Love Was the Key
My husband, Howard, has a fine Latter-day Saint heritage. Both of his parents came from devout pioneer families. Both of his grandfathers were called to help the “Hole-in-the-Rock” expedition search out a route to the San Juan River country in 1879–80.
Howard’s father moved his family from Paragonah, Utah, to western Colorado’s plateau region in 1927. Their new home was a good place to continue a sheep-ranching business, but there were no towns within fifty miles and no Latter-day Saint wards at all. It was difficult enough to make friends in cattleman’s territory when you were a sheepman. But to be a sheepman and a Mormon—that was a challenge!
Howard and his brother learned to work at an early age. Their life’s pattern of never-ending work and learning to live in a harsh, cold, isolated environment, far removed from family and church, developed self-sufficiency but not gospel testimony. The boys tried trapping and hunting, fishing, and training their dogs and horses. They were ingenious in their survival tactics, but anyone who tried to alter their life-style met with stubborn resistance. The results were two strongly independent young men who thought they didn’t need religion.
Howard and I met in 1938 when we were sixteen. My family raised cattle, and he was “one of those Mormons.” Nevertheless, four years later we were married. Six years and three babies later I was visited by the missionaries, and I became “one of those Mormons.” There was a difference, however. I had been searching for the true gospel for several years, and when I found it I embraced it wholeheartedly. I was determined to raise our family in the faith, and I tried energetically to convert my own family—as well as my husband—as I went along.
But my family turned from me—one of the hardest trials I had ever faced. Then my husband became indifferent, even resentful, after a small branch of the Church was established in our area. I was happy to serve in the Primary and Sunday School, and I took the children—now numbering five—with me. But Howard resented the time I spent at church, and let me know it. I felt betrayed and frightened. What could I do to develop harmony in our home?
One day I walked to the hay field, feeling very confused and alone. Weeping, I knelt near a haystack and poured out my troubles to my Father in Heaven. After a long time, the answer came forcefully: Love him!
This was not the answer I had expected. I thought, “I have loved him; I’ve done all I could.” But as I walked back to the house, trying to put that counsel out of my head, I found I could not.
That night I prayed again, “How, Heavenly Father, how do I show him my love?” Finally came another answer: Don’t criticize. Respect. Praise. Communicate. Bear your testimony!
I suddenly realized how wrong I had been. I had been critical and resentful. I had not praised Howard enough, and I had never told him how I really felt, except in anger. I had never talked to him about how much the Savior meant to me or how I felt about the gospel.
Now I knew I needed to change. I had no choice; the Spirit urged me every day. A few days later, for the first time, I was able to bear my testimony to him. He listened, and I felt encouraged. I asked the children’s help, and we fasted and prayed together. I called on the ward priesthood leaders, and they gave their support.
Slowly, with divine help, I began to see changes. Howard attended a few programs the children and I took part in; occasionally he came to church. After four of our children had been married in the temple without us, our fifth child announced his engagement and told us we would have a year to get ready to go to the temple with him.
Howard wondered if we could do it, but we set a goal. And, after thirty-five years of marriage, we made it! All five of our children and their spouses went with us to the Provo Temple, where we were sealed as a family. What a wonderful, spiritual, happy day!
Howard has since served as scoutmaster, elders quorum president, counselor in the bishopric, home teacher, and is now serving as group leader of his high priests quorum. He is loved and respected by all who know him. How grateful I am for that long-ago answer to fervent prayer: Love him!
My Car Taught Me to Pray
There we were, stranded on the Desert Road several hundred kilometers from home. Our car didn’t want to start, and there was no one around to help us. It was after midnight, and winter was having one last sally before giving way to spring.
The Desert Road is on the volcanic plateau near the heart of the North Island of New Zealand. While it isn’t a desert of sand dunes, it is still so bleak and barren that its major use is as an army training ground. Definitely not the place for a young family to be marooned.
When we passed through the area on our southward trip from Auckland, we had been pursued by a snowstorm, the first we had ever seen. Now, homeward bound, it wasn’t snowing—just bitterly cold.
If we had been in our old car, I might have been able to do something to fix it through sheer familiarity. But that squat new engine with its attendant wires and hoses was too much to tackle in the dark. We sat there behind the fogged-over windscreen and wondered what to do.
That was when we decided to pray. And that was how, a few minutes later, we were able to start the car and drive on our way without even a hint of a problem.
We arrived home still not knowing what had been wrong with the car. But the next time we tried to use it, the car rolled a few yards and stopped. A daylight check under the hood quickly revealed the cause. As soon as I touched the lead between the distributor and the coil, it fell away, revealing a bright green splash of corrosion.
“You couldn’t have gone far like that,” said a friend who offered to help. But we had. All the way from the Desert Road, in fact. All that way on four wheels and a prayer.
Now, I recognize that this sort of thing doesn’t happen every time you need help with car trouble. But it worked that time for us—a time when we sorely needed the help. I had developed the habit of prayer early in life and had used it to search out the answers to big problems. I had also been diligent about personal daily prayers. But the Lord must have decided to use cars to teach me that there are no limits to prayer, that there is nothing so mundane that it is beyond our Father’s concern.
On a sweltering summer day several years earlier, we made a trip to an orchard on the outskirts of town to buy fruit and vegetables. The car we owned at that time had been trundling about this earth as long as I had, and had become just as eccentric. A few days earlier, a friend had helped me cannibalize a wreck and fit its carburetor to my old car. And there we were, rolling back from the orchard with a full load of goodies, when all of a sudden the motor made ghastly noises and choked to a stop.
“Fuel blockage,” I announced. “Won’t be long, folks.”
Up with the hood. Unscrew some bolts. Clean the jets. Check the float. Bolt it all back together. “All right, give it a try now.” Another series of painful splutters with no sign of the motor starting. I tried again—and again and again. The sun beat down. My brow streamed with perspiration. My temper rose until I thumped the motor and shouted in indignation.
At that moment, my wife leaned out the window and sweetly passed on the information that our four-year-old son thought it was time we said a prayer.
I had never felt less like praying, but as head of the family I had to set an example. Grudgingly, I stood there in the road, head bowed, and prayed. No sooner had I said “Amen” than a sweet spirit washed over me, and it was as though the anger had never existed. I felt, rather than heard, a quiet voice say, “Forget about the float and the jets—look under the carburetor cap.”
My mood changed to embarrassment as I scraped away a huge blob of dirt from the carburetor and reassembled the device. The final touch came as we drove away and a not-so-still voice from the back seat said, “I told you so, daddy.”
I was amazed that something so trivial as petrol blockage in an old car could teach me so much. And then I realized how fitting it was that someone who subconsciously believed there were problems too trivial for God to handle should be shown so firmly, but lovingly, how wrong he could be.
From Critic to Convert
A young lady I met at a Saturday evening dance in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was my first contact with the LDS church. We made a date for the following evening—Sunday—and I attended my first meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of my religious upbringing, however, and my activities in two Protestant faiths, I was not very responsive to the Latter-day Saints.
Indeed, in a friendly way, I heckled the elders as they held street meetings in the city, and I argued with them in regard to the validity of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Perhaps as a result of my interest in the young lady, I continued to attend LDS church meetings and social activities, but I continued to stubbornly oppose the claim that Joseph Smith had been given divine authority.
And then it happened! One evening at sacrament meeting a young elder who arrived in the mission field just that morning was called on to bear his testimony. He looked a little unkempt and travel-worn. He spoke English with a German accent, and as he stood to bear his testimony, I thought he was the most unlikely ambassador the Church could possibly have appointed.
Simply and humbly he told “The Joseph Smith Story,” and as the tears rolled down his cheeks I unashamedly believed him as my tears joined with his. Shortly thereafter I was baptized in Helens Bay in Belfast Lough.