I Was Going Nowhere
While I was growing up there were many problems in my family. I was lonely and had poor social skills, so I started hanging around the wrong type of people in an effort to find friends and happiness.
When I was eight years old, my grandfather baptized me. But because of many problems and hardships, I justified to myself lowering my standards as a Latter-day Saint to find happiness as the world defines it. During this period, however, I still believed the Church was true.
Soon I began to lose control of my life. I grew my hair long and listened to hard rock music. Other types of wrongdoing became part of my life, and I depended on them to make me happy and to deliver me from all my problems.
Nothing I did helped. Depressed, I wandered the streets at night in search for some excitement. In time, I dropped out of school in hopes of becoming a rock star.
Soon I began to sell everything I owned for frivolous reasons. Once I sold a $500 bike for only about $100 just so I could get concert tickets. I no longer had any close friends my age. One day my mother informed me we were moving again, which discouraged me even more. This would be at least the 13th time I had moved to a new place and the eleventh time I had changed schools. But again I decided not to bother with school at all and instead roamed the streets looking for excitement. I despaired of finding any answers to my problems. My mother, of course, was concerned and told me I was going nowhere with my life. I knew she was right, but I didn’t know what else to do.
I felt like I had hit bottom. I had to do something, try something, but didn’t know what. When I saw the happiness of others who were active in living the gospel, I was motivated to begin a more sincere search for something better. But old habits kept me captive, and I grew very discouraged.
One morning my mom woke me up and told me to come upstairs. I sat down at the kitchen table, and she told me of a place that might be able to help me with my problems. Would I go take a look at it with her? I saw no harm in visiting the place. It turned out to be a hospital for people with problems like mine, and once there I realized I would not be leaving with my mom. I didn’t care, because I had nowhere else to go.
While I was in the hospital, I had plenty of time to think and read. I read the story of a man who had overcome his shortcomings by applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ in his life, as taught in the Book of Mormon. His story sank deep into my heart and kindled a desire within to search the Book of Mormon in what seemed to be a final appeal to God for help. I read from its pages for hours, and its stories began to take on meaning in my life. From morning until night I spent every spare moment reading and studying the Book of Mormon. In two and one-half weeks I read the entire book and then began to read it again.
As I read and prayed about the Book of Mormon, I felt the Spirit bear witness to me that God still truly loved me. I began to trust in God more deeply. One morning while I was praying, I poured out my whole soul in mighty prayer as Enos had done (see Enos 1:4). With all my courage, I promised my Heavenly Father that if he would show me how to change, I would do whatever he required. I felt a strong impression that I would have to give up the behaviors that were the cause of my problems. Previously I had tried to bargain with God, promising to give up some of my sins while hoping I could leave other parts of my lifestyle unchanged. But I knew that to be reconciled with God, I would have to trust in him and change completely. I came to recognize the Lord’s instruction as stated in Alma 5:57, “Come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things.” Step by step I began. First I cut my hair; then I destroyed all my rock music tapes I had loved so much. Finally I sought help from my bishop. Later I realized that, like the Lamanites of old, I too had to bury my “weapons of war,” or my weapons of rebellion, as a testimony before God that I would not use them again (see Alma 24:16–19).
As I did these things I discovered a new life as described in Mosiah 27:24–29. I began to find joy in simple things, and as time went on I returned to school, got a job, and found a real life through our Savior Jesus Christ. In time I was called to serve as a full-time missionary in Japan.
The Book of Mormon not only changed my life but also gave me my life back again.
“Dad, Are You There?”
Like many young women, I was very involved in baby-sitting. I loved to care for children, and my baby-sitting business in our small town was growing quickly.
One day I received a phone call from a young couple who had been given my name along with a high recommendation from a mutual friend. Despite their confidence in my abilities to care for their children, I felt uneasy about accepting their request. All I knew about them was that they led a lifestyle very foreign to a teenage girl raised among Latter-day Saints.
Finally the scheduled night arrived, and I bravely climbed into the back seat of their beat-up old car. The car started with a jerk, and as we began our drive toward the roughest part of town, I watched in horror as the man and his wife passed a container of alcohol back and forth to each other. Their laughter was frightful.
The car came to a stop in front of an old, ill-kempt house. As I entered, several seconds passed before my eyes adjusted to the dim light. My nose wrinkled at the scent of stale cigarettes, alcohol, and old diapers. Finally I noticed two diapered children huddled in a corner. Their forlorn appearance overpowered my negative impressions, and my heart went out to them. I felt a deep desire to care for the children, to love them, and to somehow bless their lives, if only for a few hours.
While I cared for them, all my fears left me, and the night went well until the children were asleep in bed. Then the silence was broken only by strange creaks of the unfamiliar house. I was too frightened to sleep, and as the hours wore on, I became aware of the yells and screams coming from fighting neighbors. I was falling apart, but I felt helpless.
Then the thought came to my mind that my father, who was a fireman, might still be awake and that I could call him on his private line at the station. Within seconds my father was on the phone speaking to me with a comforting voice. He suggested that I lie down on the couch and try to rest. I fought his counsel, telling him over and over again that I was too afraid to ever rest in that environment.
My father calmed my fears with a promise that he would stay on the line and not hang up. I did lie down and rest. However, I awoke with a bolt of fear several times during the following two hours, each time calling, “Dad, are you there?” And every time my father was there, still holding on the line, never leaving me alone.
As an adult, I continue to find that life can be scary and uncertain. Although my father has passed from this life, the lesson in faith and trust he taught me on that night years ago still comforts me. Now, when I need comfort and reassurance, I pray to my Heavenly Father, “Father, are you there?” And I am comforted, knowing that he loves me and is still on the line, aware of my situation and “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
A Moment to Mother
The words so painstakingly hand stitched on the old needlepoint wall hanging had prodded my efforts more than once. But after 13 years of marriage, we remained childless, and my hope had faded along with the words on the wall: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).
My efforts to seek, ask, and knock were all left unanswered. I was emotionally drained from the roller coaster ride of hope and despair. For my own mental health and the sake of our marriage, I decided to end my quest with one final, latest-technology procedure. I hung my hopes on the second half of the framed scripture. “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? … If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt.: 9, 11.)
The procedure exacted a heavy price physically and emotionally, but I felt peaceful. I had asked for the good gift.
Two weeks later, the long-awaited news came. “Congratulations,” the nurse said. “The results of your pregnancy test are positive.”
I hardly dared breathe. I dusted off long-shelved dreams and began making plans. A month later, however, my dreams became a nightmare as my body rejected the new life. I pleaded with Heavenly Father. I promised whatever I thought he might require if only he would stop this loss. I felt like a child on Christmas morning opening a gift to find what I had wished for only to realize it was not mine.
It’s not fair! I thought. What more must I do? But there was only silence.
In time my body returned to normal, but my heart felt wooden, lacking emotion. I took a walk in the spring weather one day, hoping it might rekindle my spirit, but even the beauty around me failed to awaken my emotions. It was still winter in my soul.
I was headed home when my attention was drawn to a movement in the grass. Two inches of bald grayness writhed quietly at my feet. “What are you?” I asked, gently picking it up. It nuzzled my fingers, seeking nourishment. I walked home as fast as I could without jostling the newborn creature.
Grabbing a doll-sized bottle and a can of newborn animal formula left over from some orphaned kittens, I was soon ready for the first feeding. I put a bead of warm milk on its mouth. Nothing happened. Then a twitch, and the milk disappeared. I repeated the process several times before laying the tiny animal in a box with a heating pad and an old towel. “This is crazy,” I said to myself, as I set the alarm for a 2:30 A.M. feeding. I awoke before the alarm went off.
My new friend soon learned to suck directly from the bottle. Miniature whiskers sprouted and two tiny front teeth appeared. Long-sealed eyelids opened to reveal round black eyes. Bald, gray skin disappeared under soft brown hair. My suspicions were confirmed when ears that had lain inconspicuous and flat popped up pointed and translucent. It was a rabbit. I guessed it to be a boy and named him Alex.
Near the end of the second week, I prepared the milk as usual and placed the nipple on his tiny mouth. Nothing happened. I tried again. “Alex, please eat,” I pleaded. Still, nothing. By the evening of the second day, he lay quietly in my hand too weak to move.
The next morning I awakened early, determined to succeed. Approaching the box, I strained to hear the characteristic scratching. There was nothing but quiet. Alex lay motionless on his side—his round, dark eyes open.
Like a nightmare revisited, the harsh realization that I would not, could not, be a mother, even to a newborn rabbit, crashed around me. I sank to my knees. Great sobs from deep inside erupted in a flood of tears.
“Don’t leave me, please don’t die,” I said, stroking his tiny head. I stayed on my knees pleading for some relief. “Dear Heavenly Father, in my mind I know you love me, but in my heart I feel abandoned.” I slumped to the floor, defeated.
Gradually, a feeling of peace and a sense of love gently washed over me. Then another emotion, unrecognized at first, slowly penetrated my consciousness. It was a deep feeling of sympathy. While my challenge was not taken away, I knew that Heavenly Father was aware of my struggles. I was not alone, and that was enough.
Many people suffer. They, too, may pray for that good gift—a “miracle” that will make everything right. Occasionally blessings come that seem to defy natural laws. Usually, however, blessings that come our way are less spectacular. Rarely do these blessings solve our problems for us. Rather, they help remind us that Heavenly Father is on our side and that he does love us. They may be as simple as comforting words, the beauty of a spring day, or even the life of a newborn rabbit.
Alex’s tiny life was a microcosm of mothering to a soul starved for that experience. He was, even in dying, that good gift.
Would They Welcome Me Again?
When I joined the Church, I began attending a very small Filipino branch where the members were very close and worked in unity to get things done.
As we grew in numbers, the branch prospered little by little. New chairs came, then a new sacrament table. In time we moved to a spacious apartment and even had a new organ. Three years later a lot was purchased for our future meetinghouse.
During this period of growth the unity of our branch was occasionally tested. After some particularly hurtful gossip reached me, I decided to leave the Church. For the next six Sundays I did not attend my meetings, although in my heart I wished I were there. I especially wanted to partake of the sacrament and renew my covenants.
One day I knelt in prayer and asked for strength, courage, and especially enlightenment. I was still on my knees when my eyes caught sight of a book on the floor near the foot of my bed, partly hidden by the bedcovers. I picked up a dusty and neglected volume of scripture and began paging through it, hoping to find some lines that would ease my pain. I stopped at Doctrine and Covenants 136:29–30 [D&C 136:29–30]: “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful. Fear not thine enemies.”
After reading the verses, I felt lighter in spirit, and my faith and courage returned. I would go back to church. I sank to my knees again, this time to offer a prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father.
As I neared the meetinghouse, I felt very apprehensive. Would they welcome me again? Would I hear even more whispering behind my back? Or would they ignore me altogether? My feet dragged the closer I got to the door. Then I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and before I could turn around, an arm encircled me in a tender embrace. Then another hand reached out to clasp mine. Other friends burst from the door with warm smiles and greetings, each one expressing joy and happiness for my return.
As the sacrament service began, we turned to the opening hymn, “Though Deepening Trials” (Hymns, no. 122). A soothing feeling of calm and peace filled me as each word was sung, and the feelings of hurt and resentment I had harbored melted away. Warm tears blurred my vision, and I could no longer see the words in the hymnbook. I closed my eyes tightly and gratefully whispered, “Father, thanks for leading me back to the fold.”
Humming Our Testimonies
My interpreter, my wife, and I were on a minibus waiting to leave the city of Yanti, Shandong Province, in the People’s Republic of China. We were there on business, traveling south to a beautiful coastal city. Just when we were about to depart, a friendly Chinese man boarded the bus and sat right next to us.
Through my interpreter, I asked him his name. We shook hands, and he said he was going to a conference. He looked at my wife, then at me, and asked, through our interpreter, “Are you Christians?”
My wife, Diane, told him we were. He said he was too and showed us a well-worn copy of the New Testament. We smiled but dared not say anything more about it, for at this time in the People’s Republic of China, all forms of proselyting were prohibited and discussion between Chinese and foreigners was strongly discouraged.
The bus moved, and we were on our way. Suddenly I heard someone humming a song. I looked to my left; my wife looked to her right. We saw that our new Chinese acquaintance, eyes closed, was humming a melody and tapping a beat with his hand.
I quietly asked Diane, “What is he humming?” She answered that he was singing “Amazing Grace.”
Soon Diane joined him in his humming. Once they had finished the song, the passenger looked up directly at us. Diane immediately understood that he was trying to communicate his religious feelings to us.
Now it was Diane’s turn. She began to sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (Hymns, no. 246) and as soon as she started, he nodded his head affirmatively and hummed all the verses with her.
For two and one-half hours, with scarcely a pause, Diane and our newly discovered Chinese brother hummed and sang together songs of Jesus Christ. Near the end of the ride, I whispered to Diane, “Bear your testimony.” She nodded and began singing:
(Hymns, no. 193)
After Diane finished her testimony, our friend quietly and most reverently shared his testimony in return as he hummed:
(Hymns, no. 136)
As the Spirit entered that minibus to bear witness of these songs of testimony, I suddenly realized we were an answer to this man’s prayers. We had been guided to confirm his belief in God and in Jesus Christ.
Time was passing so quickly. The feeling that existed among the three of us had become centered on the love we shared for our Savior. I wondered where our friend had found such a love for Christ in this country that had so few Christians among its billion-plus population.
Our van came to the brow of a hill, and below us we could see our final destination. As Diane sensed our visit was ending, she quickly began to hum “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, no. 152). And for the last time, this man of faith joined in with tears in his eyes, his hand always tapping the rhythm on his knee.
The bus stopped. The door slid open, and our friend stood up. We warmly shook hands, and he stepped out into the morning light.
I was renewed that day in my commitment to be a disciple of Christ in all places. When we got back to our home in the city of Tianjin, Diane and I opened our Bible to Colossians 3:16 [Col. 3:16], and I read aloud Paul’s words: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”