Diving for food is a way of life for me. I learned to swim as a three-year-old and soon developed a love for diving and the beauties of the peaceful undersea world. With snorkel and flippers, I learned to stay underwater for several minutes and gather sea eggs, crayfish, and pauas, a New Zealand abalone—all of which made up a substantial part of our family’s diet.
Wellington Harbor, New Zealand, is a combination of deep inlets and craggy rocks. I often dive there with a friend, who usually rows our small boat. As I catch seafoods, I place them in bags tied to an inner tube, which also serves as a resting-place for me between dives. One day, as my friend and I followed our usual route along the current that flows toward Cook Strait, we came to a place where a small channel, about one hundred meters long, passes between two large rocks. When the boat passed through the channel, the sea was calm and there was no wind. I followed, cautiously avoiding the rocks. About halfway along the channel I began to feel uneasy as I noticed a peculiar change in the sea. Waves suddenly churned around me. At first I could ride them, but as they became larger, it was difficult for me to swim and I was forced backward. Exerting all my strength, I struggled toward the nearest rock and took shelter behind it from the waves. I looked for an opening, but there was no way of escape. Afraid of losing my goggles and flippers, I desperately hung onto my inner tube as I was suddenly engulfed by even larger waves crashing over the rock.
“This is it,” I thought. My life flashed before my eyes—along with images of my wife and children. My prayer was brief and fervent. I put my life in the Lord’s hands—if he decided that I should die then, so be it; if not, I promised to do whatever I was called to do.
Immediately a feeling of peace and relief passed over me. I opened my eyes and, to my amazement, saw a small grayish-green corridor through the channel, just wide enough for me to pass through the turbulence on either side. The channel current miraculously flowed toward the shore, and as I slid onto the inner tube I felt that a guiding hand was pushing me along that calm passage to safety in shallower waters. I knew my prayer had been answered.
Once safe, I looked back at the channel. The waves lashed the rocks, and my corridor of rescue disappeared. I have often looked for it since that day, but I have never seen it again.
Six weeks after this event, I was called to be the president of our struggling elders quorum. While I served as president, our quorum grew from three active members to forty active members, of which thirty received their temple endowments. From that group have come several bishops, two stake presidents, four counselors in stake presidencies, and many high councilors. I feel that the Lord preserved me so I could help to accomplish this reactivation.
The “Insignificant” Scripture
Several years ago, as I began to prepare my Sunday School lesson for that week, I was surprised to find that it included ten sections from the Doctrine and Covenants. “We can’t cover that much in the short lesson time,” I thought. “We’ll have to skip over some of the sections.”
Early in the week I decided that section 111 was one that could be skipped. The words follies, treasure, gold and silver, ancient inhabitants didn’t communicate clearly to me. Frankly, I didn’t understand what it was all about, and it didn’t seem particularly significant.
Later in the week, I reread the section and wondered what was meant by the word follies. Maybe they had to do with what had taken the First Presidency to Salem, Massachusetts.
As I read the superscription above the revelation and then studied more about the event, I learned that a man named Burgess had come to Kirtland, claiming that he knew of a large amount of money hidden in a house in Salem. The Prophet Joseph Smith and others had gone to Salem in hopes of finding that money and using it to relieve the Church’s debts. But the trip had proved to be folly when Burgess couldn’t decide which house contained the treasure.
Even so, the Lord was “not displeased” with the journey. (D&C 111:1.) The Lord reminded the Prophet that there were other treasures besides gold and silver for which they might search: “I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality.” (D&C 111:2.)
As I studied, I discovered that missionary Erastus Snow turned out to be an important key. According to his journal, Elder Snow was returning home to Nauvoo in 1841 (five years after the revelation that produced Doctrine and Covenants section 111), when he met some other missionaries, including Hyrum Smith. Hyrum urged Elder Snow and his companion, William Law, to forgo their trip home and pursue missionary labors in Salem.
“They left us a copy of a revelation given about that people in 1836 which said the Lord had much people there whom he would gather into his kingdom in his own due time and they thought the due time of the Lord had come,” Elder Snow wrote. He then went to Salem. (See Erastus Snow Journal, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pp. 3–5.)
The “insignificant” scripture was becoming more and more intriguing to me. The manual indicated that Elder Snow had converted a number of people. But who were they? What contributions had they made?
Suddenly, it hit me! Where were my Ashby genealogy sheets? I dug into the closet in the den. The pedigree chart provided the clue I needed. My great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Ashby, was born in Salem in 1805. Perhaps he had been there when Elder Snow had preached the gospel. I searched for my history of the Ashby family, contained in a little brown book that I finally found at my brother’s home.
Section 111, verse 9, [D&C 111:9] of the Doctrine and Covenants said that the Prophet should “inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants” of Salem. The coastal town of Salem was founded in 1626, only six years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth. In 1663 Anthony Ashby was recorded as being in Salem. Anthony was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Ashby. Since Anthony, six generations of Ashbys had lived in Salem. They had been shipwrights and shoemakers.
The little brown book (Robert Ashby, Ashby Ancestry, 1941), explained that “in 1841, Elder Erastus Snow and others brought to this family the true gospel message which they gladly accepted.” My ancestors were among the converts of Salem!
As I read about Nathaniel and his family, I discovered that Elder Snow and his wife occupied one of Nathaniel’s homes in Salem for two years, rent-free. Perhaps for the missionary, that had been a treasure better than gold. In the fall of 1843, the Ashby family moved to Nauvoo, where they shared a large duplex home with Elder Snow’s family. The Ashbys donated their wealth to help build the temple.
Members of the Ashby family were in Nauvoo on the day the Prophet Joseph was martyred. They lived only a short distance from the Prophet’s home, and one of Nathaniel’s sons wrote that he was in his father’s garden one morning in June of 1844 when the Prophet rode by on his way to Carthage. “Never shall I forget the look of deep sorrow that covered his noble countenance. That was the last time I saw him alive,” wrote the son.
Members of the Ashby family were in the congregation during the transfiguration of Brigham Young. Nathaniel’s son Benjamin wrote that “the last time I saw the features of Joseph Smith was when the form, voice, and countenance of Brigham Young was transfigured before the congregation so that he appeared like Joseph Smith in every particular.”
The Ashby family was also among those who left their homes in Nauvoo and started west. Within days, Nathaniel died in Iowa. But Susan Ashby pressed on with her eleven children, crossed the plains, and arrived in Salt Lake City. One of the Ashby daughters was my great-grandmother.
I put the little brown book down and returned to the scripture I had earlier thought insignificant. “I have much treasure in this city for you,” the Lord had said—“many people … whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion.” (D&C 111:2.)
The Prophet and other Brethren had gone to Salem in search of gold and silver. But the treasure they found was converts. And through that “treasure,” my own life and the lives of my brothers, sisters, cousins, and countless other descendants of Nathaniel Ashby have been profoundly blessed.
I grew up in a small town in Virginia where the Church had not yet been established. Although a member of another faith, I had always been interested in religion and sought to become closer to the Savior.
In the summer of my junior year of high school, I read an advertisement in Reader’s Digest about the Latter-day Saints and some of the Church’s teachings. The ad sparked my interest, so I called the toll-free number to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon.
A few weeks later, my copy arrived in the mail, and I began to read it. I kept it on my bedside table as I studied it in bits and pieces. I wasn’t sure why I was so compelled to read it.
The following spring, an experience convinced me that there was something special about this book. One evening, as I was reading the passages in the book of Mosiah that explained death and resurrection, my understanding blossomed. I was overcome by a feeling of hope and promise. The following morning, I awoke to the news that my father had died. After a few moments of grieving, I felt my heart fill with a quiet peace. I knew that the promises in Mosiah about the resurrection were true.
At that time, I had never met a Latter-day Saint, so I knew no one who could answer my many questions. After high school graduation, I moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, to attend college. The first night in my new home, I looked up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the telephone book and found it listed. I was unfamiliar with the address, but I resolved to attend church as soon as I could find my way there.
About two weeks later, I suddenly realized that the meetinghouse was only two blocks away from where I was staying. My fingers couldn’t dial the phone fast enough. I anxiously told the man who answered of my interest in the Book of Mormon. He promised to send the missionaries to teach me.
After I hung up the phone, I decided that I couldn’t wait that long, so I immediately went to the chapel, found the bishop, and said, “Teach me!” He called the missionaries, and they came right away.
Two weeks later, I was baptized. Since then, I have been richly blessed beyond measure. I am grateful for my testimony of the Book of Mormon and for President Ezra Taft Benson’s charge to take it to all the world.
Forgiving My Mother
My sister and I were no doubt the envy of many during the Depression. We grew up in a comfortable middle-class home. Our father had a job and provided well for the family. Our mother put meals on the table, shopped with us for clothes, and routinely visited her aged mother. I did not know what the Depression was until I studied it in school as a teenager.
Nevertheless, my sister and I felt deprived—emotionally deprived—by our mother. As adults, we have endlessly discussed the lack of warmth, approval, constructive criticism, moral training, and hospitality that existed in our home. Why was Mother the way we felt she was—uncaring, critical, and self-centered?
After I joined the Church, I adopted someone else’s tender, loving mother as my own. However, it still didn’t salve the hurt. Even Mother’s death provided no healing. It only meant that the yearning for her love and approval could not be fulfilled in mortality.
One day as I drove alone to the temple to be baptized for her, I prayed for Mother. Hot tears stung my eyes, and choking sobs welled up inside of me.
The sorrow and hurt I felt continued all the way to the temple and even into the baptismal font. But when I rose up out of the water, a healing balm enveloped me. It washed away all of my bitterness and longing.
I saw Mother, stalwart and whole. The Holy Ghost filled me with the awareness that my mother had been handicapped in mortal life. She had had an emotional handicap, the source of which remains a secret to me. But she is handicapped no longer. And neither am I.
How thankful I am for the Savior and for his love, which extends to me and to my now-whole mother, who is learning the lessons she could not learn in mortal life. I am eager to meet her and to share the love with her we both were deprived of on earth.
A Memorable Day in Autumn
Symbolic of yesteryear was the horse-powered threshing machine traveling through our pleasant valley during harvest-time, stopping at farms along the way. One particular Saturday morning has become especially memorable—the morning that my family’s wheat was threshed.
Sunup found us children at a vantage point in the barn window, with playmates hastening to scramble up beside us. Finally, with its clanging, banging sound, the long-awaited machine was actually making its way slowly down our lane.
Papa swung the heavy wooden gate wide for its entry. Three pyramid stacks of ripened grain stood in the stackyard, the rising sun enhancing their brightness as the lumbering monster maneuvered to the right position. Under expert management, machinery and all hands were soon organized and active. Five teams of sturdy horses plodded slowly in a circle firmly urged to a steady pace by the driver who sat on a pedestal in the center. Settling into a droning singsong, the thresher performed in a miraculous manner. Bundles of grain pitched into huge jaws were emitted as straw, chaff, and golden wheat, the latter rapidly conveyed to bins in the granary.
At noon there was an enthusiastic pause for dinner. Hearty men made their way to the back dooryard where they drank cool water from a long-handled dipper hooked conveniently over the rim of the water barrel. This life-sustaining barrel rested on a “lizard”—a large, forked log, horse-drawn, whose runners had worn smooth from oft-repeated trips to the creek for water. From the kitchen wafted savory smells introducing those hungry men to the sumptuous meal Mama provided—a feast comparable to any prepared for Thanksgiving.
By evening the threshing machine had devoured the last bundle of grain and had come to a hesitant, wheezing halt. As it was drawn back through the gate to continue its journey to other fields and other harvests, I thought nostalgically, “A whole year will pass before we will see it again.”
Our eyes scanned the somewhat depleted stackyard where numerous shocks of corn, with tassled tops, stood like sentinels. My feeling of loss that this long-awaited day was coming to an end was eased as it occurred to me that it was time for us to begin earning our Christmas spending money, shucking corn for a nickel a bushel! My family always loved working together on this harvest-time project.
Following Papa up the path to get the milk buckets, we passed a huge woodpile—abundant fuel to keep the kitchen range crackling and the fireplace blazing during the winter. As we walked through the grape arbor where the purple clusters hung, Mama came through the kitchen door to join us. Our little group settled cozily on the back steps for precious moments of “togetherness.”
The sounds of autumn became more audible. Night birds had begun their wistful calling. Across the creek, on Jack Hill, coyotes began their howling. Shortly, a breeze came whistling about the eaves, finding its place in nature’s symphony of thanksgiving.