“Help Zeca Know the Truth”
As a missionary in Portugal I had many opportunities to see people accept the gospel, but none of those conversions touched me more than Zeca’s. He was a young professional soccer player who also worked as a wine taster. Eager to learn, he listened to our heartfelt discussions with a special light in his eyes.
Only when hearing about the Word of Wisdom did he show concern. Even though at his work he merely tasted wine without swallowing any of it, he nevertheless felt his profession was not in accordance with the Church’s teachings. However, the idea of giving up his job frightened him.
Zeca was only 24, and he lived alone in a bare apartment with only a mattress on the floor for him to sleep on. The rent took most of his earnings.
My companion and I taught him and bore our testimonies to him as fervently as possible. But we knew that ultimately the decision to join the Church must be his. It seemed, however, that all of our testifying and praying, along with all of Zeca’s study and prayers, didn’t result in his gaining a testimony. This frustrated him greatly because he believed we were telling him the truth, yet he wanted to feel the truth for himself.
Shortly after we had taught Zeca about tithing and fasting, we visited him. I will never forget how he met us at the door that day, his dark eyes shining, his smile wide and eager.
“I’ve been waiting for you, sisters,” he exclaimed. “I’ve been fasting to know if the Church is true, and I wanted to break my fast with you.”
Amazed that he’d fasted on his own initiative, we entered his barren apartment, our hearts warmed by the light in his eyes. Together we knelt in a circle and took turns praying aloud, asking Father in Heaven to help Zeca know the truth. The Spirit in the room was powerful, almost tangible, and each of us soon had tears in our eyes.
The last one to pray was Zeca. He spoke simply, his voice rough with emotion but full of gratitude. “Oh, Father, I thank thee for sending these sisters to me. And I thank thee for this wonderful feeling in my heart that tells me the Church is true!”
Through fasting and prayer, Zeca had gained a testimony! He was baptized two weeks later. Soon he found a new job, and in time he was actively involved in his branch, helping it to grow. He remembers vividly, as I do, the day fasting helped him gain a testimony.
“Get Up and Move Your Bed!”
My two buddies and I, all of us just 15 years old, laughed and joked as we unpacked our provisions and set up camp one summer in the high Uinta Mountains of Utah. At last our eagerly planned trip was a reality.
Each of us had worked on our family farms throughout the summer. After haying season was over we finally had two weeks for our trip. I was a large, strong boy and looked forward fearlessly to the adventures of life. Before sunup we had tied our provisions on a packhorse, mounted our own horses, and begun our long journey into the mountains. We made good time and stopped at noon to rest our horses and fix ourselves a meal. We finally arrived at our favorite camp just before sundown.
After staking the horses, my friend Ariel began cooking dinner while Jiggs and I went out to cut fresh pine boughs for a bed. In those days we did not own sleeping bags, so we made one big bed by spreading a large piece of canvas over the pine boughs, piling blankets on one half of the tarp, then folding the other half over the top of the blankets to keep us dry in case of dampness or rain.
Darkness slowly descended on our mountain retreat. Our stomachs satisfyingly filled, we settled in happy weariness into the waiting bed and fell asleep quickly. Deep into the night hours I awoke to a voice. I seldom woke during the night and was very groggy. Ignoring the voice, I drifted back to sleep. Again the voice came to me. This time I woke up and listened, not believing what I heard.
“Get up and move your bed!”
Move my bed? A hard, chill wind was blowing, and my bed was comfortable and warm, my friends fast asleep. I lay there staring into the darkness, seeing the trees, one in particular, faintly illuminated against the dark sky. Then came the voice again, more urgently. “Get up and move your bed into the forest. That dead tree may blow over.”
Fully alert now, I jumped up and shook my friends awake. I told them we needed to move our bed because the old dead tree might blow over. With sleepy complaints and groans they crawled out, and together we pulled the canvas into the woods and fell grumbling into bed again, this time on hard ground. Falling asleep instantly, we heard nothing the rest of the night.
With the first light of dawn painting the sky shades of pink, we stretched and yawned ourselves into full wakefulness. Walking back toward our camp area, suddenly we all stopped dead in our tracks staring at the place where our bed had been. The dead tree had crashed to the ground during the night, covering our deserted pine boughs with its bulk and driving many limbs larger than our waists into the ground. We stood in wide-eyed shock at what our fate might have been.
Gratitude for that quiet, insistent voice of warning wove itself through every day of that vacation, sharpening our enjoyment of even small pleasures. And because our lives were spared on that summer night long ago, throughout all my life I have held close to my heart a knowledge of the love our Father in Heaven has for all his children.
Could He Run Again?
All his life our son Russ wanted to be in law enforcement. In April 1980 he finally graduated from the police academy and joined the King County police force headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Although we were happy for him, we feared that one day we might receive a phone call telling us he had been hurt or killed.
I was somewhat comforted, however, when Russ promised me he’d do all he could to protect himself from harm. Among other measures, this included wearing his policeman’s protective vest as well as striving to be worthy of any protective influence the Lord might bless him with.
The dreaded call came at 3:18 one November morning. Russ had made a routine traffic stop, and as he climbed out of his car, a drunk driver came fishtailing around the bend and hit both him and the patrol car, throwing him 40 feet across the road.
We drove quickly to the hospital and learned the extent of his injuries. As the only priesthood holder available at that critical time, I asked the emergency room personnel if I could give my son a blessing before they took him into surgery. A beautiful spirit entered, and absolute silence fell upon the roomful of teary-eyed people. An officer standing nearby put his arm around me and said, “I wish my father could do that for me.”
After surgery the doctor said he had been amazed to find no serious internal injuries. Russ was encouraged to find that only his head, arms, and legs had sustained serious damage. Doctors were hopeful they could begin skin grafting in about two weeks. In the meantime, Church members from Russ’s ward began arriving at the hospital and two elders administered to him.
Russ began healing so well that skin grafts were started four days after the accident. Much to the doctors’ surprise, all the skin grafts were successful, and we were able to take our son home after only 10 days.
Once Russ was home, the nerve damage in his left leg caused the foot to drop down, and it could not be raised up. Two months later, surgery could not repair the extensive damage, and Russ was told he would never regain normal use of his foot. He was fitted with a metal brace that made it possible for him to walk. However, in order to return to the work he loved, he had to be able to run.
Russ determined that no matter what the doctors had told him, he would learn to run again. He was later fitted with a plastic brace that allowed more movement, and he began exercising his leg. When one Saturday I asked him how he felt and when he thought he could start running, he said, “Let’s go!” We went outside and started running. We did not run far, and we did not run fast, but we ran.
I cannot describe the joy or the emotion I felt in those few moments! I wanted to put my arms around Russ and cry. Eleven months after the accident Russ returned to the police work he loved. Seeing how the Lord has blessed and healed our son has strengthened our testimony and our appreciation of the power of the priesthood.
Our French-Bread Friends
We had lived in our new neighborhood north of San Francisco, California, for about eight months when a family of four moved into the house across the street. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood worked during the day, and in those eight months we had met only one other family. I wondered if we would make friends with the new family.
A few days later I was baking French bread and the thought came to me to take a loaf of bread to our new neighbors. I immediately worried that they would think I was strange and reject my bread and me. All afternoon I felt I should take the bread to them, but I was afraid. Finally I decided that perhaps the Lord wanted me to meet the family. I prayed for courage while I wrapped the warm bread.
I knocked on their door and was invited into the kitchen where Linda and her husband, Bob, had been talking. They offered me a cup of coffee, then tea, and finally fruit juice. Soon I was sipping a tall glass of cold apple juice while we chatted about our families and laughed together. Their boys were about the same age as our children, and before I left they knew a lot about us, including the fact that we were members of the Church.
One day a few months later, Linda visited me. After learning that my husband had taken time off from work to paint scenery for an upcoming roadshow, she helped with the painting for two days.
It was natural to invite Linda to the roadshow and the party held afterward for the cast. There she met all the happy and excited teenagers from our ward. Later, as we drove home, she commented, “I have been so impressed with what I have seen tonight. The thought of my boys being involved in something like those roadshows when they are older, instead of looking for excitement on the streets, really intrigues me. Do you think our family could go to church with you sometime?”
They began searching the scriptures, praying, and attending church with us. We moved away shortly thereafter, but we returned to attend their baptism and, a year later, to see them sealed together in the Oakland Temple. We have continued to grow closer as the years have gone by. Whenever we get together, they bring out a family photo album and show us pictures of the current year’s roadshow. Over the years, Linda has helped write many scripts for roadshows, and she and her boys have played leading roles in many of them.
I could never have foreseen the rich experiences that our families have enjoyed as a result of taking a loaf of French bread to a new neighbor.
“I Will, Dad, I Will!”
Walking down the long school corridor on a hot summer’s day in Australia, I was on my way to teach my next class when a friend and fellow teacher approached me. As he drew closer I had an uneasy feeling come over me.
“Malcolm,” he said, “I have bad news for you. Your father passed away yesterday.”
I was devastated. My father lived halfway around the world from us in South Wales, Great Britain. I wondered how my mother was dealing with her great loss and how I should break the news to my wife and children.
Gathering my family around me after work that day, I told them of my father’s passing. It was a bitter blow for them. We had spent the last two years taking on extra work so that we could afford to spend Christmas with our families in South Wales. My wife had taken our four-year-old daughter at six o’clock every morning to pick oranges in nearby orange groves, cleaned homes, and sold cosmetics door-to-door. My spare time had been spent repairing houses to earn money for the trip.
The excitement we had felt earlier about our Christmas vacation immediately dimmed. Our plans changed to finding ways of comforting my mother as loneliness settled around her.
Realizing that for many years I had not told my father that I loved him, and feeling keenly the loss of that opportunity, I prayed daily for a chance to tell my father that I loved him. Nine months passed, and I kept pleading with the Lord. Then one night, soon after I had fallen asleep, I saw my father. He looked youthful, his skin clear, not marked as before by his years of working in the coal mines. His countenance was one of joy—a memory that lives with me today.
He smiled at me and we talked. Then his smile disappeared and he said, “Malcolm, do the temple work for me.” I was stunned. My father had not been a member of the Church. Immediately the image began to fade. I called after him, “I will, Dad, I will!”
I realized then that I had missed my chance to tell him that I loved him! Suddenly the thought came to me: If I want my father to know I love him, I must fulfill his request and do the work for him.
That opportunity finally came. We had planned to spend a week at the London Temple to perform ordinances. My thoughts, however, revolved around my father’s request. Upon entering the temple, I was disappointed to learn that because his name had not been processed in time, I could not yet do the temple work for him. Yet, the staff assured me that they would have the necessary processing done so that I could stand as proxy for my father before I left England.
The week passed, but still the processing had not been completed. When I asked about the matter on the last morning of my stay in London, the response was the same.
My spirits plummeted. Under the weight of disappointment, my self-control crumbled. Tears welled up in my eyes. Then I heard a voice from behind me inquire, “What is the problem, Brother Dearden?” It was a counselor in the temple presidency. I explained the problem to him, and his kind assistance brought quick results.
Upon receipt of the requisite paper, he asked me to follow him. When we reached the baptistry, he issued instructions to the workers and I was led to the changing rooms.
Finally I stood as proxy for my father and was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. Following another hurried walk and my helper’s similar instructions to the workers, I was allowed to proceed through the remaining temple ordinances—only to experience a series of electrical power failures in the temple! I prayed to Father in Heaven to let me fulfill my promise to my father, so that he would know how much I loved him. Eventually the electrical power stayed on and I was able to complete my father’s temple work and return home feeling closer than ever before to both my earthly father and my Heavenly Father.
My Lesson in Mechanics—and Faith
Soon after my family and I joined the Church, our life seemed to be running on pure faith. The budget was very tight. Both my husband and I were busy fulfilling our Church callings, and our three children kept us on the go constantly. Our old car often needed repairs, and we worried constantly about the cost.
One Saturday my husband, Tom, looked after the boys while I left to run a long list of errands. I’ll just dash in and out of the stores and make quick work of this list, I thought. At the first signal light my engine stalled. I didn’t think too much about it until it stalled again at the next light. Then it began to die even upon deceleration.
My heart ached. How could we handle another repair bill? Would the garage even take us on their busiest day of the week? “Please, Heavenly Father, be mindful of our difficulties,” I cried out loud, tears streaming down my cheeks. “We can’t afford more car repair bills.” I felt a sweet assurance prompting me to go to the garage we generally used near the shopping center where I was headed. I felt relieved and decided to run my errands, then go over to the garage.
But when the car stalled again and I was strongly impressed to go immediately to the garage, I knew the Spirit was directing me. I immediately put aside my plans and headed for the garage.
I was only a short block away from the garage by then. As I slowed down to turn into the parking lot, my engine stalled yet again. I coasted to the curb by the service department, where a young man and his wife had just emerged. He heard my engine stall and literally leaped toward my still rolling car. When it came to a stop, he threw open the hood and stuck his head inside. Alarmed, I got out to see what he was up to.
“See this little valve here?” he was saying. “That’s your trouble. I have the same model car, and I just paid them sixty dollars to have them adjust mine. And I want to save you the expense.” As he performed the needed adjustment, I gratefully watched and rehearsed the procedure in my mind.
On that day I felt our Heavenly Father’s love envelop me. I drove away, engine purring, eyes wet with new tears.
Margaret d’Aquin serves as ward family history specialist in the Brownlee Ward, Shreveport Louisiana Stake.