After a great deal of prayer and planning, we presented to our stake in September 1980 a program for raising funds to build our new stake center. Because of the projected high cost of the building, we knew that a great deal of faith would be required of our people to raise the many thousands of dollars needed. While we were considering the problem, I had an unusual experience that I shall never forget.
About 2:00 P.M. on a very busy day at the office, my secretary on the intercom said that Paul Goodwin would like to see me. I looked at my schedule and found I didn’t have an appointment with Paul Goodwin; furthermore, I didn’t even know a Paul Goodwin. I felt I should tell my secretary that because I was so busy and he didn’t have an appointment, I wouldn’t be able to see him. But for some reason I felt prompted to visit with Paul Goodwin.
Still acting under the pressures of the day, I hurriedly opened my office door and was surprised to see a little four-year-old boy standing there. Recognizing his mother seated in the reception area, I knew immediately that this was the son of David and Marilyn Goodwin from the Four Corners Ward of our stake. Little Paul stood in the doorway with his hands in his pockets, looking up at me with such confidence that I sensed it was important to talk to him.
I invited him into my office. When we sat down, I could barely see his big eyes over the top of my desk. “Now, Brother Goodwin, what would you like to see me about?” I asked.
He didn’t say a word, but reached into his pocket, pulled out a very wrinkled dollar bill, and laid it on the desk. Then he reached into his pocket again and pulled out a quarter, laid it on the desk, reached into his pocket again, pulled out another quarter and then a dime and a nickel. As he laid the nickel on the desk, he looked up at me and said, “That’s for the new building.”
“You mean our new stake center?” I asked.
“That’s wonderful!” I told him. “But where did you get a dollar-sixty-five?”
He said, “This summer I planted pumpkins in my garden and they’re ripe now, so I picked them and put them in my wagon. I went to all the neighbors on my street and sold them, and there’s the money. I want to give it for the new building.”
Choking back the tears, I couldn’t resist picking the boy up in my arms and telling him how very, very important that dollar-sixty-five was and how very happy Heavenly Father must be that he had sold his pumpkins to raise money for our new stake center.
I felt sure then that there was sufficient faith among our people to raise the thousands of dollars needed.
Sustained through Fire
During the months following my baptism I came to depend on the Spirit for guidance, recalling frequently Moroni’s words, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. … Deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men.” (Moro. 10:5, 7.) It wasn’t long before I discovered how truly helpless we are without that help.
One January day in 1978 I was diligently working at my job in the factory, when my supervisor came and asked me to work in the baler room with two other men. There, cardboard is crushed and made into bales, and damaged or outdated products are destroyed. One man helped me bale, while another began crushing aerosol cans—2,500 of them. The fumes were heavy. At 8:20 A.M. a forklift came to take away some of the bales.
I was standing about two feet from the forklift when the operator pushed the forks forward. Suddenly it seemed as though someone had ignited a flame-thrower. The first flames shot at me from under the forklift, and instantly the entire room was on fire. I was blown into a pit about two and a half feet wide, eight feet long, and ten feet deep. My clothes were burning, and the pit was on fire. Then there was a terrific explosion as 2,500 aerosol cans exploded.
I quickly came to terms with the fact that I was dying. Then, suddenly, I began to feel an inner strength. Holding on to the baling machine, I started climbing out of the blazing pit. The machine was red hot, and every effort at climbing burned my hands painfully. But with that inner strength given me, I continued to climb. My clothes were virtually burned off my body.
The room was a shambles, and I couldn’t see any other workers. I kept repeating Moroni 10:5–7 [Moro. 10:5–7], the passage I had learned to rely on so heavily. Finally, I found a hole in the wall that had been created by the explosion and pushed through it. Later someone told me that as I was coming through that hole, the entire wall was collapsing, yet none of the cinder blocks touched me. One of the men on the docks opened a door so I could get into the main part of the plant. I didn’t see the other three men, but I found out later that they escaped through the back and went outside. One of the plant workers, an ex-navy corpsman, stayed with me.
When the ambulance arrived, I was immediately transported to a burn center, where several attendants cut off the rest of my clothes and then applied wet bandages. The doctor said I had suffered second- and third-degree burns over 43 percent of my body.
When the initial examination was over, I said, “I am a Mormon. I would like to receive a blessing.” That afternoon two missionaries came and administered to me; in the evening my bishop, my home teacher, and a good friend gave me another blessing in which I was promised that I would live, have full use of my hands, and would heal exceptionally fast. The inner strength that I experienced while I was on fire in the pit came back and remained with me.
Twice I nearly died, but I always felt at peace with myself. I believe this was the result of my blessing. After the first two weeks I began to improve, and the healing was truly miraculous. Two days before skin grafting was to begin on my right hand and wrist, the therapist removed the bandages and said my hand had nearly healed; skin had grown where they thought it impossible to grow. “Let me see the miracle hand,” the doctor said, and expressed amazement that healing could take place so rapidly. I was out of the hospital in five weeks—about half the estimated time.
I know the inner strength I received was the power of the Holy Ghost, and through this power I was healed. Without that power, I would surely have perished in the flames.
Swearing Off Swear Words
As a child I learned to curse and use vile words freely. Even in later years, I had little regard for President Spencer W. Kimball’s suggestion that indecent language is a sign of weakness and stupidity (see “President Kimball Speaks Out on Profanity,” Ensign, Feb. 1981, p. 5), until I began preparing to give a lesson on journal-keeping. Desiring an illustration from my own journal, I recalled a 1972 entry in which I recorded bewilderment at a national event. What I found instead was an expletive which contained little descriptive content at all. I was deeply embarrassed by my inarticulateness (which I recognized as a manifestation of ignorance), and resolved to clean up my language.
Giving up the actual obscenities was easy. In fact, one of the first signs of success was that vulgarity began to offend me. Within two weeks, however, I was talking the same way as before, except that the expletives were words like “shoot,” “darn,” and “gads.” But since I viewed the words as harmless, I used them without restraint; I depended on expletives more than ever.
Then one day it occurred to me that over the years I had developed speech patterns that relied heavily on swear words. By retaining those speech patterns, I was still offending many listeners, who were reminded of vulgar words by the substitutes. I realized I’d probably never fully escape the use of vulgarity if I continued using the substitute words.
I solved the problem by changing the way I talked. After a sentence with a swear word or a substitute word slipped out, I mentally reconstructed the sentence without the expletive and repeated the new sentence aloud. Eventually, I developed nonvulgar speech habits.
With vulgarity truly out of my life, I am, I think, more articulate and less of a spiritual drain on those around me. Indeed, one need only give up vulgarity a short time to be impressed with the importance of the Apostle Paul’s injunction:
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.