The Record Box
Many years ago my great-aunt Martha Olaveson, who was affectionately known as Aunt Mattie, lived with her mother in a tiny town in Idaho. At a family reunion one year, Mattie was appointed family genealogist. Because she and her mother had always been interested in keeping the family records in order, she was glad to continue searching out family history. Eventually the two of them reached a point where they could find no more information.
One night Mattie dreamed that a messenger came to her and said, “Mattie, how are you coming with your record book?” Mattie replied, “We’ve stopped our research. We just can’t find the information we need.” The messenger then held out his hand, and in it was a box. “Here is where your records are,” he said. Mattie recognized the box as one she had seen in the cellar. “I know where that is!” she cried.
When Mattie woke up, she went to her mother’s room and told her of her dream. George, Mattie’s brother, arrived at the house later that morning, and Mattie recounted her curious dream to him. “Well, let’s go look in the old cellar,” he suggested. They went down into the cellar, which was full of discarded items. There, at the bottom of a bin, was the very box Mattie had seen in her dream. Inside they found many old letters from relatives living in England and other places. The letters were filled with names, dates, and places of residence of many ancestors.
Not long after this, Mattie’s mother became very ill and went to live with another relative. One night Mattie had another dream about the messenger. “Where are your letters?” he asked. Surprised, Mattie answered, “Mother took them for safekeeping.” The messenger replied, “They are your responsibility.”
The next morning Mattie went to see her mother and recounted this second unusual dream and asked her for the letters. Her mother had placed them in a secret compartment for safekeeping. Mattie realized that if her mother had passed away, the letters would have been lost again. Mattie retrieved the letters and worked on the information they contained for many years until her death.
I Set My Sights on the Temple
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and was active in my ward, earning my Young Women awards, attending all my meetings, and dreaming of marrying in the temple and having children. Everything would be wonderful. It seemed a typical Latter-day Saint girl’s dream.
When I went off to college, I was on my own for the first time. It suddenly seemed hard to get up at the crack of dawn to go to church, so I quit going. I started associating with questionable friends. A lot of these friends were doing things I knew were wrong. But because I had grown up in an area with few members, I rationalized that I could handle peer pressure. They can do what they want; it won’t have any affect on me; I’ll never join in, I thought. And I didn’t for about eight months.
But I wasn’t going to church, and one night when things weren’t going well, someone suggested I’d feel better if I joined in and had a drink. I did, and the alcohol dulled my senses and temporarily made me feel better. That was the beginning. The more I got involved, the further I drifted from the gospel. Guilt kept me from going to church, and I fell deeper and deeper into an unhealthy lifestyle.
After several years of this kind of life, I met a man, also an inactive member, who would become my husband. At that point I was in no position to even discuss temple marriage. I didn’t give it a thought. I’m not sure what he saw in me, but we married and after a few years the children came. We moved to a new neighborhood, and that’s when the fellowshipping began. Because of my upbringing, I felt my children should have the same opportunities I had had, so when we were invited to church, I actually started attending with them. After some time I was even given a calling to teach a Primary class.
I didn’t become active overnight, but one day as I talked to my brother, I realized that Heavenly Father loves me. I realized how much the Savior has done for me and how much I love Him for that. He suffered enormously so that I could be forgiven and feel good about myself and start over again. I went to my bishop and started the necessary steps of repentance. My husband, however, was not interested in becoming active in the Church. But he was always supportive and encouraging in my religious desires.
I’ll never forget the day I heard about the opportunity offered to all worthy members of the Church to go to the temple regardless of whether one’s spouse was ready to attend. Serving as Young Women president, I was meeting with the priesthood and auxiliary leaders when our bishop mentioned receiving a letter from President Ezra Taft Benson regarding this. The Relief Society president, whose husband was also not interested in going to the temple, immediately looked at me. Our mouths dropped open, tears came to our eyes, and we experienced the greatest joy I’m sure either of us had felt in a long time. After the meeting, we both rushed to hear more about going to the temple. That same evening my husband met with the bishop to give his permission for me to attend the temple.
I had longed for the blessings of the temple for quite some time. However, my husband, exercising his agency, did not desire the same things I did and did not have the same feelings I had about the gospel. But again he was supportive of my desire to go to the temple. After receiving permission to go, I didn’t rush into it. It was another two months before I actually received my endowment. I felt I needed to prepare myself a little more, and I wanted to wait until my father, who would make the trip to Utah from Virginia, could be with me (my mother had passed away five years earlier).
On 21 May 1986 I went to the Provo Temple with many of my friends and family and received my endowment and entered into covenants with the Lord. I love going to the temple. I love everything about it. I love the peaceful, serene feeling I get when I’m there. I love being in that reverent, sacred place. And I love being involved in the important work that is done within those holy walls.
For the past 13 years my testimony has grown stronger as I’ve been involved in various Church callings, as I’ve tried to teach gospel principles to my family, as I’ve studied the scriptures, and as I’ve attended the temple. My loving husband died just over a year ago, and in December 1998 I realized one of my lifelong ambitions of being sealed together as a family.
From Addiction to Conversion
Before I heard about the Church, I started using drugs as a young man in Brazil. Looking back, I now know that I was seeking an understanding of myself and of life that could come only from the Spirit of the Lord.
For a time, the drugs gave me the impression of having total control over my life. But the effects lasted only a short while, and soon I was more depressed than before. I drugged myself more and more heavily, and it seemed I was always either extremely excited or extremely down. My parents did not know what to do. Several times I thought about suicide, but I thank Heavenly Father that I never made an attempt on my life.
As time went on, I moved away to work in another city and eventually put together enough money to leave Brazil. I traveled to Israel and later to Europe, where I worked in factories, hotels, and farms. I made many friends, learned new languages, and felt full of adventure. Nevertheless, I used drugs whenever the opportunity arose.
I sent money to my sweetheart, and she came to Europe. We did not live the law of chastity, so our relationship was very confused. Shortly after we returned to Brazil, she became pregnant. We married; later, our son was born. However, even that was not enough to make me stop using drugs. My wife and I quarreled over my drug use, and my lack of education and professional skills caused financial stress.
When we were at the point of separating, a miracle happened. At the time, we were friends with some neighbors who had seven-year-old twin daughters. When the twins turned eight, their mother invited us to attend their baptisms. We accepted the invitation because we liked visiting meetings of different religions. I realized that deep inside I felt a hope that something would happen to change my life.
At the baptismal service we witnessed the joy of the twins and their family and became friends with other members. Two missionaries asked if we wanted to hear the discussions, and we accepted. With each lesson, my wife and I became more and more amazed, and we acquired a testimony of what was being taught.
Even so, with all of those marvels happening in my life, I could not leave off drugs. I did not hide this from the missionaries, and I think their caring attitude was very important in my conversion process. In talking with them about faith, I came to understand that many things truly depend upon our earnestly seeking help. Drug use nearly destroyed my life, and only with Heavenly Father’s help was I able to break free of the addiction.
I suffered greatly and wish I had never started using drugs. In drugs, I had sought an understanding of myself. But drugs are a deadly counterfeit of the real warmth, peace, strength, and knowledge we gain through Heavenly Father’s answers to our prayers and the ministrations of His Spirit. My wife and I were baptized in 1991, and since then I have worked hard in the Church and in my employment. To this day, I pray often and with much faith, and I remain free of drugs.
Drive Off the Road—Now!
When I joined the Church it seemed as if every aspect of my life began to change. There was so much to learn and so many habits to change for the better. When I received the gift of the Holy Ghost after my baptism, I truly believed the promise that the Spirit would direct my life if I learned to listen. I was determined to listen to the still, small voice and follow the guidance I received with full trust. I prayed daily that I would learn to readily recognize the Holy Ghost’s influence.
The first experience I remember came while I was ironing clothes. I felt impressed to go out into my shed, but I didn’t respond because I was too busy. It came again a little stronger; again I ignored the thought. The third time the feeling was full of urgency, and this time I left my ironing and went out to the shed.
Little puffs of smoke were coming up from the water heater. My cat had jumped from one of the shelves, causing some newspapers to fall under the water heater and igniting a small fire. It was easy to douse the flames before they had a chance to spread. But it was not so easy to put out the uneasy thoughts in my mind about not immediately listening to the promptings I had received. Had I not responded when I finally did, I could have lost my house and everything in it.
There were other times when I received direction through the still, small voice, and as I listened and obeyed I was better able to recognize those impressions. Each small incident strengthened my resolve to nurture my growing testimony that the Holy Ghost is real and is my companion. What happened one day in heavy traffic added to this testimony. It was simply a matter of hearing and trusting.
I was driving on a crowded street, and as I approached a busy intersection I maneuvered over to the right-hand lane. The light turned yellow, and as I slowed I felt a strong prompting to drive off the road. Obediently I pulled off the road into an open field over bumpy rocks and up a grassy slope, and I came to a stop in the middle of a weedy field. A few cows looked at me curiously.
At that moment an open convertible filled with teenagers came speeding recklessly toward the intersection. Feet dangled over the sides of the car in youthful abandon, and the boys and girls were laughing and singing school songs.
Horrified, I watched the light change to red and was sure the young driver would not be able to stop in time. I envisioned a terrible collision with cars piled up in all directions. In that instant the driver spotted the space I had vacated. Veering with a suddenness that threw the others in the car every which way, he barely avoided a crash. His tires screamed and smoked as his car came to a jolting stop where mine had just been.
Before the light changed, he looked over and saw me in the middle of the field with the cows. “Hey, lady,” he called out. “What are you doing in the middle of them weeds?” The light turned green, he raced the motor, and with a squeal of the wheels he was gone.
Shaken, I bowed my head and offered a prayer of thanks for the gift of the Holy Ghost that had saved me and the other unsuspecting drivers from harm’s way.
“Go Comfort Him”
One day while serving in the Chile Santiago East Mission, my companion, Elder Patricio Álvarez, and I received permission from our mission president to visit Elder Álvarez’s ailing grandfather in a local hospital. We arrived during visiting hours and eventually located the room of my companion’s grandfather. There we found two old men—engulfed in extensive tubing and wiring. Elder Álvarez and two of his aunts comforted his grandfather, who was completely unaware of their presence. I hung back and observed the other patient in the room, who was also unaware of our little group. He stared through sunken eyes at the ceiling—his mouth gaping. His appearance startled me.
Suddenly a thought pierced my mind: “Go comfort him!” No, I thought, he is too far gone for me to do any good. Besides, what would I say? He is a complete stranger. But the thought came again: “Go comfort him!” This time I thought of what Jesus Christ would do and realized I couldn’t do any harm by at least saying hello.
As I approached his bed, it was difficult to walk; my feet didn’t want to move. I stood at the foot of his bed and noticed a small yellow card that read “José.” I wondered, Where are this man’s friends and family? He is not just a name on a wall. Then I realized he was looking at me. His eyes were full of pain. I tried to smile, but smiling didn’t seem right. I reached over, put my hand on his, and said, “Hola, José.” Giant tears rolled down his cheeks. Tears rolled down my cheeks as well. Our eyes locked; everything else faded away. Then he closed his eyes tightly and began to sob.
There we were—an old man and a young boy. I hummed Church hymns. He cried again several times, but each time he gave me a reassuring nod, letting me know he would be all right.
Thirty minutes passed quickly. My companion and I needed to leave. I didn’t know how to say good-bye to José. How could I possibly sum up what I had felt and thought? I bent over and whispered in his ear, “Jesucristo está contigo” (Jesus Christ is with you). He gave me one last nod, and we parted ways, never to see each other again in this world.
Someday I hope to have a chance to really know José.
My Grandmother’s Locket
One week before my Grandmother Harris died, she summoned me to her bedroom in my family’s home. I was 10 years old. As usual, Grandmother was sitting in her rocker with her purple shawl wrapped around her shoulders and wearing her hearing aid. I kissed her and knelt by her side.
“Ruth,” she said, “I’m going to die soon, and when I do everyone will come in here and start grabbing things and hauling them off. Go over to the dresser, and bring me that blue velvet box.”
I went to the dresser, returned with the box, and placed it in her wrinkled hands. She opened it and gently pulled out a beautiful gold locket adorned with a white diamond and emerald-colored sequins. Inside was a picture of her and Grandfather when they were first married.
She replaced the locket in the case and said, “Now remember, when I die you come into my room and take the locket. It’s yours. I want you to have it.”
I sighed. “Grandmother, you’re not going to die,” I said. Then I saw the earnest look in her eyes and added, “But I’ll remember.”
One week later, the night before she died, my father called me into her room. “Kiss your grandmother good-bye,” he said. “She may not be here tomorrow.”
“I’ll kiss her good-night,” I said, “but not good-bye.”
When I entered her room the next morning, her bed was empty. All I saw were clean, unwrinkled sheets and pillowcases.
Father came into the room and put his arm around me. “Your grandmother is gone,” he said.
“Gone where?” I asked.
“She died last night,” he said softly.
I couldn’t believe it. My constant house companion for the past 10 years was gone. At first I didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered to get the locket.
I took the blue box, stumbled upstairs, and threw myself on my bed. When I opened the box, the locket fell into my hands. Tears streamed down my face, and for some time I gave in to the fullness of mourning. Yet I felt grateful that through the locket my grandmother’s memory would always be close.
Years later, I entered the Logan Temple to be married. Wearing a long, white wedding dress, I sat with other brides in a circle in the brides’ room. At that time, I felt particularly close to my grandmother. Lovingly I touched the locket beneath my white dress, confident in the knowledge I had of life after death.