“I Knew You Cared”
With a crash, the door to the seminary room burst open and there he stood—six feet two inches of belligerent, broad-shouldered young manhood. He seemed to say, “Well, here I am. What are you going to do about it?”
Struggling to maintain my cool, I smiled at him and asked him to please take a seat near the door. Thankfully, he did. During the rest of the class, as I prayed for the Spirit to be with me, he sat—slumped down in his chair with an almost disdainful expression on his face. After class I went to him, and with a smile and a gentle tap on his shoulder told him how glad I was that he had come. And I was glad! He smiled an “Oh-yeah-I’ll-bet” kind of smile and left, shoving two girls aside, mussing their hair as he went. Would he ever come again? I wondered the rest of the day and all night.
Next morning he did come again. And again, after class, I went out of my way to greet him. Looking a little surprised, he half smiled. Still, on his way out of class he pushed a girl’s books on the floor and shoved a couple of the smaller boys around. Next morning, the same old routine, with a slug for everyone in his way as he rushed out. And so it went, day after day, the same procedure continuing with little variation except he started lingering after class so I could get to him to give him a hug. Sweet encouragement in an otherwise discouraging situation—he still would not read our class assignments and would draw comic pictures on all his test papers.
Then, on an ordinary Monday morning, as I gave a lesson on Job, the ice began to melt. I felt the Holy Spirit with me as I recalled for the class the trials and challenges Job faced. Job loved the Lord, and the Lord loved him but still allowed him to be tested and to taste much that is bitter. This day he lingered even longer as many of the students crowded around me with their comments and feelings about this story of Job. And as I gave him a hug, I felt a response for the very first time.
The next morning while waiting for the seminary students to arrive, I stood at the window gazing at the beautiful sunrise. (Our class started at 6:30 A.M.) I heard the door open and suddenly felt someone by my side. Then I heard a soft voice (one I hadn’t heard before) say, “It is a beautiful world, isn’t it?”
He had a look of love (also new to me) on his face, and peace radiating from his presence. “You know,” he said, “for the first time in my life I realize that God doesn’t have favorites.”
I responded that God loves all his children, just as our earthly fathers love all their children. He said, “Correction. God may love me, but my earthly father must not.”
And then he opened his heart, telling me of his father’s constant sarcasm and criticism, his belittling of every effort or accomplishment, and of their unhappy home life. He went on, almost reluctantly, to tell me of his feeling of abandonment when he could look around him and see other fellows in happy homes, and, most of all, with loving fathers. All his life he had thought God must have favorites, and he definitely was not one. In fact, he was certain that he really didn’t matter to anyone!
And then he said the thing that filled my soul with joy, “But you cared! I knew you really cared the first day in seminary, and so I came back.”
Do you like happy endings? This young man went on to finish seminary, to fill a mission, and eventually to marry a lovely girl in the House of the Lord. Perhaps he still carries emotional scars because of his unhappy early home life—but because he discovered he was loved, he has been able to overcome much, and he will overcome much more.
In an Old Country Church
It was August 1977. My family and I were making a long-planned excursion into northern Arkansas to visit an old graveyard, now hidden in a national forest. Some of my family are buried in that cemetery, and I needed some tombstone dates to complete part of my genealogy.
As we bounced along a narrow, rutted forest road, overhanging limbs scraped our station wagon, and heavy dust billowed up about us. We tried to follow the skimpy directions given by a local resident, but the dirt road seemed to play hide-and-seek among the trees. Realizing we were lost, we stopped to pray for guidance and then proceeded with renewed confidence among the various forks of the road. At last we came into a shaded clearing and saw our goal, an old, abandoned church house and cemetery.
Notebooks and pens in hand, my wife and I eagerly approached the graveyard. Familiar family names, like old friends, greeted us as we pulled back weeds and up-righted headstones, deciphering and recording each name and date. It was hard, tiring work; briars picked at us, and our clothes soon became disheveled.
Finally, we decided we had gathered all the information possible and started back to the car. Yet I felt that there was something else to be done there. My attention was drawn to the old church house; and while my wife returned to our car to rest, I felt strongly impressed to enter the building.
I climbed the steps, opened the only door, and peered in. It was a one-room country chapel, still furnished with old, hand-hewn pews. I closed the door behind me and quietly walked up to the front. It was my intention to kneel and thank my Heavenly Father for his assistance, but, as I knelt, for just a few brief, glorious moments I could actually see the people there, filling the little church. Some were standing, others sat in the pews; all were clothed in the simple country dress of their time. Some of the men had beards or moustaches; two women held infants in their arms. They had gathered and waited for me in the little church where most of them had worshiped during mortality; and though it appeared that a few were indifferent, most were smiling and happy.
A strong feeling of peace and joy overcame me, almost unbearable in its sweet intensity. I bowed my head humbly, as grateful tears fell from my cheeks. I felt a part of that glorious eternity, an accepted part of my own family. Though we had never met before, they knew me and I knew them. No longer were they just names or dates. After a while I lifted my head to look about me again, and they were gone.
As I rejoined my wife, I knew more strongly than ever before that our progenitors wanted their temple work done. And I know, too, that our loving Father would have us all unite our families across that chasm of death with the saving bridge of genealogical research and temple sealings.
“Peace I Leave with You”
One warm Saturday in March, I was awakened by the morning sun shining in my face. While the rest of the family slept, I dressed and walked around the yard we were landscaping. The marigolds and rosebushes were waiting to be planted. We had collected flat rocks for a walk alongside the driveway. The wildflowers with their variety of colors were in bloom. As I viewed the landscaping and our new home with all its projects, I felt a gratitude for the beauties of the earth and the happiness with which we had been blessed.
My husband and I were celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we spent the rest of the day together. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant. We reflected on our years together, our conversion to the Church, the birth of our seven children, the goals and dreams we had realized. We remembered with fondness kneeling at the altar in the Salt Lake Temple nine years before.
At the completion of our day, we prepared to attend the Saturday night session of stake conference. As we backed out of the driveway, I turned to Phil and asked, “Are you sure I look all right in this bright red blouse?”
He replied, “You look beautiful in anything you have on!”
Those were the last words I remember my husband speaking to me.
As we drove down the boulevard toward the meetinghouse, a pickup truck pulled into our lane of traffic. The driver had attempted to pass several cars at a blind spot in the road. All efforts to avoid the head-on collision failed. Phil saw that the accident could not be prevented, and he threw himself across my body as protection for me.
The next sound I heard was the rescue squad cutting the metal of our car. As I regained consciousness, I knew that my husband was gone. No one had to tell me. Yet as that knowledge came to me, a peaceful, calm spirit filled my whole body. “Phil is gone,” the Spirit whispered to me. “Everything will be all right. Your life is in my hands.”
In the midst of all the confusion, concern, and great loss, I understood as never before the peace to which Christ referred 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 had suffered a broken neck and several other injuries. But on the noisy ride to the hospital as I was questioned by the medical personnel and felt the concern of my bishop and stake president, I remained at peace. “Why is everyone so worried?” I wondered. “Don’t they know everything will be all right?”
It was this peace that allowed me in a semi-conscious state to remind the children to have family prayer and to continue to hold family home evening. Our daughters, fully aware of their loss, but reassured by my words, arose the next morning, dressed their younger brothers, and attended stake conference because, as they explained, “That is what dad would want us to do.”
When I returned home from the hospital, the anniversary card Phil had given me was lying on our dresser where I had left it four weeks before. I once again felt the Spirit of peace as I reread the words he had written: “I can’t comprehend what it will be like as this happiness and love continue to grow throughout the eternities. Much love, Phil.”