding, though I had studied the Bible faithfully most of my life. Much of the information raised questions in my mind so I started jotting them down as I read.
One Saturday when Sister Stone came by, I again refused to go to church with her, but I did ask if she would send her pastor by to discuss some questions with me. When Brother and Sister Marvin Turner came by identifying themselves as stake missionaries, I brought out my written questions—seven pages in all—almost defiantly. Brother Turner said that he didn’t have all the answers, but knew that he could find me logical, reasonable answers to every question. Through their patience and tenderness, I finally reached the point where I was willing to pray about the truthfulness of the things they taught me. Then I consented to go to church with them. Eventually, I was baptized. However, when I moved to southern California, I lost track of my new friends, though I tried unsuccessfully to find Sister Stone and the Turners to express my gratitude. I remarried and had other children.
Now I sit in sacrament meeting and watch one of my sons bless the sacrament, and another pass it; I watch the faith and testimony of each child grow; I remember people to whom they have borne testimony, some of whom have joined the Church. I think too of many of our beloved dead who have been baptized, endowed, and sealed by proxy.
Ultimately my thoughts turn toward a gracious Sister Stone and a sharing Turner family who are still serving the Lord. I ask myself how I can possibly repay those people who cared so much for someone so rebellious years ago. And the answer comes to me, peacefully and clearly: “Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37.)