Mormon Journal

By


Jesus, Listening, Can Hear

I have never forgotten how, in one fleeting moment, the Spirit was powerfully manifest to me through two bright blue eyes.

The eyes belong to Heather, a nine-year-old girl with a keen mind, infectious giggle, and a determined spirit housed in a frame with great physical restrictions. Because of her handicaps, the simplest of life’s activities are major tasks for her.

Unable to verbalize, Heather sends messages with her eyes. She is quite efficient. A direct gaze means yes, and a blink means no. Through a series of questions, gazes, blinks, giggles, and facial expressions, Heather shares her vibrant spirit and brings joy to the lives of those who interact with her.

As her therapist and teacher for several years, I have many times sensed that for Heather, as for many other handicapped children, the veil seems very thin. If she could speak, what could she teach me about the things of the Spirit?

One Monday morning, Heather and I visited about the previous weekend. Heather indicated to me that she had attended Primary, so I began singing some Primary songs. A smile broke across her face whenever she recognized a song. I sang her my favorite, “I Wonder When He Comes Again.” Then I asked her if she had a favorite song. Immediately her eyes focused on mine and I was suddenly faced with the challenge of determining which song she loved above all others.

Through a series of questions I discovered that her favorite song was one she had heard in Primary. She wasn’t sure which songbook it was in, but knew it was about Jesus. I went through every possible song I could think of. To my dismay and Heather’s disappointment, none of them was the right one.

Heather refused to let the issue die. For some reason she needed the two of us to share her favorite song. Finally, I agreed to bring my Primary songbooks to school the following day and go through them with her.

On Tuesday morning, Heather let me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted to find the song—now! We went through the books, but to no avail. She liked all of the songs, but none of them was the song. In desperation, I told Heather that if her mother could figure out the song, we would sing it. If not, we would have to live with the fact that we couldn’t find it.

Heather came to school the next day more determined than ever to find her song. Tucked in her wheelchair was the new Church hymnbook. I positioned myself next to her and, page by page, we made our way through. I sang the first phrase of each song, and each time Heather’s eyes closed in a definite no. Halfway through the book, I began to sing: “There is sunshine in my soul today …”

As if someone had stuck her with a pin, Heather jumped and smiled. Her bright eyes looked directly at me. Together we laughed and reveled in the completion of our three-day search. “OK, now we can finally sing your favorite song,” I said. She smiled as I sang the first verse, and as I began the chorus she mustered all the effort she could and joined in with occasional sigh-like sounds. As I finished the chorus she looked at me steadily as if to say, “I liked that part.” I was so grateful I had found the song! I asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses and she responded with a firm yes. Again I began:

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing …

Heather’s reaction to that line was so strong that I stopped. I looked at her as the reality and significance of the moment pressed on my mind. “Heather, is that what you like about the song?” I asked. “Is that what you want me to know? That Jesus is listening, and he can hear the songs you cannot sing?” She lifted her head and looked me straight in the eyes. The testimony had been borne.

Feeling guided by the Spirit, I ventured to ask, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?” Her look was penetrating.

Knowing her close relationship with the Spirit, there was one more thing I wanted to know. With reverent anticipation I whispered, “Heather, what does he say?” My heart pounded as I viewed the clear look in her eyes as she awaited my questions so she could share her insight. I felt that the Lord gave me the right questions to ask as I took a deep breath and proceeded. “Does he say ‘Heather, I love you’?” Her eyes were radiant as she confirmed that statement. I paused, swallowed, and continued. “Does he say ‘Heather, you’re special’?” Again, yes. I paused again, with a lump in my throat, and then asked, “Does he say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”

Heather’s head became erect; every fiber of her being seemed to be electrified as her eyes penetrated my soul. She knew she was loved. She knew she was special. She knew she only needed to be patient because great things were in store for her.

The moment seemed too sacred for further words. I leaned forward and pressed her cheek against my own. Without words, but through the bright blue windows to her soul, the truth had been made known.

Yes, Heather, Jesus, listening, can hear.

Jean Ernstrom, a speech and language pathologist, is a Primary teacher in the Kaysville Twelfth Ward, Kaysville Utah Crestwood Stake.

A camping trip on horseback in the Colorado mountains with my son and teenage brother-in-law was the perfect release from city stress. Fishing in clear, tumbling streams; cooking over a campfire; and riding my favorite mare made the week a peaceful memory.

On our way home, we paused to finish a roll of film at the Deep Creek Overlook. Suddenly a teenage boy hurried over to ask for help. His group had been taking pictures close by, and his mother had stepped too near the edge. The earth had crumbled, sending her over a 500-foot cliff. Her husband had started to go after her, but had been stopped a hundred feet down the mountain by the steep incline and loose rocks.

I immediately got some ropes from the truck and started down. My ropes got me several hundred feet, but came up a bit short. I dropped the last twenty feet to a five-foot ledge, then inched across a snowslide that sloped precariously toward the edge of the mile-deep canyon. Finally, I reached the woman. She was dead; there had been little chance she could survive such a fall.

I positioned her body so that it wouldn’t slip over the edge, then began to climb out. However, there were no rocks or tree limbs to provide handholds to where the rope dangled twenty feet above. I yelled to the boys to call the highway patrol on the CB radio in our truck.

The rescuers arrived and began their descent. Rocks rained all around me, and I hugged the cliff wall for protection. After several futile attempts to reach me, they called Alpine Rescue—the terrain was too steep for their equipment.

By then, almost three hours had passed since we had broken camp. A storm, which had been brewing since morning, now hit with full fury. Hail and drenching rain pelted me, threatening to loosen my desperate grip on the small ledge. Soon I began to shake uncontrollably. To prevent hypothermia, I slapped my sides and jumped up and down in the small space.

I began to pray with an intensity that my prayers often lacked. Suddenly I felt calm, sensing that someone was protecting me. I was still hungry and cold, but I was no longer afraid. In a few moments, the rain and hail passed as quickly as they had begun. The sun was setting by the time Alpine Rescue arrived on top. They lowered a basket to me with a sweater, food, water, and a helmet to protect my head from falling debris.

It was dark and cold by the time the rescuers reached me. Slowly we made the long, treacherous climb to the top. As I inched over the top of the cliff, I saw my ten-year-old son. He hugged me and began to cry. Twenty people stood around to congratulate me for attempting to rescue the woman. But I knew the real thanks belonged to our Father in Heaven, whose power kept me safe and brought me from the canyon.

James S. Colt, a dentist, serves in the bishopric of the Evergreen Ward, Golden Colorado Stake. Leslie, his wife, is a free-lance writer and serves in the Relief Society presidency.

A Four-Year-Old’s Prayer

“Brian!” I called. “Where is the calculator you were playing with? I’m ready to use it now.”

Report cards were due out tomorrow, and I was running late. I still had the scores to tally for three subjects, and then I needed to transcribe grades to the cards.

“Brian!” my voice was rising. “I need the calculator now!

Brian ran into the bedroom, where I sat surrounded by a pile of papers. I could tell he had recognized my “I’m-on-the-verge-of-losing-my-temper” voice. He seemed smaller than his usual four-year-old self as he said, “I’ve lost it, Mom.”

We searched the house for the calculator, looking everywhere—under beds, in drawers, in bookcases. We even emptied the clothes hamper.

I finally sent Brian to bed with a curt “I guess I’ll have to find it myself.” I couldn’t look at him as I left the room.

I searched for twenty minutes more with no results. I was beginning to panic. It was too late to go to the store to buy another calculator, and I knew I would be up all night if I had to add the scores on paper. I began to cry and decided I needed to pray, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to our Father in Heaven until I had talked to my son.

Humbly, I entered Brian’s room and sat down beside him on the bed.

“Brian, I’m sorry,” I faltered, awkwardly. “I know you didn’t mean to lose the calculator. I think we need Heavenly Father’s help to find it.”

Tears came as Brian said he was sorry. Together we knelt and he offered a prayer. He told Heavenly Father that he was sorry he had lost the calculator and that I really needed it. Would Heavenly Father please help him remember where he had left it?

I said a silent prayer of my own, hoping I could match my son’s faith.

After we had finished praying, Brian sat on my lap and we talked about where he had last played. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw the calculator under the bathroom rug. At the same time, Brian said he thought he remembered playing in the bathroom. I suggested he go check there again. He walked straight to the rug and found the calculator.

With eyes shining, he handed the calculator to me. We hugged each other, rejoicing.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Steve Kropp

Tere Weir, a homemaker, teaches Relief Society and is a Cub Scout den leader in the Clearfield (Utah) Thirteenth Ward.