In Love, but Afraid to Marry

As I stared into the large cardboard box in front of me, a sudden fear crept into my heart. The box contained necessary items for my upcoming wedding: napkins, note cards, and invitations. At the sight of them, I felt a surge of anxiety. Suddenly marriage seemed very real.

I sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor, my mind drifting back two and one-half years to when I met Larry. My daughter Jessica was just one year old then, and I had been a widow for nearly 18 months. I’m not sure if Larry fell in love with me or with Jessica first, because there seemed to be an instant friendship between them. I had a more difficult time committing myself to a second marriage, but I had finally made the decision to marry this fine man and had felt a strong confirming witness of the Spirit.

Yet here I was, afraid and doubting.

The shrill sound of the telephone interrupted my reverie, and I answered, trying to disguise my emotions. “Hello?”

“Diane, is something wrong?” I could hear the concern in my sister’s voice. “Something told me I should call you.”

I explained what I’d been feeling, then listened as my sister gave me some good advice. “Your Father in Heaven loves you,” she said. Her words pierced my heart. “Look to the scriptures, and remember that God knows your feelings.”

Later, as I hung up the phone, I felt grateful for her call. Nevertheless, my fears did not go away. That evening I struggled through dinner with Larry, but he quickly sensed something was wrong. Soon I was pouring out my heart to him. He wisely suggested to take whatever time I needed to think and pray about our decision to marry.

The following day, Sunday, I put Jessica down for a nap and turned to the scriptures. Truly in need of help and comfort from the Lord, I knew the scriptures could provide it. With a prayer in my heart, I opened the Doctrine and Covenants. It was not long before several verses caught my eye:

“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth. …

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”(D&C 6:15, 22–23).

I sat motionless, my heart beating loudly. I pulled out my journal and reread some of the experiences I’d had while struggling with this decision. As I read, I relived each one again: sitting in the temple seeking guidance, watching Larry administer the sacrament, praying long into the night searching for an answer. As I contemplated each of those experiences again, I felt the same sweet spirit of confirmation as before. Gratefully, I knelt to thank my Father in Heaven for this experience.

Two months later, the long-awaited evening arrived. I entered the temple and felt the Spirit warm my heart. I knew I was where I needed to be.

Diane Green Contreras serves as a Primary teacher in the Orangecrest Ward, Riverside California West Stake.

Pedaling Back to Activity

When I was 15 years old my father became less active in the Church due to a misunderstanding with a Church leader. As a young man, I had no idea what the nature of the problem was, but I felt something was lost in our family. I wondered how I could help him come back to church again. At the time I was the only active member of my family in Indonesia. I had learned I should stay close to the Lord no matter the circumstances and so continued to attend regularly.

A year after my father stopped attending church, I had an opportunity to attend seminary. This was a very rewarding experience, and I loved my teacher, Brother Eddy Hardjono. One day I asked him about the institute program and if someone like my father could attend. He said my father would be welcome. I formed a simple idea that if I could get my father to attend institute classes, he might change his attitude and return to church.

It took courage for me to approach my father, and I was surprised when he showed interest. He asked me to accompany him to meet the teacher. Because we were poor, my bicycle was our family’s only transportation, so I gave my father a ride on my bicycle. From then on, whenever he went to the institute class I always accompanied him. Even though it was tiring to give him a ride for the six miles back and forth from our home, I loved to do it. I had a strong desire to help him come back to church again.

My father, the oldest student in the class, became the most regular in attendance and asked the most questions. Two years passed. One day the lesson was about King Saul, who hated David and sought to take his life. Yet when David had an opportunity to slay King Saul, he said, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing … seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Sam. 24:6).

This lesson sank deep into my father’s heart. He realized he should honor his Church leaders no matter who they were. After this lesson, he began to change his feelings about the Church leader who had offended him. Yet his stubborn heart still kept him away. At times I felt very discouraged.

Two more years passed, during which my father’s testimony continued to grow strong. Finally he returned to activity, and on the day he first returned he bore his testimony. I knew then that my four years of devoted service in pedaling my father to institute class had not been a wasted effort. I learned for myself the importance of the scripture that says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).

Jayeng Ari Martono serves as executive secretary in the Jakarta Branch, Jakarta Indonesia District.

My Walk from Nowhere

My husband, Don, and I, who were both born with cerebral palsy, eagerly accepted an invitation from the Bennett family to join them and other ward members and friends on their annual horse trek, a relaxing three-day camping trip in Sequoia National Park. For me, cerebral palsy is mostly an inconvenience, but for Don it is a daily challenge, so we jumped at this special opportunity to get out of town, even if we could stay only a day.

On the day of the camping trip, we left home about nine in the morning. The ride was beautiful, and we rolled down our windows to enjoy the fresh mountain air. As we drove our van into the national forest, we began looking for Big Meadow, where we were to meet our friends. We stopped once to look at the valley below us and to check the map Brother Bennett had provided. It appeared we had about 10 miles to go to reach a dirt road that would take us to the campground. However, 3 or 4 miles farther along we saw a sign listing Big Meadow with an arrow that pointed up a dirt road leading to our left. We turned left and traveled for some time. The road narrowed, then ran through a creek bed. We began to wonder if we had made a mistake.

I stopped the van and turned to Don. “This cannot possibly be the right road; there is no way a horse trailer could get through here.”

Don agreed. I proceeded down the narrow, winding path looking for a place big enough to turn our van around. As we started up a sandy hill, I realized we could never make it. I started to back up, but the wheels sank deep in the loose, sandy soil. We were stuck.

I turned the wheel this way and that, gunning the engine and rocking the vehicle, all to no avail. I stepped out of the van to see how serious our situation was. The tires on the driver’s side were buried at least a foot deep in sand. After several useless attempts to dig us out, I got out the car jack and attempted to raise the back end of the van so I could place some logs or twigs—whatever I could find—under the tire to give it some traction. With each fruitless attempt, we prayed fervently to Heavenly Father that he would bless us and help us out of our difficulty.

Finally Don advised me to sit down, rest, and eat some lunch. We talked about our options. During the two hours we had been struggling to get free, we had not seen anyone. The only thing to do was for me to walk back to the road and get help. Physically I felt I could do it. I might take a few falls, but I expected that. If I walked slowly and carefully and thought about each step, I would make it.

I helped Don move into a comfortable position. Because he would not be able to brush away insects if any began crawling on him, I closed the windows in the van. Then I took off my watch and strapped it to Don’s wheelchair. I knew he would need to know the time more than I would. Then Don prayed that we might each receive needed strength, guidance, and protection. With misty eyes and a quick kiss, I stepped out of the van and began walking.

After walking a long time I made it back to the main road with only one fall, which served as a reminder not to hurry. There I waited for someone to stop and offer help, but that didn’t happen. So I started walking again in the direction of Big Meadow.

Several vehicles passed me, but none slowed. I fell again. But I hurried to get up on my feet so no one would notice. My eyes began to mist up. I was getting tired and didn’t know how much farther I would have to walk.

As I rounded a curve in the road, I saw a beautiful, green, lush meadow ahead. This had to be the place. As I approached, I heard the sound of people having a good time. Then I came upon a dirt road and ahead saw corrals, just as it appeared on Brother Bennett’s map. A sign said, “Campground .5 mile.” My heart sank. I didn’t know if I could walk another step.

I struggled up the dirt road and passed the first campsite. A couple was sitting side by side enjoying the peaceful park. The man cheerfully called to me, “You are taking quite a walk today. We passed you on the road several hours ago.”

Fighting to hold back tears, I asked if there were other campers farther down. Sensing my distress, he came quickly to my side. As I explained what had happened, I broke down in tears. The kind gentleman, a stranger, held me close in his arms and assured me that everything would be all right.

He went in search of the Bennett party and soon offered the use of his four-wheel-drive vehicle to help pull out our van. As we rode along, I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and love to my Heavenly Father. As I reflected on my long walk, I realized I had been blessed with needed strength, guidance, and protection, just as Don had prayed.

Bonnie Peterson serves as a Primary teacher in the Fresno Seventh Ward, Fresno California East Stake.

“Teacher, My Pencil Ran Out of Ink!”

As a principal and teacher, I enjoy the opportunity I have to share children’s eagerness to learn and to try new experiences. The first few days of school are always exciting, especially for first-graders, who now attend a whole day of school, have their own desks, and eat lunch at school.

Several years ago, the children in my class were busily working on an assignment when I noticed that one little boy had put his head down on the desk and was sobbing.

I knelt beside his desk and asked him what was wrong.

With tears running down his face, certain that his career in school was over after only three brief days, he looked up at me and said, “Oh, Teacher, my pencil ran out of ink!”

Sensing his utter discouragement, I hid my impulse to laugh and showed him how to use the pencil sharpener. He was delighted at such a simple solution and quickly went back to work.

This incident has given me much food for thought. Aren’t we all a little like that boy—eager to learn and to grow and ready to experience life? And don’t we all, at some point or other, “run out of ink”—become discouraged or unhappy?

Whatever the reason for our distress, the solution can be found in the tools of the gospel. Just as the sharpener restored the pencil, the tools of repentance, scripture study, prayer, obedience, and service can restore our vitality and effectiveness.

Like the lead in the pencil waiting to be used, our potential is internal and limitless, waiting to be tapped and put to work.

How thankful I am for the tools of the gospel, which sharpen and refine me, and for others’ willingness to teach me how to use them.

Karen Sterling serves as a Primary teacher in the Butler Seventeenth Ward, Salt Lake Butler Stake.

The Line of Fire

One evening at about midnight in Seattle, Washington, where I worked as a police officer, my partner and I were on duty. A cold breeze was coming off Puget Sound, and a thick blanket of clouds obscured the moon and stars. When my police radio suddenly crackled, a chill gripped the back of my neck.

“A stickup in progress,” came the voice over the radio.

My partner and cousin, Bob, turned to me. “We are not paid enough at times like this. Let’s go.”

We listened to the information coming over the radio: “Two white males … long hair … orange Volkswagen … armed and dangerous.”

It seemed likely to us that these were two young men who were responsible for a string of recent robberies. Suddenly we spotted the orange Volkswagen parked by a curb, unoccupied. We drove two blocks away, where we waited and watched the car. Around 2:30 A.M. we saw two suspects get into the car and drive off.

“Requesting backup,” I said over the radio. “Suspects traveling north from our location.”

A nearby plainclothes unit responded. As we followed the Volkswagen onto one of the many bridges in Seattle, the backup unit passed us both. Then in midspan it stopped, and two policemen jumped out and leveled weapons at the Volkswagen. We pulled up behind the car and jumped out with our weapons raised. “Watch yourself,” I cautioned Bob.

Suddenly two figures ducked out of sight in the front seat. Tension mounted. Here we go—a fight, I thought. In a loud voice I ordered them, “Step out of the car with your hands on your head.”

As the driver raised up and turned toward me, I could see a glint of steel—a gun! All my police training dictated that I shoot immediately in self-defense. At that instant I heard in my mind a calm but authoritative voice say Don’t shoot! I held my fire despite my fear. Expecting a bullet to slam into me, I stepped back and ducked down.

Then I saw that the steel object was nothing more than the buckle to a seat belt! I stood up and ran to the car and opened the door, only to find two very frightened teenage girls inside.

Sagging with relief and filled with gratitude to Heavenly Father, I talked with the girls. It seems that when they had seen two men in front of them with guns—the plainclothes officers—and two policemen behind them also with guns, they thought they had been caught in a cops-and-robbers shootout, so they ducked down. The girls explained they had loaned the car to their boyfriends, who had just returned it.

Later that morning we obtained warrants and arrested the boyfriends, who were responsible for the crime spree. Bob told me, “Cal, I don’t know why I didn’t shoot. I thought you would be killed.” The other officers had also held their fire for reasons they couldn’t explain.

I am thankful that Father in Heaven watched over us and blessed our lives and the lives of others. Two girls are alive today because of a small voice of warning.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay

Calvin M. Rowley serves as a home teacher in the Murraydale Ward, Murray Utah South Stake.