Our Blessings Came—After the Trials
I was 54 years old, a recent widow and the mother of a disabled daughter confined to a wheelchair after an auto accident. My income consisted of some Social Security and money from a small insurance policy that was fast disappearing. What was I to do?
Ever since my 15th birthday, my patriarchal blessing had comforted me. I read it again, pondering the promise: “The Lord will take care of you all the days of your life.” Over the years the Lord had helped me in many ways through many people. Surely he would continue, wouldn’t he? Yet I constantly worried.
I began examining possibilities. It would be difficult to work eight hours a day, take care of my daughter, and still have time for the many other demands of life. If possible, I wanted to work at home. I was already a freelance proofreader for a company that was only 10 miles away, a job I found just before my husband died. It paid well but offered no benefits, and the work was sporadic.
I turned to creative writing and over the next few months won a poetry contest, got a response on a query from a magazine editor, and replotted a novel. Writing was therapeutic, but I wasn’t making any money. What else could I do?
With the last of the insurance money I bought a used piano and began taking lessons. I had always wanted to teach piano, but I hadn’t played in years. I practiced for hours each day, then advertised in the neighborhood paper and got a few beginning students. While it was enjoyable, I still wasn’t earning enough to survive.
Just before Christmas I began getting calls again for proofreading. I was grateful for the work, but I was on an emotional seesaw, never knowing from week to week how much money I’d have. I finally accepted the inevitable. I would have to find a full-time job and an aide to care for my daughter.
I was having many sleepless nights, so I finally asked for a priesthood blessing. Silent tears streamed down my cheeks as the Lord reminded me of his long-ago promise: he would be beside me to help provide my sustenance. I felt his love and support so strongly that I slept better than I had for months.
I inquired about social services that might be available to help us, and a caseworker assessed our needs and resources. Soon my daughter was approved for home care. What a blessing! And there were more. The first of May the full-time proofreader who had been giving me manuscripts to read wanted to know if I could work in the office while she went on vacation. When she returned, she informed me she was turning in her resignation and wondered if I might want her job. Did I ever!
When I hung up the phone, I fell to my knees in gratitude. How could I have doubted? Hadn’t the blessings always come—after the necessary trials? I thanked the Lord and apologized for demonstrating a lack of faith by worrying so much.
In the coming months I found that having enough money to pay bills was helping me sleep better. I also found myself eating better and exercising, which gave me more energy. I was able to keep two of my piano students, continue my creative writing, and enjoy my daughter more than when we had been constantly together. The aide, a young woman near her age, was fast becoming one of her best friends, a special person who soon began asking questions about the Church.
I am grateful for the patience of a loving Heavenly Father who reminded me he would watch over me, then led me to the people and resources I needed. The road ahead will not be easy, but I know as never before that I need not face it alone.
Sweet Voices Behind Us
My husband’s job required him to work temporarily in Campbell River, a fishing resort town on Vancouver Island in Canada. To be nearer my husband, my five children and I decided to spend a few weeks that August camping outside Campbell River near the ocean.
Each day the ocean’s life brought excitement and new learning experiences to all of us. However, the night before we were to return home, my two-year-old daughter, Karina, became extremely ill. Because she suffered from a serious medical problem that required attentive care to keep her from contracting any viruses, I was deeply concerned and decided to take her to a hospital. Leaving my 11-year-old son to baby-sit, I took my small daughter to the car.
Karina was in considerable pain and cried for me to hold her, which I could not do. Tiffany, 10, came along to comfort Karina as best she could, but Karina continued to cry aloud and whimper as we rode. I ached to hold her and wished I wasn’t obligated to drive.
Feeling helpless to ease her pain, I started to sing her favorite song, “I Am a Child of God” (Children’s Songbook, 2), which she had learned during family home evening and in nursery class. Tiffany joined in, and we sang two verses. It seemed to take Karina’s mind off her suffering. Soon I stopped singing. In the ensuing silence I distinctly heard young voices coming from behind us sweetly singing the song.
I glanced at Tiffany. “Are you still singing?” I asked.
“Isn’t that you singing?” she replied.
Instinctively I reached for the radio, but it wasn’t on. I marveled that I was hearing voices—voices of children singing ever so sweetly! They sang three or four lines before fading away. It was then I noticed that Karina had stopped fussing and had fallen asleep. Long after the last of the sweet sounds faded, quiet reverence filled the car, and Tiffany and I sat quietly in awe of what we had experienced.
We finally reached the hospital, and Karina received the necessary treatment. The next morning we returned home, where her own pediatrician finished caring for her.
Throughout the entire ordeal of those several days, I felt an overwhelming gratitude to Heavenly Father for his tender concern for one of his little children. I was grateful that Tiffany had shared this experience with me, for we were both blessed with a deepening of our testimonies of Heavenly Father’s love and help for us in our difficulties and challenges, especially when we were seemingly all alone and at our limit.
“I Have a Feeling That I Lived Before I Was Born”
I had just returned from my mission and was working for six weeks before returning to college. My last day on the job I worked with Ned, an older man I had not worked with before. We spent the day making deliveries around the city, and at the end of the day, very tired, we rode in silence back to the plant.
Finally Ned looked over at me and said: “I feel I should tell you something. I continue to have a feeling that I lived before I was born.” I smiled, and he continued: “Now, there you go, laughing at me like everyone else.”
“I’m not laughing at you.”
“Well, you’re smiling.”
“I am smiling because you are correct.”
“How do you know that?” Ned asked. “I’ve told that to quite a number of clergymen, and they all tell me there is nothing to such a feeling.”
“When you go home, read the first chapter of Jeremiah,” I told him, recalling the words of the Lord to the Old Testament prophet: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee” (Jer. 1:5).
By this time we had arrived back at the plant, so we talked no further. I went home, had supper, and decided to go to a movie. I drove around town until I saw one I thought would be good and went in.
During the intermission I went into the lobby to get some refreshments. There was Ned, with his wife. They came over to me, and he said, “I want you to meet my wife, Belle.” Then he explained to her that I was the fellow he had been talking about. He looked at me and said, “We want to go to church with you next Sunday. You do go to church, don’t you?”
I assured him I did, and he asked me which church I attended.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormon Church,” I replied. He had heard of it, he said. I went on to explain that the coming Sunday was a special meeting called stake conference.
“That’s all right; we want to go with you.”
On Sunday we arrived early enough to sit only a few rows back from the podium. Seated on the stand was Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When he stood to speak, he seemed to look directly at us and said, “Today I wish to speak to you on the topic ‘We are of the Race of the Gods,’” and he proceeded to speak about the premortal existence.
After conference my friends indicated they would like to meet Elder Petersen. I saw a friend of mine, a former stake president who, I thought, might know Elder Petersen and be willing to make the introductions. He was delighted to introduce these first-time visitors to our church to a General Authority.
Later, as we drove home, I asked what they thought of the meeting.
“That man is a prophet,” replied Belle.
“What?” I said.
“When he took my hand a feeling went up my arm almost like electricity, and in my mind I thought, This man is a prophet!”
“I had a similar experience,” said Ned.
I asked their permission to give their names to the stake mission president, and a few days later I left for college. I did not see them again until I returned home for Christmas.
Curious, I went to their home and knocked on their door. I was welcomed with much pleasure. I looked around the room, seeking some indication of their feeling toward the Church, and I saw a triple combination lying on the table. I asked Ned whose it was.
“It is mine,” he responded.
“I guess you are still interested in the Church,” I said.
He smiled at me and replied, “Yes, we are still interested. I’m a priest, and my son is a deacon. From the time our son was very young he’s wanted to be a minister when he grew up. Now that he knows about missionaries, he realizes that is what he wants to be.”
I have learned that sometimes we don’t have to initiate or induce interest in others; sometimes we just need to respond when opportunities arise to introduce people to the truths found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How Could I Stop the Fighting?
During the time my husband was serving as bishop, I often faced family challenges alone. One such incident occurred while I was completing a sewing project downstairs. I heard my girls calling me with frightened voices. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, they directed me to where my older sons were fighting. While our children occasionally disagree, this time fists were flying in anger.
Both boys were bigger than I, and I wasn’t sure if I should physically intervene. In the best authoritative voice I could muster, I demanded they stop, and the boys broke away. I was surprised and felt grateful for sons who would obey even when they were upset. I sent them to their rooms and went into my bedroom to regain my composure and decide what to do.
My eyes fell on a plaque my mother made for me years before that hangs on the wall of our room. It reads: “Have you tried prayer?” The message impressed me with startling clarity, and with it came an idea. I went to each boy’s bedroom and quietly asked them to wait for me in the den. I was still trembling with emotion when I entered the den and closed the door. I took each boy by the hand and gently pulled them down to kneel with me in prayer.
As I prayed to Heavenly Father, I felt the terrible tension begin to disappear. I told him of my great love for my sons and of their desire to be happy and to make right choices. I talked of how grateful I was that they had been good, obedient sons. I talked of the gratitude their father and I felt for the strong sons sent to our home and the excitement we felt for their great potential for good. I closed my prayer, sincerely aware of the powerful potential for good that lay within them.
I smiled and asked them to each take a turn to pray. They hesitated briefly, then offered simple and sincere prayers to Heavenly Father.
I realized then that during times when my husband could not be with us, I was being guided in ways that blessed our family. As we walked out of the den that day, we were all keenly aware of the reality of our Father’s love and his great desire that we cast our burdens at his feet and allow his Spirit to soothe and direct our lives.
Danger on the Las Cruces Trail
When we first arrived in Panama some years ago, I felt I was living in a tropical paradise with year-round warm weather, exotic fruit, the nearby Panama Canal, and a rich variety of unusual plants and animals. But with all the beauty came poisonous spiders and deadly snakes. I was a little afraid of finding snakes in the yard or house and was on constant watch for them.
My 11-year-old son, Matthew, was a new Scout, and his Scout troop planned a hike along the Las Cruces Trail, the 400-year-old trail used to carry heavy loads by mule before a railroad was built connecting the Caribbean with the Pacific Ocean. The trail had long since become overgrown with vegetation.
Leaving early in the morning, my husband, Dave, and two other leaders accompanied my son and five other Boy Scouts on the hike. After they traveled about two and a half miles, the trail became hard to follow. Dave began leading the way single file through the undergrowth by going ahead a little way and then calling for the others to follow. Matthew, second in line, was hiking toward his father when suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his calf. He assumed he had been pricked by a thorn bush until, behind him, one of the Scouts yelled, “Snake!” There in the middle of the overgrown trail was a fer-de-lance, one of Panama’s most common and deadly poisonous snakes, known locally as an “x” for the x-shaped pattern on its skin. My husband quickly checked Matthew’s leg and discovered puncture marks on his calf. The Scoutmaster killed the snake so he could take it back for positive identification.
The boys gathered around. They had been hiking nearly three hours over a sometimes steep trail and wondered how they could get Matthew back to a doctor in time. Before leaving, the men gave Matthew a priesthood blessing. In the blessing my husband felt impressed to say that the snake had not been permitted to inject much poison into the leg, which helped everyone feel more calm and peaceful. To keep Matthew from walking and spreading poison through his blood, the leaders took turns carrying Matthew on their backs, and it was 12:30 P.M. when they finally arrived at the hospital—three hours after the bite.
Doctors examining the leg were astonished to find Matthew had no symptoms of poisoning—no swelling, no sickness, no fever, and no sign of venom in his blood. This was unusual since victims often die within an hour or, if they live, at least lose a limb. The doctors kept Matthew for observation for 24 hours, but no sign of illness appeared, and they sent him home.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord revealed to Oliver Cowdery that he should “require not miracles, except I shall command you, … and [except] against poisonous serpents” (D&C 24:13). The Scouts learned a great lesson that day about the power of the priesthood to preserve life. And when Matthew was ordained a deacon a few months later, he deeply respected the privilege he was given to be one of those who hold the priesthood.
One More Child?
Several years ago when my wife, Sydney, and I were courting, we occasionally discussed how many children we might have. We were married in the Los Angeles Temple and settled in California. The years sped by, and we had four children. We never really discussed having more. My wife, meanwhile, had started to pray about whether or not we should have more children.
One Monday during our family home evening, we were seated in a circle in our family room, each taking turns presenting a part of the lesson. There was an empty space in the circle where no one was seated. Then, quietly, the space wasn’t empty any longer. I saw a baby in an infant feeding chair, surrounded by a soft glow. The image remained there for several moments, then slowly faded.
After the children were in bed, I told my wife what I had seen, and we tearfully thanked Heavenly Father for this experience. It wasn’t long until Aaron joined our family, and we rejoiced at his birth.
One day, some years later, our son Bruce rose to bear his testimony in fast and testimony meeting. He told of a special incident he had once experienced as a young child during a family home evening. He had seen a little baby in an infant feeding chair, surrounded by a soft glow. He had never mentioned it, he said, but wanted to express his gratitude for the experience, for he knew his brother Aaron was meant to be a part of our family.