“These Things Shall Be for Thy Good”
Spring came to our ranch in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains with green fields and wild flowers and the tremendous rush of work to be done. Calving, shearing, branding, and lambing had kept my husband, Von, away from home long hours. We all loved to go with him when we could, and it sounded good one warm day to go to Spruce Mountain to see the sheep and take supplies to the herders. David and Danny went with Von to help load the camp supplies, and the five girls and I ran for the punch jug, the lunch box, and the big Dutch ovens. We soon had everything loaded into the station wagon and were on our way.
The camp was near the top of the mountain at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. The air was crisp and cool, and we pulled our coats around us when we got out of the car. Von unloaded the cheese, garlic, and big loaves of bread for the herders while the children and I watched the squirrels and the fat lambs.
We chose a favorite spot near some big rocks to prepare our meal, and the children went in every direction to explore and to call back, “See, Mom!” and “Look here, Dad!”
Suddenly there came another call—a scream: “Dad! Kris fell off the rock!”
We dropped everything and ran to the foot of a ledge where the children had gathered. We found that Kirsten, climbing over the boulders, had stepped too close to the edge and had fallen fifteen feet to the rocks below. Her leg was badly broken, and I couldn’t help crying out when I saw that the bones had pierced the skin in two places just above her knee.
Von gently carried her to the car, placed her on the seat, and covered her with blankets. Our first concern was the terrible pain she was suffering. Von placed his hands on her head and gave her a blessing. I shall never forget the words he spoke: “I bless you through the power of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood that the pain will not be more than you can bear, that you will not suffer too much, and that the miles will be easy for you. I bless you that the doctors will know and do what is necessary for you to be completely healed and walk again.”
Then we started the torturous drive down the mountain, covering the distance as fast as the rough road would permit.
Perhaps we never really know others until we have seen their trials and entered into suffering with them. I know I had sometimes felt that I had not come to know this little blond girl in the almost nine years she had been with us. Kirsten and Laurel are twins, and I think we had too often been guilty of thinking of them as one instead of as two individuals. But I surely learned to know her in those two hours as we sped over bumpy dirt roads on the way to the hospital. I knelt on the floor beside her and held her head in my hands and bore a testimony which had never before seemed so strong. With tears streaming down my face I told her that her daddy had blessed her by the same power used by Jesus in healing the lame and blind, the same priesthood with which the worlds were created and by which we were sealed together as a family. I told her of our Heavenly Father’s love for all of us and of our great love for her. I told her of the gifts of the Spirit, and that one of those gifts was the gift of faith.
I saw the blessing of this gift of faith in our child as she listened calmly, often nodding in response to my words. Tears sometimes came to her eyes when we hit a bump, and occasionally she would breathe rapidly and moan. But almost immediately she would be calm again; and once she said, “I’m trying so hard to keep control of myself.”
It was well past midnight when Kirsten was wheeled from the operating room with a pin through her leg and traction to hold the bones in place. Through all the X rays, the shots, and the moving there were few tears and often a smile in response to some jest from the doctors. Her faith served her well.
As she recovered in the days following, I realized that we had learned another lesson from this experience. As I knelt beside her in the car, I was overcome with pain and sorrow for the pain she was suffering. Again and again the question revolved in my thoughts: “Why did it have to happen?” But then another impression began to form in my mind, bringing more tears to my eyes. I felt our Heavenly Father’s compassion for us in our earthly trials. I seemed to sense his tears when the cup could not be removed from his Only Begotten Son. And I remembered the Lord’s words to a sorrowing Joseph Smith: “If fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and … if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7.)
Kirsten’s leg did heal, and now she has grown up and is a mother with a child of her own. As I reflect on this experience, I realize how much my faith grew as I came to understand the testimony of the Spirit to me that in our earthly experience we must know the bitter to savor the sweet. Recognizing the vulnerability that is a necessary part of this existence made my children more dear to me. And my love for my husband increased as I saw his tender concern for our child. I appreciated more than ever his worthiness to use his priesthood to comfort and bless.
I remember well the afternoon a few years ago when I went up in an airplane with an instructor for a lesson on instrument flying.
It was a crystal clear day, though a few gusty winds were blowing. We left the field, flying due north into a chilly headwind. When we reached the right altitude, the instructor put a special hood on me so that all I could see was the instrument panel. After an hour’s lesson we stopped in an airport about a hundred miles north to eat and make another check on the weather.
It was early evening when we climbed into the plane for our return flight. Both of us were a little nervous because a small storm front had moved in, and as we climbed toward the clouds we could feel the increased power of the winds. Now we would have an opportunity for some real instrument flying.
I wasn’t really worried until the instructor told me to put on the hood because I was going to fly us home. Once we hit the storm front, the weather started tossing us around. But he assured me that things were well under control: all I had to do was fly by the instruments just as I had done in practice, and follow his directions.
As the minutes went by and we flew deeper into the turbulence, a terrible fear began to grip me and I began to experience vertigo, feeling as if the craft were in a turn, slightly diving. I started making panicky corrections for it. My instructor had to tell me four times that the instruments were right and that I should trust them, not my own judgment.
After several more minutes of agony and constant reassurances from my instructor that the instruments were indeed telling the truth, I couldn’t take it any longer and tore off the hood to see for myself. When I looked through the window, all I could see was the blast of rain streaking out of a pitch-black sky. My face went pale, and a terrified expression swept over me.
My instructor said, “Norman, you’ve been sitting here for twenty-five minutes with a clear signal and true instruments to follow, but you’ve veered off course thirty-two times and have lost nine hundred feet of elevation. Now you really don’t even know where you are. Let me show you something.”
He took the controls and with little effort started climbing up through the clouds. Eight hundred feet later we were skimming across the tops of the clouds with a beautiful full moon glistening across the billows like glitter on an ocean of dew. In the near distance on the side of a hill we saw two large red lights topping a broadcasting tower. On the other side of that hill through the broken clouds we could see a faint green and white light flashing out a signal that to us meant home.
As we touched down safely and taxied to the hangars, I felt that I had been taught one of those great lessons we are sent here to earth to learn: that the Lord gives us fine instruments, a good strong signal, and many clear markers, and still we sometimes stray from their indications and fall into a sea of confusion. Yet if we will trust those signals and follow them, whether we fully understand them or not, we will be able to fly above the clouds, safe and secure, knowing our course and our destination.
My Friend—Far Away and Long Ago
The priest flipped on a recently installed electric light, and as the naked bulb swung gently from its cord I looked around the shadowy room it illuminated. The floors were cement, and except for two ancient and sagging cabinets against the wall, all the room contained was a rickety wooden table and chairs. As the priest opened the shuttered windows for us, we saw a mixture of wild shrubs and flowers and could hear a donkey braying somewhere close by.
My husband, who had spent many hours here on previous trips, looked around with a smile of enormous satisfaction and went with the priest to an adjoining room to get the record books. I was left alone in the room, trying to get used to what I was seeing.
So—we had really made it after all! I thought of how impossible a trip to Spain to do genealogical research had seemed in the first place, how much planning it had taken to assemble a clientele, the weeks of agonizing over finances, the prayers and tears over leaving the children, and the lists and lists of things to do.
George was soon back with the records, and with excitement showed me the volumes filled with page after page of thick parchment where priests had been noting marriages, baptisms, and deaths since the 1500s. They were impressive, and I settled down to help George search them, hoping that his enthusiasm would sustain me.
Unfortunately, as the hours and days wore on, I found that what came so naturally to George didn’t come naturally to me. He could spend hour after hour poring over the pages, totally oblivious to his physical surroundings. But I found that I noticed—and responded to—every detail. The wooden chair became unbearable to sit in after a couple of hours, the shadows from the light bulb made it hard to read, and it was so cold that my back ached at night from shivering.
My reactions were both embarrassing and frustrating to me. George had always found genealogical research stimulating, and I had prayed that the experience would be just as exciting for me. But the long, cold, stiff hours seemed endless.
Finally it came time to start a new line in a different parish. Since we were working “from scratch” on this line, George searched through the marriage book while I worked on baptisms and births. Although I was looking for the children of three different couples, I found myself particularly intrigued by one family in the records. I began to feel like I knew the mother as I found the record of each of her children’s births. The spacing of her children was similar to mine, and I reminisced about my own pregnancies and the reactions of our children to each new baby. I had been away from home for two weeks now, and the memories of children’s noises, soggy kisses, and exuberant hugs were sweet to me.
Then George suggested that I work on death records for a while. Since I was still in the same period, the names I found were familiar to me, and I noted the deaths of several of the older family members. But I was not expecting so many younger deaths, and tears of sympathy filled my eyes when I recognized the name of one of my “friend’s” children who had died at the age of three. When I turned the page and found, eight days later, the death record of her six-year-old, my heart lurched and the tears spilled.
I thought again of my own little ones, exactly the same age—the feel of their little bodies nestled in my lap, the sound of their laughter and voices in the house. The distance of an ocean gave me compassion, and I continued to cry and empathize as I turned the pages.
But when I found the death of her husband six months’ time later, I was so upset I had to stop writing, and even George noticed my sobs. “I just can’t understand why she had to go through this,” I told him. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
And then suddenly a true understanding of phrases I had been hearing and saying my entire life came to me, and feelings and thoughts rushed together. “Dear friend,” I thought, “that’s why I’m here. Your suffering wasn’t without purpose; there is something I can do for you. Thanks to a loving Savior and a temple of God, I can help give you back your husband and your children. They can be yours forever now, just as I have mine.”
The tears kept running down my cheeks, but they were tears of peace and joy, a humble gratitude for temples and families and a chance to do something to help.
Since returning from Spain, going to the temple is a deeper experience for me. As I check the name pinned to my sleeve, I feel a respect for this woman. She coped with physical deprivations and a closeness with death that I have never had to experience. And although I am not able to share with her my hot water or shampoo, or the medicine I so nonchalantly give my sick children, I can share that which means the most to me, the blessings of the gospel.
“Follow Me Now”
Sita Mataele Lomu wanted nothing more than to raise her fifteen children in Tonga to be strong Latter-day Saints. But her husband, Samiu, wasn’t a member and often he would say, “You go to too many meetings; you stay home.” He didn’t understand the help she received in those meetings and the strength she gained from others who attended.
Sita had her own vegetable garden and often sold a few vegetables to help out financially. From her small income she always paid tithing. She taught her children the value of work, the value of an honest tithing, and the value of attending their church meetings.
“Follow me now,” she would tell them. “Some day you can follow your father.” But it was very hard trying to keep harmony and peace in the home when Samiu didn’t feel the same way about the Church. “Many times the tears came,” said Sita. “I knew things weren’t right in our home. I needed help.”
Sita had grown up in a family of eleven children, and her parents were faithful Latter-day Saints. When the Church was first organized in her village, her Grandfather Mataele had offered his home to the missionaries as a chapel until one could be built. It was used for that purpose for many years. Sita grew up with a testimony.
When Moses, her second son, was called to labor as a missionary in Tonga, he and Sita had a long talk about their home and his father’s feelings about religion. They decided that every Monday they would fast and pray, asking the Lord to help Samiu understand the gospel.
Sometimes on Mondays Samiu would notice that Sita wasn’t eating and he would say, “Why don’t you eat, too?” She would tell him, “Things are not right in our home. We need the Lord’s help. I am fasting and asking him to help us.”
Time went by, and one day after some serious thought Samiu said to Sita, “I know you always pay tithing on the money you make. You can pay mine, too.” Joy filled Sita’s heart as she paid not only her own tithing that month, but also her husband’s.
For a year Sita and Moses fasted every Monday, and one day Moses told his mother he wanted to talk to his father about the Church that night. So after dinner, Moses talked to his father alone and said, “You know, Father, I am a missionary and I go around and preach to people, but I feel I would like to baptize you because you are my father. Then I can teach others.”
Tears came to Samiu’s eyes. “Many, many years I sit and think about the Church, and I know this is the truth. The Lord blessed me and your mother. We have many children, and you are all strong and healthy. I am a lucky man. I want to be baptized.”
A big feast was held in Tonga that weekend when Samiu Lomu was baptized into the Church. Since that time the Lomu family has moved to Hawaii, where they attend the Kailua Second Ward, Kaneohe Hawaii Stake. Often Sita’s words to her children are, “Follow your father! He is a good man.”