“You Wrote Me a Letter!”
It was my parents’ first trip in years to their former home in California. Many faces in the old ward had changed, but they were pleasantly surprised to note how many familiar faces remained.
As my mother stood in the foyer, a man hurried up to her. “Mrs. Pederson!”
My mother turned from her conversation with old friends to see a small, brown-suited man. His face seemed familiar to her but out of place in the foyer until, with mild surprise, she recognized my sister’s former fifth-grade teacher, who had not been a member of the Church when she knew him.
“Sister Pederson, where is your husband?” he asked.
“Why, Mr. Hadley! He’s somewhere over there,” she replied, pointing vaguely across the crowded foyer.
“I need to see your husband. Can you take me to him?” he insisted.
Excusing herself from her friends, she made her way to where my father was standing. Mr. Hadley clasped my father’s hand in both of his and, giving voice to long-unexpressed emotion, said, “Mr. Pederson, you wrote me a letter! You wrote me a letter!”
My father’s thoughts flashed back to when he had written a note thanking the teacher for the special evening class he had held to teach parents the “new math” so they could better help their children.
Mr. Hadley continued, “In all my years of teaching, that was the only thank-you note I received from a parent.”
A few years after he received my dad’s letter, missionaries knocked at his door. He let them in because, as he explained to my father, “I knew you were Mormons, and I thought, if there was a church that could produce people like you and your daughter, I wanted to know more about it. That letter has made all the difference in my life. I joined the Church!”
My father had always regretted never having the opportunity to serve a full-time mission. On that Sunday he realized how far-reaching a simple act of kindness can be, and he experienced the joy that comes from helping prepare someone to learn about the gospel.
A Song and a Prayer
As the announcements were read in sacrament meeting, my mind drifted to thoughts of the Relief Society lesson for that day. I picked up my lesson manual, glanced at the week’s lesson title, and froze. The teacher had asked me to sing the closing song as part of her lesson, but I had completely forgotten. I had no music with me, I had no one to play accompaniment for me, and I had not practiced. How could I have let this happen?
My mind began to race. My daughter was an excellent accompanist, but I couldn’t ask her to play on such short notice. Who else could play for me? Could I run home to get the music? Would I even get a chance to practice the song?
As such thoughts darted through my mind, I closed my eyes and apologized to Father in Heaven for being so busy that I had forgotten his work. While I sat there feeling terrible, an idea came to me. Perhaps the library or the Young Women closet had a copy of the music. Then another idea came. I thought of one sister who might have played the song before. Feeling a little reassured, I was able to relax and concentrate on the rest of sacrament meeting.
When sacrament meeting was over, I asked my daughter if there was a copy of the songbook I needed in the Young Women closet. “Yes,” she answered, and in the closet she found the music book under a stack of papers. However, the music was written in a difficult key, and she was reluctant to accompany me on such short notice.
Realizing I might have to sing the song a capella, I headed toward the Relief Society room to review the song before Sunday School began. But when I turned the corner, I saw the sister who may have played the song before.
“Have you ever played this song?” I asked. She looked at the music, and I explained my dilemma. Her response was unhesitating: “I haven’t played it before, but maybe we can find a piano that isn’t being used and try it together.”
Surprisingly, the Relief Society room was empty, and we were able to practice the song together.
Because of this gracious sister and a forgiving Heavenly Father, I was able to sing the closing song in Relief Society that day. I was humbled to realize that though I had forgotten my commitments, the way was opened for me to carry out my responsibilities.
I Prayed to See My Son
At age 13 our precious son was taken from the earth, struck down and killed in front of our house by an intoxicated driver. This tragedy left us with a crushing sense of loss.
One evening in the quiet dark of our home, I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. Like many other times during that period of grief, I pleaded for the assurance that Jared was all right—even that I might see him. I also expressed my great desire that Jared know how much I love and miss him. Copious tears flowed down my cheeks, and I felt again the fear that gripped me when I’d learned of his death.
Loving friends told me that my faith would sustain me and that I should wait on the Lord and accept his will in this matter. Perhaps, they suggested, Jared couldn’t come to me. They encouraged me to trust in the Lord.
Turning to the scriptures for comfort, I came upon a scripture that seemed to jump out at me. It changed my life. In a revelation directed to Emma Smith, the Lord said, “Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come” (D&C 25:4).
As I read those words, my heart was pierced with the certain knowledge that Father in Heaven knew of my deepest desires and that in time all would be well. One day I would indeed see my son again, in the Lord’s due time. While attending the temple soon thereafter, I gave thanks for the comfort I had received and felt strongly of my son’s love for me. I realized then that my son knew how much I love and miss him.
I am grateful for the comfort I received in my time of need and for the trust we all can place in the Lord’s “wisdom … in a time to come” (D&C 25:4).
A Letter from Russia
When I was a little girl in Germany, my country became involved in the Second World War. My brother Ernst was taken out of school at age 16 and forced to join Hitler’s army. After two years, Ernst was permitted to come home, but he soon became lonely and dissatisfied because all his friends were still fighting in the army. He asked my parents for permission to rejoin the army, but they refused. He pleaded with them, and eventually they consented. The day he left was the last time they saw him alive.
A year after the war ended, a letter from Ernst came from a hospital in Russian territory. Ernst said he was not allowed to write, and so he was sending the letter through a friend. He indicated that he had caught a mild illness while being transported from a Russian prison camp but expected to arrive home in about two weeks.
Two weeks passed, but Ernst did not come home. My parents wrote to the address on the letter, but the letter came back marked undeliverable. They wrote to every hospital, to the mayor of the city, and to anyone they thought could help them. Despite their coordinated efforts with the Red Cross over the course of 30 years, my parents never were able to find out what had happened to their son.
When I grew up, I went to Canada and there joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When it came time for me to go to the temple, I discovered that I could not have Ernst sealed to the rest of the family because I did not have proof of his death. I remembered the missionaries telling me to exercise faith in Heavenly Father and that he would help me through my difficulties. I knelt down and prayed mightily. I explained my problem and that I needed information about Ernst in order to have him sealed to the family. I asked Father in Heaven to send me proof of Ernst’s death.
About eight weeks later my brother Paul telephoned me. “Doris,” he said, “the strangest thing has happened.” Then he told me the following story.
A few weeks earlier a document had been sent from the Russian Red Cross to the German Red Cross. The German Red Cross translated the document and sent it to the house where my parents had lived in Dormagen, West Germany. Since my parents had died many years earlier, the letter was returned to the German Red Cross, who promptly sent it back to my parents’ home. The letter went back and forth two or three times until a postman who had known my family personally delivered it to my sister Hilda, who still lives in Germany. The letter told of Ernst’s death on 28 September 1946.
I have a very strong testimony that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. He knows how to help all his children, because, as he declared to Moses, “all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:35).
Our Tithing Windfall
In 1970 our family purchased a large, four-bedroom home located in a clearing by a lake near Olympia, Washington. It was surrounded by old-growth Douglas fir trees, and the graveled driveway wound about 250 feet through the trees to a paved road. We had purchased the property without knowing how much the utility bills might run each month. To our great disappointment, we discovered that our electric baseboard heating system resulted in a power bill five times more than we had anticipated.
When my wife and I carefully reevaluated our expenses, we found we did not have sufficient income to meet our obligations. I looked at my wife. “Maybe we could hold the tithing check …” I knew my suggestion wasn’t right, and the look of dismay on my wife’s face caused me to add, “No, we can’t do that. We must pay our tithing and trust in the Lord.”
That night my wife and I knelt together in prayer and recommitted ourselves to paying our tithes and offerings. We felt peaceful and had faith that the Lord would help us—a young, inexperienced couple—learn how to manage our money. The following Sunday we gave our tithing to the bishop.
About a week later a winter storm hit our area. The wind and rain were so severe that I had difficulty keeping the car on the road as I drove home from work that day. I noticed that several tree limbs had blown down and that electrical power was off in many places. As I turned onto the country road that led to our home, I stopped for the mail and saw a large, very wet cardboard box below our mailbox. I picked it up, noted it came from my father, and put it in the car. I drove partway into our driveway but was stopped by a large tree that had fallen during the storm. I left the car and hauled my things, including the heavy box, to the house. There I opened the box and removed the packaging material. It was a chain saw. Why, I wondered, had my father sent me a chain saw?
In the morning I examined the tree sprawled across the driveway. The entire tree looked dry.
I remembered the chain saw and went to get it. When I cut into the tree, it was indeed dry and would easily burn. I spent the remainder of the day cutting, splitting, and stacking the wood. As the pile of wood mounted, I began to recognize that this was an answer to our prayers!
Later, when I spoke with my father, he told me that he had purchased a new chain saw and the thought had come to him to send us his older one. It had arrived on the day we needed help. Throughout the winter we made the best use possible of each piece of wood cut from the once-stately fir tree, and we had sufficient fuel to heat our home.
My wife and I have reflected many times on this incident. The Lord knew more about our needs and how they could effectively be met than we did. Left to ourselves, we likely could not have met our financial obligations, but with the Lord’s help we were freed from financial worries in a surprising and wonderful way.
“Dad, I’m Okay”
Several years ago my wife and I were struggling with the heartbreaking discovery that our four-year-old son, Adam, was mentally disabled. He had been slow to crawl, slow to walk, and had only a 10- to 15-word vocabulary. When we heard the news, we felt as if we had lost our child. Where was the bright little boy that would excel in school, drive a car, serve a mission?
While struggling to understand this problem, we visited many doctors, hoping to find one who would tell us the others were wrong in their diagnoses. Finally we came to accept that what they had been telling us was true: our son would never grow up to pursue a career, marry in the temple, or have children.
Then one night, during a period when my wife and I had been fasting and praying, Adam came and slipped into our bed. In the morning my wife got up to start her day, but I remained snuggled in bed, with Adam curled up against my back. As I turned over I realized that Adam was awake and watching me. Before I could say anything, he looked me in the eye and said as clearly as he had ever said anything in his life, “Dad, I’m okay.”
His simple statement was carried powerfully into my heart. I knew suddenly that our Father in Heaven was letting us know that although Adam’s condition would entail many challenges, everything was fine. Father in Heaven loved Adam and would help us through whatever difficulties lay ahead. In an eternal sense, Adam was okay.
This sweet, clear revelation to my mind that morning has been an assurance to my wife and me that, in the eternal scheme of things, Adam has a different mission to fill and eventually will be able to receive every blessing that is available to any of Father in Heaven’s other children.
As we have dealt with schools, friends, doctors, and family members through the years, we have been amazed at how Heavenly Father always prepares people to be there to help us along the way.
Even though many rough roads are still ahead of us, I’m not as afraid of them as I once was. I know that everything is going to be okay.