I Couldn’t Read or Write
My father was a long-distance truck driver who drank alcohol and was prone to violence. On those rare instances when he was home, he often beat his four children. As a result of my home situation, I lacked confidence in my ability to do anything right, including schoolwork. I withdrew into my own world and couldn’t seem to learn anything.
Once when I was a new student in a class, a girl taunted me, “You can’t read or write!” I’ll never forget how ashamed I felt at that moment. After six years in elementary school, I was sent to a special school for poor achievers. I stayed there three years.
After leaving school, I drifted for several years. I had no skills and felt like a ship without a rudder. Then I met a neighbor who became like a father to me. He encouraged me to seek knowledge, to use my intelligence. One day I saw him compose a telegram. Sending a telegram would be a simple thing for most people, and I determined then that one day I would learn to read and write properly so that I, too, could send a telegram.
I began to ask questions. The world suddenly became a fascinating place. I enrolled in an adult extension class and read my first complete book, a 150-page children’s book. Deciphering its contents occupied me for a long time. Next I enrolled in an evening middle school where I had a wonderful, caring teacher. Thanks to this dedicated teacher, I finally learned to read and write. Just knowing how to do these simple things that most people take for granted gave me a magnificent feeling.
One day two missionaries gave my brother a copy of the Book of Mormon during a street contact in Cologne, Germany. I was curious about the book and began reading it. I caught the spirit of it. My desire to learn the gospel was insatiable. Then I read the Bible. Suddenly I realized that I, who had been a learning-disabled boy, had read the two most important books in the world!
I wanted to find the missionaries and felt driven to travel to the center of Cologne, where I found the elders at an information booth they had set up. I received instruction from the missionaries, and a week and a half later I was baptized.
Two years later I began a full-time mission in England and had to learn a new language. This successful experience was the crowning event of my life up to that time. My faith and my missionary experiences gave me great inner strength and confidence. I knew I really could do anything I wanted to do. My future depended only on what I was willing to work for.
When I returned from my mission, I was allowed to enroll in a school equivalent to an American high school. A year later I graduated. An even greater blessing came to me when I qualified for advanced study at a university. For a learning-disabled boy who could neither read nor write, I acknowledge the loving hand of my Heavenly Father, who opened the way for me to overcome my challenges.
Gunther Steffans serves as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency of the Cologne Second Branch, Düsseldorf Germany Stake.
Only Three Dollars in the Bank
My husband had started his own business at a time of year when business was especially slow. The phone did not ring; the money did not come in. We didn’t know what to do.
After reading President Ezra Taft Benson’s address To the Mothers in Zion (pamphlet, 1987), I felt very strongly about quitting my job. In the address, President Spencer W. Kimball was quoted as saying, “Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn”(7). Those words were carried into my heart. I had just given birth to my third child, and I knew by the Spirit that staying home with my children was what Heavenly Father desired of me. I decided to follow the prophet’s counsel and to leave our financial worries in the Lord’s hands.
I read in the scriptures that it was important to pray with a sincere heart and real intent (see Moro. 10:4). For two days I fasted and prayed as sincerely as I could that my husband’s business would pick up. However, when the time came to pay our rent, our bank account held only three dollars. My parents graciously loaned us a little money to get by.
My heart ached. Where could we get enough money to live on? Would the Lord answer my prayers? I knelt down in a closet and prayed with the most sincere heart and real intent I could find within me. I desperately wanted to follow the prophet’s counsel to be at home with my children, and so I pleaded and cried and reached out to the Lord for an answer.
As I prayed, the face of my dear bishop came strongly to my mind, and I knew that I must talk with him. I went to see him the very next day. After assuring me that our stake president had determined that no member of the stake would ever go hungry or homeless, he counseled me not to spend so much time worrying. Knowing that my worst fears were unfounded, I went home comforted, confident that somehow we would survive until things improved.
While the bishop did not solve our problem, his words of comfort enabled me to let my husband carry the burden of worry from then on while I looked to my own responsibilities in the home. The next month we had barely enough to pay our bills. Another month came, and things were slightly better. Then, within only a few months, my husband’s business was thriving.
I have since reflected on the Lord’s promise “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18) and have been filled with gratitude for its fulfillment in our family. My bishop’s counsel that day gave me peace of heart and helped me realize that I really could follow the prophet, placing my trust in him and in the Lord.
By the Light of Their Faith
The lights went out as I was walking from the Ogden (Utah) Temple cafeteria to the baptistry. I had stopped by after work that day to enjoy my Thursday evening assignment of assisting with baptisms for the dead. In the temple basement we were unaware of a sudden storm that raged outside and downed major power lines supplying the business area with electricity.
Emergency lights went on quickly in a few areas of the temple, but they did not give us enough light for our work in the baptistry. Maintenance people found several flashlights, and the afternoon workers were able to finish the last of the confirmations. The font area was completely dark, however, so further baptisms would be out of the question.
Our first group of evening proxies had arrived just before the power failure and were waiting quietly in their white baptismal clothing. As we waited for word about the possible length of the power failure, a second group arrived. Usually the baptistry was one of the warmest, most cheerful areas of the temple. The quiet voices of the temple workers would blend with the muted whispers of enthusiastic young proxies. But now the dimness seemed to cloak everyone’s cheer.
Then one of the sister workers approached our supervisor. The young proxies had suggested that we meet together for prayer to ask the Lord to restore the power. We were impressed by their faith and quickly agreed.
Soon we were kneeling together, proxies and workers, and listening to the words of an inspired prayer that asked our Father in Heaven to remember those who had waited so long for this work to be done in their behalf. It was a touching, peaceful experience. As we stood, a temple worker who had been sent to check about the power failure stepped into the room to announce that it would be four to five hours before the power would be restored. This gloomy news hardly had time to register, however, before the lights suddenly came on. Gratefully, we continued our evening’s work.
That night as I left the temple grounds, I noticed that much of the Ogden business district was still dark. The experience in the temple took on new meaning when I passed power company crews working on high-voltage lines only a few blocks from the temple. But it was another week before a better understanding came to me about what had happened that night.
Riding a shuttle bus one workday at Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden, I overheard two men nearby talking about the power failure of the week before. One man had a son who, as a worker for the power company, had gone to a power substation some distance from the broken lines. Some obviously older and unused switching equipment in a corner of the substation caught his attention. Upon quickly checking substation drawings, he discovered that the equipment had been bypassed—but never disconnected—during the installation of newer equipment. If the switches were activated, power should flow through another line into a small area of the downtown business district—including the area where the temple stood.
As I listened to the conversation, I realized that the discovery of the older equipment had come at about the same time we had been kneeling in the temple with a group of young proxies who were filled with a pure, vital faith and who had been asking their Father in Heaven for a restoration of electrical power. Our prayer had been heard and answered in a way none of us could have appreciated at the time. I was grateful that our Father in Heaven would respond to a prayer of faith and to the heartfelt desire of a group of young proxies who wanted only to be of service to departed brothers and sisters.
The Job I Needed So Badly
My wife and I and our two children were living in Gayndah, Queensland, Australia. We owned a house on seven acres of land and harbored high hopes of eventually becoming self-sufficient. However, we found that living in a small country town presented some challenges. Because I had to travel north about 125 miles to work, I could afford to come home only on weekends. On Sundays we would travel south about 85 miles to attend church. We didn’t seem to have much time left to develop our little piece of paradise.
I rode a motorbike to work and often explored different routes to get home on the weekends. On one of these forays I came across a construction site. I decided to inquire for work, and the first person I asked turned out to be the project manager. He gave me an application, which I filled out and left with him.
Over the ensuing weeks I stopped often to check on the job. I discovered that the company had only 12 openings but had received 200 applications. The number was cut to 100, and my name was still on the list. Then the list was narrowed to 50, then to 20, and I was still on the list.
At this point my wife, Michelle, and I looked seriously at what this change might require of us. Because the job entailed shift work, we’d have to move closer to the job site. Not only would we have to give up our little plot of land, but we would also find ourselves nearly 180 miles from the nearest branch of the Church. We’d be able to attend church perhaps once a month between shifts. Yet the pay was substantially better than what I had been earning.
I spoke with our branch president, who told us he felt strongly that, if anything, we should move closer to the meetinghouse rather than farther away.
Finally I was offered the job and was asked to start work within a week. I was offered excellent wages as well as a housing subsidy. Michelle and I were faced with a tough decision. The logical thing to do was to take the job. We pondered and prayed about whether to accept the job offer, leave things as they were, or move closer to the chapel. In the end my wife and I decided we would follow our branch president’s advice even though we did not know how we would support ourselves. That decision was confirmed to both of us very clearly through the Spirit.
We moved south to Kingaroy, and I got a lower-paying job working for a farmer. For several weeks we received welfare help from the Church, which was hard for us to accept. We lived frugally, never sure if we would even have enough gasoline to get to church, which was now only 12 miles away.
Then I was offered a job with a construction company at a higher wage than I would have earned at the job I had turned down. As a family we learned a valuable lesson: that if we seek Heavenly Father’s will concerning the decisions we arrive at after prayerful reflection, he will confirm whether they are right or wrong through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 9:8–9). Michelle and I now try to apply this principle in rearing our six children and in many other areas as well.
“Bill, Stop! Don’t Run!”
One of the many rewards of being a visiting teacher is learning wonderful lessons from those I am assigned to visit. One valiant sister, Gertrude Major, related an experience that taught me the importance of spiritual sensitivity.
In 1951 her eldest son, Bill, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps to fight in Korea along with many of his high school buddies. When he entered boot camp, Gertrude’s concern mounted. She was proud of Bill’s patriotic zeal but reluctant to have him leave and be exposed to danger. Gertrude fervently prayed for his welfare and protection during his tour of duty.
One morning as she was doing the laundry, her thoughts suddenly focused on Bill and she abruptly cried out, “Bill, stop! Don’t run—stay where you are, don’t move!” Startled, her 12-year-old daughter, Jeannie, came running to see what was wrong. Gertrude was alarmed at her own words and wondered at their meaning. She strongly sensed imminent peril. The rest of the day she was greatly troubled by the experience and was concerned for her son’s safety.
The next day at church, the bishop invited Gertrude into his office to set her apart as a Primary teacher. The bishop asked a visiting member of the stake presidency to officiate. He agreed, and after setting her apart he proceeded to give her a blessing but immediately began having difficulty. He could not seem to articulate what he thought should be said. After several attempts, he stopped and asked Gertrude if anyone close to her was away from home and in danger. She related her anxiety, and this faithful priesthood bearer was impressed to inform her that her son was well. He would be protected and eventually would be returned safely to her.
Gertrude later received a letter from Bill describing how his clothing had ignited while he was standing near a large barrel in which he and other soldiers had built a fire to warm themselves in the bitter cold. Panic-stricken, Bill began running as fire engulfed his uniform. Instantly, he heard his mother calling out to him, “Bill, stop! Don’t run—stay where you are, don’t move!” Her voice was so distinct that he immediately stopped running and dropped to his knees. The other soldiers quickly grabbed him and rolled him in the snow until the flames were extinguished.
Gertrude’s love for her son and her abiding faith in the Lord’s protective care spanned thousands of miles and surely helped preserve her son’s life. Her sterling example has taught me numerous invaluable lessons in faith, love, and service.
“You Did Not Name Your Son”
Everyone in our ward knew that the Borups were expecting their first child, so I was not surprised when I heard Brother Borup’s voice on the phone: “Bishop, we have just become the parents of a beautiful baby boy!” The excitement in his voice quickly subsided as he continued. “We have been informed that our son may not survive the night. We don’t know exactly what is wrong, but we know it’s serious. We want to name him while he is still alive. Would it be possible for you to come to the hospital now and perform this ordinance for us?”
“I’ll be there immediately!” I dropped the phone and ran to the car.
Brother Borup was waiting for me at the hospital entrance and escorted me to the scrubbing room. While we prepared to enter the baby’s room, Brother Borup’s father arrived. At that moment, I received the strong impression that the baby should be anointed and given a priesthood blessing and that this should be done by members of his own family.
Acting on the strength of this impression, I said, “Brother Borup, I feel that we should administer to your baby. This ordinance will be appropriate at this time. Your father could anoint him, and you could seal the anointing and give your son a priesthood blessing along with a name.”
Brother Borup replied, “I’m too upset. I’m sure I would not be able to do it as it should be done. My wife and I have talked this over, and we want you to do it for us.”
The impression was so strong that I responded, “I am honored and will be happy to perform this ordinance for you. However, you and your father belong to this little boy’s family. This may be the only privilege you will have to perform an ordinance for your son. I’ll stand right at your side and prompt you if you need help, and your father may assist you too.”
With this offer of support, Brother Borup reluctantly agreed to perform the ordinance. Brother Borup’s father anointed his grandson, and Brother Borup sealed the anointing and pronounced a very spiritual blessing upon his son. The blessing was so touching that the three of us stood silently for a moment while tears streamed down our cheeks.
Suddenly I realized Brother Borup had not named his son. Gently I placed my hand upon his shoulder and apologetically said, “I’m sorry I failed to prompt you at the time, but you did not name your son.”
Brother Borup, while wiping tears from his eyes with his handkerchief, said, “I know I didn’t name him. I received a strong impression that it would not be necessary to name him at this time. I’ll have that privilege at the next fast and testimony meeting.”
Early the next morning I received another call from Brother Borup. “I’m still here in the hospital. The doctor has just examined our son and finds that the life-threatening symptoms he had yesterday have disappeared. There seems to be nothing wrong with him this morning. We will be able to take him home as early as tomorrow if there are no further complications.”
Two weeks later, on fast Sunday, Brother and Sister Borup brought their baby boy to sacrament meeting where Brother Borup gave him the name of Byron Borup III and pronounced upon him another very special blessing.