We Calmed Her with a Hymn
My partner, John, and I are police officers in the Los Angeles area as well as active members of the Church. One night we arrested a very uncooperative and argumentative woman who seemed to have a great deal of anger in her heart. She screamed at us so loudly that her voice could be clearly heard throughout our three-story police station. Her language was crude and vulgar. The more John and I tried to calm her down, the more she continued to scream obscenities at us.
During the booking process, it came time for the jailer to fingerprint her. Since the jailer was a small woman who could have been easily overcome by our angry captive, John and I stood by in the fingerprint room to provide for the personal safety of the jailer. The onslaught of filthy language continued to pour out of this woman at the top of her lungs.
At times such as these I often have to remind myself that such people are also children of our Heavenly Father and that he loves them just as he loves me. This thought was running through my mind when my partner John suggested that maybe we should sing to this woman. We figured that singing couldn’t hurt because we had already used every police tactic available to us to try to calm her down.
Quietly John and I began singing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301). After the first verse this angry woman began to quiet down and cooperate with us. She started speaking softly and apologized for her behavior. Tears came to her eyes. It was as if she had become a different person. Never had we witnessed such a dramatic change in an offender’s disposition. Neither John nor I have great musical talent, and we were amazed that this simple hymn had calmed this woman’s troubled heart and brought peace to her mind.
Even though we often deal with angry and violent people, we have learned that there is never an inconvenient time to draw upon the teachings of the Savior when dealing with our fellowmen.
Please Heal Leif
One day in November 1989 I received a telephone call from the principal of the school where three of our children attend. She explained that Leif, our youngest child, had been walking along a railing and had fallen off, hitting his head on the concrete below.
When I arrived at the school, the principal told me that Leif was drifting in and out of consciousness and that the school staff had been so concerned that they had summoned an ambulance. I found my little son lying on a couch in a fetal position. He would answer only when spoken to, and occasionally his eyes rolled back in his head. He lay very still. However, I felt very calm as I waited for the ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived, they checked Leif over carefully, administered oxygen to him, splinted his neck, and placed him on a stretcher. He was limp and passive. On the way to the hospital, as I sat holding my son’s hand, it came to me that what Leif needed most was a priesthood blessing. Yet there was no one to ask; the Church then was not well established on our small island in British Columbia. Even if I could reach my husband, Ted, it would take two hours for him to arrive. So, as I sat there, I bowed my head and offered a prayer. I asked Heavenly Father to please heal Leif.
Within moments Leif began to stir. He pushed away the nose prongs that were delivering oxygen to him, saying he did not want them anymore. He uncurled from the fetal position and turned to lie flat on his back.
We arrived at the hospital where a concerned doctor was waiting for us. Leif was placed on a hospital bed in the emergency room and responded cheerfully as the doctor examined him and tested his reflexes. Soon Leif sat up on the edge of the bed laughing and chatting with the hospital staff. The contrast to his earlier behavior amazed everyone.
All of Leif’s reflexes tested normal, and because he seemed to be feeling fine, the doctor said I could take him home. After we arrived home, I called the school and thanked them for their care and concern and let them know that Leif seemed to be okay and might be back in class the next day. The school principal could hardly believe Leif was all right.
This experience strengthened my testimony that Father in Heaven does indeed hear and answer our prayers. He comforts us in our extremities and, according to our faith and his wisdom, bestows marvelous blessings.
Sonja Baker serves as a family history consultant in the Sidney Ward, Victoria British Columbia Stake.
Will You Forgive Me?
I glanced out my window and saw her—my enemy—coming up the street. I had dreaded approaching her, but here was my opportunity. It was now or never. My stomach churned, my heart pounded, and I shook all over as I raced out the front door.
It had started out innocently enough. My boy had fought with her boy, and she had come to my house to confront me and to tell me how I should be raising my son. While the boys soon made up their differences, this was not so with their mothers.
Then, in the ensuing weeks, I began to hear things from our neighbors that she was supposedly saying about me. Her comments hurt deeply, and soon I, too, started talking about her behind her back. We went to great lengths to avoid each other, including walking on opposite sides of the street and even missing a neighborhood party if the other had been invited. This went on for two long years.
One day as I knelt beside my bed in prayer, I was struck by the thought that if I continued harboring ill feelings toward my neighbor, the Spirit could not abide with me. I realized that I had let hate grow in my heart, and it was eating away at my very soul.
I desperately needed my Heavenly Father and his Spirit to be with me, and I sorely needed to repent. I fasted and prayed for help regarding how I might mend the breach between us. I needed an opportunity to make things right.
Now it seemed my prayers had been answered. Gathering my courage, I ran out the door to stop her and grabbed her by her shoulders. She stared at me in shock. Quickly I blurted out, “Will you please, please forgive me? I do not know if we can ever be friends, and I do not know what you will do in the future, but I vow from this day forward never to speak ill of you again. I will no longer consider you to be my enemy.”
What happened next is hard to express. The sweet Spirit of the Lord enveloped both of us on that special summer day. As we took each other into our arms, the bitterness melted away. We cried and hugged and laughed. What a sharp contrast to the feeling of just a short time before.
Love, joy, and peace are such sweet companions to choose to surround ourselves with in this life that I wondered why I had chosen to carry around heavy burdens of anger and ill will that weighed down my soul and sapped my spiritual strength for so long. I am pleased to say that I kept my vow and that we became friends. I have since moved, but I have not forgotten the lessons of forgiveness and love I learned that precious summer day.
Two Soldiers Gathered in His Name
In January 1977 it was cold and bleak along the German-Czechoslovakian border where I was serving as a young enlisted United States Army soldier. We were out on maneuvers, and my job was driving an ammo carrier back and forth all day between the ammo dump and the range where tanks were firing at practice targets.
It had been a cold, exhausting, and lonely week. I had recently become active in the servicemen’s branch of the Church in Schweinfurt, Germany, and was forming new associations and friendships that were strengthening me in my rediscovered faith. Now, however, all those people were miles away and my loneliness turned to a gloom I could not shake. Adding to my depression, I had just spent another Christmas away from my family.
On Sunday I felt particularly depressed because I had hoped to have dinner at the home of a Latter-day Saint officer I had just met, but the demands of the field exercise kept me away. The day had been long and frustrating, and when I returned to the long huts in which we were billeted, most of the men were drunk and were passing around beer and other alcoholic beverages. They begged me to join them and to throw off my burdens in the same manner as they were doing. I had only been active in the Church a couple of months, and their calls to join them were a temptation—one that would have been easy to succumb to given my present mood.
Then I thought of Lieutenant Whitaker, the man who had brought me back into the fold and who had become a close friend. I knew how disappointed he’d be if I gave in. I also thought about some of the other young soldiers back at the base who, like myself, were feeling their way back into the Church. I could not let them down, so I turned away and sorrowfully headed back out into the cold German night.
I walked slowly through the dark, longing to be anywhere else in the world than where I was. Suddenly, headlights lit up the area in front of me and a jeep pulled up beside me.
“Peck! What are you doing?”
To my surprise it was Dennis Bryant, another member of the Schweinfurt Branch who had joined the Church about the same time I had come back into activity. I knew he was also on maneuvers, but we rarely met because we were in different companies. I was so glad to see a familiar face that I could not contain my joy. Although it was late, we agreed to get together for a sacrament meeting. We both held the Aaronic Priesthood, and our branch president had given us standing permission to administer the sacrament while out in the field whenever a few of us could get together.
I begged a piece of bread and a cup of water from the mess sergeant and met Dennis at the entrance to the motor pool. In silence we walked through the cold, muddy field to my ammo carrier. We opened the heavy metal door and climbed inside the empty cargo hold. Surrounded by cold steel, we seemed to have the warmth sucked right out of us. It was very dark, but we could see our breath, frosty and white, in the air.
We both felt awkward and uncertain about how to proceed, but we agreed that beginning with an opening prayer would be best. As I gave the prayer, a warmth seemed to come over my whole being, and I felt my loneliness lift. We sang “The Spirit of God Like a Fire” (Hymns, 1948, no. 213) for an opening song. Then I bore my testimony to Dennis and he bore his to me. The Spirit seemed to be striving with us, comforting us as we expressed our faith and belief in the Church and shared our budding testimonies of the Savior and his Atonement and our gratitude for his love and care.
We testified to each other of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the part it had played in our conversions. Then we sang another hymn, and I humbly broke the bread. We had no flashlight, so Dennis held a burning piece of paper up to my serviceman’s pocket edition of the Doctrine and Covenants to give me enough light to read the words of the sacramental prayer. As we partook, we both felt a strong witness of the Savior’s love for us. I then held a burning piece of paper up to the book as Dennis blessed the cup of water held reverently in his hands. He passed the cup to me, and I took a small sip and passed it back to him.
I have been in many sacrament meetings since that time, with congregations great and small. But the reality of the Savior’s love for his children has never been more strongly borne to me than on that night when two lonely soldiers knelt on the hard metal floor of a vehicle of war on a cold winter’s night and witnessed truly that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
The Day of the Shamrock
The Georgia sky was dark one afternoon in 1978 as I drove through rain along a winding road to the town of Lawrenceville. My neighbor had taken my two little boys to after-school Primary there, and I was going to retrieve them and then set up tables for our Relief Society homemaking meeting and luncheon scheduled for the next morning.
This is a lot of work, I thought as I drove along. I hope it’s worth it. I wondered how, in my pregnant condition, I would find the energy to stop at three members’ homes to pick up card tables for the luncheon and then decorate them at the church.
When my husband and I moved into the area north of Atlanta, we were delighted to find ourselves in a newly formed branch of the Church. There were a number of friendly families in the branch, and I was certain the branch would grow despite the less-than-elegant building we were renting for our meetings. Since there was no kitchen, on homemaking day we warmed our food in toaster ovens and in electric roasters and cooking pots. Decorations helped to liven up the place.
I arrived at the building just as a Primary activity ended and found my son Jared. There were children everywhere as I carried my tables through drizzling rain and into the building. None of my luncheon committee members could come to help that afternoon, and I was feeling sorry for myself. By the time I had cut white paper coverings for each table and had taped the edges securely, I was exhausted.
“What are these paper leaves for, Mommy?” asked Jared.
“Those are shamrocks, dear. They are to be pinned on the paper tablecloths for decoration,” I said, trying to sound cheerful as I pinned on the shamrocks.
The next morning our Relief Society activity was a success. Everyone liked the decorations, and I was glad I had spent time on them. The sister missionaries brought an investigator that morning, which made the day even more special.
It wasn’t until stake conference six months later that I learned how special that morning really had been. Our stake president had invited a newly baptized couple from our branch to tell the story of their conversion. The sister began: “It was my husband who was really interested in the Church at first. I didn’t want to have much to do with it. I couldn’t think of an excuse, though, when the sister missionaries asked me to attend a women’s meeting with them. I admit, I wasn’t too impressed with the building, but when we walked in, there were all these tables covered with white paper and decorated gaily with shamrocks. I thought, Well, if these people are willing to go to so much effort, I guess I can at least listen to their message.”
As a result of that morning’s activities, this sister opened her heart to the gospel message and was baptized a few weeks later. I understood then that doing our best in Church assignments, even under trying circumstances, can make a real difference in people’s lives. Now when I’m faced with a challenge in a Church calling, I remember the shamrocks and the often unseen rewards of magnifying our callings.