A Matter of Sacrifice
Following the dedication of the Los Angeles Temple, Church members from our area enthusiastically organized temple excursions. We lived in the San Francisco Bay area, a distance of about 450 miles from the temple. There were also excursions for the youth, who performed baptisms for the dead. Chartered buses would leave our chapel on Friday evening, travel all night, and arrive in Los Angeles early Saturday morning. The young people would spend Saturday in the temple, then return early Sunday morning, having traveled through the night. In this way, the group could perform several hundred baptisms in a weekend.
Our bishop encouraged the youth in the ward to earn money themselves to pay for transportation costs. Our daughter Annette earned hers by babysitting.
Annette had studied flute for several years. One of her goals was to excel in the local high school band, which had earned a reputation for excellence in our area. In a fever of excitement at the beginning of each school year, auditions were held and students placed according to skill and talent. Annette was placed third in a section of eight. How her eyes sparkled as she brought this news home from school!
The reason for the band’s success became apparent when the band director declared to his students, “Band participation must take top priority in your life. There will be no excused absences for concerts or marching band activities, except for extreme illness or a drastic emergency.”
All went well for several weeks. During that time, the band made preparations for the first concert.
Meanwhile, plans were under way for the youth temple excursion. And then the band director announced the date of the concert; it was the same date as the excursion.
When Annette came home from school she was dismayed. “Mom, what will I do?” she moaned. “I have to make a choice. It isn’t a choice between good and evil, because both projects are good. But which one is more important?”
I knew the choice must be hers, but as her mother I wanted so much to give her wise counsel. I had every confidence that Annette would choose the right if she could understand what was right.
The next morning at breakfast, Annette told me she would be fasting that day prior to telling her teacher that she had decided to go to the temple. When she came from school, one look revealed the outcome of that conference.
“Mother,” she said, as the tears began to fall, “He didn’t understand at all. I tried to explain that as much as I valued my place in the band and appreciated what he had done for me, our religion comes first in our family. He was angry. He said that someone else could go to the temple in my place, but no one could replace me in the band. ‘Make your choice, Annette,’ he said. ‘You can’t be a member of my band if you go.’ Then he walked out and closed the door.”
I held her close and promised her that she would be blessed for choosing what she knew was right, and for living her testimony.
It was my turn to carpool the Primary children the eight-mile drive to our chapel, so I invited Annette to come along so we could discuss the problem on the way. “Please, Heavenly Father,” I prayed as I backed out of our driveway, “help my daughter understand what she should do.”
As we approached the chapel I suddenly felt the strong influence of the Spirit. To my mind came the following words: “It is necessary that she go to the temple under conditions of sacrifice. The strength of her testimony will influence those for whom the baptisms are performed.”
So she went to the temple under conditions of sacrifice. She was at peace with her decision.
Upon arrival in Los Angeles the group enjoyed a pancake breakfast, but Annette remained in the bus and prayed that her presence in the temple would prove a blessing to those for whom the baptisms would be done. As the baptisms were performed and she descended into the water time after time, she felt a sweet spirit of peace and joy. Then, suddenly, she experienced an overwhelming love—and a reaching out—as the one performing the baptisms exclaimed, “This person was born more than four hundred years ago!” She bore testimony silently as the water closed over her.
A few days following the temple excursion, she returned to band practice. She found that her teacher had moved all flutists ahead so that the only place left was at the end of the section. She quietly slipped into that place. He distributed music, but none to her. It was as if he didn’t see her at all. She played from the music of the student next to her the remainder of the school year. The teacher spoke to her only once, and that was to inform her that she was not to participate in concerts or other special events.
We found other ways for Annette to experience fulfillment with music. Arrangements for her to study with a professor of music at the local college provided a means of progress that had been denied her at school, and other opportunities to participate opened to her.
As she practiced in her room in the evenings, I heard the melodious strains of “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” “Choose the Right,” and “Come, Come Ye Saints,” with its poignant encouragement of “All is well, all is well” echoing through our hearts.
Since that time Annette has graduated from college and been married in the temple. She has four lovely little girls and one son of her own who are learning to treasure and live the truths of the gospel through the example of a mother and father who give top priority to the kingdom of God.
The Book That Would Not Burn
My mission in 1923 took me to Gallup, New Mexico, where one of my first assignments was to tract the nearby coal mining camps. One day my companion and I knocked at the door of a large white home. In our conversation with the lady who answered the door, we learned that she had never gone to school and therefore could not read. But she had resolved that her children would have the advantages of being able to read and appreciate books, and she had started a family library that already numbered several hundred volumes. I told her about the Book of Mormon, and she said she would appreciate a copy for her library. She gladly accepted our gift and also our offer to hold a cottage meeting in her home for members of her family and some of her friends.
Before we could do any follow-up visits, we were transferred to another part of the state. A year later I returned with a new companion to again tract the mining camps. I was eager to renew my acquaintance with the woman to whom I had given a copy of the Book of Mormon, and I was unprepared for the large pile of ashes and the blackened stoves, bedsteads, and other non-combustible items that greeted us at the site of that family’s home. We asked about the family and found that they had moved to another home after the fire.
Shortly after retracting the camp, I was released from my mission. After being home for a time, I received a letter from a friend describing that house fire at the mining camp. My friend said that when the firemen arrived at the home, it was so nearly consumed that they told the family they could not save anything. The mother, the woman with whom I had spoken, pleaded with them to save her books. The firemen turned their hoses to the area where the books were shelved, but it was in vain.
Several days later family members stirred through the ashes to see what they could find. There, perfectly undisturbed by fire or water, was the copy of the Book of Mormon that I had given the family. The other books had been burned to ashes.
From my friend I obtained the woman’s address and wrote her that I had heard of the fire and the preservation of the Book of Mormon. I told her that I felt the Lord had preserved this book, because she didn’t know how to read, to let her know of its truthfulness. She eventually received a testimony and was baptized along with members of her family.
Years later I visited New Mexico and called on this sister. She told me the story of the fire and showed me the undamaged copy of the Book of Mormon.
Through this single event many lives have been blessed. The members of this family have remained active, and they and many descendants have filled missions for the Church.
A Hard-Fought Lesson
I could hear my ten-year-old son crying even before he opened the door. I glanced at the clock above the oven and realized that he was late coming home from school.
As the front door closed and I turned to look at him, I was startled. His usually smiling, eager face was bruised and bloodied, covered with tears and dirt. The mud caked on his jacket and jeans added to the dismal picture. Between sobs, he haltingly told me what had happened while I dabbed at his swollen face with a washcloth.
Tearfully he explained that he and another boy had begun arguing while waiting in line for the school bus. As he and the other boy rode home on the bus, they kept quarreling. They decided they would settle the disagreement as soon as the bus stopped.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the other boy involved was notorious in the neighborhood for getting into fights. I believed what my son said about trying to avoid the fight. But he had finally given in and accepted the challenge. His tears, completely unrestrained now, were coming not so much from his bleeding nose and his scrapes and bruises as from his feelings of humiliation at losing the fight and watching the other boy return home with a victorious grin and hardly a scratch.
I was accustomed to neighborhood squabbles. This wasn’t the first time we had had problems with this particular boy. As I looked at my son, I thought, “How could this kind of thing happen to him? He would normally go out of his way to avoid something like this.” I felt an overwhelming desire to encourage and comfort him—to make him feel better somehow.
But what could I tell him? I watched anxiously, hoping for some help, as he descended the stairs to his bedroom to change his mud-stained jeans.
I slipped into my bedroom and offered a short but fervent prayer, expressing to Heavenly Father my own, as well as my son’s, need for help. What could I say or do to help him? My prayer was answered moments later, as I opened my scriptures and read:
“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. …
“Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
“Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.” (3 Ne. 12:22–24.)
I read the scripture through again. In my heart I prayed, “But Heavenly Father, he’s just a boy. And he didn’t even start the fight. He’ll feel worse than ever when I read this with him.” Still hoping I had misinterpreted the answer, I kept questioning: “Isn’t there another way he could learn from this? Isn’t there something else I might tell him?” It’s one thing if you start the fight and win—and then you decide to apologize. But why do you have to say you’re sorry when you’re the one who was beaten—and you didn’t want to fight in the first place? The advice in the scriptures might be fine for an adult. But it seemed just too much to ask of a child! And yet I couldn’t deny that I had received an answer; there was nothing to do except teach what the Lord had taught me.
My fears proved correct. Still not enthusiastic about sharing my inspiration, I tried to explain to my son what I had read. He became increasingly upset. He understood that what had occurred was wrong, but he couldn’t imagine how he could possibly apologize—especially when he didn’t feel at all sorry.
He still felt angry with the other boy. But as we talked he began to understand that his feelings of bitterness and resentment needed to be resolved. And as we discussed his feelings, I felt a wonderful new impression of love for him. It was the sort of unconditional love I heard about but had never experienced to this degree. This love encompassed me and I wanted to share it with my son. I recognized what a difficult thing it was to apologize, and that the important thing was for me to teach him the principles of repentance and forgiveness and then allow him the freedom to decide what he would do. Filled with this special love, I assured my son, with complete honesty, that my love for him would be the same no matter what he decided to do.
As we finished our conversation, he seemed more frustrated and distraught than I had ever seen him. He wanted to do the right thing, yet I knew how difficult it would be for him. I was still worried that I had laid too large a burden on his small shoulders. Even as he went to bed that night he tearfully told me that he couldn’t think of anything but the fight. He still didn’t feel like apologizing. But he also told me that he wanted very much to do as Heavenly Father asked.
For the next few days I imagined a glowing success story. I could picture my son swallowing his pride, offering his apology, and then feeling warm and good about himself again. My idealism faded a bit as I watched him gradually recover from the incident on his own. After a few days he was himself again.
He didn’t apologize first; the neighbor boy did. That, of course, left the way open for my son to return the apology. I was a bit disappointed that my son hadn’t apologized first, but my feelings of unconditional love for him remained with me.
I am sure my son will remember the fight. I hope he will also remember the counsel I gave him. But gradually I realized that perhaps the incident taught me more than it taught him. Although it was difficult for me to accept, I now understand that the Lord doesn’t change his commandments to fit the individual. His commandments remain firm, and he allows us our individual freedom to follow them or not. And he loves us even when we stumble. The almost overwhelming love I felt for my son was a wonderful blessing. I now feel that I understand more fully the kind of love the Savior has for each of us.