Sowing before Sunday
One springtime a few years ago, my mother invited her married children to plant and cultivate a community garden on our old farm. Several of us decided to meet during the school district’s spring break to prepare the ground and plant our crops. When spring break arrived, my husband was not able to go, but I decided to take our two small children and make the four-hour trip to the farm anyway. When we arrived, we found that the other families who had intended to come had been unable to make it after all. Only my mother showed up with two of her grandchildren—the oldest just eight.
The task ahead seemed formidable. We had to burn off weeds, till the ground, and plant 20 pounds of cut-up seed potatoes and 30 pounds of onion sets. Because of strong winds, we could not burn off the weeds. So the six of us worked all day Friday clearing dry weeds by hand from the garden area.
By evening we still had not finished. I began to worry that if we did not push ourselves even more the next day, the work would spill over into Sunday; however, because my husband and I are the only members of the Church in my family, I felt hesitant about asking my mother to work any harder.
Still, my mind kept coming back to some verses from the Doctrine and Covenants: “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; …
“Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours” (D&C 59:10, 16).
So I asked my mother, “Please let’s try and get the work done on Saturday, as Sunday is the Sabbath.”
She agreed to try, and that night as I knelt to pray my heart was heavy with worry. It just didn’t seem possible—there was simply too much work yet to be done. As I prayed to Heavenly Father and asked for help, I received a strong witness that everything would be fine, and a feeling of peace came over me.
We got up before dawn and checked the weather. It was misting with just a hint of wind. My mother looked worried and turned to me and said, “I don’t know, Nancy …”
“Everything will be OK, Mom. We can do it,” I replied.
Quickly we loaded our supplies, rounded up the children, and headed out to the garden. We began burning off the brush and lit some backfires to help control the flames. After two hours we were close to having the land cleared. During that time the wind had remained calm. When we finished, we hugged each other and my mother softly added, “Thank you, Lord.”
Just then my older brother and his teenage son drove up. They had decided to join us even though they were planting their own garden in town. The rest of the day was spent digging and planting. Then another brother returned early from an outing and joined us by midafternoon. Working together, we were able to get everything planted. By the end of the day we were exhausted, but the garden was in.
That summer will always remain special to me. Everyone helped, and we harvested more than 300 pounds of potatoes and 100 pounds of onions, as well as canned 600 quarts of vegetables. There was so much produce from the tomatoes, melons, broccoli, pumpkins, beans, potatoes, and onions that we could barely keep up with it. We had truly been blessed with the “fulness of the earth.”
As we gathered for dinner on Thanksgiving Day, I was asked to give the blessing. As I prayed, I shed tears of gratitude, for we had received so much. I had known in my heart that we would be blessed for keeping the Sabbath day holy, but never had I imagined the bounty of blessings we would receive.
The Forgotten Referral Book
My second day in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, was nearly over. My companion, Elder Andrew Mohlman, and I had returned home from tracting, and I was somewhat discouraged because our efforts had borne so little fruit. Only two months remained in my mission, and I wanted to see some real success before I left.
After a late dinner, Elder Mohlman and I discussed our goals for the coming weeks. We searched through the records in our apartment and found a book of referrals, some years old, that had been left by missionaries who had lived in the apartment before us. In some cases the only information available was a telephone number.
Together Elder Mohlman and I knelt in prayer. We asked for Heavenly Father’s help in reaching our goals, and we dedicated ourselves to doing our part. Then we started telephoning the contacts. Slowly the pile diminished as people expressed their disinterest or cited some excuse for not wanting to learn about the gospel.
So when we first spoke with Ben on the telephone, I was surprised by his willingness to try to meet with us. However, he couldn’t seem to find an available time. As a last attempt, we invited him to church the next Sunday, which happened to be Easter. He agreed to come, though I admit I wasn’t convinced. The Kowloon Tong Chapel was 30 minutes away by train, and often distance was reason enough for people not to come to appointments.
Easter morning found Elder Mohlman and me waiting in the church foyer as sacrament meeting began. It seemed we had another no-show. Somewhat dejectedly we finally slipped into the chapel and took our seats.
Minutes later, the first counselor peeked through the chapel door, motioned for Elder Mohlman and me to join him, and informed us that a visitor was waiting in the foyer. There we were surprised to see a young man dressed in a grubby T-shirt, nervously shifting his feet. His hair was quite long, and he smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. We greeted him hastily but warmly, and he followed us back into the chapel.
After we took our seats, I quietly asked him what he knew about Christianity. He replied that he had heard of the Bible but had never read it and did not have any real system of beliefs. Elder Mohlman and I quickly explained the ordinance of the sacrament and the purpose of the meeting. Ben took it all in stride, even joining in singing the hymns.
That sacrament service was one I shall never forget. The main speaker gave a beautiful description of the plan of salvation and Jesus Christ’s role in that plan, and the doctrine he explained was sweet, simple, and pure. Ben sat thoroughly engrossed during the talk and throughout the rest of the meeting.
Afterward, Elder Mohlman and I asked him how he felt. “I don’t know why,” he replied, “but I feel happy.”
He accepted our invitation to hear the discussions, and we met with him the following Wednesday. He seemed eager to learn. Never had I seen faith and humility such as Ben showed. We invited him to offer a prayer, and in all sincerity he asked about the truth of the message he had just heard. As he finished, a feeling of pure joy filled all of us. I asked Ben how he felt.
“I can’t describe it,” he said. “I’ve never felt like this before. I know that your message is true.”
The next Sunday Ben met us at stake conference. His T-shirt had been replaced by a white shirt and tie, and his hair was cut to perfect missionary specifications. A brilliant glow shone in his dark eyes.
Ben’s work schedule made it difficult for us to meet with him, but he always managed to make time. He began attending all of the ward’s young adult activities, and he was often the first to greet a new investigator with a big smile and warm handshake. However, the upcoming discussion on the Word of Wisdom worried me because I knew he smoked.
The day came, and Elder Mohlman and I had a special prayer before the discussion. Ben’s enthusiasm did not allay my fears as we approached the topic. But as we finally told him that we were going to explain the Lord’s law of health, Ben just smiled.
“Yes,” he said, “you don’t smoke; drink alcohol, tea, or coffee; or use drugs.”
I sat with my mouth open in amazement.
“The teacher mentioned it in investigator class last Sunday,” he continued. “I had tried to give up smoking for years. After hearing that lesson I prayed that Heavenly Father would help me, and I haven’t touched a cigarette all week. I don’t use those other things anymore either.”
Ben was later baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. After his confirmation he testified of his love for the gospel with powerful sincerity. Money earlier earmarked for cigarettes, he said, now helped pay tithing.
Weeks later, after I returned home from my mission, I received a letter from Ben telling me of his sister’s baptism and of how much he enjoyed singing in the ward choir. As I read, in my mind I was once again thousands of miles away listening to a man teach about the life of the Savior on Easter Sunday in Hong Kong, and I thought about rebirth, for I had seen it happen.
Who Needs My Help?
As a college student, one Sunday I attended Relief Society and heard a wonderful lesson on service. The teacher that day said, “If you pray for Heavenly Father to open your eyes to the needs of others so that you may help them, he will do so.”
That sentence stayed with me. I wanted to serve others but hadn’t thought to ask Heavenly Father for help. So I decided to give it a try. The next morning I knelt and prayed, “Heavenly Father, if there is anyone out there who needs my help today, please let me know.” I finished my prayer and headed to class.
Amid the hustle of the day, I forgot my prayer. During the afternoon I went to the grocery store. After choosing a few items, I stood in line to pay for them. In front of me was an elderly woman holding a cane. I smiled at her and glanced at the large amount of groceries she was buying. A thought came to mind: How is she going to get those groceries into her house? I pushed aside the thought, finished paying for my own items, and headed out of the store. I noticed the woman standing next to her car while a store employee loaded her groceries into the trunk. The thought came to me again: How is she going to get those groceries into her house?
With some frustration, I countered: But what can I do? Follow her home? I had an immediate strong feeling that that was correct, so I gave in and headed down the road after her. I kept thinking: This is crazy! Why am I following this woman home? Soon we arrived at her apartment complex. I jumped out of my car and ran over to her. “Can I help you with these groceries?” I asked.
Puzzled, the woman looked at me and asked if I lived nearby. I told her I did not. “Well, then, do you work here?” she asked.
I explained that I had seen her in the grocery store and had worried about how she would carry all those groceries into her home. At that point she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I was wondering the entire way home how I was going to get all of this into my house.”
Later, as I drove home, my own eyes blurred with tears. I had experienced the wonderful influence of the Holy Ghost touching two lives through the power of prayer. These words came to me: “They … prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God” (Alma 17:9).
I am grateful to Heavenly Father for the very special gift of the Holy Ghost that not only blesses our lives but also helps us to bless the lives of others.
My Lesson on the Atonement
I had been praying over a period of several weeks to better understand the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. One morning while helping my young son Kyle get ready for school, I found myself growing impatient as time drew near to catch the school bus and he wasn’t ready. A neighbor girl stopped by to walk with Kyle to the bus stop. Worried she might miss the bus, I sent her ahead. This meant Kyle would also have to walk alone, and he complained bitterly to me.
I knelt down and looked him in the eye and roughly scolded him for taking so long to get ready and then complaining to me about walking alone. As I looked at him, I saw his eyes fill with tears, and he pulled his hat down over his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at my angry face. I realized how vulnerable and tender children are and how loud and reproving I had been. I stopped and tried to apologize, helped him get his boots on, and sent him off to school.
As I watched this discouraged little person run for the bus stop, I thought of my inappropriate actions. Of all places and all people in this world, home and mother should be a refuge—a place to find peace and love. I berated myself for my carelessness and failings as a mother and felt absolutely terrible.
Suddenly a gentle and loving thought came into my mind: this is what the Atonement is for. Tears came, and I prayed for forgiveness. I pleaded with Heavenly Father to bless my son so he would not suffer for my mistakes. I still felt sad, but I knew that through the Atonement things could be made right again.
Weeks later I shared this insight with a friend. As I talked, I pondered why I had been blessed with such a powerful testimony of the Atonement. Again, a gentle thought came into my mind that this had been in answer to my prayers. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7). Even though I had been praying for more understanding of the Atonement, I had failed to see a direct answer to my prayer until that reminder came to me.
I know Heavenly Father loves each of us and wants us to repent of our shortcomings and also to rid ourselves of feelings of discouragement. How grateful I am for the Atonement, which brings healing and forgiveness into our lives.
Stitched and Fitted with Love
I was living in Alaska as a single mother and teaching at Eielson Air Force Base when my friend Pam Holt introduced me to the Church. Through the single adult program of the Fairbanks District, I met and was soon engaged to a wonderful young man named Chris Olsen. We set our wedding date for 4 March 1975 in the Provo Temple. Together Chris and I picked out a pattern for my wedding gown, and on a trip to Anchorage I found the perfect fabric for my dress. In the ensuing weeks, I lovingly made my wedding gown.
Four days before we were to fly to Utah, I was talking on the phone to Chris while hemming my dress. While I worked, the dress slipped off the ironing board onto the floor. Absentmindedly, I picked it up and flipped it over the ironing board again. The next thing I knew, there was a bright flash of flame that lasted only a moment. My dress!
Quickly I grabbed the dress and held it up, only to find that it had several large, gaping holes with charred edges where the beautiful fabric had once been. It seems that when I had flipped the dress over the ironing board, the full skirt of my gown had landed on candles left burning on a table behind the ironing board. For a half hour I cried on the phone to Chris, who was 30 miles away but who did his best to comfort me.
In the morning, I told my friend Pam about the disaster. All day I tried to comfort myself over the loss of my dress, and I determined to put on a cheerful face at a shower the sisters from the branch planned to give me that evening.
At the shower, we played a game involving pinning a paper pattern on me. I noticed several sisters off in another room, which puzzled me. By the end of the evening, those sisters emerged with the shell of a new wedding dress, ready for a first fitting! I was overwhelmed with emotion. It seems that upon hearing of my disaster, some of the Relief Society sisters had gone to the base exchange and found just one piece of white fabric available there for purchase. They then brought it to the shower, where they began making me a new dress. Several sisters from the branch worked on my dress for two days nearly around the clock to finish it before our flight to Utah. They sewed while other sisters watched their children.
Several people asked one of the husbands, “How can you let your wife do all this?” and he replied, “That’s what Relief Society is all about!”
Those sisters in the Eielson Branch forged bonds of love that will never be forgotten. As a new member, I learned firsthand how shared sisterhood strengthens those in need of a little love and caring. While the temple wedding gown that burned would have been lovely, the gown I wore in the temple was truly beautiful, for it had been cut and stitched and fitted with love.