Guided to Our Ancestors

My wife and I knew that when we moved seventeen hundred miles from Idaho to Cincinnati, Ohio, we would miss our families. What we didn’t expect, however, was that we would become much closer to our ancestors as a result.

Soon after we arrived, I heard an inspirational lesson about family history work and decided to visit the Cincinnati Public Library to search for some information about our lineage. As far as I knew, no one had yet done any serious research on our family. My grandfather had mentioned that his grandfather William Adams was originally from Indiana and had fought in the Civil War, so that’s where we began.

We learned that William was born in 1845, but we did not know his parents’ names or the county where they had lived. Consequently, we faced a search through hundreds of Adamses in more than ninety counties. We began our work with a prayer in our hearts.

We felt inspired to begin in Franklin County, which borders Ohio near Cincinnati. However, after viewing the records of Indiana’s 1850 census for more than an hour without finishing even one of the ninety available counties, we began to feel discouraged. Then the records from Metamora Township came up, and the record of William Adams, age five, appeared before our eyes. His parents were Patrick Adams and Rachel Carter. We had found them!

The next Saturday, we loaded up our five children and headed west across the Ohio-Indiana border to find this place called Metamora. The town turned out to be a bustling tourist center featuring buildings, artifacts, and crafts from the previous century. An old waterwheel-powered gristmill and several horse-drawn canalboats had been restored.

We located an elderly shopkeeper who, upon hearing our errand, turned to a booklet he’d written on local history and pointed out an early pioneer named George Adams. As we discussed the possibility of George’s being one of our ancestors, the shopkeeper gradually recalled an old Adams family cemetery in the area. He drew us a rough sketch of where he believed it to be.

Elated, we began our search by stopping at farmhouses in the vicinity. One family knew nothing about the cemetery, and another had heard of it but could not give us a specific location. Finally we found an elderly couple who verified the cemetery’s existence but informed us that the local historical society had searched for it some time ago and could not locate it. However, we were welcome to search in the woods behind their farm.

All seven family members began to trek through uncultivated farmland. After half a mile, we stopped in a clearing to get our bearings. We all had burrs on our clothes and several insect bites, and the two youngest children were crying. But I could see what appeared to be several white headstones in a small ravine near a wooded area about a hundred yards away, so we pressed on.

The headstones turned out to be old tree stumps bleached by the sun. By this time our three older children were going off in all directions, and our younger two were quite upset. I thought that maybe we should return home and come back another day with just the older children.

Then the thought came to me that a graveyard would naturally be placed on higher ground. I began to head towards a small nearby hill. At the crest I found two old headstones hidden among the grass and fallen timber. I quickly called to my family, and together we knelt and deciphered these words: George Adams, died July 27, 1826, aged 61 years. Sally Adams, wife of George Adams, died October 13, 1827, aged 56 years.

We found other headstones facedown and half-buried in dirt and leaves or broken and scattered. We found the markers for Patrick Adams and his wife, Rachel, my great-great-great-grandparents and the parents of William, the Civil War soldier. In all, we located twelve headstones with death dates ranging from 1826 to 1871. Nearly all of the buried persons were my direct ancestors.

With further research, we later verified that the land around the cemetery had been the old Adams family farm. I wish I could express the feelings that came over me on many subsequent visits as I stood on the crest of that hill and imagined my ancestors clearing the land, plowing, and planting, trying to make a home on the frontier.

The sweetest part of the experience, however, was performing temple ordinances for these ancestors. Just three months after our trip to the Atlanta Georgia Temple, I was transferred by work assignment to Missouri. We had lived in Cincinnati just long enough to find our ancestors and seal eight generations together in the temple!

Scott R. Adams serves as a high councilor in the Liberty Missouri Stake.

Professor Solomon’s Challenge

I was a single mother with five children when I decided to return to school for a college degree. I was scared, but I had always believed in the importance of education and self-improvement.

On my first day of class, I wondered if I, as an older student, would feel like a fish out of water. My daughter Lori, age fourteen, yelled after me from the doorway, “Mom, you’ll do great. You’ll make new friends in each class!” I left quickly before my anxiety could get the better of me.

Gradually, as my self-confidence grew, I began to enjoy my university experience. But one day during my second semester I was thrown out of my comfort zone.

My literature professor was lecturing about an age of disillusionment, a period of questioning and searching for meaning in life. He asked the class how many of us attended church regularly. Of sixty-five students, only one other student and I raised our hands. Professor Solomon then said he would choose one of us to present a Christian viewpoint and another student to present a non-Christian viewpoint. I could not believe it when he singled me out to come to the front of the class and share my thoughts on Christianity.

I prayed for inspiration as I turned to face the class. I began by explaining that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I attended church every Sunday and even played the organ for some of the meetings.

“In the university, we question, examine, and look for truth in all areas,” I said. “In many fields this attitude has led us to new inventions and discoveries. Yet some truths in life are unchanging. For instance, I know that we have a Heavenly Father. I know that his Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to take upon himself our sins. Through repentance, we can return to live with him. We can have great hope for the future.”

I cannot remember all my words. They came quietly and convincingly. The room was so still that I knew the Spirit was present. I could see a few students crying.

Then the most amazing thing happened: the class applauded spontaneously. Professor Solomon said he was impressed. He even forgot to ask another student for the non-Christian viewpoint.

For days afterward, students told me they admired me for not being afraid to say what I believed. Some mentioned that they knew other Church members, and many asked questions about the Church. One woman told me she was a Latter-day Saint but had not been to church for years. We became close friends.

Professor Solomon continued to ask me to share my Christian viewpoint in class. On the last day, after our final exams were handed in, he shook my hand and told me that of all the students he had asked to present a Christian viewpoint during his twelve years at the university, all had declined except me.

“There’s something special about you,” he said. “I could feel it when you were speaking.”

The day that Heavenly Father heard my prayer and relayed his message through me to sixty-five students and a professor will always stand out in my memory. Of all the truths I learned during my years of college, one of the greatest is that with the Lord’s help I should never be afraid to share my testimony with others.

Loretta Meek serves as music director and organist in the Sherwood Park First Ward, Edmonton Alberta Bonnie Doon Stake.

Hope in the Night

It had been one of the grayest, coldest days of a seemingly endless winter, and I felt a deep chill that would not go away. I laid my head on the pillow of my bunk at the ambulance station with the numbing exhaustion that comes toward the end of a 24-hour shift after responding to nonstop calls. With the stress of work and schooling and the demands of a young family, I felt a desperate need for quiet, uninterrupted rest. I hoped for at least a few hours of sound sleep before my early-morning class at the university. At last warmth began to return as I huddled under the blankets, and sleep began to overtake me.

Then the shrill blast of the alarm brought me fully awake, and the mechanical voice of the dispatcher gave brief directions: “Unit 115, respond to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center for a patient transport to the University of Utah Medical Center.” It took a moment for the message to sink in: a ninety-mile round trip awaited me. We would probably have to stay in Salt Lake City for hours as the tests on the patient were run. The wind was blowing, it was snowing, the cold was bitter, and the drive would be dangerous. I felt defeated as I threw on my jacket and headed for the ambulance. We probably wouldn’t be back in time for my class, and I would miss an important test.

At the hospital, we found that the patient we were to transport was a twenty-year-old woman. Her chart indicated that she was being treated for leukemia; she had undergone a painful bone marrow transplant followed by extensive radiation and chemotherapy. She had lost all her hair, her skin was red and peeling, and her every waking moment was filled with pain. In contrast, the picture next to her bed showed a beautiful and vibrant young woman. In Salt Lake City, she was to undergo testing that would probably confirm that her cancer was growing unabated in spite of the physicians’ best efforts.

Through broken, cracked lips she whispered her apologies for causing us to be out so late at night, in such inclement weather, for her sake. As we moved her to our stretcher, her body went rigid and her fists clenched against the pain.

It was my partner’s turn to drive, so I rode in back with the woman and her husband, who had been given permission to ride with her. As his wife drifted in and out of sleep, the husband explained that she had been diagnosed with leukemia shortly after their marriage a year earlier. They had been fighting it since then, supported by the prayers, faith, and love of their families and friends. It was clear that her illness had taken a heavy toll on him as well. His face was haggard, and his bloodshot eyes were underlined by dark circles that spoke of worry, grief, and sorrow. Knowing that he carried a burden I hoped never to bear, I was impressed by the patience, care, and love that he repeatedly expressed for his wife as she would arouse from her fitful sleep. In spite of her pain, she responded with appreciation.

When the tests were finished at the hospital in Salt Lake City, the attending physician explained with as much tact as possible that, as suspected, the cancer had spread throughout the young woman’s body and would soon overwhelm her. The doctor left, the husband let his breath out slowly, and a depressed silence settled in the room.

Because of the requirement that I stay with the patient at all times, I overheard the young couple’s tender conversation as they talked openly about their future together, which they knew would be very short. I was comforted by the well-placed faith and hope in eternal life that they expressed. I thought of Him who promised that “the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form … and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost” (Alma 11:43–44).

As we made our way south on the highway again, the landscape slowly came to life with the rising of the sun. The couple spoke of happy times they had shared, and of sorrow for plans that would never be fulfilled in this life. They spoke of eternal ties that bound them together, and of gratitude for a loving Savior who made their hope for reunion possible. A ray of new sunlight slipped over the mountains and filled our compartment. The reflection of that early morning light in the young couple’s eyes brought to mind words of the Savior: “I am the light which shineth in darkness” (D&C 6:21); “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The young woman died soon after that long night. I was grateful to know of the hope she and her companion shared and to realize that we all can share in it, regardless of what our own day-to-day difficulties may be.

I do not remember how I did on the test that I took the morning after, nor do I recall when or how I finally caught up on my rest, but I do remember well how the night that began in misery and darkness ended in light and hope.

Steven R. Hawks is a ward clerk in the Hyrum Eighth Ward, Hyrum Utah Stake.

The Stranger Had a Gun

A few years ago I returned from a shopping errand to my van in the parking lot. Just as I finished loading my purchases and buckling my fourteen-month-old baby, Derek, into his seat, a stranger approached me with a gun in his hand and told me to get into my van. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. My main concern was Derek, strapped in the back seat—how could I protect him? I cried out, “Heavenly Father, please help me!”

When the man got into my van, I panicked and ran, shouting for help. I heard a shot and felt something hit me; a bullet had grazed me just below my shoulder blade. Looking back, I saw that the man was now pointing his gun at Derek. I ran back to the van’s side door and screamed again for help. A second bullet fired at point-blank range hit me in the chin, shattering my lower jaw. I fell to the pavement and watched as the attacker drove off with my baby.

Fortunately, a nearby nurse and paramedic gave me first aid, and a helicopter soon arrived to take me to the hospital. I was in surgery for five hours. The bullet had gone under my tongue, shaved the optic nerve, passed between the spinal cord and another main nerve, and exited through the back of my neck. Doctors were amazed that I wasn’t paralyzed or dead, but I knew that Heavenly Father had preserved my life.

While I was under anesthetic, my husband appeared on a television newscast to offer a reward for the safe return of our son. We felt confident that Derek would return to us because I had been promised in a priesthood administration that I would be reunited with my family. The blessing also promised me a return to complete health.

At around ten o’clock that night, a car traveling down a four-lane road swerved to miss a tiny figure. Immediately recognizing the child from the newscast, the occupants of the car pulled over and rescued him. Derek’s blanket was found beside the roadway within three feet of an open manhole. I cannot express the joy and thankfulness I felt when I awoke to find my baby safe and well in the arms of his father.

I was in the hospital for ten days, and my mouth was wired for five months. My eight operations have included bone grafts from my hip to my jaw. During my recovery, I discovered I was pregnant. I thought about all the anesthetics and drugs that had been administered to me and all the operations that still lay ahead—how would they affect our baby? The timing seemed so bad. And then, four and a half months after the attack, little Derek died in an accident at home. I found it very difficult to accept that my son had been preserved through the kidnapping only to be taken such a short time later. However, the Lord helped me in my grief.

Just over a month after Derek died, our baby Richard was born ten weeks early. What a blessing he has been in our lives! And one year later our daughter Felicity was born—ten weeks early and on Derek’s birthday! I like to think that the Lord knew that a new son and daughter would help my husband and me heal from our tragedies. Through the ordeals, I have developed a greater appreciation for life, and my testimony of the priesthood has been strengthened. We are grateful that no matter what happens to us on this earth, our family—including Derek—can be together for eternity.

Shannon van Zyl serves as Primary president in the Johannesburg Ward, Johannesburg South Africa Stake.

Our Day of Sowing

It was Sunday, and the brethren of the Constitucion Ward, Guadalajara Mexico Union Stake, were convened in priesthood meeting. The elders were listening to a lesson by the quorum president, a gifted teacher. Among those present were a newly ordained elder and his father, who was returning to church after a long period of inactivity.

The lesson that day was on the elders quorum itself. “What is a priesthood quorum?” the president asked, and the brethren in the class gave several responses. It is like a family, they said, and the brethren in the quorum should be genuinely concerned about one another’s welfare and be willing to help as needed.

As bishop of the ward, I joined the group in time to hear the end of the lesson. Raising my hand, I asked for permission to speak. “I’ve just learned this morning that Brother Noriega, one of our quorum members, has not been able to get the machinery he needs to plant his crops,” I said. “Since the rains have already begun, it is urgent that the seeds be planted right away. Brother Noriega could run the risk of not getting his crops planted because he is elderly and doesn’t have anyone to help him.”

I suggested that we all help Brother Noriega plant his seeds the next day. Certainly all of us together could do the job, even without the needed farm machinery. Everybody became excited about this opportunity to put the day’s lesson into practice, and the quorum president made the necessary arrangements.

The next day, Brother Noriega was waiting for us with tools and seeds. He hadn’t been able to sleep, he said, knowing that the elders quorum was coming to help him. While some of the brethren cleared the ground, others broke the soil or dropped in seeds and covered them. Two of the most enthusiastic participants were the recently activated member and his son.

It was dark when we finished our task. Dirty and weary, we had blisters on our hands and thorns in our clothes. But we all felt great satisfaction in having served one of our brethren—and we felt that we had really learned the meaning of our lesson in priesthood meeting. Brother Noriega expressed his gratitude, saying that he felt young and strong again as he worked side by side with his brothers in the quorum. The newly activated man also said that taking part had given him new strength and courage.

Just as we were leaving, rain began to fall, and soon we were all wet. But we felt that the shower was a blessing. Heaven’s rain was just what we needed to truly complete our day of sowing.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

[illustration] Illustrated by Robert McKay

Netzahualcoyotl Salinas V. serves as executive secretary in the Mexico City Arbolillo Stake.