Mother Called Them “Whisperings”
My parents didn’t attend a church while I was growing up, but they did live by faith. We were taught the stories of Jesus and learned the Golden Rule early. Mother taught us to say our prayers each night, and she taught us to listen to the thoughts and feelings that would sometimes come to our minds and hearts. She called them “whisperings.”
Everyone in our family had received these impressions. When I was 10 and my brother, Jerry, was 13, my mother told us she had experienced a whispering that she should take us to church. She investigated several and decided upon a Protestant church. About a year later, Jerry and I were baptized into that church. We enjoyed participating in activities with the youth group, and my mother was content that her children were receiving a Christian education, but Jerry and I had questions and doubts, possibly brought on by the many different doctrines we had been exposed to.
During my senior year of high school, as president of the youth group, I was asked to give a talk about different religions, and I chose to talk about Mormons. Much of my speech focused on what I thought was wrong with their religion.
Six months after giving the presentation, I moved with my parents to Los Gatos, California. I tried attending a local Protestant church, but I didn’t seem to fit in.
Two years later, I was driving home from Palo Alto, where I was to share an apartment with my friend, Susie. We were both 20 and ready to be out on our own. As I approached Los Gatos, though, I had one of those experiences my mother had told me about—a whispering—that I shouldn’t move in with Susie. The feeling came so suddenly that it brought tears to my eyes. I was puzzled.
“Why not?” I asked out loud. I didn’t receive an answer, but I found myself taking the next exit and returning to Palo Alto. I tried to explain to Susie about the feeling I had just experienced and how my mother had taught me to listen to my feelings. I could only hope Susie would understand.
“But what are you going to do?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. “Wait and see what happens, I suppose.” I felt helpless and unsure about what the future held for me, but my mother took the news calmly. “Something—the right something—will show itself. Wait and see,” she told me.
I waited a week; then two weeks passed and I still didn’t know what I should do. At the end of the third week, my mother’s friend, Jackie, called. Recently divorced, she and her two daughters were now living in an apartment in Santa Cruz, California. She wondered if I would be interested in moving in with her to share expenses. There was an opening in a nearby office for a receptionist, and she seemed confident I could get a job there.
The idea wasn’t appealing. Mother had mentioned that Jackie was a Mormon. I remembered my earlier speech and wanted nothing to do with Jackie or her religion. My reasoning told me to wait longer; surely something else would come along, but that familiar feeling—stronger than reasoning—encouraged me to move in with Jackie. I even got the receptionist job she had told me about.
When I moved in, we decided we would attend her church one week and the Protestant church the next. I moved in on Saturday, attended Jackie’s ward on Sunday, and by Thursday the stake missionaries were at our door. I had my doubts about what they could teach me, but my questions came flooding back: What about my older sister who had died at age two without christening? Could she be saved? Why did I always imagine God as a loving Father when so many churches told me He was only a spirit? And what about the “whisperings” my mother had taught me to listen to? Why didn’t everyone have them—or did they?
I wanted information, so I began listening to the discussions. Gradually, I learned the answers to my questions, and I felt peace and understanding fill my heart. After three visits with the missionaries, I experienced another whispering. I knew I had found what I had been looking for: the true church of Jesus Christ. This prompting filled me with the desire to have the Holy Ghost with me always; I wanted to be baptized.
I am grateful for my mother, who taught me about whisperings, which led me to the truth and to the opportunity to receive both membership in Christ’s Church and the gift of the Holy Ghost. When I joined the Church, I knew I would receive even more understanding and guidance in my life.
The Gift I Never Gave
When I began investigating the Church, I attended a branch where Janet was Relief Society president, and I came to love this gentle lady with the friendly smile. As the year went on, I witnessed many acts of kindness that were second nature to her. She always seemed to know exactly who needed a hug or a word of encouragement; often I was that person. Janet celebrated my spiritual growth as I gained a testimony of the gospel and was finally baptized. How she rejoiced with me!
Often I wished I had something to give her to show how much her friendship meant to me. Since I was going through some financial problems, however, I was unable to buy her a gift. Instead, I asked Heavenly Father to help me think of something nice I could do for her.
Finally, an answer to my prayer came on Mother’s Day. During sacrament meeting, each mother was given a lovely little scarlet flower. On my way home, I realized that Janet hadn’t attended the meetings that day. Since she hadn’t been there to receive a flower, I decided to give her mine the next Sunday.
All week I tended the flower with love and care. I could hardly wait for Sunday to arrive so I could surprise my sister with the little scarlet beauty. But on Sunday Janet was still home sick. Each week for a month, during her illness, I took the gift to church and then brought it back home and placed it next to my poinsettia on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.
Although Janet lived only 15 minutes away, I couldn’t seem to get organized enough to find the time to visit her and take the plant. Each day I prayed for her recovery, but each day I forgot to save time to send her a note or call on the telephone to say, “I’m thinking of you.”
As the weeks slipped away, I also failed to notice that Janet’s flower was slowly wilting for want of proper attention. It needed to be planted outside so it would have room to grow. Like people who are not allowed growing room, little by little the plant began to die. First, the bright scarlet blossoms fell off one by one. Then the leaves began to curl and turn brown.
By the time Janet returned to church, the little plant was shriveled up and flowerless. Even then, I probably could have saved it—or, rather, Janet could have, by planting it lovingly in her yard, but by then I was too ashamed to let her see it. Because of my procrastination, the beautiful flower never got to grow to its full potential, and Janet never got to know how much I was thinking about her while she was sick.
Today my guests must wonder why I keep a dead flower on my windowsill. That flower reminds me that sometimes our best intentions wither for lack of follow-through. Each morning when I look at it, I am reminded to put my good intentions into action.
Love is, after all, not just a nice warm feeling but a series of actions for the welfare of another. By dying, Janet’s flower may have provided me with one of the most important truths about living I’ve ever learned.
Stilling Molly’s Storm
It was a rare, mild winter day in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission. My companion and I loved the few days when it actually did not rain, and this was one of them. We were especially glad because we had felt prompted to open a new street for proselyting. Unfortunately, the feelings of urgency we sensed that day did not match the steady stream of rejections we were encountering at every door.
To our surprise, a door finally opened and a lady smiled sweetly at us with a look of recognition, inviting us into her living room. “Somehow I knew He would send you,” she said, clutching a piece of writing paper. “I knew I couldn’t do it.” Puzzled, we followed her in and sat down.
We learned that Molly was from South Africa. The last few months had been especially stressful for Molly as she had cared for her terminally ill husband until his death. She had come to Edinburgh the previous week, hoping a visit to her daughter would revive her spirits. But upon arriving in Scotland she had received only rejection and criticism from her daughter. Molly felt she could take no more and that day decided to end her life. She was writing the suicide note when we knocked on her door.
We extended our love to Molly that afternoon and taught her about the plan of salvation, assuring her that all was well with her husband. We bore witness of the Savior’s love and concern for her, and as we knelt with her in prayer, the Spirit of the Lord filled the room, bringing tears to our eyes and peace to our hearts. Later, we left Molly to finish making her preparations to return to South Africa, where she planned to take the discussions and learn more about temples and eternal marriage.
My companion and I were deeply moved by our experience with Molly and her situation. Gratitude for the gospel and the influence of the Holy Ghost filled our hearts. We walked to a small park and knelt in humble prayer to give thanks to our Father in Heaven for guiding us to her.
Months later, after I returned home from my mission, my mother gave me a letter she had received. Molly had written to tell my family about the two “angels” who had visited her when she most needed help. Her letter of happiness had a tremendous impact on my nonmember parents.
My companion and I thought that winter day in Scotland was mild, but we had found a storm in Molly’s life. I am grateful that we followed the promptings of the Spirit and were led to her and that the gospel helped lift her that day and changed her life.
Lesson from a Lost Wallet
I learned a valuable lesson on obedience one muggy Saturday afternoon. I had been up late the night before and had been working hard in the yard all morning. The heat drained me of energy, so I went inside for a 15-minute nap. As I lay down on the couch, I had the feeling I should do something with my wallet so it wouldn’t be lost. I ignored the prompting and was soon fast asleep.
After a few minutes I was refreshed and ready to continue with the yard work. Before I went out the door, I felt for my wallet. It was gone. I searched behind the couch, under the cushions, and all around it. My search widened into the living room, the kitchen, the hall, the bathroom, the children’s bedrooms, and finally my bedroom. I could not find my wallet.
My frustration mounted as I realized I had not listened to the earlier prompting. After I settled down, I started to ask myself a few questions. If my wallet was not on the couch, how did it get away? One of my children must have taken it. I started with the oldest and went on to the youngest. Ryan, Kemily, Wendy, and Tamra said they had not taken it. Rebekah, two years old and too kind to disappoint her father, admitted she had taken it. I asked her where she had put it, and she took me all through the house to show me. I felt that she was honest in telling me she had taken it but that her short memory was keeping us from finding the wallet.
I was still a little upset with myself, but the search had been narrowed. Rebekah could not have put it anywhere more than two or three feet off the floor. I began another search. No results. I decided to wait a few days and to hope it would turn up as so many other lost articles had in the past.
Sunday at priesthood meeting there was a temple assignment for Thursday. I didn’t want to volunteer in case my wallet with my recommend did not turn up.
On Wednesday the wallet was still missing. My high priests group leader called to ask me to help with the Thursday assignment. Embarrassed, I told him I had lost my wallet and recommend.
My mind turned to larger issues. What was I going to learn from this experience? The answer was obvious: I was going to listen and obey. I knew it would take a lot of time and paperwork to replace my recommend, driver’s license, and other items. If only I had listened and obeyed. I had also lost some family pictures that could not be replaced.
I expressed to Heavenly Father in prayer all I felt that I had learned from the experience and asked again for help in finding my wallet so I could go to the temple. Later, as I lay on my bed pondering my situation, I found myself more deeply committed to responding to spiritual thoughts.
The idea came to go check in the sewing basket. This time when the impression came I listened and obeyed and was overjoyed to find the wallet.
“Michelle, Is That You?”
Shortly after my baptism, when I was 20 years old, my interest in family history was kindled. As the only Church member in my family, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to complete four generations for my mother’s family. My parents divorced when I was an infant. Having no association with my father and very little information about him, I felt that trying to do family history on that line was impossible.
As I worked on my mother’s family, I found the work difficult and the obstacles abundant. When the work became especially frustrating, I kept in mind Nephi’s words: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).
As I knelt at the altar of the temple to be married, my testimony of the importance of family history work overwhelmed me. Soon after, we moved 5,000 miles away from my hometown. For years I continued writing letters and researching my family history, but with little success.
After a while I decided that maybe I wasn’t meant to do the work after all. I rationalized that my ancestors were stubborn folk and probably would never be converted to the gospel anyway, so it didn’t matter.
I became busy raising my growing family and coping with the challenges of day-to-day living. Ordinance work for the dead was pushed further and further from my mind. When my children sang “Families Can Be Together Forever” (Children’s Songbook, 188), I felt a twinge of guilt—but just a twinge. Then in 1985, just after the birth of my sixth child, events in my life turned me again to family history work.
I found out my mother was terminally ill, and I returned to my hometown to be with her. Before I went to see her, I fasted and prayed that I would be able to receive more information about my family. When I arrived, I was disheartened by my mother’s physical condition. However, as I talked with her about her life and our ancestors, I felt the Lord was answering my prayers.
My mother’s brother arrived shortly after I did and assisted me greatly in family history research. He helped me find information to complete my four generations and more. I was ecstatic!
After Mother passed away, I felt a great loss and began to ponder many things. She had been the only parent I had known. I felt satisfied that I had done what the Lord required of me—but the Spirit continued to work on me. I could feel my heart turning to my father.
I had tried to find my father several times over the years, but my efforts had always come to a dead end. I think now that bitterness had crept into my heart, and I had decided it would be up to him to find me. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t ignore promptings to find my father.
I had very little to go on. My mother had given me the name of my grandfather and the small farming community in Nebraska where he lived, but that was all. I had called directory assistance for the area once before but had had no luck.
This time I picked out two towns in Nebraska about 15 miles on either side of the town my dad came from. Again, I pleaded with the Lord to help me.
The operator gave me two numbers in both towns for the name Hoffman.
My heart began to beat faster as I chose one of the numbers. A man answered. I explained who I was and who I was looking for. He said he didn’t know my father, but he was acquainted with his sister. He gave me her name and number.
I dialed the number and a woman answered. I told her I was trying to locate the family of a Homer Hoffman who had lived in the area 30 years ago. She said he was her father. I got weak in the knees. I told her I was trying to locate my father—her brother. She didn’t say anything. After a moment, she said, “Michelle? Michelle, is that you? We’ve looked for you so long!”
I was so grateful to talk to her. She spoke of her family and asked about my own. She told me about my dad and some of the problems he had encountered in his life, and then she gave me his address and phone number. We said our good-byes, promising to write and send pictures.
I said a silent prayer as I picked up the phone again. One ring—two rings—a man answered, “Hello.”
“I’m looking for Dick Hoffman,” I said.
“You’re speaking with him,” he answered.
Not knowing what to say, I simply said, “This is Michelle.” There was silence on the other end.
“Where are you, honey?” he finally said. I told him where I was, and we began to talk. We cried. We laughed and cried some more. We talked of his trying to find me and of me trying to find him. We talked of our lives and families. I couldn’t believe that after so many years I had found him with three phone calls. I felt a great love growing within me for this man I hardly knew. He was my father, and I knew my Heavenly Father had helped us find each other.