Mormon Journal

By


I Put Moroni’s Promise to the Test

I had been in Argentina only two short weeks when I stepped off the bus into the cool, crisp air of a September evening after attending zone conference. As my companion and I walked down the quiet streets toward our apartment, my mind went over the words spoken by our mission president earlier that day: “No missionary should try to serve the Lord without a sure, unwavering testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” I had read the Book of Mormon and I believed its teachings, but I couldn’t remember a time when I had truly put Moroni’s promise to the test (see Moro. 10:4). I wanted to be a successful missionary, so that evening I made up my mind to gain a sure knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Later that night, after my companion had fallen asleep, I went into the bathroom, softly closed the door, and knelt down on the hard, damp floor. Before beginning my prayer, I thought of all the things I wanted to say; then I closed my eyes and began to speak to my Heavenly Father, telling him how much I wanted a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I spoke for a few minutes; then, while switching my weight from one knee to the other, trying to relieve the pressure caused by the rock floor, I listened intently for the still, small voice that would give me the spiritual feast I was longing for.

Time went by slowly as I spoke, listened, spoke, listened, and listened some more. When I felt my knees could take it no longer, I closed my prayer and returned to my room. I felt discouraged, yet I was determined not to give up, for I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to succeed. Lying in the warmth of my bed, I made mental note of some of the things I might need to do to get the answer I was seeking.

The next morning came quickly, and I again found myself on my knees making the same petition. This time, however, I couldn’t take as long to pray because of our need to get to work.

My companion and I spent most of the morning tracting. Finally, just before lunch an older gentleman invited us into his home. We sat down, and after conversing for a moment, my companion began the first discussion. As a new missionary, my role was to bear witness to the things he was teaching.

While my companion was finishing the final part of the discussion, I began to feel an extraordinarily sweet spirit fill the room. It was a feeling I had experienced briefly before but never with the fulness that was then coming over me. I looked at the man sitting across from us, then back at my companion, wondering if they were enjoying the same sensations. My companion was nearing the part in the discussion where I was to bear witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Soon he stopped and indicated to me with his eyes that it was my turn to testify.

I don’t remember my exact words, nor do I recall how the man or my companion reacted. I do remember the delightful warmth of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to me, as I bore witness to our friend, that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the face of the earth. I also remember the tears sliding down my cheeks. At last I knew I had a sure, unwavering testimony of the Book of Mormon—a testimony that would help me greatly during my remaining two years in Argentina.

I don’t know if the man we taught ever joined the Church; I hope he did. But I do know, without hesitation, that one of our Heavenly Father’s children had his prayers answered that day in Argentina.

Samuel K. Walker serves as first counselor in the bishopric of the Basalt Ward, Firth Idaho Stake.

“Mother’s Evening Song”

One day while searching for a pattern I needed, I came across an old box with my mother’s name on it. Inside, I found the pattern, as well as a page of fine linen stationery.

At the top of the paper were the words: “Submitted to the Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest in The Relief Society Magazine, 192– [the date was blurred] by Ella S. Brewer.”

In the margins, in unfamiliar handwriting, were the words, “Too long for the contest,” “Very special,” and “Recommended for honorable mention.” Through my tears, I read and reread the poem my mother had written:

Mother’s Evening Song

By Ella S. Brewer

Long ago when twilight gathered,
I would turn my wayward feet
Toward my home, with fear and trembling
At the shadows I would meet.
Then I’d scurry through the meadow,
Falter ’neath low-hanging trees,
Stalked by elves of childish fancy;
’Til upon the evening breeze
Came the sounds of sweetest music
That my soul has ever known—
’Twas the voice of Mother singing
Just to lead me safely home:
“Guide us, O thou great Jehovah!”
Every word I’d understand:
“We are weak, but thou art able;
Hold us with thy powerful hand.”
Gone the fear that stalked my footsteps,
Gone the phantoms of the night,
As those words in happy cadence
Filled my soul with pure delight.
Gentle breezes spread the chorus
Over all the friendly land:
“We are weak, but thou art able;
Hold us with thy powerful hand.”
Many years since then have brought me
Their full share of night and day;
Oft I’ve stood dismayed and fearful
In the shadows by the way.
But from the past those words still linger,
Helping me to make my choice:
“Guide us, O thou great Jehovah!”
In my mother’s singing voice.
And again the shadows vanish
And my soul is strong and brave,
For I know she still is singing
In that home beyond the grave—
Singing songs of praise and glory
In that far-off happy land:
“Guide us, O thou great Jehovah—
Hold us with thy powerful hand.”
When the last great shadows gather
And my day on earth is done,
Then I know I’ll hear her singing
Just to guide me safely home.

Mother had passed away 15 years before. Because her poem had not won an award, she had never told anyone about it. I had never known that my mother wrote poetry, although her reports for Relief Society conferences had always been interesting to hear and her letters were delightful to read. I also recall her composing parodies for my father to sing at parties—parodies that brought him much acclaim. But now, here in my hands was the proof of her ability, in words that brought back to me her personality, her faith, and her love.

Elmoyne B. Hanks is a member of the Chubbuck First Ward, Chubbuck Idaho Stake.

My Journey Back

I’m not sure why I strayed from the Church. Maybe it was because I grew up in the turbulent ’60s and took up the social causes of the day. I even distanced myself from my extended family. Whatever the reason, I stopped going to church, and for many years I was less active.

I was attending Boise State University in Idaho when a young Native American woman came to me and said, “I know you’re a member of my church. Do you want to go to church with me?”

I was shocked, to say the least. I wasn’t living the type of life Latter-day Saint girls are supposed to live. How did she know I was a member?

“Sure,” I replied. So when Sunday arrived, Rosemary and I went to sacrament meeting together, and from there our friendship grew.

Just before summer break, Rosemary invited me to spend the summer with her family in Alaska. Having no firm plans for the summer and wanting some adventure, I agreed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when our airplane touched down on a strip of blacktop on an emerald-green island with peaks shrouded in fog. We were greeted by Rosemary’s three brothers in a beat-up old pickup truck. As we rumbled into town on the island’s only paved road, I suddenly realized I was in a special place.

I learned many things that summer I spent on the island. I learned how to slime fish at the salmon cannery. I learned to respect the ancient Northwest Indian customs and culture. I learned to love the sea with its treasure trove of life as I explored the rugged, rocky, solitary beaches. But most of all my heart began to be softened toward the Church as I was accepted by strangers who didn’t care what I looked like on the outside but cared only about who I was on the inside.

The branch on the island met at a deserted Coast Guard base, once a strategic site during World War II. As a handful of Native American Saints gathered on a rare sunny Sunday morning, I was amazed to realize that the Church there was the same as the one I had known as a child. A feeling of comfort came to me in that area strange to me, and I realized that even here, so far from home, I could worship as I had once been taught. I learned that no matter where one goes in the world, the gospel is always the same and that the Church is for everyone, regardless of culture or background.

I was forever altered by my stay on the island. When it was time to go back to school, I understood I had been given new insights into the meaning of life. My heart had been touched, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was beginning my long journey back to activity.

Several years later, after I was married, I gazed into the eyes of my firstborn child and I knew I had to take the next step toward returning fully to the church that had taught me that parents can be with their children forever. My husband, not yet an active member, understood and supported my decision to return to the Church. So I finally committed myself to full activity, and with that has come a deepened relationship with our Heavenly Father and an appreciation for the Book of Mormon.

Since I made the commitment to dedicate my life to our Savior, I have been richly blessed. The final step of a journey begun long ago on a small emerald isle came when I was finally able to attend the temple and partake of the spirit that is always present there. With the gospel fully part of my life again, I have renewed connections with family members, and my appreciation for my heritage has increased. My testimony of a Heavenly Father who loves, forgives, and blesses us has grown.

Over the years, Rosemary and I eventually lost contact with each other. But in quiet times my mind still wanders back to that magical summer so long ago when a dear friend and a small group of Saints on a starkly beautiful island helped reawaken in me a remembrance of my gospel roots.

Barbara Aycock is the Webelos leader in the Omak Ward, Ephrata Washington Stake.

“Bring All Things to Your Remembrance”

Some time ago I was assigned as a visiting teacher to a young sister who was struggling with personal problems. Although she grew up in an LDS home, she had made serious mistakes and still felt rebellious toward the Church. As I tried to develop a trusting friendship with her, she began to confide some of her deep feelings and problems to me. I responded when she asked questions, but most of the time I just listened.

One visit, however, was different. As we talked I sensed that her attitude was changing, that she was beginning to desire repentance. She asked many questions of eternal significance, and I felt the Holy Ghost guiding me as I took her to the scriptures time and again to discuss the principles of the gospel. With exactness and meaning I quoted scriptures I had not reviewed for a long time, scriptures and counsel from living prophets that I had learned in order to teach Relief Society Spiritual Living lessons several years earlier. I know that our spirits truly communicated, and I know that the Lord put answers in my mind because he loves her.

As I left her home I was overwhelmed by a spirit of gratitude for the Holy Ghost. I felt so thankful for his mission of bringing to our minds things we have learned in the past (see John 14:26).

While I was in this receptive state of mind, the lesson intended for me came. Very powerfully and pointedly the thought came into my mind, Yes, Kathy today you were very blessed! You had previously studied those scriptures, both ancient and modern, so that there was stored inside of you something for the Holy Ghost to bring to your remembrance. What of next time? Do you know all the scriptures well enough to teach others the way you did today? The time you spend studying the scriptures builds a reservoir of knowledge. The Holy Ghost can only bring to your remembrance knowledge that has been placed there by you.

Surely this is what President Spencer W. Kimball meant when he said: “As you become more and more familiar with the truths of the scriptures, you will be more and more effective in keeping the second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up!” (“The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102).

Kathleen S. Ellis serves as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Colorado Springs 15th Ward, Colorado Springs Colorado East Stake.

A Prayer in the Sand

On a beautiful summer afternoon I left with my wife, Donna, and our five young children to go to an old rock quarry in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We were hoping to find red pumice rocks we could use to landscape our yard. During the 25-mile drive we sang songs, visited, and felt content and close to each other.

After traveling the bumpy, dusty road to the rim of the quarry, we got out of the truck to discover that other people had had the same idea—there were no more pumice rocks to be found. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the fresh mountain air and being together as a family.

All too soon, the sun started to go down and the air became cool. We left the quarry, taking the road that led out to the highway.

After a few minutes, the truck rumbled around a broad curve that suddenly led us right into a pile of drifted sand. The truck’s wheels spun slowly and helplessly as we tried to get out of the drift. We were stuck! I directed my family to gather rabbitbrush, small rocks, and anything else we could find to place under the rear tires. But it didn’t help; the movement of the wheels just pushed the rocks down into the sand. I tried again and again with no success. My frustration mounted as the dusk turned into darkness.

I told Donna and the children of my plan to walk to the highway, catch a ride to the nearest town, and get help. I explained it was the only way to get out of our fix and that the sooner I got started the sooner we could return home. But in my mind I kept thinking, How long will it be before I can return with help? Will my family have to spend the night here? Will the gas in the truck last through the night to keep them warm?

The tense, worried look on Donna’s face betrayed her similar fears. She pleadingly asked if there wasn’t something else we could do to free the pickup. She also expressed her fear of waiting in the dark, lonely quarry with five small children. I was torn. I felt I couldn’t leave my family, but I could see no other solution.

“Daddy, we haven’t prayed about it yet!” said our five-year-old.

To my surprise I realized that, indeed, we hadn’t thought to pray about it as a family. I was humbled by the simple words of a child. Yet it still seemed impossible to me that we could find a way out of our situation without getting to a telephone and calling for help.

I knelt on the running board of the pickup with my hands folded on the seat and offered a prayer aloud for our little family. During the prayer, an image of white boards came to my mind. With the image came an understanding that I was to use boards from a collapsed storage shed I had seen about a half mile back to free our truck from the sand. Relief and gratitude filled my heart and spread to my family as I told them of the solution.

I left my family in the truck and went into the darkness in search of the boards. After I had been gone for a long time, my family knelt in prayer again to ask Heavenly Father for my safe return. Donna felt impressed to turn on the truck’s lights and honk the horn. She was not a minute too soon. Unable to see in the darkness after gathering an armful of boards, I had been walking in the wrong direction.

I followed the lights and the horn back to the truck, where I placed boards solidly under each tire. Confidently I started the truck, shifted into low gear, and drove out of the sand to squeals of joy and delight from my family.

Our hearts full of gratitude, we thanked our Heavenly Father and drove peacefully home, with a heightened understanding that God is always near and that he hears and answers our prayers.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay

Ralph Mortensen of the Alamosa First Ward serves as a stake missionary in the Alamosa Colorado Stake.