“It’s Too Late, Mommy”
One November my daughter Kitti, a third-grader, announced she had made a new friend. As the middle child among seven children, she was the shy one. She’d never made a close friend before, and I was glad she was finally fitting in at school. Each day she came home bursting with news about Susie * , but her stories began to disturb me: Susie was mistreated by the rest of the class, Susie wanted Kitti to bring money for candy, Susie’s father was dying, Susie’s mother was dying, Susie wanted to live with us. With each piece of news I became more skeptical, and I wondered if Kitti was exaggerating her friend’s plight.
When Kitti begged me to let Susie stay overnight, I put her off. Our water pump had burned out, and we were hauling water in buckets to wash dishes and flush the toilet. Workmen tramped in and out of the house, and the floors were a mess. I felt overwhelmed by the mini-disaster my home had become.
“As soon as we get water, Susie can stay,” I promised. But the opportunity never seemed to come.
Then Kitti asked if Susie could spend Christmas Eve with us.
“Doesn’t Susie have a family she can spend Christmas Eve with?” I asked impatiently. Kitti merely looked at me and said nothing.
The day after Christmas, Kitti got a phone call. After she hung up, she said in a quavery voice, “Susie’s daddy died. Please, may I go to the funeral?”
Stunned, I wondered if that could be true. Gently I knelt and hugged my bereft little girl. “Of course you can go, sweetheart,” I said. “We’ll find out when the funeral is, and I’ll go with you.” My heart ached. Could I have misjudged the seriousness of Kitti’s stories?
I found out that the funeral was scheduled for 11 o’clock, and Kitti and I arrived on time. At 11:30, however, we were still waiting for the funeral to begin. I fidgeted, remembering everything I had to do at home.
At last the casket was carried in, and the bishop rose to conduct the service.
“I apologize for the delay,” he began. Tears streamed down his leathery cheeks. “This good man’s wife passed away at 11 o’clock. She held her terrible illness at bay long enough to arrange her eternal sweetheart’s last services. The son of this remarkable couple will give the opening prayer.”
Shock gripped me. I managed to recover enough to hold my weeping daughter close and whisper, “Maybe Susie will feel like coming to our house tomorrow.”
“It’s too late, Mommy,” Kitti replied. “Now Susie will live with her aunt. She can’t be my friend anymore.”
As my daughter wept, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had let her down and disappointed my Heavenly Father. I thought of what King Benjamin had told his people: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). I had been so busy with affairs at home that I had not taken the opportunity to help Susie while I had the chance.
I was reminded of the Savior’s example when children were brought to Him to be blessed. His disciples “rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13–14).
Since that day, I have noticed that service to others is not always convenient. Just as important, I learned to listen to my children. And with my Father in Heaven’s help, I hope to never again be too late to help a child in need.
Name has been changed.
The Pamphlet in the Rain
Years ago, I was a 19-year-old young man studying in Quezaltenango, Guatemala, to become a schoolteacher. While walking home one afternoon, I noticed a little stream of rainwater running down the street toward my apartment. It was carrying a piece of paper. To entertain myself, I decided to keep pace with it. When I got to my apartment, I picked it up.
It was a pamphlet. I will never forget its title: The Church As Organized by Jesus Christ. At one time I had been very interested in finding the church that Jesus Christ had set up. I had investigated many churches, but I had joined none and had given up my search. But now as I read the title on the pamphlet, somehow I knew I had found the right church. On the back of the pamphlet was a name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I determined to find it.
However, the school term ended in October, and I went to my hometown, Rio Blanco, for a three-month break. In January, I returned to Quezaltenango. Although I had lived in that city for three years, I had never seen a Latter-day Saint chapel there. One Sunday I decided that if one existed, I was going to find it. I got up early and began asking everyone I met if they knew the location of the chapel. At first, no one did. Others sent me in the wrong direction. But after three hours, I finally located the meetinghouse and literally ran toward it.
The building was beautiful. Because I am a shy person, I quietly took a seat in the back of the chapel. I knew no one there, and nobody spoke to me, but I loved the meeting. There was a feeling in my heart that I had never felt in any other place on earth.
The next Sunday I returned, thinking that if the preacher asked people to come up front and accept Christ, I would be the first to go. But nobody called us to go up. Three members shared short messages about the gospel. How different this church is! I thought. But I liked it. Unfortunately, the members still did not notice me, and I decided I would go back only one more week. I couldn’t keep attending if I had no one to talk to. At least I would have a beautiful memory to cherish.
The meetings were equally pleasing on the third Sunday. When they were over, everyone began leaving, talking happily. I sat on a bench in the entryway, sad at the idea of not coming back. Then a well-dressed young man with blond hair sat down next to me. In broken Spanish, he asked how long I had been a member of the Church.
“I’m not a member,” I said, “only visiting.” He instantly took out a little book and asked for my address.
“Why do you need my address?”
“We would like to get to know you and teach you more about the Church,” he explained.
With great pleasure I accepted his invitation, and the missionaries began teaching me the gospel. People at school ridiculed me when they learned what I was doing, and family members who belonged to other churches kept trying to argue with me. But I kept learning, and in time I was baptized.
Soon after, the bishop called me into his office and asked me to prepare to go on a mission. Since I was so shy, the idea overwhelmed me. I stalled.
Another school year ended, and I returned again to Rio Blanco. But I was the only member there, and I felt lonely.
If the Church really is true, I reasoned, maybe I should tell others about it. I began to visit my friends and relatives in their homes each day after work to teach them the gospel. Several of them wanted to join the Church. I called the mission president and told him that there were eight persons in Rio Blanco ready for baptism. He was delighted to come and make the arrangements.
Like my bishop, the mission president asked me to serve a mission. As a delaying tactic, I explained there were no priesthood leaders in Rio Blanco. I told him I would go on a mission after he sent missionaries to help in Rio Blanco. He transferred two missionaries there the very next week, so I filled out my mission papers and soon left to serve a mission.
I have had many beautiful and rewarding experiences since I found that pamphlet floating on the water. While many in the world are struggling for power and riches, I have found peace, security, and happiness.
Get Trudy to a Doctor
One day I called Trudy, a 70-year-old widow, to make an appointment to come visiting teaching. She told me she wasn’t feeling well because her leg was hurting. She admitted she had been shoveling snow the day before and wondered if she had pulled a muscle. Since she didn’t seem to feel well, I wondered if we should come, but I told her we wouldn’t stay long.
When my partner and I arrived at Trudy’s home, I asked about her leg. She described the pain in her leg and showed me her foot, which was turning a dark color. This puzzled her, she said, because it was her leg that hurt, not her foot. Though my medical knowledge was limited, the thought crossed my mind that she might have a blood clot. My partner and I urged her to see a doctor, but she laughed and said she would feel better tomorrow.
Later, at home, I happened to talk to a friend, a nursing student, and told her about Trudy’s symptoms. She showed some alarm and said Trudy should immediately see a doctor. I called Trudy, relating my conversation with the nursing student, and urged her once again to get medical help. She replied that she would if she were still in pain tomorrow. I hung up the phone. Most doctors’ office hours were over for the day, so perhaps she was right in waiting.
Just then the phone rang, and I heard my friend, the nursing student, on the line. She had talked with a colleague at the hospital where she worked who had voiced the opinion that Trudy should definitely seek help immediately. I called Trudy once again, even though I felt she must be weary of hearing my voice, and offered to take her to the emergency room. She laughed and said she was feeling a little better and that I should not worry.
I hung up the phone telling myself I had done all I could. Yet I continued to worry and to feel I should do something more. But what? I felt I had done everything possible, yet my thoughts kept telling me that wasn’t so. I paused. Was the Holy Ghost influencing me? The word yes registered clearly in my mind. The thought then came that I should call a Dr. Worley, a close friend of Trudy’s. After I recounted my experiences of the day, he promised to visit Trudy during the evening.
The next morning Dr. Worley’s wife called. She said her husband had visited Trudy and, despite her protests, had taken her directly to the hospital. She was then transported by ambulance to another hospital in a nearby city, where she was put immediately on the surgery schedule. The surgeon who operated later told Trudy that a blood clot had cut off circulation to her foot and that if she had waited any longer she would have lost the foot.
When I heard this, I felt weak. It would have been so easy to ignore the persistent urging to do something more, and the results would have been much different that day. I was grateful that as a visiting teacher I had listened and responded to guidance I received to help one of my sisters.
Our Unexpected Missionary Harvest
When I was 12 years of age, my father heard about the Church from one of his fellow airline pilots. Though somewhat intrigued, he did not pursue the matter at the time. A few months later we moved from California to Buffalo, New York, and we decided to take a drive one afternoon to see some of the surrounding countryside. My father recalled that Joseph Smith had once lived somewhere in the vicinity of Palmyra, and we drove in that direction. We found the Hill Cumorah and stopped at the visitors’ center, where we were impressed with the displays.
Two days later missionaries knocked on our door, and my mother gladly let them in. We began taking the missionary discussions, but the elders were transferred shortly after we began. Although in later years we could not recall their names, we were grateful to those first elders who knocked on our door. We never dreamed our paths would cross again—in a most unexpected way.
New elders began visiting, and with their help we studied the gospel and decided to be baptized. Over the next few years, not only our entire family but also many extended family members and friends joined the Church.
Four years later our family returned to California. In high school I met the young man I would one day marry, and he too joined the Church. We were sealed in the Oakland Temple, and we raised six children. Our eldest son, Elliott, was called on a mission to France. When he returned, he attended Brigham Young University. There he met and fell in love with a young woman named Ginger Riggs, from Pasadena, California. Elliott and Ginger became engaged, and since Pasadena was only about 50 miles from our home, we decided to go to dinner with her parents.
Over dinner we discovered that Ginger’s father, Brent, had served a mission in upstate New York in 1964—the same year we had visited the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center. We told him of our conversion at about that time, and Brent went home and looked up some of the missionary letters he had written home to his family. He was thrilled to find one in which our family was prominently mentioned. It seems that one day he and his companion had passed our street and been impressed to stop and tract our block one more time, even though they had tracted our entire neighborhood thoroughly just weeks before. It was Brent Riggs who had felt prompted to knock on our door that day, and now his daughter, Ginger, was about to marry Elliott—the son of a young woman Brent Riggs had first introduced the gospel to 33 years earlier.
The blessings of a righteous missionary indeed flowed into the life of his future daughter—and back again into our family as well.
Should I Sacrifice My Dream?
One afternoon near the end of my advanced training in the U.S. Army, I was called to the orderly room. There a sergeant waited. He said he was visiting Fort Jackson to recruit soldiers who wanted to become part of the Old Guard. Was I interested? Was I!
In April 1986 I arrived at Fort Meyer, Virginia, to start my training. I learned that the Old Guard provides ceremonial support to the president of the United States and important government installations, including the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. I became increasingly drawn to the possibility of becoming one of the distinguished sentinels who kept their reverent vigil at the tomb, so after six months I began investigating the possibility. However, I faced a major roadblock. The duty description required that soldiers serving at the tomb be infantrymen; I was an administrative clerk. Still, I very much wanted to become one of those who paced in silence to honor those who lay in the tomb.
With help from a former sergeant of the guard from the tomb, I arranged to meet with the current sergeant of the guard—the one individual who could make or break my dream.
“At ease,” the sergeant said. “So you, a clerk, want to be a sentinel?”
“There have been thousands who have gone through the two-week tryout but only 250 who wear the badge as a permanent part of their uniform.”
“Yes, Sergeant, but I feel I have what it takes.”
“All right. Report here at 0600 a week from Monday.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.”
I had one week before beginning the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Would the Lord sustain me in my effort? As I counted down the days, a number of concerns began to assail me. Chiefly, I would have to miss my Church meetings every other Sunday for two years—something I felt uncomfortable doing.
I went to the Lord and poured out my heart concerning this opportunity. On Tuesday I went to the temple. I also sought counsel from my bishop, stake president, and friends, who all felt I would make the appropriate decision. Finally I went to the Lord in prayer: “Heavenly Father, this is a great opportunity and fulfillment of a dream. I feel strongly about pursuing my desire to become a sentinel. However, I feel that missing my meetings to do this is not in my best interest. Please help me make the correct decision.”
Wednesday night I went to bed still unsure about what I should do. Thursday evening the telephone rang. It was President Farnsworth of the Mekong Branch—a branch for Asian people who lived in the area. “Could you stop by my office this evening? I would like to talk to you.”
What could the president of the Asian branch want with me?
Later, I entered President Farnsworth’s office. The president shook my hand and then said, “Brother Gruenewald, we’ve been searching for quite a while for someone to work with our young men. We would like to call you to be the teachers quorum adviser in the Asian branch.”
I did not know what to do, so I explained my situation. President Farnsworth suggested I think things over and get back to him. On Friday morning I found myself once again in the temple, pondering what to do. As I sat there, a thought formed in my mind: You asked me to help you make the correct decision. You have been given what you need to make that decision.
Yes, I had been given what I needed, and I knew what I would do. Recalling how influential my own advisers had been in my life, I called President Farnsworth and accepted the call. On Monday at 0600 I reported to the sergeant of the guard that I would not be training as a sentinel after all.
Shortly after beginning to serve in my calling in the Asian branch, I met a young man from Vietnam named Baouk Tu. He had been in the United States for a year, and the sister missionaries were teaching him the gospel. After Baouk had been coming to our quorum meetings for about a month, I received a phone call one day from the sisters telling me Baouk wanted me to baptize him. Later I participated in the baptisms and confirmations of two more young men, doubling the size of our quorum.
How thankful I was at that moment that I had listened to the Spirit and had come to the branch. Though some sacrifices we make may seem great at the time, the rewards can eventually outweigh any feelings of loss. And when I thought about it, I realized the Lord had heard my prayers: I was one of His sentinels, watching over His children and walking in reverence with other honorable men.