“And I Saw I Must Soon Go Down to My Grave”
It would be impossible to describe the feelings I had when late one evening a police officer came to our door to tell my daughter and me that my husband had been killed in a one-car accident. He had left just an hour before to drive to his parents’ home, some thirty miles away. The shock seemed impossible to bear. Our loving bishop helped greatly, and the beautiful funeral and inspired talks added strength.
The day after the funeral I went to my bedroom to rest. I was still greatly moved in my feelings. For the first time I noticed my husband’s triple combination lying open on the night stand. I remembered seeing him read from it often prior to his death. I picked it up to see what he had been reading. It was open to the last verses of Enos, and I read:
“And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach … unto this people …
“And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansion of my Father. Amen.” (Enos 1:26–27.)
The message was clear. I could not question it. Although I have shed many tears of loneliness, this scripture and experience have given me great comfort and assurance and a goal toward which our entire family works.
“There Are Prophets Today!” She Told Me
I was working the night shift at the hospital when I first heard about the gospel. Some of the workers began discussing religion one night, and of course each one thought his church was true, although each believed in different doctrines. I knew they couldn’t all be right, but I said I didn’t think it mattered which church you belonged to, as long as you believed in God and Christ.
I had been active in a Protestant faith for fifteen years and tried to live all the teachings of the Bible as I understood them. One day our minister said that God did not reveal himself through prophets anymore, but only through scripture. When he said that, the Spirit spoke to me so loudly that it almost seemed as if others could hear it too and said, “That’s not true.” I didn’t know what that meant, so I didn’t mention it to anyone.
Then, in our hospital conversation, one brave nurse dared to say that the Mormon Church was true because it had a prophet at the head to guide it. “A prophet in this day and age?” I thought disdainfully, and I let her know I didn’t believe it.
“I can prove it,” she said. And she brought me a book to read—the Book of Mormon. I was amazed at what I read, and as I continued I felt a burning in my bosom just as I had when I read the Bible. When I read Moroni’s exhortation to ask God the Eternal Father if the book was true, I decided I would do just that. I never really thought that the Lord cared enough about me to let me know. I just asked because I believed in God and Jesus.
That night in a dream the Bible and the golden plates were brought before my face. The plates were shining so bright they were like the sun. I began to understand in my dream that both were true, but that the plates were more true and more pure. When I awoke it was with a testimony. Then the nurse gave me the Doctrine and Covenants to read, and when I had finished it, I knew I wanted to be a member of the church that had received so many truths in this dispensation.
I attended a Latter-day Saint service, not knowing how I would be received as a black woman in a church that was, for all I knew, all white. I went only because I knew it was true. But everyone was very friendly, warm, and loving.
I took the six missionary discussions from two lovely lady missionaries, but then my husband wouldn’t let me be baptized because he couldn’t understand the changes in my life. Now I was torn inside, knowing where Christ’s true church was, and not being able to join it. About eight months later I decided I would not attend my former church anymore. I would fast and pray and contribute to the Latter-day Saint church, even if I was never baptized.
After about a year, on a fast Sunday, my husband told me he would approve my baptism. That day and the day of my baptism were two of the happiest days of my life. I’ll always be grateful for the nurse who gave me a Book of Mormon. She started me on the path to eternal life, and I know that if I am faithful and endure to the end, I will have a place in His kingdom.
More Than a Machine
The Speaker’s hand automatically found the “on” switch for the microphone while he scanned the bills on the day’s calendar. He glanced up from his papers to find me. I nodded an okay. The gavel came down three times.
“The House will come to order. The Clerk will call the roll.”
“Adams, Amen, Anderson, Backstrom, Bagnariol. …” The members of the state House formed automatically on my tongue. My pencil ticked behind the names of those who responded and left untouched those who did not.
Five legislative sessions had etched the names and faces into my mind. Only election years and emergencies brought changes. I was beginning to feel like one of the omnipresent machines that helped oil the legislative process. I scanned the chambers and picked up four legislators who had come on the floor late. I quickly tabulated, then announced the roll. “Mr. Speaker, ninety-four present, five absent or excused.”
The Speaker rose, announced the flag bearers’ names, and rapped the gavel. Ninety-four chairs sighed as ninety-four legislators stood to honor the flags of country and state. All heads turned as the flags were carried with slow strides down the broad center aisle that separated the political parties. The bearers ascended the stairs and crossed to the back of the large Speaker’s podium. The flag poles chinked into the standards and the guest minister arose in a rustle of black robes to offer the invocation. My mind wandered as the prayer began. “And why shouldn’t it?” I rationalized. “I’ve heard all of the carefully polished phrases and clever sayings I can stand in prayers.”
Suddenly something caught my ear; a ring of sincerity, a touch of spontaneity. I listened.
“Except the people repent, this land will be cursed with a sore curse! I pray that the people of this state and you, their legislators, will repent of their sins that this state may overcome its grave and serious problems. I exhort these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
A jolt of excitement ran through me. Then I did something I hadn’t done in five legislative sessions; I turned from the rostrum and strode to the minister, who was just starting to sit down. He straightened when he saw me approach. I shook his hand firmly.
“That’s the best prayer I’ve heard offered in these chambers. It’s nice to meet someone with the honesty and fortitude to say what really needs to be said.”
“Well, I appreciate your thanking me. I’m not too sure that my prayer was received with the same enthusiasm by the assembled body.”
One glance proved him to be right; several unveiled stares iced the spot where we were standing.
“Well, you really didn’t expect to tickle their ears, did you? Anyway, I’d like you to know that I appreciate your honesty.”
I started to turn back to the rostrum, but I could see he wanted to talk.
“You know,” he continued, “a few months ago I wouldn’t have given that prayer, but I have been so fired up by some of the lay members in my own church that it has made me come alive. Frankly,” he confided, “the church has become a dead horse. Even though we have many millions of members, the church has become lifeless. The only hope is the lay movement in the church.” The minister went on to say how enthusiastic he was about some of the laity in his church and how they were trying to breathe life back into it.
I excused myself to read in a senate bill. It was controversial so I knew the debate would be long. That would give me the time I needed.
When I returned, he continued in hopeful terms about the lay movement in his church. When he paused, I interjected, “You know, I have a feeling you would really be interested in the Mormon Church.”
“What makes you think that?” A hint of a frown came over his face.
“Well, the things you’re missing in your church—you can find them in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
While the floor debate droned on, I told him of my conversion to the Church, gave him a capsule version of the First Vision, and a brief outline of some of the Church programs. I sensed that the floor debate was nearing completion and that my time was limited. Our eyes met. His gaze did not waver and I told him that I knew that God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, that the gospel in its fulness was now on the earth. As I bore my testimony, a warm glow kindled within me, and I knew it was emanating from me, for the minister’s eyes were still locked on mine. Without hesitation he reached out and shook my hand firmly.
“I believe what you have told me. I can sense the truth of it. Please send me all the material you can on your church.”
When the Speaker looked over to see if I was ready for the final vote, I quickly returned to the roll call machine to set up the bill and its number through a switching procedure. The gong signaling the start of the vote brought a scurry of movement as legislators who were not on the House floor for the final debate rushed back to flip their voting tab to yes or no. All eyes were on the big board as the lighted numbers rolled out to seal the fate of the bill.
“Has everyone voted? Does anyone want to change his or her vote? The Speaker will lock the roll call machine; the clerk will take the roll.” I pressed hard on the tabulator button. A triplicate sheet of the results slowly emerged from a thin slot in the machine.
The phrase “just a part of the machinery” came into my mind again as I went through the routine of setting up for the next vote. Just then someone touched my shoulder. The minister was standing beside me.
“I appreciate what you have shared with me. Be sure to send that information,” he said softly.
He turned and left the rostrum as the session continued. The warm feeling returned to my bosom and expanded to fill my whole body. I had been reminded of the joy of sharing testimony—and hoped I would remember that joy, for some time to come.