Blessed by a Blessing
The following testimony comes from the journal of my grandfather, James Denos (deceased), whose writings are a constant source of strength to me and my family.
While residing at [Long Beach, California, he wrote], I received a telephone call from Brother Rich. “Jim,” he said, “will you come and administer to my wife? And bring a partner.”
I felt impressed to go alone and use him as my partner, as he held the Melchizedek Priesthood but was not active in the Church and did not keep the Word of Wisdom. When I rang the bell, he answered the door, looked over my shoulder, and said, “Where is your partner?”
I pointed my finger at him and said, “You are my partner.”
“Oh, no, Jim,” he said. “You know I smoke and I drink an occasional glass of beer.”
“I know that,” I said. “When you called awhile ago did you say, ‘I want a perfect man to come and give my wife a blessing’? If you did, I will go home, for I am not perfect.” So I went in and asked him to anoint his wife’s head with oil.
“I don’t know how,” he said.
“I will show you how,” I said.
And so he proceeded to anoint her head, and I gave her a blessing. She recovered the next day.
I had quite a talk with him, and he promised to quit his smoking and drinking. Two weeks went by and I got a call. “Jim,” he said, “I have quit my cigarettes and am working on my other problem.”
Two more weeks went by and he called again. “I have licked my problems completely,” he said.
So I took him to see the bishop for a recommend, and the bishop was happy to find him worthy to go to the temple. He and his wife took charge of the temple assignments and both were faithful workers in the temple. He died in 1969.
I often think back on what would have happened if I had thought he was not worthy to help me bless his wife. If we listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and follow the direction of our leaders, we get results.
Fifteen: My Year of Blessings
I look back to 1967 as a time of change in my life, a time of growing into maturity in many ways. I was fifteen years old, and in January we had discovered that my mother was expecting her sixth child. We were all excited, and Mother couldn’t have been happier.
Then, without warning, my mother began to miscarry. My father took her to the hospital, where she was given a powerful drug to prevent the miscarriage. The doctor told my father that if the drug was successful, there was a strong possibility the baby would be either mentally or physically deformed.
My father didn’t share this news with anyone, not even my mother, and under that heavy burden he became depressed. He was inactive in the Church then, and had no testimony to sustain him. My mother became despondent, and when she learned that she would be confined to bed for the rest of her pregnancy, her distress deepened.
I sensed acutely the sadness in our home, and being the oldest child, I felt responsible for doing something about it. But I didn’t know what. Then, remembering the counsel in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, I decided to pray.
I remember tearfully kneeling in our backyard, all alone, pleading with our Heavenly Father to let us have our baby, promising that we would always love and cherish it, that my mother would not be able to accept the child’s loss. As soon as I had uttered these words, I felt a warm, comforting hand upon my shoulder. I was told that all would be well. I stopped crying and stumbled to my feet, anxious to tell my sweet mother the wonderful news!
I remember her surprise as I walked into her room. She had just sent everyone out. I didn’t give her a chance to say a word, I was so excited. As I finished telling her of my experience, she wept. I bent and kissed her, and left the room.
Later she called me to ask if I remembered what I had said to her. I said yes, and related the story again. She looked puzzled and said, “What else?” I really didn’t know what she meant. She said that when I entered the room my face seemed to glow. I told her not to fear, our Father in Heaven knew of her deep desire to keep her child. She would be granted that, and the baby girl would be perfect in every way. I don’t remember saying all that to her, but the Lord knew of her need to hear it.
On May 18, a new baby girl joined the Murdock family.
Two weeks later, however, my mother was back in the hospital. She had started to hemorrhage and was hospitalized for another two weeks.
Like most fifteen-year-old girls, I had had my share of thoughts about romance, marriage, and babies. But nothing I had ever dreamed of had prepared me for what I then faced. Not only did I have my father to cook for, but I had the four other children as well—breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. There was also the laundry to wash and, to top the list, a two-week-old baby to care for.
At times I thought I wouldn’t make it. But that new little girl and I developed a very close bond; I felt as though she were mine. I recall one day when a few sisters from our ward came by to help out by offering to take the baby for a while. But after all we had gone through to get this little one, I told them they couldn’t have her and ordered them out. (I had a hard time living that down!) My mother called all of the ladies later to explain how very tired I was, and that I didn’t mean to be so rude.
How happy we were when mother came home! She found a very fat little girl (and why not? I had thought if she cried she must be hungry, so I fed her constantly), and, in spite of me, everyone had survived.
That little girl—now sixteen—has been a comfort and joy to our family. She saved her pennies, and at age seven she presented my father with fifty-one cents so he could go to a clinic to stop smoking and drinking. This proved to be the turning point in my father’s life. My parents have now celebrated the sixth anniversary of their temple sealing. What a wonderful experience that was to kneel and be sealed as a family!
Swept Clean by Strong Winds
The dream was so real it awakened me. Trying not to disturb my sleeping companion, I slipped from my futon (Japanese-style bedroll) and groped through the predawn shadows for my journal—I wanted to record the dream before it was reduced to hazy impressions.
“You have been swept clean by strong winds,” said the man in my dream, as he studied my face intently. Then he smiled and stepped off the platform where I had stood, trembling. Who was he? Where had I been standing and why? What did the words mean, exactly? His brief, poetic assurance was branded on my heart as if by fire.
My mission in Japan was nearly over. I would be leaving the Tokyo South Mission in a matter of days and, like most missionaries nearing the end, had been reviewing my accomplishments of the past year and a half with a critical eye. Had I done everything I could to be a successful missionary? Well, a good part of the time I had. Yes, I had tried; I had really worked hard, notwithstanding my imperfections. The last month or two had been particularly challenging, though. The heat had been terrible, and my companion had been the target of a debilitating virus. I had become disheartened and felt the need to evaluate my efforts in a more positive way, acknowledging the good I had accomplished on my mission with its concomitant personal growth.
Street contacting in the bitter February chill, for example, had resulted in the baptism of Shizuoka Ward’s newest Young Adult representative. Abiding by our mission president’s “total dedication” plan, we had been blessed with the opportunity to meet and teach other stalwart members-to-be. Learning to live harmoniously with a variety of different personalities had taught me greater patience and love. Bearing frequent testimony to thirsty souls had brought me closer to our Heavenly Father. And suffering a “dry spell” in the baptism department had cultivated a greater dependence on him. Indeed, I had had a part in changing lives for the better, including my own.
The words rang again in my ears, “Swept clean by strong winds.” Yes, I was sure that the Spirit had communicated something important to me.
The comfort I received from the dream carried me through the remaining days of my mission with vigor and grace. Familiar sights, sounds, and smells planted themselves firmly in my memory. Seaweed-covered riceballs never tasted better; the crowded, rattling trains were actually fun to ride; and, of course, the smiles and handshakes from my Japanese friends were sweeter than ever.
Sadly, though, it appeared that I had had my last glimpse of Mount Fuji weeks earlier, before the summer haze settled in, obliterating my view. Only a few miles from the mountain for half of my mission, I had come to delight in her beauty and strength and, in fact, had penned these lines in her honor.
Grateful that I had been permitted to enjoy the inspiration of Fuji for so much of my mission, I determined to waste no time regretting that I would not see her again.
My renewed efforts and prayers of faith were rewarded by my Father in Heaven. New members, thrilled with the blessings of the gospel, brought their friends to us to learn how they, too, could find such joy. Contacts who had received the introductory lessons months earlier called, requesting that they be able to hear the remaining discussions. The proprietor of a noodle shop asked for help designing an advertising campaign to attract English-speaking foreigners and enthusiastically accepted the Joseph Smith story in the process. During the last week of my mission, six people were baptized. Packing my suitcases, I realized that the frustration and heartache of earlier weeks had evaporated, giving way to a feeling of profound peace and satisfaction.
The morning departure was a blur of bags and farewells. Too rushed for the typical mugi mikan (whole-wheat cereal tangerine) breakfast, we bolted from the apartment to the van which would take us to the train station. Once outside, I felt a peculiar exhilaration, quite distinct from the natural anticipation of seeing home and loved ones. The breeze! Yes, it was the breeze we had missed for so long in the sultry summer heat. Brilliant sky replaced the dense gray mist which had enshrouded the area since the previous May. Wind-whipped waves pounded the coast with a vigor that replaced the stagnant air with a fresh sea mist.
My companion and I were exultant. Then, instinctively, I lifted my eyes—and there she was in all her splendor. Not a single cloud floated between Fuji and me to obstruct her clear, straight, imposing form. As my suitcases were being loaded onto the van, I stood alone for a moment, gazing upon one of God’s most magnificent creations, from which I had received the inspiration to “fight the good fight.”
Interrupting my reverie, a young native sister ran toward me, eyes wide with disbelief and pleasure. “Shimai, shimai!” (Sister, sister) she cried, as she grasped my arm and gestured animatedly toward the mountain. “Fuji-san!” She continued breathlessly, “You can see Mount Fuji so well today, shimai! Because the air has been swept clean by strong winds!”