Brothers and Sisters:03121_000_012
Through the Veil
One day during my senior year in high school, a strong feeling came over me that my grandfather wanted to see me. So after school I got a notebook from my locker and walked over to Uncle Jacob Cline’s house, where grandpa had been staying since grandma’s death.
When I arrived, grandpa was sitting up in bed. “Come in, Ray,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
He wanted to tell me the history of his family, and I was to write the information down. I knew then why I had brought my notebook along with me. Over the next hour, he told me the history of his family four generations back—names, dates, places, and stories. When he finished, he laid his hand on my shoulder and said very quietly: “Ray, I give unto you a charge to preserve this information, for someday you will need it. And when that day arrives, you will hear my voice and know now is the time, and this is the reason.”
I felt a shiver go down my spine and a warm feeling in my chest as my eyes remained riveted to the penetrating eyes of grandpa. I promised I would, even though I had no idea why I was writing down or preserving the information. Grandpa died two weeks later.
Years passed, and I was attending a radar technician school in the U.S. Air Force at Biloxi, Mississippi. During a general discussion one day, one of my instructors, Norman M. Hale, mentioned that he was a Mormon. That night, as I lay in bed, I couldn’t get the day’s conversation out of my mind. Finally, I got out of bed, dressed, and walked to where the instructors were housed. By then it was past midnight. I knocked on Elder Hale’s door and got him out of bed with the greeting: “Hi, I’d like you to tell me about the Mormon Church.”
Elder Hale and his roommate had been companions in the mission field. They spent the remainder of the night giving me the discussions. When they mentioned temples, genealogy work, and vicarious work for the dead, a voice rang in my ears, Grandpa’s voice, and I heard again the solemn charge that he had given me. A warmth filled my bosom and I knew that what I was being taught was true. I started attending the Latter-day Saint church the following week, and was baptized in October 1954.
My parents weren’t very happy about my baptism. Dad even made me give him my word that I would never preach “Mormonism” to him.
Ten years passed, during which time I met a young lady, taught her the gospel, baptized her, and married her in the Idaho Falls Temple. All that time, even though we were active in the Church, I kept my word and never mentioned the Church to dad.
Then one day he said to me, “You never are going to mention it, are you?” We both knew what he meant.
“Nope,” I replied.
“Well then, would you answer a couple of questions?” he asked.
His questions indicated that he had done some serious thinking. After I answered them, I kept quiet, even though I could tell he wanted to know more.
“Well,” he said impatiently, “aren’t you going to tell me any more?”
“Nope,” I answered. A long quiet followed. Then I said, “Dad, I can tell you have been doing a lot of thinking about the gospel. Since we’re so close, I don’t think I should try to teach you. But I know two fine young men who can answer your questions and tell you about the gospel.”
“Ray, I’ve heard about those two fine young men. One minute you’re having a few questions answered and the next minute you’re being baptized.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “I’ll let them know that these will be informational discussions only, and that if they try to pressure you in any way, I’ll personally ask them to leave. And if you don’t mind, I’ll sit there during the discussions to see to the agreement.”
“All right,” he said, “but no arm twisting, or I’ll boot them out.” I assured him there would be none.
The following Tuesday evening, my parents and I sat and listened to the missionaries present the gospel. I was pleased and a little surprised when dad said that everything they said was just common sense and that he believed it. After the second discussion, which both my parents accepted, the missionaries dropped an unexpected bomb: They challenged dad to be baptized. Before I could say anything, he answered, “Yes, I will.” Mother agreed. Appointments were made for the next discussions the following week.
That Sunday, I received a phone call from my youngest brother. His voice choked with tears. All he could say was, “Ray, … Dad is dead. … Auto accident. …” I wept at the loss of my good friend, confidante, companion, and father.
A year later we went to the Alberta Temple to do my father’s work. During the session, as I acted as proxy for him, good feelings told me that I was doing something dad wanted me to do.
When we were in the sealing room to have him sealed to his parents, a warm glow came over me as we knelt around the altar. I knew dad was there. Looking at the temple president, I saw tears in his eyes. “Brother Snelson,” he said, “tell me about your father.” I started to tell him of the love and closeness I felt for him, but he interrupted me: “No, no—what did he look like?” As I described dad, a gentle smile came across the temple president’s face.
After completing the sealing, he asked everyone but me to step out of the room for a moment. Taking me by the hand, he led me to the side of the room and we sat down next to each other. By then both of us had tears in our eyes, and the room felt as if it were filled with electricity. The temple president asked, “You know, don’t you?” “Yes,” I replied quietly.
He continued, “Your father was standing right behind you.”
Again I wept, this time for joy.
Ever since my baptism eighteen years ago, I wondered if I could ever become a calm, serene Latter-day Saint woman. The prospects seemed very dismal because I had worried practically nonstop my whole life.
Even after being baptized I was an incessant worrier. This wasn’t because of a lack of faith or testimony. I’ve known all along that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live, that they love me, and that I can receive inspiration through the Holy Ghost. My husband and I have been sealed in the temple, have studied the scriptures conscientiously, and have served in many callings. Recorded in my journal are many spiritual experiences which have further confirmed my testimony.
Still, I lacked that sense of peace and serenity which I felt should be evident in the life of one who was truly trying to live the gospel. Perhaps I did not yet understand what living the gospel really meant.
With this in mind, in the spring of 1979 I started an in-depth study as suggested by Doctrine and Covenants 38:30: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” [D&C 38:30] I explored the specific things for which to prepare, how to prepare, and how to know if my preparations were adequate. It was wonderful to look deep into my soul and find the gospel there.
Immediately upon completion of this project, before it really settled into my life, we left for our annual family holiday. As usual, I was a reluctant traveler. After all, being away from home entailed many additional hazards, such as sleeping in a tent trailer, using public washrooms, having twenty-five-cent showers, trying to keep milk fresh in a primitive ice box, and watching to see that the driver didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.
After we had been out several days, I realized that a remarkable thing was happening. Rather than constantly being tense and praying for protection, I was actually having a good time. Besides enjoying the days, I was even sleeping at night. In fact, our older children informed me that I was falling asleep before I finished reading the bedtime stories. No longer was I lying awake, listening to everyone else breathe deeply while I worried about all the perils present in a campground. It was amazing!
What was causing this great change? The altitude? No, we had been in these mountains many times before. It had to be something else.
Then one particularly calm morning, I remarked to my husband, “I think I am beginning to understand what it was the Lord promised when he said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ (John 14:27). I feel so relaxed, so safe, so—serene.”
I was almost afraid to say the word. My husband smiled and put his arm around me. It was a special moment.
Since then, I have continued to enjoy this feeling—and I hope that it will stay with me forever as I continue studying the scriptures, praying, and working on individual and family preparedness. I still marvel at what has happened to me, and I’m grateful for this undeniable, beautiful fruit of my conversion eighteen years ago—peace, quiet and tranquil peace.
His Hands on My Head
In view of the fact that World War II was just over, I was very happy. We had recently married and our first-born child had arrived. I loved my husband very much and felt myself growing in the warmth of his love for me. Then, in the fall of 1946, a drastic change occurred. My husband came home, beaming, and told me that he had found a treasure more precious than all others—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was miserable. I would not listen to his explanations. When he was baptized on 7 January 1947, I felt that an impassable gulf had opened between us. The next nine months were almost unendurable.
Then, one morning, I woke up particularly unhappy. Somehow I knew that I had been wrong, that my husband had been telling me the truth, and that I must join his church. Despite my confusion, I knew I must be baptized, and on 8 November 1947, my husband brought me into a new life. It was the happiest day of my life, filled with a joy I cannot describe.
In 1957, we were sealed in the Swiss Temple with our children. It was a wonderful experience for us—and a very important one. My husband was ill. After two difficult operations, we were told that he could not live.
Yet those last days of his life were, in spite of everything, almost happy. There were times when we felt pure joy at having been able to receive the lift of the gospel, times when we rejoiced with tears of gratitude that his coming death would not separate us forever.
But there were also times when I felt overcome by grief and worry. How could I manage without my husband’s companionship? How could I fulfill the responsibility of raising my children with their own strong testimonies? How would I manage financially?
On one occasion when these worries were depressing me, my husband asked, “Anna-Greta, would you like me to give you a blessing?” He sat up in bed, put his frail hands on my head, and in the power of the priesthood blessed me with the ability to handle all of my responsibilities capably. This blessing has been with me in a very real way during all the years since his death. Sometimes, facing a difficult problem, I have thought to myself: “You have received a blessing from your husband that you will be able to take care of these problems,” and I have again felt those frail but powerful hands upon my head. I have always been able to overcome the difficulties.
My children are now responsible fathers and mothers of a new generation of Latter-day Saints, serving their Heavenly Father with profound joy. And I share that joy. How grateful I am that the Lord did not tire of me because I failed to listen to him! How grateful I am for the link of the priesthood that will reunite me with my beloved husband, and that has kept us close throughout the years of separation.
Water from My Well
It was almost night when my companion, Sister Gabriela Reyes, and I finished our visiting teaching in the town of Las Rosas, Chile. Our thoughts were still centered on Sister Bella Varas, whom we had just visited. Her home radiated a great spirit of reverence and love.
My companion began to speak, very softly. “Before I became a member of the Church, I lived in Las Rosas. Sister Varas was my neighbor. There was a large well on my land from which all of the neighbors used to draw water.
“Near the well I had planted vegetable and flower gardens. I was proud of these gardens. I watched over them and tended them carefully. The children in the neighborhood frequently romped and played around the well, and I was always fearful that they would step on my plants and break them. I often reminded them to be more careful.
“One day, when I returned home from shopping, I found my precious gardens had been trampled. I was furious. Later, when some of the children came to get water, I scolded them severely; and in my fury, I prohibited them and all of my neighbors from using my well. I said I would never allow them to draw water from it again.
“The children left with empty buckets that night. A short while later one of my neighbors called and asked if I would come to her home and explain what happened. As I walked to her home, I thought of all the arguments I could use in my behalf.
“When I arrived at the home of Mrs. Bella Varas, she said, ‘Mrs. Reyes, I have called you here to thank you for the many times you have let us draw water from your well. I am really very grateful.’ She spoke to me in a very kind, loving way, without any tone of rancor or reproach. And to show me her gratitude she gave me a new little pig as a gift.
“I was surprised. I wondered what type of person she could be. I felt suddenly disarmed. All of the arguments I had thought about were unnecessary. Here was a woman who had given me a gift. Although I had prevented her from drawing water from my well and had accused her children of ruining my plants when I was not sure if they were responsible, she was thanking me and presenting me with a gift.
“I had heard that she was a religious person. Was this what made her different?”
“The next day when I went to draw water, I found the well had gone dry. I wept. But the water didn’t come back. I had to go quite a distance to find water, and then I had to ask for it. I was being taught a very difficult lesson.
“After two weeks the water came back, in the same unexplainable way it had left. I promised in my heart that I would never again deny water to anyone. I went to Mrs. Varas’s house and offered her all the water she wanted. We conversed for a while and then I asked her the question that had been on my mind for the last two weeks: ‘What is your religion?’
“‘We are Mormons,’ she said. ‘We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’
“I had never heard of that religion, but I began to ask questions about it. Finally the missionaries came to our house.
“I was soon baptized, and my husband followed. All of our children accepted the gospel. And since then our lives have been changing. It is wonderful how we have progressed. The hardest thing for me to do is to control my temper. It is still hard, but I have learned a great deal about self-control. I have been able to better teach my children and draw nearer to them. Not too long ago I was called to be a teacher in junior Sunday School. I feel valuable because I too can help others.
“I have great joy in being a visiting teacher—and visiting the person who taught me the greatest lesson in my life.”
On the dusty road in that small town of Las Rosas, two visiting teachers stopped for a moment, nearly overcome with love for the gospel, for fellowmen, and for each other.