The Hand of a Prophet
Reared in a less-active family, I was nearly thirteen before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entered my life. As a child, I had often prayed to the powerful, unseen being who I understood to be God, and I had felt the whisperings of his Spirit. However, I didn’t hear the Joseph Smith story and embrace the Lord’s latter-day revelations until after a branch of the Church was opened in our small logging community in northern Idaho.
My communications with God took on new meaning as I learned more about Heavenly Father at church. I could now imagine a real personage listening to my prayers, an understanding being who had the power and inclination to answer my heartfelt pleas.
At the time, David O. McKay was the President of the Church. I was touched by his counsel and admonitions on the radio at conference time and by his picture in the Improvement Era. I was impressed with his stately physical appearance and warm manner. Held in high regard by Latter-day Saints and community leaders alike, he drew people to him by the power of his personality.
Determined to one day meet this wonderful man, I began to petition the Lord. Nearly every night for six years, I pleaded humbly that some day I would greet the prophet face to face and take him by the hand. My prayers throughout those turbulent teen years, during which my father struggled with an alcohol problem that cast a shadow over our home, remained constant in that one respect.
When I graduated from high school, my paternal grandmother invited me to come live with her in Ogden, Utah. Gratefully I accepted her offer and was soon working and attending night school there.
My grandmother grew up in Huntsville, a tiny town nestled in the Wasatch Mountains a half-hour drive up beautiful Ogden Canyon. I was thrilled to learn that Huntsville was the childhood home of President McKay. My grandmother could remember him as a young boy and knew his family. Just to be able to visit the prophet’s hometown gave me great joy.
One beautiful summer Sabbath, some Huntsville relations invited us to attend sacrament meeting with them and enjoy a meal afterwards at my great-aunt’s home. The Huntsville chapel was old and well used, and the Saints welcomed us with friendly faces and handshakes. Having arrived early, we sat and enjoyed the sweet strains of the organ before the meeting started.
A sudden rustling and murmuring disturbed the reverence of the congregation. As the sounds increased, we turned and saw the members behind us rising to their feet. I could see several men coming slowly up the aisle. In their midst, walking in a veritable radiance of light, came the prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President David O. McKay.
My heart was pounding. All during that meeting I was unable to take my eyes off that holy man sitting on the stand. I watched as he partook of the sacrament and listened attentively to the talks. At the meeting’s conclusion, the bishop announced that President McKay had graciously invited the members to come forth and meet him.
In a flash I was on my feet and moving through the crowd. My soul was suffused with joy at the prospect of meeting the prophet. I struggled to think of some words that might convey my deep respect and admiration. President McKay was pressed on all sides by eager arms and hands. Feeling more timid the closer I got, I began to fear that this kind man would weary before it was my turn.
At last I was within an arm’s length of the prophet. My heart beating wildly, I reached out my hand to him. He caught it in his own. The strength and warmth of that grasp sent a flood of joy through me. However, just as I opened my mouth to pour out my heart, an insistent member diverted his attention, and President McKay turned from me. Deeply disappointed, I turned to leave.
To my surprise, President McKay tightened his grip instead of relinquishing my hand. For several moments he held my hand firmly as he responded to the importuning elder. Then he turned to me, smiled into my eyes, and gave full attention to my stammering words.
The Spirit bore witness to me that day that diligent prayer uttered by a simple heart will be answered in the Lord’s own good time. Since that day, I have never doubted that a loving Father in Heaven deals tenderly with his children.
The Burning Bus
It was raining as my friend Katie and I loaded our luggage into the compartment under the bus, keeping only our carry-on bags as we began the long ride to the Atlanta temple. Our husbands, who couldn’t join the Tampa Florida Stake’s biannual temple trip that November, waved good-bye as the bus began to move. Slowly we gained speed as Bishop Smeeten welcomed us aboard and called on someone to offer a prayer.
After the prayer, Katie and I talked for a while and then drifted off to sleep. At about 10:30 P.M. I was awakened by people moving toward the front of the bus. I could hear someone saying that the back of the bus was on fire and that everyone should leave their bags and get off as quickly as possible. Following instructions, Katie and I quickly arose and, leaving our carry-on bags behind, hurried toward the front of the bus. A few people in the back of the bus had to jump from windows, but everyone managed to exit.
Working together, several men threw open the luggage compartment doors under the bus and started tossing the bags out. When the last piece of luggage was removed, the men rejoined the main group. Forty-seven Latter-day Saints watched in horror as flames engulfed the rear of the bus and the tires exploded from the heat.
By the time the fire department arrived, the back half of the bus was completely destroyed, including the metal. All the windows had popped out from the heat, and the bus interior was gutted.
The fire-fighting team put out what flames remained and collected estimates of personal loss. While we waited under a picnic shelter for a replacement bus to arrive, some of the members started talking about what they had left on the now-charred bus. I was worried because I had left behind my asthma medication, which I should never be without. But my troubles seemed small in comparison with those of Sister Dorough, who had fled the burning bus without her 147 pages of original, unduplicated family history records. The area of the bus where she had been sitting was melted into the pavement.
Brother Marshall Scott stood quietly listening to this sister and me talk about our losses. Without saying a word, he walked over to the burnt bus and entered through what was left of the front door. A few minutes later he emerged with my medication in hand. He gave it to me and then turned back to the bus. He appeared a second time with a large, blackened package and handed it to Sister Dorough. The outside of the book and several pages of it were scorched, but the family history records were intact.
Nothing else was retrieved from the bus—there was nothing more but ashes. Although the group sustained losses, we felt fortunate not to have lost anything vital. We knew that we had been protected and that two essential items, my medication and Sister Dorough’s family history records, had been preserved through the kindness of a loving Heavenly Father.
The Answer Came Immediately
“Nothing is greater than being a father,” my father often said. Hearing these words constantly helped shape me as I grew up. By the time I arrived home from my mission, I could hardly wait for the blessing of marriage and fatherhood.
In 1976, when our first child, Laura, was born, I finally learned firsthand just how great fatherhood is. Our second child, Jonathan, was born in August 1978. Being a father both surpassed my expectations and challenged me more than I thought it would. Great responsibility came with the blessing.
One night in December, just a few months after Jonathan was born, I was left to fend for our children’s needs while my wife performed with her sisters at a singing engagement. Though I had two years of experience, I still considered myself a novice father.
All was going well until something horrible seemed to take over Jonathan. Suddenly, he began to scream and cry. When he screamed, his entire body would go rigid and shake. When he was out of breath, he would go limp until the next scream. He would then again shake, go rigid, and arch his back in pain.
I tried my best to assist our three-month-old. I tried to rock him in the rocking chair, and I walked around the house trying to calm him. I attempted to feed him and burp him, and I changed his diaper. I checked for restrictive clothing and unhooked pins. Nothing helped in the slightest.
Panicking as any young father might, I began calling the mothers I knew. My mother had always seemed to know what to do when I was sick as a child, but this time she was not home. Neither was my mother-in-law or stepmother. Jonathan kept screaming and crying, going rigid and then limp.
After doing all I could, I knew I had to take the problem to the Lord. I took Jonathan into the bedroom and laid him on the bed, then knelt beside him and put my hands on his tiny head. Summoning all my faith and priesthood authority, I gave him a father’s blessing over his screams and crying. Two-year-old Laura stood by intently with her arms folded, bowing her head and closing her eyes with the faith of a child.
I commanded that Jonathan’s distress cease, and I blessed him that he would be healed. As soon as I said, “Amen,” he quit crying. He stopped going rigid and then limp, and he again began acting normally. I sat down in the rocking chair with our baby son, and within minutes he was peacefully asleep.
Knowing full well where my assistance came from, I gave silent thanks so as not to disturb Jonathan’s sleep. After I put him to bed, he slept peacefully all night. He didn’t even wake up at his regular feeding time. The next day he was just fine, and he never again experienced anything like what he’d suffered that night.
I am humbled by the privilege and honor of being a father and a priesthood holder. Although we don’t always know how the Lord will answer a prayer or respond to the words of a blessing, I am grateful for the results of Jonathan’s blessing that night—it was the first time I had received such an immediate answer to prayer, and it made a great impression upon me. I will always be grateful to the Lord for his mercy in answering heartfelt prayers.
The Fruits of My Labors
When my sister-in-law dropped off several boxes and baskets of plums at my home one afternoon, I had mixed feelings. She had been preserving the fruit for days and had decided to share her bounteous harvest.
After my family ate our fill of raw plums, I shoved the boxes and baskets of ripe fruit into a corner of my laundry room.
Several days later, I began preparing to bottle the plums. I dragged the boxes of fruit into my kitchen. The August day was already getting hot. I mopped my brow with my sleeve and shoved the remains of breakfast aside, then found my cookbook and flipped to the canning and preserving section. Before I started reading, though, I decided to check on my six children and enlist the help of the older ones.
Mairi, my oldest daughter, was practicing the piano in preparation for a recital, so I gave her a grace period before asking her to help in the kitchen. Scott, my oldest son, reminded me that this morning was his summer science class. Because I needed to get a few more canning supplies from the store, I offered to drive him to class. Cindy and Ellen, ages six and seven, were keeping three-year-old James happily involved in the sandpile. When it was time to leave for class, Scott found me kneeling in the cool sand with them, laughing and forming sand castles.
It was midday when I got back. The children needed lunch, and Holly, my baby, was ready for her nap. We ate peanut butter sandwiches, and then James came to me with a storybook. We sat down and read while I nursed the baby. Then it was time to pick up Scott. We were late, but he was busy discussing the life cycle of the honeybee with his teacher and didn’t notice.
Back home, I put Holly into her walker so she could spin around under my feet while I canned—but then Ellen informed me that her goldfish had died and needed a funeral, and afterwards we discussed life after death. My husband was home from work before I ever got to those plums.
Long after everyone went to bed, I finished wiping sticky stuff off my kitchen counters and stove. Tired, I sank into a semi-sticky kitchen chair and looked at the seven bottles of ruby globes cooling on my counter. I had bottled a total of thirteen quarts, but one had broken in the boiling water and five had not sealed. I hadn’t done very well with my plums. I reviewed the day. So many times during that day, I had been sidetracked and let myself be called away from the business of canning.
But the Spirit whispered peace to me as I realized that I had done well, and I felt joy as I thought about my six children, all gleaming, full of promise, and sealed up. And at that moment I saw that, like Mary, I had chosen the better part instead of being “cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10:40). I was filled with a sudden joy as I listened to the clock tick and looked at the full fruit bottles. Instead of being “careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41), I had participated with my family in the many joyful moments of an ordinary August day.