Nathan seemed like a miracle. After ten years of marriage and three miscarriages, I marveled at his very existence as I held him for the first time.
Later, when a nurse brought Nathan to me again, I examined him more closely. There were ten fingers, ten toes, and the limbs were properly formed, but his face seemed a bit misshapen. When I questioned the pediatrician about it, he said, “Babies’ heads often become misshapen during the birth process; it will straighten out in a few days.” But it did not straighten out.
When I took Nathan to the clinic for his two-week checkup, the doctor determined that something was indeed wrong. He arranged for us to see a plastic surgeon, who informed us that Nathan had been born with an incomplete jawbone on the left side of his face. He explained to us that nothing could be done until Nathan was about eighteen years old, when he could undergo an extensive operation to reform his jawbone. Until that time, there would be a noticeable disfigurement.
We were heartbroken and feared the ridicule he might have to face from other children when he was old enough to attend school. We sought a second opinion and received the same diagnosis.
I believed that our Father in Heaven could heal our son. I prayed, seeking earnestly to know Heavenly Father’s will in the matter. I wanted to know if this was a trial for Nathan’s benefit—if it would give him strength, courage, and great character—or if it could be resolved through our faith and prayers. After several weeks, I felt assured that it was not necessary for Nathan to bear this burden. My husband and I began a process of showing our faith in God through our actions.
Nathan received several priesthood blessings, each including a blessing that he would “grow perfectly in every way.” I prayed night and morning and kept a prayer in my heart all day, every day. I also put Nathan’s name on the prayer roll of the temple and fasted regularly. I had to develop patience and a submissive spirit as I waited, hoped and prayed, and then allowed the Lord’s will to be done.
It did not happen right away, but eighteen months after Nathan was born he had a jawbone where none had existed. By the time Nathan started school, his teeth were straight, his speech was unimpaired, and his face showed no deformity. He has grown perfectly in every way.
I came to learn for myself that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). I know this type of miracle does not always happen, and that each circumstance is different. But we know that in this instance, the Lord’s hand was manifest and we feel it appropriate to rejoice in the Lord’s blessing to us.
The Ceramic Jar
I was born in Puerto Rico and grew up learning my parents’ traditions in another faith. When the true gospel came into our lives, my wife, Migdalia, and I were baptized into the Church. We committed to obeying the commandments and living a life agreeable to our Heavenly Father. Along with our young son, Roberto Carlos, we held family home evening, met for morning and evening prayers, and blessed our food at each meal.
My parents, because of their long-held traditions, did not accept our decision to join the Church. Yet they had been good examples to me all their lives, and I wanted them to accept the restored gospel. I asked Heavenly Father to help us be examples of good Latter-day Saints to them.
One weekend my parents came to spend the day with us. As they prepared to leave, three-year-old Roberto Carlos asked if he could spend a week with them in their home. I agreed to let him go, packed a small bag, and sent him on his way. My mother was working full-time at the local department store, but my father was retired, so for most of the time Roberto Carlos would be in his grandfather’s care.
Around the middle of the following week, I called to see how he was doing. My mother replied, “In the three days he has been with us, we have had to pray every morning and night and have had to thank the Lord for the food at every meal.” It was clear to me that the opportunity we had prayed for—to be good examples—had arrived, and Roberto Carlos had the situation well in hand.
One day my father underestimated his grandson’s potential with a baseball bat. He pitched a ball to Roberto Carlos in the living room—resulting in a broken ceramic jar. The jar was one of my mother’s favorites because she made it herself years ago.
My father glued all the pieces back together and returned it to its original place. Then, turning to Roberto Carlos, he said, “Don’t say anything to your grandma, because she’ll be angry.” After the accident, Roberto Carlos reminded his grandpa occasionally about their guilt, but each time he was told not to say anything to his grandma. He held the secret in his heart, but it troubled him.
When I arrived to pick him up, Roberto Carlos came running to me and, without even saying hello, blurted, “Grandpa and I broke the ceramic jar.”
My mother exclaimed: “Ah ha, so you’re the ones! I wondered who had broken the jar!” From where I was standing I could see that Dad had done a terrible job of putting the jar back together.
The look on Roberto Carlos’s face showed that a big load had been lifted from his heart. For the first time, I realized how important were the principles we taught our son during family home evenings.
Later we visited my parents’ home again. With tears in his eyes, my father said, “I will never forget that I must tell the truth. I learned that lesson from my grandson. I could never do anything with Roberto Carlos around that was against the principles of your church. You are a good example to your son. I should be a better example too.”
What a joy to learn the power of the gospel in the lives of all our family members, whether they are Church members or not.
Still Enough to Listen
With one phone call, a nightmare began that would span more than five years. A tender voice on the line informed me that our fifteen-year-old son was involved with drugs and alcohol and had been for quite some time. Shock gripped me.
We took our son to the county health department and had him tested for drug use. His drug levels broke their record for that substance. By the end of the week, we had admitted him to a local rehabilitation program. Six weeks later he was discharged and I thought the nightmare was over. But it was only just beginning. Two months later he was arrested at school for sale and possession of marijuana. Months became years, and a pattern of drug abuses and arrests developed. In one year alone he was arrested ten times. Finally he was sentenced to six months in jail.
After visiting our son in jail each Sunday, we would drive to the Las Vegas Temple, which was under construction at the time, and sit there and weep. How could this have happened?
I prayed often for my son. I kept his name on the prayer rolls of the temple. I fasted for him every Sunday, not just on fast days. When he was out of jail and living elsewhere, I invited him to dinner every Monday evening and to every family function we had.
I felt impressed to pray that someone he respected would come into his life. The name of his former Blazer leader came to mind, a peace officer whom I saw soon after at stake conference. I told him about my son and the impression I’d had. He said without hesitation that he would go and see him.
Two days later I was sitting at the sewing machine when I saw in my mind the officer standing in a room embracing my son. Tears were flowing down both of their faces. I looked at the clock. It was 2:15 P.M. When he called later that evening, I told him I knew he had been to see my son at 2:15 P.M. that afternoon. He confirmed that he had gone where I could not go and be welcomed. My heart overflowed with gratitude.
From that time on, I felt powerful spiritual confidence infuse me. I realized that my prayers were being heard and that deeply spiritual blessings could result if I would continue to be faithful and diligent in my efforts.
One Monday morning as I prayed, I had a strong impression to ask Heavenly Father to give my son a special dream, for it was only when he slept that he was still enough to listen. The specific words to say came gently to my mind. I was startled. I doubted that I had understood the impression correctly. Could I do such a thing? However, after receiving the same prompting two more times, I obeyed. As I knelt in prayer, I was moved to ask specifically that my son have a bright recollection of all his guilt and feel the burden of his sins, but also know immediately that the Savior loved him and wanted him back.
Time passed. Then late one summer night my son came to the house. He stood in the foyer, unsure of his welcome. He told us he had been to visit with the bishop and that he wanted to go on a mission! I ran to him and threw my arms around him, and we both wept. For about two hours he described the pain of what he’d been going through and begged for our forgiveness.
My husband, who had been deeply hurt, was skeptical at first. After talking long hours, our son reached over and put his hands on his dad’s knees and asked him if he would give him a father’s blessing. I witnessed a second miracle that night as tears came to my husband’s eyes and his heart was immediately softened.
Some time later, my son was asked to speak at a leadership meeting about his return to Church activity. At the meeting he stood and said, “One night I had a dream, and in the dream I had a bright recollection of all my guilt. I felt the burden of my sins but knew immediately that the Savior loved me and wanted me back.”
I was overcome with emotion. I knew then as never before that Heavenly Father had not only responded to my heartfelt fasting and prayer but also, in his merciful wisdom, graciously taught me what to pray for.
Eighteen months later my son was called to serve a mission. There were nearly five hundred people in attendance at sacrament meeting! Friends from Hawaii arrived, bringing with them a braided green lei, which they presented to our son just before the meeting began. This particular lei, they explained, was one villagers placed on triumphant warriors when they returned victorious from battle. They asked him to wear it when he gave his talk.
However, when our son stood to talk, he didn’t have on the lei. I worried that our friends would be hurt. Then, near the end of his talk, he took out the lei and explained the tradition associated with it. He said he felt like a warrior going to battle for the truth but that there was someone else here who was the real warrior, someone who had waged a difficult war and won. He then turned to me and reached for my hand, led me to his side, and lovingly placed the lei around my neck.
I surely know that as parents in Zion we have great power to reach out and bring back our lost children with help from our Father in Heaven. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24).
Because of a shortage of musicians in the ward in which I live, I found myself serving as ward organist even though I personally felt that my abilities were not equal to the task. Not long ago, when I had a bad day at the organ, I wanted to hide my face and run crying from the chapel. Then I remembered Richard.
I was in my early teens when Richard, our neighbor, graduated from high school. Richard had a promising future ahead of him. He was an extremely bright young man and had won several scholarships. He planned to serve a mission, then finish his higher education. Richard seemed to have everything going his way. The headaches he experienced before his high school graduation were attributed to his studying for finals.
Two weeks after graduation, however, Richard became extremely ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors operated, but the effects of the tumor and the resulting surgery altered the course of Richard’s life. Richard became extremely thin and suffered a loss of muscle control. Even worse, however, was the damage done to his verbal ability. The fine workings of his mind were masked by slow, halting speech.
Soon after his surgery, he attended church and soon returned to his place at the sacrament table. Red scars could be seen through the short, thin hair on his scalp as he knelt at the sacrament table to offer one of the prayers, just as he had done many times before his surgery. This time, however, he stumbled over the words and had to begin over and over again. On the seventeenth try he was finally able to complete the sacred prayer correctly. Long before he had finished, it seemed that everyone in the congregation was silently praying with him, urging the Lord to help him and shedding quiet tears for him.
In time, physical therapy helped steady Richard’s hands and feet, and his ability to communicate also improved. Richard continued to sit at the sacrament table and serve his ward family by offering the prayer on the sacrament, though it often took him five or six tries.
As I sat at the organ that day wishing I could run away, I remembered Richard. I stayed and played on, grateful that I could even be there.
Mission Now—Or Later?
My husband, Eldon, and I had placed a full-time mission on our list of things to do when we retired. We discussed missionary work often, read the scriptures daily, and were steadily preparing ourselves to serve someday.
In the April 1981 general conference, Elder Jacob de Jager of the Seventy spoke about the need for full-time senior couple missionaries. He explained the various assignments available to these missionaries and told of some of the unique experiences some had reported. As I listened to his talk, I felt strongly that his message was directed to members such as my husband and me. I mentioned this to Eldon, and he responded that he had also been impressed by Elder de Jager’s talk.
The Monday morning following conference, as I reflected on our experience the day before, it occurred to me that Eldon and I should rethink our goals. Eldon had retired, but I still planned to work for several years, after which we would serve a mission. Now I wondered. Perhaps I should retire now so we could apply immediately for a full-time mission.
That day I spent my lunch break calculating what effect my early retirement would have on our finances. Our benefits would be reduced, and I wondered how this might affect our ability to be self-reliant throughout our remaining lifetime.
That evening I presented Eldon with two pages of figures—my plan for early retirement and a full-time mission. The plan was based on selling our home in California and moving to Montana where we owned a second home.
After checking my figures for accuracy, Eldon agreed with me that we would have sufficient income even if I did not work longer. Our goal was not to accumulate material things or wealth but rather to accumulate the kinds of experiences that would help us serve others and grow spiritually.
Eldon was still concerned, however, about the timing of my plan, and other questions arose as well. My plan required much thought, prayer, and time before making a final decision.
During the next few days, we prayed about the plan, both separately and together, and discussed the pros and cons. By the end of the week, we had not yet reached an agreement, so we decided to fast and pray from Saturday night until Sunday evening.
On the Monday morning after our fast, Eldon prepared breakfast while I got ready for work. We had a “thought jar,” and each morning one of us would draw a paper from the jar, read it aloud, then slip it into a large paper clip where we could see it all day. These thoughts often became the topic of conversation over breakfast and the beginning of our morning scripture study.
When I walked into the kitchen that Monday morning, Eldon was standing with the thought for the day in one hand and his Book of Mormon in the other. “Listen to this,” he said. “Our thought for the day is ‘stand as a witness’ and is taken from the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, where Alma speaks of those willing to come into the fold of God.” He paused, then read, “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in” (Mosiah 18:9).
By the time Eldon had finished reading, we both had tears in our eyes. The spiritual message we got that morning was a feeling that early retirement for me and a full-time mission—immediately—was the correct decision for us.
My supervisor at work cooperated in scheduling my early retirement, and our home in California sold quickly. We moved to Montana with a minimum of effort, and a few months later, we were serving full-time in the Virginia Roanoke Mission.
Eldon and I grew to love the people of Virginia, and we continue to feel that the decision we made was the right one for us. We love reading the scriptures and have learned that they can help us make decisions even when they are very difficult ones.
Edith B. Tolley, a member of the Lolo Ward, Stevensville Montana Stake, serves at home in the Family Records Extraction program.
Exactly Fifty Dollars
The Bravards, a family with eight children who lived in our ward in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, were going to the Washington Temple to see their oldest daughter married for time and eternity. On a fast Sunday just before they were to leave, Brother Bravard bore his testimony and described how he’d worked odd jobs after his regular work to earn enough money to take his whole family to Washington, D.C. As he spoke, I sensed the deep love he had for his family.
About three days before the Bravard family was to leave for the temple, I was taking my usual walk through the woods near our home when a quiet impression came into my mind: Brother Bravard needs fifty dollars. I was puzzled. He had just told us in testimony meeting that he had saved enough to make the trip. As I stood there wondering about it, the message came again.
When my husband came home from work that day, I said, “Brother Bravard needs some money.” Then I told him about my experience.
My husband replied, “He just told us on Sunday that he has enough.”
“But I’m sure the Bravards need money,” I insisted.
“Well,” he said, relenting, “go ahead and send him twenty-five dollars.”
“The Lord said fifty.”
My husband just looked at me and grinned. I wrote the check and ran down to the post office to mail it quickly so Brother Bravard would have it the next day.
Late the following day my phone rang. I recognized the emotional voice as that of Brother Bravard. The brakes on his car had gone out, he said, and he’d had to spend fifty dollars from his precious temple money to repair them. Without the money I’d sent, he said, he would not have been able to see his daughter married.
In that moment we shared a special testimony of our Father in Heaven’s great love for each of his children.