“Honey, I Have Good News!”
“I have to learn to follow before I can lead” is the principle that has governed the life of Richard A. Lowe since his baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fifteen years ago. Brother Lowe was baptized, knowing that as a black man he could not be ordained into the priesthood at that time.
While being taught the gospel by the missionaries, he was, of course, concerned about the priesthood and made it a matter of prayer. One night after he had retired for the evening, he dreamed he was standing at a podium with a very old book open before him. The paper appeared to be parchment, and the writing was very dim. The last line on the page read, “The black man is unable to hold the priesthood at this time.”
Before him he saw a large tapestry, and received the impression that three persons were standing on the other side.
“No black man?” he asked.
And the answer came to his mind, “No, not at this time.”
Again he thought, “What chance is there for me?” He was mentally instructed to look at the book, where he could clearly see the words, “Seek first the truth, and then all things will come to you.”
With this direct reassurance, Brother Lowe was baptized. He sought diligently to exercise his stewardship as patriarch in the home, living the principles of the gospel and teaching them to his family. Knowing the power of the priesthood and having faith in his priesthood leaders, he often called upon them to bless his wife and children. He has felt the healing power of the priesthood in his own life.
While he was on duty in Vietnam, it was discovered that Brother Lowe had a brain tumor. He was transferred to a hospital in Okinawa, and the night before he was taken to surgery, he was administered to by elders of the Church. All fear and anxiety left him, and he had no doubt concerning the outcome. He experienced only slight pain after the operation, and much to the amazement of the hospital staff, he was able to see, hear, and sit up in bed. His doctor’s diagnosis: “You had more help than I could give you.”
Further assurance of the Lord’s love and awareness of him came in his patriarchal blessing received February 1978. Brother Lowe was promised: “In time to come, during the Millennium if not before, you will receive the priesthood of God.” He was satisfied to know that sometime this promise would be realized, but he never dreamed it would happen so soon.
The news came in a telephone call on the afternoon of Friday, 9 June 1978, while Brother Lowe was working at his desk. His wife’s voice had a strange, unidentifiable quality in it. “Honey,” she said, “I have good news”; then she burst into tears. But she managed to report that President Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation that all worthy men could now receive the priesthood. Just then two friends, a member and an investigator who work for the same company, rushed to his desk. They too had heard the glorious news and were anxious to share it with their friend whose life would be so marvelously changed. Embracing, the three men wept together.
Brother Lowe received the priesthood the following Sunday and was ordained to the office of an elder by Elder Robert D. Hales of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Prior to the dedication of the Washington Temple, the Lowe family had toured the building, thinking that might be their only chance to enter a temple in their lifetime. The family has now entered that same temple again, this time to be sealed for time and all eternity.
Brother and Sister Lowe are parents of three adopted children: Robert, ten; Layunie, nine; and Karla, eight. Robert’s response to the announcement was straightforward: “Daddy, I have to go to the bank. I have to start saving for a mission. Can you give me a dollar?”
Christmas, Second Time Around
As we planned our ward’s youth calendar for the year 1978–79, we wanted to emphasize service. So in that spirit it was decided that this year our Young Men—Young Women Christmas party would be replaced by a service project—that of providing Christmas for some needy family. A youth committee was organized and an LDS family outside of our ward selected.
A needier family could not have been chosen. The mother, who was divorced, was a recent convert to the Church and lived with her three children and her own aged mother in a small, one-bedroom house that was scarcely bigger than most people’s living room. There was no furniture to speak of, and the family’s sole source of entertainment and relaxation came from a small black-and-white television set. The woman worked nights to provide a meager sustenance for her family, with no surplus to purchase either a Christmas tree or presents for her children and their grandmother.
Our youth committee set to work planning this very special Christmas activity. They wanted to go all out—a Christmas tree, Christmas dinner, and presents for each member of the family. Each Young Men and Young Women class was assigned a specific area: the Explorers would purchase the Christmas tree and buy presents for the young boy; the Laurels would provide the food, including a turkey for Christmas dinner; the Venturers would buy presents for the mother; and on it went until each class had an assignment. A super Christmas for a deserving family was assured.
To make this an even more meaningful experience for our young people, we asked them to earn the money they would be contributing. Mother and dad’s money would not be acceptable on this project. It was gratifying to see how positively the majority of the youth responded to the challenge.
The gifts, beautifully wrapped, the tree, and the food were all taken by the youth committee to this special family several days before Christmas. The young people were touched by the sincere, emotional appreciation expressed by this mother on behalf of her family. And we adult leaders felt a real lesson had been learned. But this experience was to have a greater impact on the youth than we knew.
Christmas morning, as I was ushering my family into the car to go over to my brother’s for our traditional Christmas dinner, our Young Men president pulled up in front of the house.
“Did you hear what happened to the family we provided the Christmas for?” he asked.
Before I could reply, he went on: “While the mother was working Christmas Eve, someone broke into the house and stole all their Christmas presents—even took their old TV set.”
It seemed impossible! After all that work, how could this happen? My heart ached for that family as I thought how disappointing this must have been for them. Then I noticed that his car was filled with presents. Smiling, he continued:
“That’s the second batch of presents going over to the family this morning. When we found out about the robbery, we called a few kids in the ward, and before we knew it, they had contacted others—and all these kids and their families donated their own Christmas presents to our ‘Christmas family.’”
Sitting on top of the pile of presents was a small TV set. He saw me looking at it, and as he began to get into his car, he said, “One of our fourteen-year-old men donated his own TV set.”
He drove off, and I got into our car with my family.
“What was that all about, dad?” one of my children asked.
After a pause, and feeling very grateful for my association with these young people, I replied, “I’ve just learned a lesson in charity. Let me tell you a story about the true spirit of Christmas.”
Christmas Eve Miracle
I can still hear my mother’s soft voice as she related this Christmas Eve miracle. The experience was sacred to mama; she told it only on special occasions, such as the evening my sweetheart asked for my hand in marriage.
The story began on a crisp autumn day in October, 1928. The huge barn behind our home in Heber City, in northern Utah, was heaped to the rafters with fresh hay, and the loft was filled with the happy laughter and shouting of romping children. I was among them, unaware of the tragedy about to strike. I found myself an inviting hay hill, and got ready to slide down. Suddenly I was falling headfirst through a chute. Down I shot to a cement floor into a feeding manger at the bottom of the barn.
I still remember the startling sensation of regaining consciousness, and the horrible frustration of not being able to cry. My brothers ran for papa. How comforting and secure his sturdy, strong arms felt as he lifted me out of the hay manger and carried me into the house. Gently he placed me on my bed.
Several days later my headache had not subsided. The condition became even more complicated when I contracted a severe cold; to this day I remember the nightmare of the accompanying high fever. Later one afternoon when the doctor made his routine call, he shook his head as he read the thermometer, and mama knew it was time to take action. She sent for papa, and we prepared to leave for Provo, forty miles away, where I could be hospitalized. Neighbors and relatives gathered to offer their assistance and assure us that my four small brothers would be well cared for.
The journey through the winding roads in Provo Canyon was long and hard, as papa pushed his Model T Ford through herds of sheep on the roadway. We arrived at the hospital late that night.
The pain was severe behind my left ear and after two more days of high fever, the doctors operated and discovered a deep-seated mastoid infection. By this time it had entered my blood stream. The next week the surgeons were compelled to lance my left arm, and the next week my right leg. For seven long weeks I endured the grueling ordeal of many operations.
Three days before Christmas the doctors called my father into the office and told him they could offer little hope for my recovery. Knowing of my intense longing for my brothers and home, my parents decided to take me home for Christmas. They located a truck to take me to the train (there were only a few trucks in the entire town) and lifted me onto a cot. In the hallway the hospital personnel gave me a lovely doll dressed in a pink, handknit sweater and cap. I clutched the doll close to my body under the blankets, and when we came out into the refreshing night air, I was hysterically happy. I thought I was leaving the whole ordeal behind me in that hospital.
Slowly the truck made its way to the depot. We boarded, the conductor shoveled a huge lump of coal into the potbellied stove in the caboose, and the train began its three-hour journey home. The sleeping powder the doctor had administered before we left the hospital soon took effect, and I slept most of the way. When the train stopped, papa stepped to the door of the car, then bent over me chuckling.
“You would never believe the crowd that is out there to welcome us,” he said. “My goodness, you would think a celebrity was getting off this train.” He chuckled again as he pulled a warm cap over my head. Mama tucked the covers under my chin, and my cot was lifted to Uncle Dode’s bobsled. Sleighbells tinkled as the horses pranced down Center Street over the smooth, icy roads.
When we reached the tabernacle corner, the sleigh stopped with a merry “Whoa.” In the middle of the main street was a large Christmas tree, adorned with electric tree lights, the first I had ever seen, How colorful and sparkly they were! The children of my primary class stood beneath the tree, welcoming me with the sacred strains of “Silent Night, Holy Night.” With all the faith and meekness of a child, I felt the love of our Savior in the hearts of many gentle people. Mama’s tears were mingled with the soft snowflakes that fell on my face.
A short time later, at our own front door, Mama laughed and cried as she hugged her four little sons. Seven weeks without a mother had seemed an eternity to them. Then, with hushed excitement, they led the way into my bedroom which they had adorned with red and green paper chains. A large, deep-red tissue bell hung from the single light globe. “Oh, see! The Christmas elves have been here!” Mama exclaimed, hugging the boys again.
But as the exertion of the trip took its toll, I realized the pain and suffering had not ended. By Christmas Eve my situation was critical, and the doctors told my parents that my chances of surviving the night were small. The elders administered to me, and for the first time my parents had the courage to say, “Thy will be done.”
After the blessing a special peace descended over the household. Papa and mama went into the living room with the four boys and helped them hang their Christmas stockings. Then they tucked each one into bed, assuring them that Santa was on his way.
Knowing that she was going to need strength for what lay ahead, mama was persuaded to retire to an upstairs bedroom. I loved to hear her tell of lying in the stillness of the night and of the peace that came over her as she fell into a sound sleep. She awakened, startled, just as dawn was breaking Christmas morning. She turned to my bedroom door, a silent prayer on her lips. Papa was just coming out, his tired face bathed in a relieved smile. A miracle had happened. I had been given strength to survive the night, and Mama could even see a slight sparkle in my tired eyes.
“Has Santa been here yet?” I asked.
“You bet he has,” she cried, tears streaming from her eyes. “It looks like Santa just stumbled into our living room and all the toys fell out of his bag.”
“But the most precious gift of all,” mama would say whenever she retold the story, “was the Savior’s gift to us that hallowed Christmas Eve.”
Although the illness left me with a physical handicap—one leg was much shorter than the other—I have been privileged to lead an active life. In 1977, before he passed away, my husband, Dr. George L. Strebel, and I served in Europe, where he was coordinator of English-speaking seminaries and institutes. I now have four happily married children and fifteen beautiful grandchildren.
Four years ago I had total hip surgery—three and a half inches were added to my leg. I am now walking without crutches and with just a slight limp. My leg is getting better all the time—a modern installment to the miracle that began that Christmas Eve.