99909_000_007Before I knew it I slid from my chair to the floor—and into a void of darkness.
It began one summer night in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I worked as a policeman. My partner and I radioed that we were now in service and were starting routine alley patrols of stores and warehouses in our district. Only the crunch of tires on gravel announced the presence of our sleek, black police cruiser. It seemed an uneventful night. Then the silence was broken with a radio call: “Unit one: Man down with injuries. Main and Fremont Streets.”
With red light flashing and siren wailing, our car sped toward the accident scene. Little did I know the next few minutes would change my life. A few blocks from the scene, an old sedan surged out of a line of stopped traffic and into the path of our car. I shut my eyes and cried out “No!” as we collided. I was flung forward violently, and my head slammed hard on the dashboard. I heard the grinding of metal and shattering of glass. I felt an odd sensation in my head, as if I were standing in a barrel. Everything seemed hazy.
From a long way off I heard my partner’s voice: “Buddy, are you all right?”
“Yeah … sure,” I mumbled. I forced open my door while my partner triggered the mike and called for help. The occupants of the other car smelled of wine but were unhurt. As neither my partner nor I appeared to be injured except for minor bruises and a swelling over my left eye, we didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, we stayed and directed traffic until the accident was cleared. I had a severe headache.
One afternoon a month later I was assigned as desk sergeant and radio dispatcher. While I was reaching for the radio controls, my right hand slowly raised off the desk against my will, my fingers curled oddly, and I felt a buzz in my head. Then, abruptly, my hand dropped back to its normal position and the buzzing ceased.
That was weird! I thought. I must be tired. Later, on my way home, I stopped at a grocery store for milk. My fingers curled around a quart of milk, and I had to pry them off at the checkout stand. Strange, I thought. It must be the cold container.
Three weeks later my world as I knew it collapsed. I was at my desk wearing new sergeant stripes and feeling good about my promotion when suddenly I felt dizzy. The walls started to spin, and I slid from my chair into a void of darkness. When I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded by fellow officers. The police physician examined me and told me to see a doctor.
Thus started a long parade before numerous doctors who ordered dozens of blood tests and x-rays. Their opinions varied from high blood pressure to a nervous breakdown to being overweight. The tests showed nothing.
I continued to have recurring attacks, and I was missing more and more work. At this point a supervisor told me of a good neurologist in California and suggested I see him. Although nothing more was said, I felt my job was on the line, so I made an appointment.
In California the neurosurgeon hospitalized me for tests. On the third day he told me he was unable to pinpoint the problem and that I might have to return. I was crushed. I had hoped for a cure. After he left, I despaired of how to move forward with my life. My job was on the line, and our finances were at the breaking point. I stared at the ceiling, and my heart ached with worry about how I could support my family.
I reflected on my life. I had grown up in a small Nevada town believing in God. I came from a line of distinguished ancestors, many of whom had been ministers. I had decided at one point that I too would become a minister and began my training in a congregation. However, I became disillusioned and changed my mind. Later on I married, and my wife and I and our children attended her church.
In the darkness of my room I gathered what strength I had and slipped quietly to my knees. I must have knelt there for an hour fervently pouring out my heart to God. I asked that He direct my path and give me strength to deal with this problem.
I finally climbed back into bed and was almost asleep when I became aware of a peaceful feeling flowing through me. My thoughts were stilled, and words formed in my mind: “Have faith and abide with me.”
The words lingered like a soft light, and I soon drifted into a deep sleep. The next day I left the hospital. I thought of the words. They didn’t make any sense. What was I to do?
I returned to work. My fainting spells continued, and one day I was finally called to the city manager’s office and given a notice of transfer to another department. I was to be a maintenance man in the city cemetery! For three years I continued working, building up new muscles and enjoying the fresh air. I also continued with my trips to California for tests.
Early one morning I slipped out of bed and asked again for spiritual guidance. I felt very downcast. I was at the bottom of my career ladder, and because of my health the future of my little family was still in jeopardy. Again I poured out my feelings with heartfelt humility.
The following day I heard a knock on my door. Upon opening it, I was greeted by a nice-looking elderly couple.
“Good morning, sir,” they said. “We represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. May we speak with you a moment?”
Though they were strangers, they seemed warm and friendly, so I invited them in. As my wife and I sat and talked with them, I was increasingly impressed by their sincerity. They spoke of family life, of a God who loves us, and of spiritual salvation. The minutes passed quickly, and I found myself asking questions like a thirsty stranger in search of water.
During our conversation, they stated they were missionaries and that they were acquainted with my older children. My wife, noting my amazement, surprised me further by informing me our teenagers had been attending youth activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than three months.
Two weeks later my wife and I accepted an invitation to attend one of their Church services. As my family and I entered the building, I found the chapel filled with happy, smiling people who greeted us with friendly handshakes and warm sincerity such as I had never experienced in any previous church. I felt a sense of inner peace fill me as I took my seat. Looking about, I was puzzled. I could see none of the familiar trappings of churches I had previously attended. I looked for a black-robed church official but could not see anyone who looked like a minister or priest. Instead, someone called a bishop, dressed in an ordinary dark suit, stood at the pulpit and began the meeting.
A hymnbook was passed to me, and the hymn number was announced. I turned to the indicated page, and my eyes widened. Staring at me were the words “Abide with Me!” (Hymns, no. 166). I felt goose bumps up and down my arms, and the title rang through my mind like the sound of trumpets.
As the opening line of the hymn was sung, my thoughts raced back to the hospital room of three years before and the answer to prayer I had received at that time. I knew then that this was the Savior’s true Church. This was where my family and I belonged. Two weeks later we entered the waters of baptism.
Several years have passed since that first Sunday, and I have learned much about our Savior, Jesus Christ. Although I have not received relief from pressing financial needs or experienced a miraculous healing, many blessings have come to me. After struggling to balance a budget and pay our bills, we still never seemed to make it stretch to cover our obligations. Acting on faith, we committed to paying tithing first. From that day forward we were always able to put food on the table and make ends meet despite the ongoing health challenges I faced. Also, through faith and priesthood blessings administered by elders, the severe attacks I had experienced no longer plagued me. Although I still have some problems, I have been able to rear six children in dignity and have been able to instill in them a deep love of their Heavenly Father.
Through my experiences, I have learned of the serenity and peace of mind that come from service in the Church. I have learned that afflictions are tests that strengthen us and give us experience to deepen our understanding and enlarge our compassion. I have come to understand more fully the meaning of words that were whispered to me during the dark hours of a night long ago in a hospital room: “Have faith and abide with me.”