The One-Needle Sewing Project
When Rachel and Ayden Nathan were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple, only a handful of people were present. But Rachel wore a gift of love that carried with it the good wishes of many other sisters—her dress, which had been sewn by women of the Beijing (China) Branch.
The dress, with its mandarin collar and long sleeves, was finished to perfection; the hand stitching was even and delicate. The sisters of the branch had called this “the magic dress” because of the way it unified members who sacrificed to create an expression of love for the Nathans.
Rachel and Ayden, a warm, caring couple, are natives of New Zealand who had been married in their home country. Rachel worked in Beijing at the New Zealand embassy. Their goal was to be sealed in the Los Angeles Temple during an upcoming visit to California. After purchasing the white silk for her dress at a store in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven area, Rachel was approached by the branch Relief Society president: would she allow the sisters of the Relief Society to make the dress for her? Rachel accepted their offer.
The branch Relief Society was made up of women who were busy with their own pursuits—a librarian, a journalist, embassy personnel or spouses, and several mothers with small children. All of them participated in sewing the dress. Because it was not easy to find thread, buttons, or interfacing fabric in China, each woman unselfishly donated materials from personal sewing supplies. The women had only one needle that was thin enough to glide evenly through the silk material. It was carefully carried from house to house where the sewing took place.
Each of the women chose a different part of the dress as her specialty. Some worked on the body, and others on the collar, the sleeves, or the yoke. Each part was sewn with loving attention to detail; many times, finished stitching was taken out and sewn again so the dress could be perfect. Finally the women traveled successively to three different homes to sew the parts of the dress together.
The dress represented an offering by many members; while the sisters sewed, brethren of the branch watched the children so the work could go on uninterrupted. Thus members not only served Sister Nathan, but also developed friendships with each other.
Sewing the dress strengthened awareness of the temple among Chinese members of the branch. The Sunday before the Nathans left for California, the theme of the branch’s sacrament meeting was temple marriage.
The dress will always have an added significance because of those who made it, Rachel Nathan says. “When I look at it, I think of the sisters in Beijing living such busy lives, yet still finding time for sacrifice and service.” When she wore the dress in the temple, Rachel knew that she carried with her the love of many more than the five friends who were able to be present in the sealing room that day.
Our Treasure of Honesty
One Saturday, I decided to clean the basement of the house I was renting. I’d been putting off the job for months. Little did I expect the simple task to test my integrity and in the end prove a great blessing.
The space under the basement stairs was cluttered with debris and choked with the dust of many years. Because the space was small, I asked my six-year-old son to crawl in and hand things to me. Out came a succession of old pans, flowerpots, and washboards.
When Michael handed me a burlap sack that jingled a little, I thought it contained nails. But when I peered in, I saw bundles of old greeting cards tied together with string. I opened the first card—a birthday card—and was amazed when three silver certificates fell out. Nearly every card contained money: bills in denominations from one to twenty dollars and silver coins dating back to 1890. Some of the coins jingled loose in the bottom of the bag.
Upstairs, I called my six children together to announce that Michael and I had discovered a treasure in the basement. We spent two hours reading the cards and sorting the bills and coins, the face value of which exceeded three hundred dollars. Later, we went to the library and found out that the coins alone were worth several hundred dollars.
My landlord had told me the history of the house when we moved in. The original owner’s wife had died early and left two daughters, who my landlord thought still lived in the area. Judging by the dates on the cards, I knew they belonged to that first family.
What should I do? I pictured a mother tucking away money and keepsakes for her daughters over the years and then being overtaken by illness and forgetting about them. I imagined meeting her one day. How could I tell her I’d taken her daughters’ legacy?
Then I considered my six children. We were struggling financially and receiving assistance. Would we be blamed if we kept the money? What would my children think of my example?
After two days of prayers and tears, I called my bishop and asked for his help in tracing the names that appeared on the cards. He found the two daughters and relayed the message that I’d discovered something quite valuable in their old home.
When one of the daughters came over, she expressed amazement that nobody had ever cleaned under the stairs and found the treasure. She was even more surprised that I had tracked her down instead of just keeping the money. She took the cards, the antique washboards, and a few of the coins. Saying that she felt we were meant to find this money, she left us several hundred dollars worth of currency and coins.
I was able to catch up on some bills and buy some items that my family needed. More important, I was able to add to my children’s legacy of honesty.
The Allegory of the Lights
As a child I was fascinated by the story of the brother of Jared and the sixteen stones that were touched by the finger of the Lord to give light to the Jaredites as they traveled to the new world across the sea. The faith of the brother of Jared is still a great example to me. He solved the challenge of traveling in the darkness of barges that could not have windows or fire (see Ether 2:23) through his faith in the power of the Lord. He knew that if the Lord merely touched the stones, they would provide the necessary light. The brother of Jared’s faith was so strong that Christ revealed himself to him. In the process, the brother of Jared learned that Christ has an actual body and that we are created in his image.
However, the most important lesson I learned from Ether’s account of the brother of Jared is my need for the atonement of Jesus Christ. For me, the story is in many ways an allegory that illustrates the power and necessity of the Atonement.
The brother of Jared extracted ore from the earth and “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones” (Ether 3:1), but after being touched by the finger of the Lord, they were transformed into lights. In a way, that is the process we follow on earth in order to become like Heavenly Father. When we were put on earth, we were given a physical body and our agency. One might view them as our basic raw materials.
Our life on earth works on us like the smelting process the brother of Jared used to create the sixteen smaller stones. In order to turn the rock into smooth stones, he had to subject it to great heat and pressure. Our experience on earth is our refining process. As we overcome temptations and adversity, as we strive to live God’s commandments and serve our brothers and sisters, we begin to shape ourselves into smooth stones much like the stones the brother of Jared presented to the Lord, polished and shaped by mortality.
When the stones were “white and clear, even as transparent glass,” (Ether 3:1), the brother of Jared had done all he could do. But he needed the power of the Lord to make them glow.
So it is with us. All our best efforts, obedience, and endurance can do no more than shape us into smooth stones. We are only mortals, fallen man, and have no power to save or exalt ourselves. We need the quickening, light- and life-giving, refining power of Christ’s atonement to transform us.
When we acknowledge that we are nothing without the Savior, and when we are ready to yield to his touch, to his power, then we can become more than stones. We too can become vessels of light.
I Learned to Listen
The summer after my wife, my two children, and I were baptized, we vacationed at a log cabin in Jotunheimen, a scenic area of Norway. Though we were fourteen kilometers from our nearest neighbor, we were never lonely.
One bright, cloudless morning, we started on a long hike. Along the way, we admired the reflections of distant deep ravines and snowy peaks in the blue mountain lakes whose shores we skirted. The hike was a little more rigorous than we had expected, and late in the afternoon we were still three or four kilometers from our cabin.
The fastest route home was to traverse a steep, narrow ridge on a mountain called Besseggen. I felt that we could cross the ridge safely, but a voice within me whispered that we should not go that way. Having been baptized only four months earlier, I was still learning to recognize the prompting of the Holy Ghost—and in this case, I took no notice of the warning.
As we approached Besseggen, an inner voice again cautioned me not to cross the ridge. I stopped and pulled out the map. If we did not climb the ridge, we would have to walk around another mountain and a lake, and we would not get home until after midnight. Our legs were tired, and our food was gone. I was still determined that we would climb the ridge.
When we reached the foot of the mountain, the small voice clearly said, “Hans, you must not go over the mountain.” I stopped and peered up the length of the steep ridge. The sun was shining, and the air was calm. I saw no reason to heed the warning. We began to climb.
I led the way, and my wife, Lise, followed the children. We climbed easily, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were doing something wrong. Halfway up, we stopped to admire the view. The ridge dropped steeply on both sides.
Though Lise and the children were excited about the stillness and the wonderful scene below us, I was anxious. Suddenly, I felt a blast of wind from the north and heard a rushing sound. Within minutes, a storm was bearing down on us. I cried out to my family to lie down and hold on tight. We dug our fingers into the earth as gusts of wind pushed us towards the ridge’s steep side.
Despite the storm’s howling, I heard a deep and powerful voice within me telling me to go back down the mountainside. When the storm calmed for a moment, I rose to my knees to give thanks and acknowledge the Lord’s power. My family shouted for me to stand up so we could hurry to the top of the mountain—but I knew better.
My family obeyed when I said we must climb back down. By the time we safely reached the foot of the mountain, the storm was blowing even harder than before. I told them about my experience with the inner voice. Together, we knelt to thank the Lord for preserving our lives and teaching us to heed the whisperings of the Spirit.
“I Am a Latter-day Saint”
I had prepared long and hard for the entrance exams for a special school in my city of Chiclayo, Peru. I hoped to enter the elementary education program and learn to use my musical and dancing abilities to teach children. In fact, I was so determined, I spent my three-month vacation after high school graduation preparing for the exams.
Like all the best schools in Chiclayo, the school I was interested in was affiliated with the Catholic church. Because this school, which offers courses from kindergarten through university age, had earlier accepted my five-year-old brother, my mother and I assumed that I wouldn’t have a problem being accepted, even though I was a Latter-day Saint.
Finally, the day of the entrance exams arrived, and I took the talent portion of the exam—in which we sang, played, and danced with children.
Later, when the time came for my personal interview with a panel of judges, I prayed before going into the room. The three judges began asking about my talents and background. I told them that I belonged to the Municipal Ballet of Chiclayo, that I had finished twelve cycles on the piano, and that I had placed first in the Marinera and Huayno—folkloric dances.
Then they asked me what church I belonged to. I answered, “I am a Latter-day Saint.” The judges looked very surprised, but I felt peaceful inside. They asked me if I knew that no one outside of the Catholic religion could be admitted. I replied that I knew God and Jesus Christ lived—therefore, I was a Christian. I concluded by saying that I believed in free agency and knew that I had chosen the truth.
Looking me in the eyes, they told me that I could definitely not be admitted because of my religion, and they asked me if I wasn’t embarrassed for what I had said. Words of the Apostle Paul came into my mind: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16). Then they told me I could leave the room.
All my dreams seemed to have shattered in front of me. I thought of how long I had waited for this opportunity and of all that my mother had sacrificed to help me achieve it. But still, my testimony of the Church was strong. I knew that it was worth far more than my entrance into a school.
When I arrived home and told my mother what had happened, she left for the school. She asked the assistant director why I was disqualified when my little brother had been allowed to enroll. The woman replied that five-year-old Luis Enrique wasn’t responsible for what he believed, but that I, a sixteen-year-old, was.
My mother then spoke to the judges. She told them about the Church and about our beliefs in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. She told them some of our experiences since becoming members in 1983—and about the changes that had occurred in our home as a result. The judges told her, “Don’t worry. We will follow up on this.”
Mother told me that we should trust in the Lord and that everything would be fine. She also suggested that we both begin a fast.
Later that afternoon, we discovered that I had passed the talent portion of the exams! Now I needed to pass the knowledge test the next day.
I stayed up all night studying. Before starting the test early the next morning, I prayed. The exam seemed easy. I was one of the first students to finish it, and I quickly went home to be with my mother and aunt. We waited all afternoon for the hours to pass—and for the results to be posted.
That evening, I left for school to see the results, praying all the way there. When I got to the office, I read through the acceptance list. My name was on it! The Lord had answered our fasting and prayers.
Busy at my new school, I carried my scriptures with me all the time. One of my favorite verses was Matthew 5:16 [Matt. 5:16]: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I know more than ever that I must never hide my testimony. I must always be proud to say, “I am a Latter-day Saint.”