Waking from the Nightmare
If anyone had told me I could suffer such deep despair and still go on living after my husband was killed in a car accident, I never would have believed them. We had been so much in love; we lived for each other and for our children, and now all our plans and dreams had vanished. I was left with three children under six, the baby born six months after my husband’s death. And I was an atheist. I was living a nightmare I couldn’t seem to escape.
Three days after Danny died, I saw him very vividly in a dream. Walking through busy streets in pouring rain, he looked miserable, but he said, “I am not dead; I am still alive.” Imagine my joy! Yet when I awoke and realized it was just a dream, I was again plunged into deep despair.
During the months following his death I sought consolation in frequent visits with pastors and missionaries from various religious faiths. They tried to assure me there was a God and life after death; yet none of them could tell me whether I would be with my husband again. In fact, some were so negative about it that I was glad to be an atheist. My comfort was in eighty cigarettes a day, numerous cups of tea and coffee, and alcohol. Eighteen months went by, and I was still lost and lonely.
Then one warm afternoon in May 1973, two young Mormon missionaries knocked on my door. I resented Bible pushers, but they were friendly, and they seemed so happy. That night they showed me the film Man’s Search for Happiness, and I told them I wished I could believe in something like that, especially the part where the man died and was welcomed into the spirit word by his loved ones. The elders bore strong testimonies of the truthfulness of this doctrine, and told me that if I would continue to listen and pray, I could know the truth for myself. I was dubious, but I agreed to have them come and tell me about the Book of Mormon.
During the two days before their visit, I talked myself out of listening to them any more and decided I’d pretend to be out when they called; but they came an hour early and caught me by surprise. After a short lesson on Lehi they left me the Book of Mormon, and I promised to read it. This was no great hardship, since one of my greatest loves is reading. So I read First Nephi.
When Sunday rolled around, I wasn’t too eager to attend Church, but my children were excited about Sunday School since they had never been to one before. So we went. The family spiritual presentation was on work for the dead, and this was beyond belief. In Sunday School someone mentioned Brigham Young and polygamy. In the car afterwards I lit a cigarette and resolved never to go again.
Yet that evening, after the children were in bed, I read the Joseph Smith pamphlet again. “Why should he make it up?” I wondered. Then I picked up the Book of Mormon and became so engrossed in Second Nephi I couldn’t put it down. It was after midnight when I decided to pray and ask my Heavenly Father if there really was life after death. I so badly wanted to know. That night in a dream I saw my husband again, but this time he was dressed in white, the sun was shining, and he stood in a beautiful green field surrounded by trees and flowers. Again he told me that he was alive, that there was life after death. I was amazed.
The next night I read 260 pages of the Book of Mormon, and then I prayed, asking my Heavenly Father if it was true. Early in the morning I awoke; the room seemed bright, somehow warm and happy, and I was filled with the Holy Ghost so strongly that I burned from head to toe. A scripture from Second Nephi kept going through my mind, the one that told about a seer being raised up whose name would be Joseph, after his father and after Joseph of old. (2 Ne. 3:14–15.) I read that scripture again, and when I prayed I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon was true. I was so happy I wanted to run outside and find the missionaries to tell them the good news.
That night they taught me about the Word of Wisdom, and I was sure I could never break the habits I had acquired. I had smoked one cigarette after another all the time they were teaching me. But they told me they knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could do it, and they prayed with me. When they left, they took my cigarettes with them, and I have never wanted a cigarette since that day. Truly, the Lord does answer prayers!
Just seventeen days after these two wonderful young men knocked on my door, I was baptized, and there has never been a doubt in my mind that what I did was right. I have received my patriarchal blessing, and its blessings and promises delight my soul. I have been sealed to my husband in the temple and had our children sealed to us, and I have a testimony that Danny has accepted the work and grows daily in the gospel as he waits for us.
The Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28, 30.) I know this is true! I have been in the depths of despair, and I know that if I stay faithful in the gospel I will soar to the peaks of happiness, for the Lord has given me back my hope.
My Talents, Your Talents—Not the Same
Frequently women lament to me, “Oh, my house is such a mess, and I’ve no idea where to start to come out of the chaos.” Other women confess that the thought of making lists and planning in advance is completely baffling to them. Some complain that they are always behind in their work and that organizing several children into a team of cooperative, productive helpers is an almost impossible task in their homes.
Through a personal experience I can better understand such plights. One spring our family undertook the complete redevelopment of our yard. Because neither my husband nor I has the artistic vision or botanical know-how to landscape a yard, we engaged the services of a competent landscape architect. But to our dismay, not only did he have to tell us what to plant and where to put it, but he also had to give us detailed advice and complete instructions—how deep and how far apart to plant, how often to water, which limb to prune, and so forth and so on—about every piece of greenery we stuck in the ground.
I’ve thought about this humbling experience a great deal. We all have talents and abilities, but we don’t all have the same ones. We were created by our Father in heaven in this way so that we can serve one another and have opportunity for growth. If we were all lawyers, who would remove a diseased appendix? If we were all teachers, who would build the houses? Because of our diversified talents, we sometimes give service and other times receive it. In one way we’re teachers: in other ways we are learners.
It’s important to be worthy of the gifts we have by sharing them generously and helping others to acquire them, if they so desire. We should also be humble enough to acknowledge where we are lacking and seek out those who can strengthen and help us.
It just takes a stroll through our yard to remind me of all that I don’t know. I am grateful to my Father in heaven for the abilities of other people who have helped me and for any gifts I have that might be shared with others.
But in addition to this feeling of humble gratitude, I feel excited at a new awareness developing in me. Now my husband and I know something about gardening! We can do a few things without being told; we can answer a growing number of our own questions; we have learned many important things about trees, shrubs, and flowers and their care.
We probably cannot all become experts in every field, but each one of us can learn to cope adequately with the responsibilities we have taken upon ourselves.
The Warning Dream
I awoke suddenly, quivering with horror from a nightmare that not even the bright sun streaming through my bedroom curtains could dissipate. In the dream, I had vividly seen my eldest daughter and her unborn child, mangled in an automobile accident. I had the clear impression that the accident would occur on a long trip, not in everyday travel. I was living in Portland, Oregon, at the time.
I tried to be logical. My daughter was not pregnant. She and her husband, living in Palo Alto, California, were the parents of three children. To my knowledge they were not planning any long trips.
A few months later, though, my daughter wrote that they were happily expecting their fourth child. She also talked of trips they were planning to Arizona to visit my son-in-law’s parents and of business that would take them to Los Angeles. My worries increased and my prayers became more intense. I could not dismiss the constant heartache that troubled me, for I had experienced previous dreams, warnings, and impressions that had materialized.
Then I learned that they were planning to combine business with pleasure on a weekend trip to Los Angeles with their two oldest children. My son-in-law would be staying in Los Angeles after the weekend and my daughter would be driving back to Palo Alto with the children. Should I share that still-vivid dream? I was so concerned that on Sunday, which was Fast Day, I asked the members of the branch in Montana, where I was living temporarily, to remember my daughter in their prayers the next day.
Monday I continued to fast, praying continuously. I felt great distress, yet confidence that somehow all would be well. Soon after noon, a feeling of peace seemed to envelop me, sweeping away my fears. I knew that the crisis had been averted. My relief was complete a few months later when I received the phone call telling me that their little son had arrived safely. Now that the baby was born, my nightmare could never come true.
The next time I visited them in Palo Alto, I told them of my dream. Amazed, my daughter told me the other half of the story.
Before leaving their hotel room in Los Angeles that Monday morning, she felt strongly impressed to have a special prayer for safety. On the way, she developed a headache and drove off the freeway for a drink of water at a service station to wash down some aspirin. As they started to leave, a car pulled up behind them, the driver jumped out, stopped her, and said, “Lady, your left rear tire has a bubble on it. I saw it when you passed me a few miles back.”
Then he drove off without stopping for gas. The service station attendant told my daughter that he had seen the car pull off the freeway, apparently just to warn her. And the tire was badly damaged.
As soon as it was repaired, they set out again; but my daughter said that she stopped almost at once on the shoulder of the highway and told the children they must have a prayer of thanks for their safety. They were just finishing when the service station attendant drove up behind them, brandishing the credit card she had left, her only means of buying gas for the rest of the trip. We compared times. She had offered her thankful prayer at the time I experienced my sense of peace.
That nightmare happened over twenty years ago. My grandson, now six feet three, has recently returned from a mission to Argentina. I shall be eternally grateful that the warning dream never became a reality.
The Talk I Couldn’t Take Credit For
In a Sunday School class once, we discussed Moses’ reported failure to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in providing water for the children of Israel. Our teacher, a former stake president, tried to explain to the class that we sometimes put our leaders in a “tempting” position when we give them undue praise for their performance. Many class members were puzzled; how could that be a temptation? But I knew. So I stood and shared a recent humbling experience.
I had been asked to speak at our stake Laurel standards night. As I began thinking and praying about this assignment, I felt inspiration come to me several times through the day, and in the still of the night I began putting it all together. When I thought the talk was complete—all I needed for the time allotted me—I suddenly seemed to recall a great flood of information from talks and articles on the subject. Speaking quietly to the Lord I said, “Heavenly Father, I believe you are giving me too much material. I have only thirty minutes to talk.”
Then came the clear instruction to my mind. “Write it all down, then read it aloud and time yourself.”
“That’s a good idea,” I thought. I did it, and to my great surprise the talk came to thirty minutes. I had a leap-around-the-room feeling—I was prepared!
But the day before the Laurel standards night, I felt I should prepare myself spiritually to give the message, and that evening I began to fast. The next afternoon I went to my room and began going over the talk. To my surprise I just couldn’t put it together mentally. “What should I do?” I said in panic to the Lord. “I’m afraid I’ll be reading most of this, and if I do, everyone’s attention will be on me instead of the message you want me to give them.”
Then, very strongly, the thought came into my mind, “Leave it home.”
I resisted the message. “I just can’t do that. You know what a terrible memory I have.”
Again came the thought, “Leave it home.”
Frightened, I pleaded, “Remember when I was a Primary president and stood up to give a talk and no words came? That was a terrible experience. Don’t let me go through that again.”
But again I felt impressed by the Spirit to “leave it home,” so I relented, saying “If I do this, I will have to rely completely on thy help.” Again came the calm assurance of the Spirit that I should leave my talk at home.
That evening as I went out the door I carried only a handkerchief, and as I glanced up at my bedroom window, I felt literally faint. Once in the chapel, waiting for the meeting to begin, I again tried putting the talk together. I just didn’t have it. I began to panic and then to pray, and immediately felt the comforting assurance that the Lord was there.
When the time came, I walked to the podium with complete assurance and gave all thirty minutes of that talk. I could hardly believe it. This was a marvelous spiritual experience.
When the meeting was over several people came up to me and paid me glowing compliments. I literally couldn’t force myself to say thank you, and after I stammered through an awkward acknowledgement a few times, I looked around for an exit. I wanted to go home. I could not take credit for what had happened, nor could I explain it.
Looking back on that experience, the thought has come to me that perhaps the kindest thing any of us can say to someone whose words have impressed us is, “Thanks for that inspired message” or “I felt the Spirit of the Lord in your address tonight” lest we lead them into temptation.