Fear and a Priesthood Blessing
Ever since my baptism thirteen years ago, I had been confused about priesthood blessings. The sheer responsibility involved frightened me. How could the priesthood holder be sure, when he gave a blessing, that he spoke the words of the Lord and not his own well-meaning phrases? Naturally he wants the sufferer to be made well, but what if the Lord has other plans? How would the person receiving the blessing feel if, instead of becoming better as the blessing indicated, his or her condition worsened? How would the family feel if the sufferer died?
I never wanted to be in a position where I said something that the Lord didn’t want me to say. But an experience I had one spring enlightened my understanding of priesthood blessings and, more important, removed my fear.
Our nonmember neighbor, Beverley, had discovered that she had cancer. She would have to go to the hospital for surgery immediately. Assuming the worst, she confided to my wife, Carol, and me that the only question she could think of was, “Who will bring up my children?”
Although Beverley and her husband knew that we were Mormons, they knew little about the Church itself. When Carol suggested that I visit Beverley in the hospital and ask her whether she would like a priesthood blessing, I complied, but my old fears resurfaced. I had invited my good friend Keith Gould to accompany me, and, in my panic on the way to the hospital, decided that I would ask Keith to do the actual blessing. I would do the anointing.
After having made that decision, however, I remembered the patriarchal blessing I received at seventeen. Be bold in everything you do, it told me. And was this any time to back down? No. I would give the blessing, come what may.
We arrived at the hospital room, and Beverley, obviously distressed, told us that the doctor considered this operation only one in a series required to combat her cancer. She would need radiation therapy as well. As she described her concerns for her children, Keith and I sat on the bed. We listened, then explained to her about priesthood blessings for the sick.
Beverley readily agreed to the blessing, and my anxiety increased tenfold. What would I say? I wanted Bev to recover, but what if the Lord didn’t intend for her to get better? What would she think of the Church and its priesthood if I blessed her that she would be made whole and the doctors found her riddled with cancer?
I sat on the bed with turmoil mounting inside me when suddenly the strangest thing happened. Quite unmistakenly, I received a clear message: Beverley was going to get better. This was not wishful thinking on my part—the message came directly from the Spirit. Keith anointed Beverley, and I gave the blessing, telling her that she would be made well and would live to raise her children.
The operation the next day was a success. No further operations or even radiation treatments were required. Bev’s crisis had passed, and so had mine.
After thirteen years, I finally realized that I had been so afraid of getting the blessing wrong that I hadn’t been listening to the Lord. Sometimes we have to show courage—and faith—in order to discover the Lord’s will and to be sure the words that we speak are his.
Friedrichsdorf, a Hallowed Refuge
When we were called in 1987 to serve in the Frankfurt Germany Temple, President Thomas S. Monson set my husband, Rudi W. B. Mueller, apart as a counselor in the temple presidency. Then he set me apart as assistant matron. The experience was both comforting and powerful. The words of Proverbs 3:5 came into my mind: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” [Prov. 3:5] Never before had any passage of scripture spoken to me with such power.
When we arrived in the small town of Friedrichsdorf, where the temple is located, we felt much joy at the opportunity to serve in our native land and speak our native tongue. Though the temple was still under construction, we felt a great sense of reverence as we toured the site.
Concurrent with our arrival, the town of Friedrichsdorf was celebrating its founding three hundred years earlier. The town’s officials welcomed us in the city hall and presented us with a written history of Friedrichsdorf. I was fascinated as I read that the founders of the town had come from France seeking refuge from religious persecution. They had been known as “Huguenots” by their persecutors who also cried, “Change your beliefs or you will be driven out.” Even in such threatening situations, the Huguenots had remained true to their goal “to obey God more than man.” Finally, on 13 March 1687, Count Friedrich II of Hessen-Homburg gave these “fugitives” refuge in his territory. Originally, the Huguenots named their town “Nouveau Village” (New Village) but later changed its name to Friedrichsdorf in gratitude to Count Friedrich II.
These were a people with impressive skills in the weaving of wool products. Their craftsmanship was apparent in everything they did. They built a chapel and called it a temple—with the hope of a greater fulfillment of their eternal desires in seeking the truth.
As I read of these people, I thought how much they resembled our own Latter-day Saint pioneers. I came to love them and developed a desire to locate and view their records. However, when I did find them, I was not able to research them. Besides, they were written in French. I began looking for somebody who could help. After a number of frustrated attempts to find someone to help, I located the town librarian, who introduced me to the man who was in charge of the archives in Friedrichsdorf. Without asking or saying much, this man showed my husband and me a book about the people of Friedrichsdorf. It was organized by families and contained the complete names, dates, and locations of all the births, marriages, and deaths from 1687 to 1900.
As we held this book, the Spirit bore witness to us that many of these men and women, now on the other side of the veil, had prayed that their names would be found and that their temple work would be performed. Now, three hundred years after they had founded their city of refuge, their prayers would be answered.
The love I felt for those people literally pushed me to type the information onto family group sheets in every spare moment I could find. Later, two temple missionaries, Helen Hechtle and Ingeborg Fassmann, assisted me in preparing these names for temple work. From the time the Frankfurt Temple was dedicated on 28 August 1987 to our release in the spring of 1989, we completed 1,666 family group sheets. Work for 5,002 endowments and 1,651 marriage sealings had also been approved.
In our hearts and in our minds, my husband and I know that Friedrichsdorf is a hallowed place founded by a chosen people. How appropriate that their temple work would be done in the same city where they had found refuge.
Pipes Walking through the Snow
I had recently become a single mother, and my three small sons and I had moved to an old family cabin located in the San Bernardino National Forest. During the winter months, because we did not have central heating in the cabin, we became accustomed to closing off most of the rooms. We began living, playing, and sleeping in just one room besides the kitchen.
I will never forget the first time my new home teachers, George Stehmeier and his son Richard, came to visit. As they sat in the living room, they noticed that my children were wearing parkas and that our home seemed unusually cold.
Viewing their chilly discomfort, I volunteered to place another log on the fire. They laughed at the suggestion and said, “If your boys can tough it out, so can we!” Then, in earnest, Brother Stehmeier asked, “What’s wrong with your heating system?”
I smiled. “Nothing’s wrong with the heating system. We just don’t have one.” The conversation then moved to other subjects.
Before leaving, Brother Stehmeier asked my boys to show him the other rooms. Gleefully they took him and his son throughout the old, rambling cabin, showing him their secret hideouts.
The next day, Sunday, Brother Stehmeier stood in his high priests group meeting and asked his brethren, “What would you say if I told you that a young woman and her three small children were living in our mountains with no heating system?” Some responded that they wouldn’t believe it. He then said, “Well, there is, and that young woman is a member of our ward. Her name is Susan Easton.”
On Monday afternoon, four-year-old Brian looked out the window and said, “Mom, there are some pipes walking through the snow.”
I thought Brian was making up a story until he pulled me to the window and pointed outside. Sure enough, several pipes were coming up the mountain—on the backs of some of the high priests from the ward. They were carrying in a heating system for us.
They spent the better part of the day installing the pipes and assorted parts, crawling and squeezing where only spiders had ventured before. I opened up cans of tomato soup and tuna fish to feed them as they worked.
At last they finished. As I tested the system for the first time, it wasn’t just physical warmth that flooded the cabin. Love and gratitude also filled our hearts. Not only would we have heat during the winter, but we had built a warm bond of friendship that would last throughout the years.
Something to Live For
The day was almost over. Only fifteen minutes more, I thought as I drove across the bridge on my way back to the police station. The water in the river looked so peaceful and tranquil as I looked out over the railing toward the setting sun. Then I saw a man standing outside the railing, his head barely noticeable above the road’s surface. I stopped, called in my observation to the station, and walked over to the railing.
“Don’t come any closer,” warned the young man, who was holding on to the bridge framework. Our eyes met, and I knew what he was contemplating—and he knew that I knew. I sensed that it wouldn’t take much for him to let go.
What could I say to prevent this man in such despair from ending his life? Memories of my police training raced through my mind: Take your time. Keep him talking. Don’t get him excited. I was afraid that if I did anything wrong, this man might actually kill himself. What should I do?
I began as simply as I could—to stall for time. “Hi. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I said in as calm and matter-of-fact a voice as I could command.
I felt some relief when he answered calmly, “I don’t think so.”
Maybe time would be on my side, I thought. “My name is Gary. What’s yours?” I said.
“Steve,” he answered. “Why do you want to know?”
In those few seconds, I thought of every success and failure I had ever experienced in human communication, and I also thought about how precious life was. Only a few seconds passed, but they seemed like an eternity. In my mind, I asked Heavenly Father for strength and guidance. I immediately felt a sweet, calming reassurance. Why can’t Steve feel that same reassurance? I thought. I know of no better way to convince a person of the value of life than to testify of the divine truths that give us a reason to live. So I began. “I’d like to be your friend, Steve. I’d like to help.”
“You can’t help. No one can,” he replied.
“I don’t believe that, Steve. Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you mean” he asked timidly.
“Are you married?”
“Any children?” I continued.
Steve began telling me about his five-year-old daughter, but stopped as soon as some of my backup officers arrived. “Who are they?” Steve asked, his voice again on edge.
I motioned for the officers to stay back. “They’re some of my friends,” I told Steve. “They’re concerned about you, too.”
“Don’t let them come any closer,” he said.
“Don’t worry—I won’t,” I answered, relieved.
Steve and I continued to talk. He still hung on to the outside of the bridge; I sat on the curb about six feet away. We talked about his family and his career as a technician with a successful computer firm. It sounded to me as if he had everything going for him. I searched for things to say, hoping to discover the root of the problem, and yet praying that in doing so, I would not make him panic and try to jump.
I knew the other officers were trying to get into a position to help, yet I had the feeling that Steve and I would be standing together shaking hands before too long—as long as I could keep him talking. I hoped that it was the Spirit making me feel that way. So, with renewed vigor, I ventured on more bravely. “Steve, from what I’ve been hearing, I just don’t understand why you’re standing on that side of the bridge.”
“There’s some things I don’t understand, either,” replied Steve. “I don’t understand why you seem to care so much.” He paused, then stammered, “I—I—I feel like I’m talking to a minister. I feel like I want to tell you things I can’t even talk to my wife about. Why?”
I prayed as I listened, and the Spirit guided me as I talked. I felt such joy as I felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost in such an important matter. “Do you believe in God?” I asked.
“I think so. I’d like to believe there’s a God,” he replied.
“There is, Steve. I know with every fiber of my being. God lives, and he loves you and me. He has a grand and glorious purpose for us in this life.”
“How do you know all this?” he asked.
I stood up and reached toward him. Steve reached out, took my hand, and climbed back over the railing. We shook hands.
“It’s not hard to know,” I said. “Would you like to know more about God?”
“Yes, I really would,” he said, then hesitated and added, “Gary.”
I had helped save Steve’s life; but even more important, I had begun to share my testimony with him that life has a purpose and that God loves and cares about each one of us. It was this knowledge that gave him something to live for.