Mormon Journal

By


The Empty Chair

Sister Bessan watched the children file into the classroom. She tried to imagine their personalities from their facial expressions: What were they like? She hadn’t had a seven-year-old in her home for several years now, and she had been slightly apprehensive about accepting a calling as a Primary teacher. But her uneasiness disappeared when she looked in the children’s faces.

She was certainly glad that someone had placed enough chairs in the room, for all eleven of her young students were in attendance. As her eyes scanned the room, however, she noticed an empty chair standing alone behind the children. It seemed to be calling her. Sister Bessan shrugged off the uneasy feeling and began welcoming her class.

The eager-to-learn expressions and smiling faces excited her. Calling the roll was a must this first time: She wanted to call each child by name, to make each feel loved and special. But as the last “here” sounded, the empty chair again drew her attention. “How could someone be missing?” she wondered. No other names appeared on the roll.

Again shrugging off the unexplained feeling, she continued with the lesson and, much too soon, the class period ended. As the children found their benches at Sharing Time, Sister Bessan found herself turning around to look for another child, even though she knew that all of “her” children were there.

When prayer closed the meeting and the children left to find their parents, Sister Bessan walked home with a feeling of accomplishment. She thought of her class—surely the best in the Primary—of her family, and, for some reason, of the empty chair. She could visualize it—standing in the room all alone—and the feeling returned. Again and again she could picture it, feeling more and more uneasy.

What is this chair trying to tell me? she wondered. She had seen a lot of empty chairs in her life, but none of them had affected her in this way. For the next two Sundays, there it stood. Even when two of the children were absent, only one empty chair was there, each time giving her an uneasy feeling.

She began praying about the chair, asking Heavenly Father to help her understand why it seemed to beckon her. She prayed several times about the same question, but didn’t receive an answer.

One morning she stood at her front window watching the children passing her house on the way to school. To her surprise, a big yellow school bus slowly came down her street—an unusual occurrence, since all of the children in Sister Bessan’s neighborhood walked to school. As she wondered what the bus was doing in her subdivision, the bus stopped at a house that used to be in another ward before the ward’s boundaries were changed.

A young mother pushing a wheelchair came out of the house; in the wheelchair was a red-haired little boy. The bus driver paused while the mother kissed the boy, then he lifted the wheelchair into the bus with a lever and drove off. The mother waved goodbye to the child before going back into the house.

As Sister Bessan turned to go inside her home, the Spirit spoke to her with a burning feeling so strong that it almost took her breath away. That child in the wheelchair was supposed to be in her class. The empty chair was his. She knelt by her sofa to thank Heavenly Father for answering her prayers.

She called the Primary president to ask about the boy and learned that his name was Shawn and his family was indeed active in the ward. But Shawn had always attended his parents’ Sunday School class because of his severe handicap. A few days later Sister Bessan visited Shawn’s home and invited him and his parents to visit her class.

The following Sunday, Shawn and his mother came to her Primary class, wheelchair and all. Sister Bessan wasn’t surprised to find only enough chairs for those present. The empty chair’s space had been filled with a very special chair.

LouDeene S. Barlocker is the mother of nine children, including Shawn, who enjoyed Sister Bessan’s Primary class until his death shortly after he began attending. Sister Barlocker lives in the Murray Thirty-Second Ward, Murray Utah North Stake.

Prayer and Popcorn

Because of my husband’s navy career, we have lived in many different places all over the world. With each move, we have fasted and prayed for guidance about which state, city, neighborhood, and house we should live in. Each move has brought us new missionary opportunities, and we have learned that if we listen to the promptings of the Spirit, the Lord will guide us to where we should go.

Our move to Hawaii was a little different. Since our commanding officer assigned us to live in a house on the base, there was no need for us to fast or pray about where to live. We felt as though the Lord had placed us in Hawaii specifically to help someone who needed the gospel.

Some time after our move to Hawaii, our mission president challenged us to ask the Lord to help us find someone who had been prepared to hear the gospel. My husband and I prayed to know who it should be.

Soon afterward, a friend mentioned to me that she wanted us to meet her neighbor, Debbie. After I met her, the Spirit whispered to me that she was the one I was to share the gospel with. However, this worried me, since Debbie was actively affiliated with the Protestant services on the base. Furthermore, one of her close friends, a chaplain on the base, was a good friend of ours, too. How could I share the gospel with Debbie without risking the friendship I had developed with the chaplain and his wife?

I proceeded with caution and decided just to be an example and a friend to Debbie. One day, while visiting with her, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me clearly, “This is mine elect. The elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts. Share the gospel with her now!”

This thought came to me with such force that my entire being was filled with the Spirit and my eyes welled up with tears. I could no longer wait to share the light and truth of the gospel with my friend. So I did. As we discussed religion and spoke of our feelings, I was prompted to let her borrow our videotape copy of How Rare A Possession.

After she left, I was sure she would watch the tape immediately. But a month went by, and she still hadn’t watched it. I wanted to think I had done my part, but the Spirit whispered that I could do more. I called Debbie and asked her if I could bring some popcorn over and watch the videotape with her. She agreed.

This was the beginning of many gospel discussions. Two weeks later, Debbie, her husband, and their three children were baptized. What joy filled my soul!

I have gained a testimony that the Lord works through us to bring others into the Church. I have learned that it does not take a perfect person to do missionary work—it just takes a person willing to ask and act.

Mary Ralls, a member of the Rolling Valley Ward, Annandale Virginia Stake, serves as stake Primary president.

A Light in the Blizzard

The blizzard in rural Wales, Utah, had begun that January morning in 1927 and had continued throughout the day.

As darkness approached, I hurriedly did the farm chores after school. I was fourteen, and the death of my father the year before had left his sons with heavy responsibilities that even a blizzard couldn’t change.

When I had finished my chores, my mother called to me. She was deeply concerned that evening about the safety of my younger brother, Lawrence, who was herding sheep and was camped in a sheepherder’s wagon three miles from town. I offered to check on him, but Mom was reluctant, fearing that I would get lost in the blizzard.

I argued that I could make the trip safely. There was a lane with a fence on both sides for nearly half the distance to Lawrence’s camp. Then, even though the lane opened up into a 640-acre field of brushland, I could find my way by staying close to the fence line and traveling north. This would bring me to the approximate location of the camp.

With considerable anxiety and apprehension, mother agreed that I should check on my brother.

Because of the deep drifts, my progress through the lane was slow, and my face became numb from the wind. When the lane ended, I decided to walk twenty or thirty feet parallel to the fence line, where the snow was not so deep.

I frequently stopped to make sure I could see the fence. Each time I had reasonable assurance that it was there, but in the darkness, it is easy to think you see something that isn’t there. To be completely sure, finally turned at a right angle, toward where I thought the fence was, and traveled in that direction. But I could not find the fence.

I was completely lost. Even though I thought I knew the area well, I could identify no landmarks. As I kept walking I became confused and frightened, and I fell down many times in the blizzard. Finally, while on my knees, I talked with the Lord and asked in all humility for him to show me the way. My troubles didn’t end suddenly, but I felt my prayers had been heard.

As I resumed walking, I noticed that all the brush had disappeared, and it was very slick under my feet. I knew that there was only one opening in the fence, located in a corner of the open field. The opening led to the edge of the Wales reservoir, and somehow I had passed through this small open space. I was walking on the frozen reservoir!

Fear struck me harder than before. How thick was the ice? Would it support me? Fortunately, the ice held, and I quickly got off of it. But how could I find my way?

And then I saw it—a most beautiful bright light in the distance. While I made my way toward the light, its steady brilliance didn’t change. I later learned that the light was the small kerosene lamp inside Lawrence’s camp wagon.

I soon arrived at my brother’s camp. Lawrence had a warm fire going in the stove, and he was comfortable. I asked him why he had left the wagon door open on such a terribly stormy night. He said he didn’t know why. But I did.

Glenn Thomas, a member of the Ogden Seventeenth Ward, Ogden Utah Mount Ogden Stake, has served as a temple worker in the Ogden Temple for six years.

“Thy Will Be Done”

Many years ago, I learned a valuable spiritual lesson: our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, and we need to submit to his will. Sometimes we don’t understand why, but we can be assured that his decisions are in our best interest. We must trust him completely.

My thirteen-year-old daughter suffered from serious juvenile diabetes. Her blood sugar was impossible to control. The doctor did his best, but he warned me that she might not live through her teens. I bought several books and tried to learn all I could about diabetes.

One morning my daughter revealed that her ankles were swollen. My heart sank; I suspected that her kidneys were failing. I was frightened, but I had decided that I would always show a calm, cheerful exterior, no matter what developed, so that my daughter would not be alarmed. I told her we had better go see the doctor that day.

The doctor did several tests, then told me that this was the beginning of the end and that I should prepare myself. My heart squeezed into a tight little ball of pain and fear. My thoughts raced frantically as I tried to decide what to do. Then my thoughts halted as I remembered the principle of faith. I remembered that Jesus had said if we have sufficient faith, we can move mountains. I thought, Heavenly Father can do anything. He can heal my daughter’s kidneys. I love him, and I love the gospel. I know I can have enough faith because I cannot bear to lose this precious daughter.

Just as soon as I got home, I went to my bedroom and locked the door. I told myself, I will pray so fervently and with so much faith, our daughter will be healed.

I pleaded humbly with the Lord, but a voice inside me said, “You should say, ‘Thy will be done.’”

I said, “No! No! I can’t do that, because if I do, my daughter will die.”

All that day, and for several days afterward, I knelt and begged Heavenly Father to heal my daughter. The voice kept telling me that I should say, “Thy will be done,” and I kept saying, “No, I can’t do that!”

Each morning I hurried to my daughter’s bedroom and looked at her ankles. Each morning they were still swollen.

After a week had passed, I felt certain Heavenly Father wasn’t going to heal her. I knew I had to say, “Thy will be done,” but I just couldn’t. I decided to fast until I could. I fasted and prayed all day, and by evening I was able to say it. I felt the tears scald my eyes. I was sure that my daughter would die. I didn’t know how I could ever bear it, but I knew that Heavenly Father would help me to face it if she did.

The next morning my heart was heavy. I couldn’t bear to go to my daughter’s bedroom, so I just called the other children to get up. A few seconds later, my daughter came into the kitchen.

“Mom! Mom! My ankles are thin again!” she exclaimed.

I hugged her as tears streamed down my cheeks. Then I hurried to my bedroom, shut the door, and fell to my knees to thank Heavenly Father. I apologized for my lack of trust. I didn’t know it was his will that she live.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann

Maxine Crossley is ward music chairman and the music director for sacrament meeting in the Garfield First Ward, Rigby Idaho Stake.