A Blanket of Peace
I had just returned home for the summer after a hectic year at Brigham Young University. I looked forward to my vacations, and the first Sunday back in my home ward was always the best. Seeing old faces and meeting new members was one of my favorite things to do.
As I sat in the chapel, I noticed Marc sitting at the sacrament table, beaming. I wondered if he was confused about where to sit or if one of the other boys had asked him to carry something up to the table and he was under the impression that he could stay.
Marc isn’t like the other young men I had grown up with. He is mentally retarded and has often been shuffled to the side. It hasn’t been intentional, but sometimes it just seemed easier to do something for Marc instead of helping him do it himself.
Sacrament meeting began, and Marc remained at the sacrament table. I became more concerned as first the opening prayer, then the announcements, and finally the sacrament hymn began. Marc and his companion stood and began to break the bread. I was confused and looked around to see if anyone else was ill at ease. Suddenly, a sense of peace overcame me. It was as though the Spirit had entered our small congregation and had floated down upon us like a soft blanket.
I quietly watched Marc. He seemed to be breaking each piece of bread with special care, as if he were taking extra time to express concern for each person who was about to partake. For the first time in my life, I realized that the sacrament is an individualized renewal, a one-on-one covenant between the Lord and each one of us. Marc broke the bread as though he understood that. I had never seen anyone handle the sacrament so reverently.
The bread was ready to be blessed now. The young man by Marc’s side prayed first. The bread was passed. Then it was Marc’s turn to bless the water. He knelt, and my heart raced as the Spirit filled my soul.
His speech was slurred, and there were several stops, but each pause provided an opportunity for reflection. I had caught a glimpse of eternity: a loving Father, our Elder Brother, and the sacredness of being a member of a church concerned with individual progression. I understood—really understood, perhaps for the first time—that partaking of the bread and water allows the Spirit to be with us at all times during our hectic week’s activities. It allows us to remember the Savior’s sacrifice and commitment to us, to realize that he cared enough to give his life so we could return home and dwell with him forever.
I was amazed that in just fifteen minutes, Marc taught me so much about the prayers and covenants that I had been hearing and making for the past twenty-one years. I still see him vividly in my memory, and every time I remember that day, I am filled with appreciation. His example helped me to realize that the sacrament is more than a renewal of vows. It is a sacred opportunity to feel the Savior’s love.
“I’ve Been Waiting for You”
In the fall of 1941, Elder Arden B. Hutchings and I were laboring in the town of Clarinda, Iowa, and had become exceedingly discouraged. The townspeople were not only unreceptive, they were unfriendly and sometimes rude. After about two months of getting nowhere, we decided that our labors would be better received somewhere else. We wrote a letter to our mission president, Elbert R. Curtis, explaining the situation in Clarinda and requesting to be transferred to greener pastures.
We planned to pack and then sit on our trunks until the transfers came. However, after we had morning prayer and scripture study, the Spirit strongly prompted us to go out and do our tracting. We began knocking on doors in our tracting district, each on opposite sides of the street, which was a common practice in those days. Both of us were getting the expected number of doors slammed in our faces, unkind words about the Mormons, and even some threats.
Then I knocked on a door that was answered by a woman who said, “Come in, Elder, I’ve been waiting for you.” I was suspicious, but at her insistence I entered the home. She introduced herself as Mrs. Ida Hise and explained that she was a student of the Bible. For many years she had searched for a church with Apostles and prophets—a church that taught the gospel in its entirety.
Her examination of all the churches she could find brought bitter disappointment. She began to pray earnestly to the Lord to guide her to his church if it were still on the earth. During the night it was revealed to her that the Lord’s messenger would come to her door, and she saw me in a vision.
The questions Mrs. Hise asked me showed that she honestly had been searching for the true church and knew exactly what organization, doctrine, and principles to look for. I promised to return with my companion that evening to teach her more.
As I made my way back to our apartment, I became aware that the Spirit had led me, without my realizing it, several blocks from my tracting district to Ida Hise’s home. Indeed, the Lord had answered her prayers.
That evening, when we arrived for our appointment, Mrs. Hise invited us to the large home next door. The front room and dining room were filled with people! Ida had spent the afternoon visiting neighbors and telling her story, and they had all come to hear about a church that was the same as the one Christ had organized as recorded in the New Testament. My companion and I preached the gospel to the crowd, answered their questions, gave them literature to read, and promised to return the following evening. This went on for several days.
We were so busy with our newfound success that we forgot about our request for transfers. The day we received assignments to leave Clarinda, we were horrified. We immediately contacted President Curtis, but no amount of pleading could change the fact that our transfers had been processed and new assignments were awaiting us.
Other elders were sent to Clarinda and were able to reap the harvest of our labors. They baptized many families—almost everyone who had been attending the meetings.
Ida Hise remained a faithful, active member-missionary. She died several years later.
One lesson I learned and have never forgotten is to accept whatever assignment the Lord gives me and to stay with it until he releases me.
More Than a Trophy
Many years ago, Lynn * and I decided to join our ward sisters’ basketball team. At our first practice, we tried to talk in the cultural hall about children and school over the noise of the bouncing balls. Suddenly, a hush fell over the room, and we looked up to see Jane coming onto the court to join our practice. A few of the older women went over to Jane and told her how glad they were to see her, but the younger women stared in disbelief.
Jane suffered from a mental illness. She usually sat on the front row in Relief Society bouncing her knees up and down in a quick, steady rhythm. Sometimes she placed her hands on top of her knees as if she were trying to stop them from bobbing. Despite the fact that Jane did not seem able to sit still, she walked like someone in slow motion. And her clothes were always dull, mismatched, ill-fitting, and wrinkled.
Now Jane stood on the basketball court wearing work shoes, brown stretch pants, an army-green shirt, and her coat. She smiled vaguely as she caught a stray rebound from a sister who stopped dead in her tracks.
When Jane threw the ball toward the basket, she missed it by yards. Two sisters on the court shot unkind glances at each other.
During practice, it became obvious that Jane didn’t understand how to dribble the basketball. Watching her run while trying to bounce the ball was amusing—especially since she kept her coat on. Our coach tried to teach Jane how to dribble, but soon even she grew frustrated with Jane’s lack of coordination.
Jane was at our first game without her coat, but still in work shoes, stretch pants, and a team shirt that was too small. Our coach assigned positions; Jane’s was on the bench. Through the whole game, Jane stayed on the bench, watching intently with a vacant smile.
After several games, Lynn said to me, “The coach isn’t going to let her play.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Jane. The coach isn’t ever going to put her in a game. I’ve noticed she’s even starting to shun Jane at practice.”
I knew Lynn was right, but I hadn’t done anything about it.
“It just makes me sick,” Lynn continued. “Everyone acts as though the purpose of Church basketball is to win a trophy for the ward. I thought Church activities were supposed to mean more than that. Seems to me that we’ve lost sight of the real purpose.”
I felt humbled. Contrary to the main purpose of the Church sports program, we had been caught up in the thirst for winning. It was silly because everyone knew we didn’t have a chance to win any trophies since we had an ineligible player on our team. We had allowed a sister from another ward to play on our team because her ward didn’t have a basketball team, but we wouldn’t let Jane play. It didn’t seem right.
Finally Lynn said defiantly, “I’m going to do something about it.”
“You’re not the coach,” I said. “How are you going to do that?”
Lynn smiled and said, “You’ll see.”
The next week, Jane came to the game wearing some old tennis shoes that were too big for her, along with her stretch pants and her snug team shirt. She took her place on the bench without hesitation.
Lynn played just a few minutes, grabbed her ankle, then hobbled over to the bench where Jane sat. I heard Lynn tell Jane, “I hurt my ankle. Will you go in for me?”
Our coach was horrified, but all she could do was look at Lynn. Jane smiled, jumped up, and ran onto the court. Jane caught several rebounds because she was tall, but she always passed the ball to another sister because she knew she couldn’t dribble. Once, Jane was close enough that she made a basket. Even so, the coach took Jane out of the game the first chance she got.
At church, Jane said hello to me in the hall. I marveled at her warm and mellow voice. She smiled but didn’t say anything else, so I complimented her on her flowered dress.
Over the next few weeks, most of the sisters lost interest in basketball since we had won only one game, but Jane continued to come. Lynn feigned an injury a few more times, but before long enough sisters had dropped out that Jane got to play anyway.
I noticed that Jane walked faster in the halls at church. She wore brighter colors, smiled more, and spoke to the sisters from the basketball team.
One day the Relief Society president said to me, “You’re playing basketball, aren’t you?”
“Well,” she said, “you’re really doing something great out there.”
Bewildered, I said, “But we’ve won only one game.”
“I mean with Jane. Haven’t you noticed that when she feels good about herself she wears bright colors? These last few weeks she’s practically gone through the rainbow.”
I remembered noticing Jane’s bright, flowered dress.
“Whenever I talk to Jane,” the Relief Society president continued, “all she talks about is basketball. She even asked to borrow some tennis shoes.”
“Really?” I said, finally fitting the pieces together.
“Yes, Jane was taken off her medication and told to become more active. I suggested she join the basketball team,” said the president. “Jane was scared, but I assured her that we were all sisters in the gospel, and that she’d be welcome.”
After I left the room, I saw Jane sitting in the chapel wearing a bright yellow dress and a bow in her hair. I realized that it had been a while since I had seen her knees bouncing. Lynn’s words penetrated my heart. For Jane, ward basketball had nothing to do with trophies or winning games—it had to do with survival. To this day I thank Lynn and that courageous woman in borrowed tennis shoes for teaching me that what happens on the basketball court is supposed to be much, much more than winning games.
All names have been changed.
The Crying Child
Several years ago, I found myself a patient in the Auckland Public Hospital following orthopedic surgery to correct a deformed knee. During my eighth week there, I was able to move around on crutches. At this same time, a child moved into the room adjacent to mine. He cried continually both day and night—making it almost impossible for other patients to get any sleep. After the second day, tempers began rising a bit.
One morning I was saying my usual prayer during the privacy of my wash time when something moved me to feel that, as a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, I should try to visit with the child and offer any comfort that I could. After breakfast, I slowly made my way to the door of the child’s room, only to see several members of the nursing staff attempting to comfort him. I became afraid. All those nurses might complain at my interference and order me back to bed where I belonged. I hobbled back to bed for a few minutes of rest.
While sitting on the side of my bed, I was given renewed courage to go back to the room. Something kept me going all the way to the room and then past the nurses who were trying to comfort him, right up to the bed. The young boy was about seven or eight years old. He looked as though he had a circular steel band screwed into his head. Steel rods were affixed to the band on his head and were connected to contraptions screwed into his shoulders and chest.
A woman kneeling at the head of the bed kissed the child and whispered into his ear. I assumed that she was the child’s mother and started talking to her. She told me that her son had been playing on a revolving clothesline when he had slipped, caught his head between the crossbars, and broken his neck. We continued talking for a while. I tried to comfort her and told her that I held the priesthood in my church. If she would like, I said, I could arrange to give her child a blessing.
She then told me that she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that she wanted priesthood holders from her church to give her son a blessing. However, since her husband was no longer an active member, she doubted that anyone in their ward knew them well enough to come and offer a blessing. When I told her that I belonged to the same church, held the same priesthood, and had a friend in the hospital who could assist me in a priesthood ordinance, she immediately agreed to the blessing.
It took a while to get my friend out of bed and into a wheelchair, then to position him beside the child’s bed where he could assist me in giving a blessing. Getting myself positioned at the head of the bed while on crutches was no easy task either, but even though my legs were tired from standing for so long, something pressed me on.
Although the boy was still crying, I asked him if he wanted a priesthood blessing and informed him that I belonged to the same church that he did. When I told him that a special messenger had sent me to him, he finally stopped crying, smiled a weak smile, and said, “Yes, please.” He appeared to understand as I explained that giving the blessing might be a little difficult. My friend was sick and in a wheelchair, I only had one leg to hold me up, and we couldn’t put any pressure on the child’s head because of his injury. But we proceeded with a brief blessing, after which the boy became quiet and showed signs of sleeping.
The nurses all wanted to know what it was that had quieted the boy. I was not a good missionary at the time and didn’t tell them that it was the power of God acting through the priesthood. I got my companion back in bed and then rested my leg. But later, I felt that I should visit the hospital dayroom, where I found the relieved boy’s mother sitting with her husband.
The mother asked if I might also give them a blessing of comfort. This I did in the form of a prayer. I remember asking that the father might have help in overcoming his Word of Wisdom problem and returning to church with his family.
To my astonishment and extreme delight, I later learned that the young boy was making an excellent recovery and was allowed to go home about four days later with only a soft, firm collar around his neck. About six weeks later, I learned that the boy’s father, mother, and the rest of the family were regularly attending church in the stake in which they reside.
I had been a member of the Church for about two and a half years when this incident occurred. It has given me a testimony that, even now, years later, I cannot deny. My testimony is as strong as ever.