One Hundred Pounds of Potatoes
Our family lived in Hamburg, Germany, during World War I when food was rationed. City-dwellers often tried to purchase food from farmers, who sometimes had a little surplus. When I was fourteen years old, my mother gave me money for a railroad ticket and sent me to the country to try to buy food.
After a two-hour train ride, I arrived at a village where I disembarked and began walking door to door. Though I visited more than forty houses, no one would sell me anything.
I was determined not to return home empty-handed and decided to walk the 4.5 kilometers to the next village where the train did not go. After walking about forty-five minutes and visiting all the houses along the way, I found a farmer who sold me one hundred pounds of potatoes. I could not believe my luck! The most I had hoped for was a pound of butter or a few pounds of bacon.
The farmer lifted the sack of potatoes crosswise onto my shoulders, and I started back the way I had come. Before long, I realized the difficulty of my task—the potatoes weighed at least as much as I did. If I dropped my load onto the roadside and rested, I feared that I might not be able to lift it back onto my shoulders.
In the midst of this dilemma, I recalled my mother, who had taught me the scriptures and the power of prayer. I remembered an episode in the Book of Mormon where the Nephites, who were in bondage to the Lamanites, asked the Lord to lighten their burdens. The Lord had answered their prayers, and it occurred to me that the Lord might also lighten the weight of my burden. (See Mosiah 24:15.)
I began to pray. Instantly, I felt as if the load had been taken off my shoulders. I was able to walk with ease all of the way to the train station without resting.
At the station, another miracle occurred. Village police had the authority to confiscate any food found on passengers. Many people tried to hide their food, but there was no way I could hide the hundred-pound sack of potatoes. However, as I boarded the train, nothing was said, and I was allowed to take the potatoes home to my mother.
My search for food brought my family the physical nourishment we needed during a difficult time and developed in me an unshakable testimony that the Lord hears and answers prayers.
My Nonmember Missionary
As a young mother, I felt strongly that my husband and I should take our son to church. Although we had never discussed religion, we both believed in God. So I prayed, infrequently at first, that God would help me to know which church to attend.
I had attended church as a child. My mother had died when I was six years old, leaving my father with eight children, including a nine-day-old baby. The following years were difficult, but I felt safe and comfortable in church. It was there that I learned to love God and to pray.
When our first child was four years old, we had another son. I still didn’t know which church to join, but my prayers began to be more frequent and sincere.
Eighteen months later, my prayers became fervent. We were living in an apartment building in Davenport, Iowa. I loved to read, but I had read everything in our house. A new family from California had just moved in across the hall from us. I decided to get acquainted with my new neighbor; perhaps she had something good to read.
As soon as our son was off to school, I went visiting. After introductions and some small talk, I told her why I had come. She said they hadn’t had room in their rental truck to move their books, so they had had to leave them behind. However, she did have one book with her. It was the Book of Mormon.
My neighbor asked me if I had ever heard of the Mormons and I said, “Only what I learned in history class about Brigham Young leading pioneers to Utah.” Then she asked me if I liked history, and I replied yes. Then I would like the Book of Mormon, she said, because it was a history of some early Americans. I was excited since I had often wondered about the Indians and where they had come from. She then began to tell me about Joseph Smith and how he had found golden plates and translated them. I was fascinated.
I was quite surprised to discover that my neighbor was not a member of the Church. Missionaries had taught her the gospel in California and she was sure it was true, but she felt unable to live the Word of Wisdom. “Be sure to read the Joseph Smith story first,” she told me. “You may borrow this Book of Mormon, but I want it back when you are finished.”
As I read Joseph Smith’s story, it was as though I were there with him, and I knew it was true. My neighbor checked in on me occasionally and was glad to hear that I believed what I was reading.
When I was about halfway through the book, I had to return it because we were moving. I didn’t want to let the book go, but my neighbor told me that I could call the missionaries and they would be glad to bring me a Book of Mormon of my own.
After we moved, I thought about calling the missionaries, but I kept putting it off. “Well, if this is really God’s true church,” I rationalized, “they will find me.”
One morning, as I was getting our son ready for school, I yelled at him, which was something I just never did. I immediately apologized, but I could see the hurt in his eyes. As he left, I watched him out the window, walking down the sidewalk with his head hanging down. He was usually so happy. I felt terrible, and in tears, I fell to my knees, begging Heavenly Father to forgive me. After praying for quite a while, I again asked God to please let me know in some way if the Book of Mormon was true and if this was his true church.
At ten o’clock that morning, there was a knock on my door. I opened it to see two young men dressed in suits. They told me that they were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I invited them in. Before long, they told me that when they prayed that morning asking to be guided to those who were seeking the truth, they had felt inspired to come to this area. At first they thought they must be wrong since this area had been tracted several times, but they both felt inspired to return, so they did.
I was baptized about two weeks later. Eighteen years later, my husband was also baptized; he served in the branch presidency, and we were sealed in the temple.
I am thankful for the Book of Mormon and for missionaries who were in tune with the Spirit enough that they knew where to find the one who was praying for their visit.
“Maybe I Can Help”
Years ago I was one of thirty zoology students from Brigham Young University on a field expedition to Arches National Park. We left our textbooks behind and on a clear October morning boarded a rumbling old bus.
After two exciting days of climbing among the arches and rocks, we packed our gear, stowed it on the bus, and headed for Provo. After reaching the main highway, we stopped for gas at the only station in sight—an old, run-down structure. Beyond the station, as far as I could see, were brown scrubgrass, tumbleweeds, and sand.
With gas tanks filled, the bus pulled away from the station, went about fifty yards, then sputtered to a stop. Bill, the driver, turned the key. The engine started momentarily and then failed. Over and over he tried in vain to start the bus. But it soon became evident that it was not going to start again. Our professor, Dr. Joseph Murphy, and Bill clambered out of the bus and began checking under the hood.
Meanwhile, a red pickup truck with a forty-foot trailer pulled up to the gas pump. A middle-aged man with a cigarette in his hand climbed out of the truck and filled it with gas. Instead of going on his way, he sauntered over to our bus. As I eyed his dirty blue jeans and tattered white shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled inside the sleeve, I thought how his appearance could easily lead some to consider him crude and rough.
“Having trouble, I see,” he remarked to Dr. Murphy.
“We sure are.”
“Maybe I can help,” answered the stranger. “What seems to be the problem?”
Before long, it became obvious that this man had more knowledge about the mechanics of a bus than anyone else in the group. It also became apparent that he had more than just a passing curiosity in our predicament. As one hour rolled into the next, he continued to work on the problem. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he had been on his way somewhere; he was determined to fix our bus. At one point he even pushed our bus with his pickup truck, the forty-foot trailer still hitched behind.
After four hours, he walked over to the pop machine and bought himself a drink. Then he called everyone else over. One by one, he dropped his coins into the machine as each of us made our selection. Then, without a word he turned and walked to his truck, climbed in and drove off. None of us could believe he would leave without even receiving a thank you. Unbeknownst to us, he was going for a carburetor part.
Dr. Murphy telephoned the Brigham Young University transportation services shop, and one of the mechanics gave him suggestions on how to adjust the carburetor. Later, as I sat on the steps of the station watching him and Bill work, the phone in the booth next to me began to ring. I picked up the receiver and, to my surprise, it was our friend who had driven away so hastily.
“I’m in Moab looking for a part,” he said. “I’ll call back in thirty minutes.”
The news spread quickly through the group, but a short time later someone shouted, “The bus is fixed.” Cheers flew up from all around. Finally, it was time to go home.
We boarded the bus, excited to be on our way. Dr. Murphy climbed aboard and stood at the front. “It will be fifteen minutes before our friend calls back. I think we should take a vote. Should we go or stay and wait for his phone call?”
In a loud chorus we voiced our decision, “Stay!”
As we waited in the darkened bus, there was no loud chattering or excitement. Instead, quiet prevailed as each of us seemed to be sharing reverent wonder at this man’s concern for our welfare. Just then, the service station owner came running over.
“Your friend just called. He was unable to locate the part. I let him know the bus was fixed. He said to tell you ‘Good luck.’”
As we drove home in the dark, I reflected on the past six hours. I wondered if I would have done the same thing in a similar situation. My thoughts went to the scriptures. “A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” (Luke 10:33.) Could I live up to this example of a modern-day Good Samaritan? I hoped I could.