What Fire Alarm?
The day started typically enough. I was sewing a dress for my two-year-old daughter, Nancy, and still enjoying the sense of accomplishment I felt after having made a suit for my five-year-old son, David, from one of my husband’s old suits. I would rather have gone to the store to buy clothes for my children, but we were on a tight budget. I knew, however, that this time of financial challenge was only temporary. My husband, Clifton, would soon be graduating from Ohio State University with his Ph.D.
Since there was an extreme housing shortage, I was grateful to be in our own little upstairs apartment, even though it was in a World War II army barracks that had been converted into married student housing.
Engrossed with my sewing project, I was startled back to reality by a loud fire alarm. I acted quickly, knowing that my children and I could be trapped upstairs in a wooden barracks apartment. I hurriedly picked up Nancy and took David by the hand. I opened the door and ran to the hallway stairs. They were clear, so we ran down the stairs and out of the building.
Sure enough, there was a fire in the furnace room directly below our apartment. Firemen were frantically working to put it out.
As we waited outside for them to subdue the fire, I noticed that no one else was standing outside the building but me and my children. I was curious. After the fire was out, I asked the firemen, dirty and exhausted from fighting the fire, why no one else had left the building when the fire alarm had sounded. When they told me there was no alarm in the building, I was speechless. I knew I had heard a fire alarm!
Did I imagine that alarm? Although no serious damage resulted from the fire, we had certainly been in danger, since our apartment was directly above it. This incident has become a testimony to me that the Spirit can be with us and warn us if necessary.
My Weapon against Smoking
During high school, I picked up the smoking habit while working at a local gas station. I’m not sure if it was the smoking or something else that kept me from attending church, though I did attend seminary. But I do know that my habit kept me from considering a mission. Whenever I heard President Spencer W. Kimball say that every worthy young man should fulfill a mission, I told myself that since I smoked, I wasn’t a worthy young man and therefore didn’t have to go on a mission.
Unfortunately, each time I heard a talk about going on a mission, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me that I wasn’t exempt from the prophet’s admonition. As my nineteenth birthday approached, the Spirit increasingly touched my heart. I knew that I should change my life and go on a mission.
I became active in the Church again. Still, smoking continued to be a stumbling block that kept me from serving a mission. I had smoked for about four years, but I didn’t think it would be too difficult to quit. I was wrong. I stopped several times, but each time I started again after only a day or two.
I talked to my friends about quitting, but I became even more discouraged when they told me that it seemed impossible for them to quit smoking. I soon realized that I needed to stay away from any places, people, or situations that prompted me to smoke. I did everything I could to overcome this invisible bondage, but I always ended up giving in to the temptation.
The constant mental conflict I went through hurt my self-esteem and left me feeling weak. For the first time since I had started smoking, I clearly understood the chains that Satan had around me, and I felt the anguish of a slave. I could see plainly why I had received so many warnings about the sorrow that would result from not keeping the Word of Wisdom, but now those ignored warnings only added to my discouragement.
I came to the cold realization that if I was going to quit smoking, it was now or never. If I couldn’t muster the strength to change at this crucial point in my life, when I had the motivation to change, then I would likely never change.
After several days of waging war within myself, I finally went to a quiet place where I could be alone to talk to my Heavenly Father. I prayed with more sincerity than I had ever prayed before. I thanked the Lord for the help he had given me in changing my life thus far and pleaded for strength that I might clear this last, critical hurdle. When I arose from my knees, I resolved, with all my energies, to quit smoking.
This time, even though the outward situation was the same as it had been before, the inward situation was quite different. I still had the urge to smoke when I saw others smoking, but when the urge came, I quickly went to a place where I couldn’t be seen, bowed my head, and said a silent prayer for strength. I was immediately filled with willpower and easily overcame the short-term desire to smoke. I went back to work with my mind free of the temptation. A few hours later, when the urge returned, a silent prayer quickly dispelled it again. This process went on, with the impulse to smoke growing weaker until it was completely gone.
It felt great to be free from such a spiritually cankering habit, but I knew that without the special help that had come in my moment of desperation, I would never have won the battle. The strength I had received from God to overcome this problem was a weapon as real as David’s sling when he slew Goliath.
A few months after I quit smoking, I left for a full-time mission. On my mission, I met a family who had been investigating the Church for many years. They had come close to baptism several times, but the fact that the father smoked was the major stumbling block keeping them from Church membership.
The first night we visited the family, the father told us how he had tried to quit smoking but had always given in to the temptation. I explained to him that I knew exactly what he was going through. Then I told him how prayer had helped me overcome a similar challenge in my life. I bore my testimony to him that he could overcome his addiction if he used sincere prayer.
When we returned a week later, the father met us at the door with a smile on his face. He had some good news. He had not smoked since our last visit. His family beamed with pride as he described how he had prayed as he stood outside the store where he normally purchased tobacco, and how his silent prayers had given him the strength to walk on. A few weeks later, he and his family were baptized.
I understand better now what President David O. McKay meant when he said, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”
“Golden Rule” Prayer
My parents were faced with the task of preparing to move seven children under the age of ten, including a one-day-old baby, to Flagstaff, Arizona, in two weeks. My Aunt Renee, who lived in Logan, Utah, wanted to come to Thatcher, Arizona, to help. But Aunt Renee also had a young family, and she was unable to leave her own home responsibilities. So she turned to the Lord in prayer—her never-failing source of help.
Aunt Renee prayed fervently, asking Heavenly Father to please send help to her sister in Thatcher. In return, she offered to help her neighbor across the street who also had a new baby. Then, with unwavering faith, Aunt Renee helped her neighbor every day for several days.
Unaware of my aunt’s prayer, our neighbors and ward members in Thatcher showered my mother with what seemed an extra outpouring of love and service. They provided meals for our family and gifts for the new baby. One neighbor even cleaned our house every day until we moved to Flagstaff.
Aunt Renee was not surprised when she received my mother’s letter telling of the “extra-mile” service by the people of Thatcher. She knew a prayer had been answered.
“Your Son Has a Brain Tumor”
One Sunday morning during church, our seven-year-old son, Joey, became ill. My wife, Anne-Marie Boutross, and I left early with him. On the way home Joey had a seizure. Barely breathing, he turned white and then went limp.
We raced to a hospital emergency room in St. Petersburg, Florida. After an examination, the doctor told us, “Your son has a brain tumor the size of a golf ball.” My first thought was to give Joey a blessing, and I called one of my priesthood brothers for assistance.
I knew what I wanted to say in the blessing, but I asked Brother Jonathan Harman to be the voice because I wanted the will of Father in Heaven to be done. In the blessing, Brother Harman said that it was a trial, but he told Joey, “You will be well.”
Joey was transported to the intensive care ward at a children’s hospital. Within the hour, a surgeon told us Joey had a very deep neuroblastoma tumor. He also told us that if Joey made it through the operation, he would be at least 50 percent paralyzed, since the doctors would be operating in the motor reflex area of his brain. Brain scans performed on Monday confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis.
On Tuesday, Joey was transported to the hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where pediatric neurosurgery is taught. That morning Joey lost the use of his right arm, and later that evening, the use of his right leg. That night, his physician requested that I meet with him. “If Joey makes it through the operation,” he told me, “he’ll have two years at the most to live.”
Wednesday morning, Brother and Sister Harman arrived at the hospital to stay with us through the lengthy operation. The entire stake was fasting for us.
As the operation began, an angiogram pinpointed the exact location of Joey’s tumor. “It’s pretty bad,” we were told. “It’s deeply rooted in the brain.” Two hours into the operation, the doctor called us again. “You had better prepare for the worst,” he said.
Brother Harman, disconsolate, told his wife, “I was impressed by the Spirit to say what I said.” Sister Harman relayed his words to Anne-Marie and added, “He feels bad that he gave you hope that Joey would be all right. But he truly felt inspired to say, ‘You will be well.’”
Almost another two hours passed before the doctor called again. “I don’t know how to tell you this—Joey is in the recovery room moving all of his limbs. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. When I went back, the tumor was completely defined and sitting on top of his brain. It’s as if someone put his hand into Joey’s brain and lifted the tumor out. Your boy is going to be well.”
Later when the doctor met with us, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “The tumor just lifted right out. I can’t explain what happened, but Joey is looking at a cure.”
One week later Joey was out of the hospital, and within two weeks he was back in school.
Seven months later, Joey was reexamined. The surgeon reported, “This brain scan is as perfect as that of any normal child.” Other reports indicated that the tumor had not been cancerous, and there was no sign of recurrent problems or even any scar tissue.
We had experienced a miracle.