More Blessings Than I Could Receive
I gained a testimony of the law of tithing the summer before my senior year of high school. I remember finances were tight for my mother, who was a single parent trying to raise two teenage boys. To pay for school clothes and occasional entertainment that summer, I had thinned sugar beets, picked cherries, cleaned irrigation ditches, bucked hay bales, and mowed lawns. Unfortunately, this type of work usually lasted only a few days for any single employer.
It was late July, and it had been several weeks since I had been able to find work. All the potential employers I approached already had the help they needed. I became even more discouraged when I took account of my finances: $6 and some change. With fewer than four weeks of summer vacation remaining, I had yet to purchase my school clothes and, like all teenagers, I wanted to be able to do things with my friends as well.
Then I remembered I had neglected to pay tithing on the money I had received for my last job. I dug through the top drawer of my dresser and found my last pay stub: $63. A quick mental calculation told me my debt to the Lord amounted to nearly every cent I had!
I recalled my mother telling me that even though it was difficult for her to make ends meet, she always paid her tithes and offerings first. When I had asked her why, she said the Lord would always bless us if we would keep all of His commandments. Then she shared with me Malachi 3, verses 8 and 10: [Mal. 3:8, 10]
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. …
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Still, I balked at giving up my last few dollars. I decided I would try to get another job, then pay tithing with the money I earned. As the week progressed, though, the prospect of finding a job became more bleak. I remembered seeing one of my mother’s books, Faith Precedes the Miracle, by President Spencer W. Kimball, and realized I had made the wrong decision. I resolved to pay my debt to the Lord. I sealed up my tithing in an envelope, and when Sunday came I handed it to the bishop.
The following Wednesday I received a phone call from a friend. He had been working for a local farmer who needed an extra person that Thursday and Friday. Was I interested? I eagerly accepted the offer. Even though two days’ salary probably wouldn’t meet all my needs, it was a start. The next day, my friend picked me up and we set to work stacking hay. It was hot and dusty. I was concerned because I had severe hay fever and was prone to asthma attacks. To my surprise, I found I was able to work steadily through the day with strength and energy I didn’t know I had. The day ended, and I went home pleased with the work I had done.
I had been home less than a half hour when I received a phone call from another friend. He asked if I would be willing to go with him to harvest wheat for his uncle. The job would begin the next Monday and continue until school started. It also paid $2 an hour—a wage unheard of in a day when most farm employees were making $1.60 an hour. I was elated at the thought of making so much money and learning to operate heavy equipment in the process. I gratefully accepted and hung up the phone, still reeling at the offer. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the fruit farm manager for whom I had picked cherries earlier in the summer. One of his full-time employees had recommended me for the upcoming peach harvest. He offered me an hourly position at a better wage than I had earned picking fruit earlier in the season. I was dumbfounded. I expressed my gratitude to him but explained I had just accepted another job that conflicted with his offer.
The next day I went to work to finish my job stacking hay. At the end of the day, the farmer asked me to continue working for him the remainder of the summer. Again, I had to decline the offer. The windows of heaven had truly been opened for me. The blessings given to me were so great that I could not receive all of them.
In the subsequent 25 years, I have paid my tithing immediately upon receiving my pay. Though I am not wealthy—and there have been lean times—I have never had to go without the necessities of life and have always been able to meet my financial obligations. By following the commandments of the Lord, my family and I have been blessed both spiritually and temporally.
The Note That Changed Me
I was 40 years old and living with my wife and family in Yamagata in the northern part of Japan. At the time, I did little for my family except provide for them. I often yelled at my children and was very demanding of my wife. We were not a close family.
One day my wife invited missionaries to our home. They arrived with a cake they had baked and seemed friendly and likable. I decided it would be good for my children to associate with them. Because I worked until late and then went out drinking, I was seldom home in the evenings. One night, however, I arrived home early to find the missionaries there talking with my family about God. I became upset and yelled, “You can stop talking like that or you’ll never darken the doorway of my home again!”
They never again mentioned their religion to me. Later, a new elder and his companion came to visit. He was visibly nervous as he asked me if I wanted to learn about the gospel. Apparently he was nervous that he might be thrown out of my house. However, his manner softened my heart, and I agreed to listen. But nothing he said seemed interesting, and soon I quit the lessons.
One night some time later I arrived home, drunk as usual. I came into the yard and started yelling and romping with my pet dog, then went into the house, where I found new missionaries visiting my family. I don’t remember much else, but the next day my wife handed me a card with a note written on the back of it by one of the missionaries. It said:
“I want you to know that I love you very much! You, as a father, have a big responsibility. Also, as a child of God, you also have a big responsibility. Please, please think about what you are doing by drinking. I can see in you a powerful man who could be strong and mighty in the eyes of God.
“Please follow Him. He will lead you to happiness. I love you. Please understand.
His words touched me deeply. I put his card in my wallet and have kept it with me ever since. The missionaries made arrangements for a couple, the Nishiharas, to come and teach me more about the Word of Wisdom, but on the night of our appointment, I went out drinking instead. When I returned, I found a message from them telling me that Brother Nishihara had once had a drinking problem too. I was very impressed to know that someone who was like me could have changed his life and become a missionary. For the first time, I began to have hope that I too could change.
I started studying the gospel and began trying to live the Word of Wisdom. One day the missionaries challenged me to live it fully for a whole week, and I succeeded at last! From that time I became a new man. The missionaries were very pleased, and my family and I were finally baptized. After the service, Elder Rasmussen showed us a picture of a white building. “This is the Tokyo Temple,” he explained. “I sincerely hope you can be sealed as a family for time and eternity a year from now. I will soon finish my mission, but I hope to return to see you in the temple.” I was touched by his words.
A year passed, and with support from our ward members, we were ready to go to the temple. As we walked through the doors of the temple, Elder Rasmussen was waiting to greet us, just as he had promised. With tears in our eyes, we hugged each other. A man stood nearby watching us, and I was finally introduced to Brother Nishihara—the person who had first given me hope that a man like me could change. We were sealed by Brother Nishihara, and it was a glorious moment for all of us.
My wife and I are filled with joy, and now my family has become my treasure. I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the changes it has brought into our lives.
Why Call Julie?
It was the day before Mother’s Day, and I was putting away the last plate from the dishwasher. Now I can relax, I thought. My three sons had completed their Saturday chores, my husband was out, and the rest of the afternoon was mine. As I stood at the kitchen window gazing out at the peaceful day, I mentally listed my options: reading, taking a nap, or watching television.
The thought entered my mind that I should call my friend Julie. I walked across the kitchen and placed my hand on the phone, but I was confused. “Why should I call Julie?” I asked out loud. The thought persisted. Finally I realized the Holy Spirit was counseling me, so I dialed Julie’s number.
I said a quick prayer: “Please help me, Lord, to know what to say.” Then Julie picked up the phone and said, “Hello.”
“Julie, this is Ruth,” I said. “Are you busy?”
“No, not really,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful day, and I wondered if you’d like to go for a ride,” I said. “I just bought two big, juicy oranges that we could eat in the canyon.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone, and for a moment I doubted my prompting to call. Then Julie said, “Yes, I believe I’ll go.”
“Good,” I said with a sigh of relief. “I’ll pick you up in a few minutes.”
As we drove to the canyon, we talked about our children and our daily activities. Then when we neared a picnic area, I realized why I had called Julie. Her mother had recently died, and tomorrow would be Julie’s first Mother’s Day without her.
My mother had died five years earlier after a valiant battle with cancer. It was a time of pain and sadness for me. For several months after the funeral, though, a friend had cared enough to listen as I shared memories of my mother. I felt that perhaps Julie needed that same kind of support.
As we sat at a picnic table peeling our oranges, I expressed my love for Julie and my appreciation for her friendship. Then I said: “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I realize you must be missing your mother. My mother has been gone for many years, and I still think of her and miss her—especially on Mother’s Day. Julie, would you like to talk about your mom? I would love to tell you about my mother too.”
Tears filled her eyes as she looked up at me. “Oh Ruth, I miss her so much. Thank you for asking me to come. I need to talk about her.”
Julie looked down at her hands thoughtfully while she peeled the orange. As she expressed her deeper feelings of love for her mother and talked about past experiences they had shared, I sensed layers of emotion peeling away too.
Silently I thanked Heavenly Father for the prompting I had heeded to call Julie. I was grateful too for the opportunity to talk about my own mother with Julie and to listen to her tender reflections. I realized how important each of us is to Heavenly Father and how He sometimes works in marvelous ways to fill our needs.
Could I Cope with My Children?
One year the rigors of rearing our three challenging teenagers seemed more than my husband and I could bear. I was so beset by our family problems that I became apathetic. I simply went through the mechanics of each day. Ironically, I was the Young Women president at the time and found comfort in dealing with other people’s children.
My husband was aware I was struggling, but he didn’t know what to do to assist me. If aid was possible, it would have to come from Heavenly Father. Even though I sensed this, I did not ask Heavenly Father for help because I knew I had agency and felt I couldn’t ask Him to soften my heart unless I had the desire to change.
One day I confided in a close friend. We discussed agency and whether the Lord would help change our attitudes if our own choices were hampering our growth. Neither of us knew the answer.
That night, while on my knees in prayer, I sincerely asked Father in Heaven to soften my heart so that I would have at least a desire to deal with my problems. The next morning I noticed a difference in feeling. I did not experience an immediate softening of my heart but rather a comforting feeling of well-being and a strength I had not felt for a long time. I knew I could go forward again with my responsibilities. It was an incredible moment for me.
I found ways to approach my teenage children and warmly confirmed my love for them. I felt strengthened to renew my commitment to improve my relationship with my family members. It was a turning point for me and our family.
I came to a clearer understanding of the Lord’s admonition “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10). I not only had to humble myself to pray about my problem but I also had to ask specifically for the kind of help I needed. As I did so, I came to understand as never before that God can and does help at important moments in our lives, especially when we ask. He knows us well and holds the answers we need. I am so thankful for a loving Father in Heaven who was willing to help me change even my very attitude and feelings during those times when I felt I no longer had the strength to do so on my own.
Comfort across the Miles
We were living in Hilo, Hawaii, when my doctor found a lump in my breast and sent me to Honolulu for a biopsy. My mother and several of my aunts had had breast cancer at a very early age, so I was frightened that I might also have the same disease. I had prayed for comfort and had contacted my family on the mainland, but I was so discouraged that nothing anyone said or did cheered me up.
After my husband settled me in the hospital in Honolulu, he returned home to care for our four children. Medical procedures and tests kept me occupied most of the day, but they were completed by afternoon. I walked out to a balcony overlooking Pearl Harbor and struck up a conversation with a fellow patient.
The tropical sun shone on the shimmering waters as we watched the ships, but I was engulfed with fear and worry, so I saw none of the beauty. Then as I sat there, something wonderful happened to me. It seemed as if the black clouds of gloom parted and an immense shaft of sunlight coursed through me. I was filled with warmth and peace and something more—an assurance that my fears were groundless.
I spoke to the other woman on the balcony and announced, “I don’t have cancer!” She looked at me, startled. I couldn’t find the words to explain, so I said again, “I know I don’t have cancer!”
I was so relieved and happy that I slept soundly for the first time in days. The next day when the biopsy showed no cancer, I was the only one not surprised.
I called my family to tell them the good news. That’s when I learned that my entire extended family had fasted the day before, then gathered for a special prayer. Their prayer for me ended at the same time I’d felt the light break through my darkness and fill me with assurance. I am grateful that my despairing spirit was restored to peace by the power of prayer and that the Lord comforted me because of the united prayers of my family, who were gathered together so many miles away.
Go Back to the Beginning
After many years of family history research, I had been able to do quite a bit of temple ordinance work on my side and on my husband’s side, but I had always lacked the marriage date of my great-grandparents John Pickett and Rosetta Stringer. They had emigrated by ship from England in 1855, and all I knew was that they had been married during that voyage. I felt the answer must be somewhere, but I never expected to find it the way I did.
I was captain of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Elmhurst Camp in Oakland, California, and we met each month to study the pamphlet Treasures of Pioneer History. At four o’clock on the day of one of our meetings, the phone rang and the woman calling told me she was ill and would not be able to make her presentation that night. That left me to do the presentation.
With little time to prepare, I began to study the pamphlet. The first part seemed to go into quite a bit of detail about a boat, so I skipped over that part and started further on. But I had a strong impression I should go back to the beginning. I turned back to the first part, but I was impatient, so I skipped over it again.
A second time I felt impressed to go back. I did, but again it seemed to be too much to cover for the time I had to prepare, so again I skipped ahead. A third time I felt the distinct impression that I should go back and read. So I did.
Soon my eyes fell upon the names of my great-grandparents. Stunned, I read the entry for 17 April 1855, which stated that the Chimborazo had sailed from Liverpool, England, with 432 Latter-day Saints aboard. The text continued: “Three marriages were celebrated on board tonight: John Pickett and Rosetta Stringer, and David Rees and Martha Eynon were united by President E. Stephenson; and David Williams and Ann Walters by President Thomas Jeremy in the Welsh language.”
What I had thought was a tedious account became a treasure to me. Now I knew for sure when my great-grandparents had been married and by whom. I also knew the name of the ship and its departure point. Such information was priceless to me in my desire to make my ancestors’ records accurate.
This experience taught me the value of listening and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit. My life has been greatly enriched as I’ve recognized the Lord’s concern for me and for my ancestors.