Mormon Journal

By H. Dyke Walton


“Back to Work, Me Boy-o’s”

A man with a derby cocked over his round face stood facing me. The hat’s brim all but covered a cauliflower ear, and his eyes were nearly hidden under the scar tissue around his eyebrows. His nose had obviously been broken many times and, judging by the expression on his face, he was angry.

I approached him with my hand outstretched.

Suddenly he bellowed, “Get those scabs off this job or all my brickies will leave!”

A half hour earlier the job superintendent had called me for help. He and several Church members were standing around waiting for me; all the work on our new chapel had stopped. Since I was the representative of the Church in charge of the project, I had the job of battling one of the toughest unions in the world, the Australian Bricklayers’ Union. The “brickies” on my job were paid workers from the union. They had only been at work a couple of hours when they called their union representative, threatening to walk off the job because of the volunteer Church-member laborers. Now they were demanding a full day’s pay before they left.

“Use up the mud, boys, clean up, and move on out. I’ll get your pay for you, don’t you worry,” the man with the hat yelled. I heard someone refer to him as “Patrick”; someone else called him “Rep.” Okay, Patrick the Rep, I thought. It’s up to me to get things moving or the project will be stalled, maybe for months.

“Follow me, Patrick,” I ordered with a confidence I didn’t feel.

“Where to?” the rep bellowed.

I strode into the building, hoping he would follow. He did.

“This is the chapel,” I said, maintaining my confident tone as we stood inside a large room. “It will seat two hundred. The folding doors go here; they separate the chapel from the cultural hall. When needed, the doors open so we can seat another 150 people.”

I talked and pointed, and he had to hurry to catch up and hear what I was saying. He started to protest, but I continued, telling him of our sports and recreational programs. He displayed no interest, and I could feel his antagonism grow. When I got to the classroom wing, I resisted telling him about the Aaronic Priesthood room because I realized he would neither understand nor have the courtesy to listen. His patience was all but gone.

“This is the Boy Scouts’ room,” I said hurriedly.

I could see at last that I’d touched on a subject of interest. I expanded quickly with, “The closets at this end are for the lads’ gear. The Queen’s picture will hang here, and the flag will be prominently displayed … probably here.”

I quickly glanced at him.

His belligerence was gone. He removed his derby and, in a soft, Irish voice, asked, “I live close by. Could my eleven-year-old son come here to these Scouts … or is this only for your own church members?”

“Pat, your son would be more than welcome … and we need men like yourself to lead and guide these lads,” I answered.

I felt the prompting words and Spirit of the Lord in that unfinished building and continued to tell him of the building’s benefits to boys and girls and their parents. I was humbled, and Patrick was receptive.

“These people are trying to help our kids and their families. They can’t put up the money, so they put up their time and muscle. That is no reflection against your union. They’re just building a place for lads like yours and mine to learn their duty to God and the Queen,” I said, taking him by the elbow and steering him past the little group of Church volunteer workers.

Patrick’s hat was in his hand now, and his bald, round head glistened in the sunlight. Now I stood by his side, silent, for he was looking across the area that would be the chapel.

At this moment, he held the building project in his hand, for the brickies were all grouped around, waiting for his words.

He clapped his hat onto his head, and as I waited anxiously, he moved out ahead of me. Standing where I had first seen him, he bellowed forth again. This time there was pride in his voice. “Back to work, me boy-o’s,” he said. “Step lively now!”

“What about those scabs?” one man called out, pointing to the volunteers.

The rep showed a scarred fist. “Watch your tongue, Jack,” he warned. Then he sternly addressed his men. “Now get back to work, and I want your best. Any bloke who lets down answers personally to me. Right-o?”

Patrick and I shook hands as we parted. His scarred lips broke into a wide smile, and he looked positively handsome. “I just can’t wait to tell me lad about those Scouts,” he said. His grasp held mine, and there was real feeling in it. “Any more trouble, you call me.”

Patrick handed me his business card, and I carefully placed it in my billfold. The Lord had sent us a friend.

The Patch

As I settled into my seat on the airplane, I noticed that the young man beside me had a Brigham Young University patch on his blazer. I recognized the name only as “one of those religious schools.”

Although I had been active in churches all of my life, it had only been recently that I had the time or felt the inclination to learn for myself whether Jesus Christ was actually the son of God, or just a great teacher whose life had been exaggerated by his followers. In my search, I had begun to pray earnestly and to read the Bible with real intent. The Holy Spirit had touched my heart only two months before, and had testified to me that Jesus was truly the Christ.

Immediately, I became disillusioned with the church I was attending. A minister there had once told me that whether or not Christ had actually existed was unimportant. What mattered was his example, and learning to love each other. Now that I knew Christ had lived and died for me, this belief seemed empty, and I searched for ways to learn more about Christ and his will for me.

My seatmate and I started talking, and I learned he was going to an amateur golf tournament. We talked of golf and his ambition to become a professional golfer.

Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to question him about his beliefs.

“Do you go to Brigham Young University because they have a good golf team or because you believe the doctrines they teach?” I asked. He chuckled and said that they did have a good golf team, but that he was also proud to be a Mormon.

“Tell me,” I asked, “do Mormons believe in Jesus Christ?” He patiently explained that the true name of the Church was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also bore witness that the Lord leads his church through a modern-day prophet.

I was eager to learn more and asked many questions. I wanted to find out if the average Mormon was a member because of family traditions, or because he had a true testimony of Christ. It soon became obvious that this young man had done some soul-searching of his own and had a testimony of Jesus Christ.

In my studies of the scriptures, I had come across some concepts that seemed to have been lost—at least from the churches I had attended. I decided to quiz him about them. “Do you believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands?” I asked.

He stared at me in disbelief. “Where in the world did you learn about that?” he asked.

“In the Bible,” I answered.

“Yes, we do believe in that gift,” he replied. Then he explained about the restoration of the priesthood.

As luck would have it, the plane was just about to land, and I still had a hundred more questions.

“If you’d like,” he said, “I’d be happy to have some of our missionaries from the Church stop by and tell you more.”

Of course, some wonderful missionaries did come and I was soon baptized. Now, six years later, I am thankful for the young man on the plane and the patch on his jacket, without which I would not have learned of the Savior’s true church.

Debbie Bliss Fordham, a homemaker, serves as nursery leader in the Florence Ward, Florence South Carolina Stake.

Swiss “Samaritans”

We were driving through the majestic Swiss Alps on a family vacation when, without warning, our van lost all power. My husband, Floyd, pulled over to the side of the motorway and tried to restart the engine. Suddenly there was a loud bang. “It’s okay,” Floyd said. “Just a backfire.”

But something impelled me to look out the back window. To my horror, I saw a trail of fire flowing out from under the van and continuing a dozen feet behind us.

“There’s a fire!” I cried. Floyd reacted instantly. “Everyone out of the van—now!” he yelled, running around to open the side doors for us. Our two girls, ages sixteen and six, scrambled out and ran down the roadside. Four-year-old Matthew, shoeless and frightened, was next into his father’s arms, and he, too, was sent scampering to get away from the anticipated explosion.

The baby and I were last. It seemed to take forever to unfasten Brandon from his car seat. Floyd helped us out, and we ran, too.

Oily black smoke billowed into the sky. A young French couple were the first to stop. The language barrier did not deter us from communicating our distress, and the man ran off to telephone for help. His wife helped calm the children.

Next a truck driver stopped. Again we could not communicate, but he started to put out the fire with an extinguisher from his truck. Then he rescued most of our baggage. The van continued to burn.

By now, farmers had wandered out of their homes to watch the excitement. Soon a large fire truck and police cars roared up. They quickly extinguished the blaze and retrieved the rest of our baggage.

We felt relieved to be safe and to have most of our belongings as well. But the van was a total ruin. And now our predicament dawned on us. Our little family was marooned at the side of a highway in Switzerland. All our suitcases and our children’s paraphernalia were scattered along the road beside the burned-out, useless van.

“Anyone here speak English?” my husband asked hopefully. There were only blank looks and a few shrugs.

Then a man and his son stepped forward. “You come my house,” he said. “You come my house.” He pointed across the valley to a small cottage. It took three trips in his little car to get all of us and our gear there. Our benefactor’s wife and family fed us, bedded down our weary children, and helped us sort through and repack all our things.

The wife spoke perfect English, and we stayed up late in the night talking with them. But it wasn’t until the next morning as we prepared to leave that we discovered they were fellow Latter-day Saints. Hugs, laughs, and a few tears were exchanged.

That day in the Alps was the most memorable part of our trip. We will never forget our fearsome experience. Nor shall we forget that Swiss family—brothers and sisters in the gospel whom we found by accident—and the love they showed for us.

Karen L. Brown, a homemaker, is a Merrie Miss B teacher in her Encinitas, California, ward.

“Calm Down, Robin”

As I loaded the washer with clothes, I felt a strong urge to check on my children. Aaron, eleven months old, and Christi, two, were taking much-needed naps after a hectic morning. At first I shrugged off the feeling, thinking I would finish the task at hand and then go. But the prompting was so strong that before I realized it I was heading down the hall toward the children’s room.

When I came to the bathroom, I noticed that the diaper pail lid was out in the hall. Puzzled, I tried to remember whether I had put the lid on the pail after filling it with clean water and detergent a few minutes earlier. I stepped into the bathroom and was terrified to see Aaron’s head immersed in the water. He was hanging so still! I grabbed him, and his little body was heavy and cold as I lifted him out. There was no sign of life.

I ran hysterically through the house, shaking him and crying, “Aaron! Aaron!” Into the kitchen I went, still shouting his name. Then I stopped as a voice spoke to me.

“Calm down, Robin. Calm down,” it said. I suddenly felt at peace and sure of myself. Then something seemed to guide me to the living room. I laid Aaron on the rug and thought, “Now what?” Without hesitation, I turned him over on his stomach and started pushing on his back. After several pushes, I could hear short gurgling sounds as the pressure forced the water from his mouth. Gradually, signs of life returned to Aaron’s body. Then Christi was standing by me, asking questions. I sent her for a blanket, took off Aaron’s wet shirt, and put the blanket over Aaron to warm him. The color began to return to his face, and he felt a bit warmer.

I called one of the sisters from our ward, who lived nearby. “Alice, I need you. Can you come right away?” Then I called the doctor, left a message for my husband, John, at work, and rushed to the hospital.

Emergency personnel, who were waiting for us when we arrived, rushed Aaron in for tests and X rays. As I waited, I prayed constantly, feeling strength from Heavenly Father.

Finally, I was standing next to Aaron’s hospital bed, looking into an oxygen tent and watching him struggle for shallow breaths. Soon the Relief Society president was there, along with my mother, our home teacher, and my husband’s supervisor, who had come until John could get there. When John arrived, he and our home teacher gave Aaron a priesthood blessing. Afterward, I looked down through the tent and said, “I love you, Aaron.” A faint smile appeared on his tired face. I knew then that he was all right.

How grateful I am for the prompting of the Holy Ghost that saved Aaron’s life!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Stephen Moore

Robin Cotton, a homemaker, is a counselor in the Louisville Kentucky Stake Relief Society presidency.

Afton Day, a teacher, serves as a worker in the Atlanta Temple. She lives in the Sandy Springs Ward, Roswell Georgia Stake.