The Twice-Rescued Lamb
We can never say we were not given an opportunity to receive the gospel. My mother had her first brief contact with the Church when she attended Primary as a little girl in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. It was there she learned her alphabet … and perhaps, deep down, gospel truths that would surface later in life.
Years later, during the 1950s, my parents investigated several churches. At the right time, LDS missionaries called. I remember my father being baptized when I was about five years old.
We met in a house that was used as a chapel. My father, an artist, painted the signs outside. My mother wouldn’t join, though, despite the fact that she believed gospel principles.
We later moved away from Nottinghamshire to the wilds of Shropshire, where the nearest branch was miles away. We had no car, and my father lapsed into inactivity. Still, we regarded ourselves as Latter-day Saints, and my brother and I stood out at the religious school we had to attend.
I was fifteen when the elder who had baptized my father revisited us. He saw to it that missionaries came to our home and taught us again, and this time my mother, brother, and I were all baptized—on 6 April 1967 at Newcastle-under-Lyme chapel, nearly fifty miles away. One of the hymns we sang that night will always stay with me—“I Stand All Amazed”—because I certainly do stand amazed at how the Lord has helped us.
My father soon became the first English president of the Wellington Branch in the Central British Mission. I served in many callings and was on the stake YWMIA board while I was still a teenager.
At college, however, I was the only Latter-day Saint, and I gradually slipped into inactivity again. I married a nonmember.
But thanks to a sensitive bishop who visited us in Sheffield and assigned some caring home teachers, my husband, Peter, was eventually baptized. A year later, after a move to Gloucestershire, we had our patriarchal blessings together and went to the temple to be sealed. It was a joy to have our first baby born in the covenant.
Since then, Peter has served as a bishop and I have served once more with the young women of our stake. I have come to know that only through being in the gospel and living all the commandments can we have true joy.
“Only God Gives A’s”
An institute instructor once told me that college students generally receive higher grades after completing a mission. I believed him. But that was before my mission—before I returned to college and attended an English class.
Since I was an English major, the most important class of the semester was “Analysis of Literary Forms.” I needed straight A’s in the final three years of college in order to be accepted by a law school I hoped to attend. Unfortunately, the professor of the class was on a personal crusade to combat grade inflation.
Adding to my anxiety was the professor’s anti-religious cynicism. On the first day of class he boasted that his greatest accomplishment had been flunking a member of a religious order for cheating. Before long I realized that I was the only Mormon in a class full of agnostics.
Our first assignment was an analysis of a short story. I spent two weeks brainstorming, outlining, writing, and rewriting until I felt assured of an A. When my paper was returned, I was sickened to see the grade was a C.
I approached the professor after class and asked what was required in order to receive an A. He responded with a sneer, “Only God gives A’s.” Seeing that I wasn’t amused, he explained that he would award an A only if he felt the paper was worthy of publication. My grade on the next assignment was critical. This time we had only one week in which to analyze a novel, and the professor couldn’t have picked a worse week. Monday night was a special family home evening. I spent Tuesday night completing my home teaching. On Wednesday, I was assigned to conduct a Young Adult activity. Thursday was quarterly stake priesthood meeting, and I had been asked to speak. On Friday I showed a friend from the mission field the sights of southern California. Saturday, I did yardwork for an incapacitated family. That evening, I attended a baptism and confirmation of a close friend.
I had done absolutely nothing on the paper when Sunday arrived. The paper was due Monday morning. Since it was fast Sunday, I had no commitments that afternoon or evening. I was tempted to do my homework, rationalizing that I had been doing the Lord’s work the rest of the week. This was a good example of the ox in the mire, I thought. Then I remembered that I had promised Heavenly Father that I would never do schoolwork on the Sabbath. Since I had made that personal promise to the Lord, I called upon him for strength to keep my promise.
When I awakened Monday morning, only a couple of hours remained until the deadline. I spent half of the time brainstorming and the other half typing a single draft. I had no time for an outline, revision, or corrections.
I handed in the essay, fully expecting to fail the assignment. But I had done the best I could do and still keep my promise to the Lord.
When I entered class a week later, the essays were stacked on the professor’s desk. As usual, he waited until the end of class to return them. This time I was willing to wait, especially since I had no desire ever to see my paper again.
The class came to a close. The professor picked up the papers. Instead of hurriedly passing them down the rows, he just stood there, looking down at the stack. Then he began flipping through the pages of the paper on top. He slowly lifted his eyes to look at the class, hesitated for a moment, and said softly, “Class, I suppose I have a reputation for being a hard grader. Well, I want you to know that today, for the first time in my teaching career, I have awarded a student an A-plus.” It was my paper.
Perhaps the professor was right after all when he said, “Only God gives A’s.”
Burdens Too Long Carried
An old illness was troubling me, and I did not feel like attending the temple that day in 1975. After all, my wife and I had been sealed in the Provo Temple just one week earlier, and we had been back to partake of the sacred ordinances a few days later. But I determined that I would attend again this week, and in the end I was grateful. We enjoyed a very uplifting session.
As I was getting ready to leave the temple, a man approached me and asked if I worked at the steel plant nearby. I said I did. He introduced himself and said he thought we had worked together about five or six years earlier in a certain section of the plant. We chatted a bit and spoke about the fine session we had just enjoyed.
Then he asked if I had lost a wallet about the time we worked together. I said I had. Someone had stolen it from my work locker. It had contained twenty dollars in cash, pictures, a driver’s license, and other personal items. The man told me that he had taken the wallet, spent the money, and thrown the rest away. He said he was terribly sorry and wished to make restitution. He had become active in the Church only recently and had been seeking forgiveness. He again asked if he could make restitution.
While this brother was speaking to me I was surprised that I felt no animosity toward him. Many times before I had wished for revenge against the person who had taken my wallet. For years I had carried as much ill will with me as he had guilt with him. But now we enjoyed the great feeling of forgiving and being forgiven. I was grateful he had come to me and confessed his wrongdoing. I told the man that as far as I was concerned he need not make restitution for the wallet or the money. At the time those worldly things seemed of no importance. We shook hands and departed with the best of feelings between us.
The chance of our meeting on any given day at the same place and time must have been slight. I feel the Lord meant for us to meet on this particular day so that he might confess and I might learn to forgive, relieving us both of burdens we had carried too long.
More than a Job
I was not deliberately seeking to return to teaching in January 1983, because my youngest child was still only six years old. I had, however, placed my name on a list for work as a relief teacher.
That month I received a letter from a local comprehensive school asking if I would like to be interviewed for a part-time post to teach a group of children who were finding it difficult to settle into secondary school life.
I was not keen to teach secondary age children, since my training was with younger ones. I prayed about it, though, and was moved at least to present myself for an interview. However, I was not convinced that what I was doing was right for me, remembering the teaching that, if possible, a mother’s place was in her home.
I began the day of my interview with prayer and found myself praying fervently that I would listen to the Spirit and do what the Lord desired. Deep down I felt that I would not be offered the post; I felt that the time was not yet right for me to resume my career, even though I loved to teach and enjoyed children.
Imagine my surprise when, after a long interview, I was offered the post and I heard my voice accepting without hesitation. I left the school in a daze. I was confused and afraid, but also excited and pleased. I kept asking myself, “Am I right to work when my family is still young?” I agonized for the few days until the new term began and I was driven to my knees in an attempt to come to terms with my feelings. I fasted and petitioned my Heavenly Father to help me understand the decision I had seemed to make without conscious thought. I was even prepared to contact the head of the school and make some excuse not to accept the post—but something prevented me from taking that step.
On the day the term was to begin, I set out toward the unknown. I was still not sure that I could teach after a lapse of eleven years. I prayed hard that day until I stood in the empty staff room and looked across the River Dee to the Welsh hills. I felt totally alone. I wanted to run!
The beautiful view and the scudding clouds calmed me and I whispered, “Heavenly Father, I shouldn’t be here, this is not for me.”
Then I felt, rather than heard, a sweet, calm voice saying, “Christine, you are here because I want you to be. You have a work to do for me. Teach these children and serve me.”
I humbly bowed my head and, with tears in my eyes, promised my Heavenly Father that I would serve him to the best of my ability and plant gospel seeds. I entered the classroom with joy in my heart and a fervent desire to teach by the Spirit.
I taught those young people for two terms. I grew to love them and learned to help them. We did not break academic records, for they had educational problems, but we learned self-confidence, and we came to know that Jesus Christ was our friend.
As I drove away from the school on my last day, I left a great deal of love behind me, but I took a lot with me. And more important, I knew I had planted seeds of gospel teachings that, one day, would bear fruit.
Me? Nursery Leader?
Relief Society nursery leader? I was prepared for the bishop to ask me to do anything. But nursery leader?
I hurriedly listed every excuse I could think of not to do it. The bishop sat there smiling, waiting for me to finish, then simply asked if I would accept the call. Hadn’t he heard all my reasons? Then I heard myself say yes, I would accept. I walked numbly out of his office, wondering if I would survive until I could be released.
When Sister Shipp, the Relief Society president, called several days later, she was so loving and reassuring that I began to feel guilty about my feelings toward the call. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as hard as I had thought.
I soon learned that although the work was challenging, it certainly wasn’t impossible. Still, the nursery did need some organization. Sister Iler, the homemaking counselor, and I began to tackle the problems.
Under the direction of the president, we planned a homemaking meeting to create nursery projects, organized a nursery cleanup, and implemented policies to bring more structure to the nursery.
Soon the nursery was running smoothly. As I saw the children grow from their nursery experiences there, my sense of accomplishment increased. But what happened the following spring gave me an undeniable testimony of nursery service.
It began when I became discouraged by the sisters’ seeming lack of interest in helping. After one particularly bad day, I met with the presidency to discuss the problems. None of us could find any definite solutions. After I left the meeting, I felt so inadequate that I wondered if the time had come for me to be released.
I decided to write down everything that was bothering me so I could better understand the situation. That helped clarify the problems, but it brought no solutions. I shared my thoughts with my Relief Society president, who prayed again that she might find an answer. Soon a plan began to formulate in her mind. If team teaching worked so well in the schools, why wouldn’t teams of sisters work in the nursery? Four sisters could serve with me each month, with each contributing her talents and energies. Not only would that make the nursery orderly, but all sisters would be able to enjoy the children as well as attend Relief Society.
As soon as I heard Sister Shipp’s plan, I knew it was inspired. We tried out the plan, and it worked! Our nursery is now staffed with sisters who can teach our little ones as they continue to enjoy Relief Society.
I have always known that our Heavenly Father guides his church through those who are called to lead. However, it was difficult for me to realize that he cares about every organization in every ward. As I watched my leader work under inspiration, I was filled with a testimony that Heavenly Father directs his church at all levels.