We Wanted to Renew Our Vows

Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect day for Rich and me to get married and begin our new life together. We had chosen Las Vegas as the place to exchange our vows, anticipating an exciting, magical honeymoon.

Unfortunately, at least three hundred other couples had the same idea. We waited in line for more than two hours just to have the justice of the peace spend two minutes declaring us husband and wife. Then off we went on our honeymoon in the glitter and lights of the city.

After about six months of marriage, we both felt something was missing. We were happy but wondered if we hadn’t shortchanged ourselves. What a shame that the joy of our beautiful union had not been shared with our family and friends. There had been little ceremony, no flowers, no cake. We didn’t even have pictures for our scrapbook.

At the time, it was a trend to renew wedding vows on the first wedding anniversary, so we decided we would do just that—but in a church this time, with family and friends witnessing.

First, however, we needed to find a church to attend. Neither of us had attended church services in several years, and we felt awkward calling just any local minister and asking him to participate in our celebration. We wanted to attend the church first.

Each Saturday we would turn to the yellow pages, call one of the listings, and go to that church’s services the next morning. Each Sunday we left the services unnoticed and unfulfilled, so we continued searching by this method each week, checking each off our list of possibilities. As we continued down the listings alphabetically, we purposely skipped over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We knew that the Mormons were very committed to their faith, and we were not looking for a life-style change. We just wanted a church where we could renew our vows and visit occasionally on Sundays when it was convenient. Finally, however, we had exhausted our listings, so just to be fair, we decided to visit the LDS church.

The first time we attended meetings in a Latter-day Saint ward, the bishop shook our hands and welcomed us personally. Many other members came over and welcomed us, talking with us as if they really cared! We couldn’t figure out how they knew we were visitors.

The meeting itself was unusual—a preacher didn’t address us. Instead, members of the ward spoke on prayer and family home evening. We were impressed with this church.

When we returned to the ward the next Sunday, we found the same warm feeling. That week, the bishop asked us if we would like to have the missionaries come visit us at our home. We said yes.

The missionaries showed us the film Man’s Search for Happiness at our first lesson. We were touched with our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. By the time they taught the lesson on baptism, in which we were challenged to be baptized, we had already marked a date on our calendar.

After our baptism, Rich and I revised our goals as a couple. Now we wanted something much greater than simply to renew our vows as we had once hoped. We now wanted to make covenants together in the house of the Lord. A year later, we went to the temple, where our marriage was sealed for time and all eternity. Many of our loved ones were there as witnesses.

Our marriage ceremony in Las Vegas pales in comparison to the warm glow of our being sealed to one another for all eternity.

Diana Berry writes the ward bulletin in the Meridian Third Ward, Meridian Idaho Stake, where her husband, Rich, serves as bishop.

Beautiful as an Angel

One weekend I felt a particularly strong need to visit my grandparents, who lived in a small farming community several hundred miles from where I was working. It would require hours of driving; I would get there Saturday evening, and I would have to return immediately after church on Sunday. I reasoned that it would be better to wait until a holiday when I would have more time, but a quiet voice whispered in my mind, “You need to go this weekend.” So I went.

I had an enjoyable but brief visit Saturday evening with my grandparents. Sunday I attended fast and testimony meeting with them. As I glanced over the ward, I noticed a young couple sitting on the front row, the wife holding a baby tightly bundled in a pretty pink blanket. Grandma explained that they were relatives of a dear friend of hers in the ward. They had traveled from another state to have their baby blessed that day.

The meeting was inspiring, and as the time came for bearing testimonies, I felt compelled to stand up. I subdued the impulse, telling myself this was not my home and the time should be used by the members of this ward. But the feeling persisted, and I finally stood. As I bore my testimony, I also felt prompted to share the story of Charlie.

It was my first year as a professional teacher, and I had been assigned to teach a class for children who had physical handicaps. The natural leader of the group was eight-year-old Charlie. If I ever see an angel in this life, I expect him to look like Charlie. There was an aura of light in his face, and there wasn’t a moment when he wasn’t smiling.

Charlie’s mother had been told at his birth that he would probably never turn over or hold his head up, and he would certainly never walk. Because the disability extended to his facial muscles, it was unlikely that he would ever learn to talk. The doctors counseled Charlie’s mother to place the child in a state institution where he would be cared for, thus enabling her to “go on with her life.”

While she understood the reasons for this professional advice, she desired the counsel of her Father in Heaven. After much prayer, she announced to the medical staff that, with the help of the Lord, she was going to assist her child in developing whatever potential was stamped upon his soul—however limited it may be.

The effort was monumental, unceasing, and painful. Prayer was constant. Charlie did learn to speak. After years, he learned to walk by falling forward, then stopping the motion with his more-developed leg.

As I began my first day at school, Charlie came to my desk and whispered that in this class he thought we should begin with prayer. From then on, whenever Charlie prayed, he thanked Heavenly Father for the sunshine on sunny days and for the rain on drizzly days. He was grateful for birds he had seen as he rode to school. And he was always thankful for the progress someone in the class had made the day before. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, that Nancy learned to tie her shoelaces, and that Mark learned his addings sixes.” Soon, all the children wanted a turn at saying the prayer, and the spirit of gratitude, not discouragement, became the standard.

Nothing came easy for any of the children in the class, but every day I felt the Spirit of the Lord with them. I knew that Heavenly Father had a very special love for them and that if they continued in their sweet goodness, his greatest reward would be theirs.

I finished bearing my testimony and telling Charlie’s story, then sat down, trembling.

As the meeting closed and Grandma and I were hurrying out so I could begin the long drive home, I felt someone touch my arm. I turned to see the young mother whose baby had been blessed. “May I speak with you?” she asked.

As I centered my attention on the woman, she began to cry. “You may have noticed that on this warm spring day, my baby was kept all bundled up while she was blessed. That is because she has a deformed arm.

“This is the first time I have left our house since she was born,” the young mother continued. “I haven’t wanted anyone to see her. I didn’t even want her blessed in our own ward. I’ve been worrying about how she may be treated as time goes on. I keep thinking people will stare, and children will make fun of her. I didn’t want her to feel that kind of pain.”

She reached out and took my hand. “Thank you for bearing your testimony today. Through you, the Lord has opened my foolish eyes. I have been hoping for answers to my questions for weeks, but I haven’t been ready to listen. I am going to be the best mother the Lord could ever have given her. Together we can meet whatever challenges may come.”

She glanced around to find her husband. When their eyes met, she smiled and he walked toward us. It was evident that a vision of understanding had filled his heart too. He unfolded the pink blanket, and the young mother lovingly lifted the little one out of her covering. “She’s really beautiful, isn’t she?”

I looked down at a sweet, glowing face and replied with conviction, “As beautiful as an angel!”

As they walked down the steps and out into the warm spring morning, I realized why it had been so important for me to be there in that ward on that Sunday and to share that story. Silently I thanked the Lord for allowing me to be a part of touching someone’s life and sharing His love.

Floy Daun Mackay is a Relief Society teacher in the Tustin Fifth Ward, Orange California Stake.

Ten-Minute Turning Point

The job I took to earn money for my mission was in a big, dark, dingy factory on an assembly line. It was monotonous, mindless work—each of us was responsible for assembling six or seven parts of a computer board. I soon discovered that most of the day’s enjoyment came from talking to fellow workers. However, my first day on the job, the lady on my left warned me: “Watch out for Laura. She will tell you stories about her life-style that will curl your hair.”

Well, since I already had curly hair and was not interested in stories that would distract me from my mission preparation, I determined to politely inform Laura that I wasn’t interested in her stories.

It wasn’t long before Laura started talking to me and, true to form, she tried to tell me stories of her wild life. I told her I was getting ready to go on a mission and I really didn’t want to hear about it. Our relationship was off to a rocky start.

Laura mocked me for being religious and ridiculed me incessantly. I truly wanted to make friends with her, but was repeatedly offended by her remarks and found that I was afraid of confronting her.

One day, Laura got behind in her work and had to spend her ten-minute break getting caught up. I recognized an opportunity and offered to keep her company. She was shocked and touched by my actions. Although I couldn’t help her do her work, we talked pleasantly for the first time since I’d started the job. I finally gathered up enough courage to ask her not to ridicule me for being a Latter-day Saint since she knew nothing about it. I was surprised when she informed me that she knew plenty about it—she had been a member once.

That ten-minute conversation marked a turning point in our relationship, and Laura and I became close friends. I learned that she was a single mother with two young sons. She worked days on the assembly line and nights cleaning out horse stalls to make ends meet. She called my mission “the Big M” and was almost as excited as I was as the time drew near for me to leave. Together, we worked on breaking her smoking habit. She even attended church once in a while. And she was a ray of sunshine in that dingy factory; she could always make me laugh.

A week before I went into the Missionary Training Center, Laura came over to my house with a gaily wrapped package. “LeNore,” she said, “I know that you hate getting up in the mornings but that you really want to be a good missionary. Here’s my contribution to the cause.”

Inside the package was a wind-up, double-bell alarm clock. The clock served me well on my mission, and I still treasure it today. But I treasure even more the memories of a friend made because I took ten minutes to show I cared.

LeNore Pack Merritt serves as Merrie Miss teacher in the Rowland Heights Second Ward, Hacienda Heights California Stake.

My Mind Was Flooded with Ideas

In 1963, I had been a member of the Church for just a short time, but I had a strong testimony and was excited to devote myself to the Lord, share my testimony with others, and grow in my gospel knowledge. Unfortunately, I had to work long hours as a baker to provide my family with the necessities of life. I became increasingly dissatisfied with this job and felt strongly that I needed more time to devote to my newfound religion.

I prayed about this, and not long afterward, I saw a position advertised which, though it meant taking a lower wage, would allow me more free time to be with my family as we grew together in the gospel. I applied but did not get the job. I must admit I was surprised and disappointed. I had really felt this was the answer to my prayers.

However, three weeks later, the job became available again and was offered to me. I was pleased to accept.

My first day at my new job, I reported to my superior. I was to be the bakery manager for a large catering company specializing in catering to industrial units.

I was shown the bakery, introduced to my assistant, and told I could draw upon a pool of part-time employees. My assignment was to provide freshly baked products for twenty-eight mobile snack units and two lunch counters as well as providing 1,500 dessert items.

As my responsibilities were outlined, I was appalled to discover that all records of amounts and varieties used in the past had been mislaid by my predecessor. My assistant was not cooperative, and the head chef in the adjoining kitchen was noncommittal.

So there I was—my first day at a new job, and I had no idea of amounts and no guidelines to follow. I desperately needed help—so, closing the bakery door, I went down on my knees in prayer. I explained my problem to the Lord and asked for his help.

After pausing for a brief moment, I stood up, took a deep breath, lit my ovens, and started my day’s work. All through the day, my mind was flooded with ideas and figures. At the end of the day, I had completed my assignment—nothing over, nothing short.

My supervisor called me into his office. “We have never had so many favorable comments of our bakery service in one day,” he commented. He then continued, “After only one day, we’ve decided to increase your salary. You’ve done a marvelous job; I just can’t see how you could have accomplished this remarkable task.”

He might not know how I was able to accomplish what I had, but there was no doubt in my mind.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dikayl Dunkley

Alvin R. Nethercott serves as assistant ward clerk in the Whitby Ward, Oshawa Ontario Stake.