“Do This Each Year?”
What a hectic day it had been! Teaching my elementary school classes had been a frustrating experience on this difficult Friday. It seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. I was really looking forward to the reprieve of a weekend.
Juggling the books and papers in my arms, I searched my purse for the house keys. As I unlocked the front door, I saw a large manila envelope on the floor under the mail slot.
I sank gratefully into the recliner in the living room and opened the envelope. As usual, my daughter Sally had done a good job of compiling and editing this year’s family history.
My thoughts turned back to how it had begun. Three years before, Sally had returned from a Brigham Young University study tour of Israel with, among other things, a burning desire to have her family write histories covering the past five years of their lives.
I had laughed. “That is impossible. How can we remember everything?”
Sally was insistent. “I know writing about these years will be hard, but it can be done. Next year will be easier because we’ll only have to do one year.”
“What?” I cried. “You want us to do this each year?”
“Yes, Mother,” she said undaunted. “We are going to have a record to leave to our posterity.”
The rest of the family was reluctant too, but Sally would not give up. She coaxed, begged, and entreated us to begin. She became the family conscience.
A miracle occurred that December when four households of the Chapin clan presented their histories to Sally so she could compile them and make copies for the whole family. The completed booklets were a big success. The histories contained stories, pictures, and even a family tree Sally had made. She immediately began campaigning for the next year’s histories.
“Oh, no!” groaned the rest of the family. But the fire had been kindled, and somehow that year’s work was easier. Now it had become a tradition and an important record for all of us.
I rose from the recliner and reached for the book of earlier family histories. I carefully inserted the new pages for the past year into their proper place. Then I turned to the first page and was caught up in reading it again as memories flooded back:
It was a beautiful spring day in April. The family had traveled to be at the BYU Marriott Center for Kathy’s graduation. As my daughter approached the podium and received her diploma, my heart filled with joy. She had worked so hard to reach this day. She looked beautiful; a glow of happiness radiated from her. Her fiancé, Anthony Day, had received his degree that morning too. And the next day, a radiant Kathy was sealed to Anthony. I recalled with love the young couple standing and smiling on the steps of the Manti Temple.
The history continued: New grandchildren. Jean’s Manti Temple marriage to Ed. Trips to visit each new family. Norm’s return from the navy with his family, and the joy we felt as Norm and Becky took their children to the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity.
I saw in the pages the pattern of change in my family: the triumphs and tears of growing families, the heartaches over job losses and moves from place to place, my adjustment to an empty house as my children left.
Yes, Sally had been right. It was important to have a record for reminiscing and to help future generations know and understand our family.
My weariness and frustration had disappeared. I had found peace. Bless you, Sally, I thought as I closed the book and gently put it away.
Norma Chapin teaches Primary in the Canon City First Ward, Pueblo Colorado Stake, where she also serves as family history librarian.
A Debt for Half a Bicycle
As I was preparing to be baptized in eastern Argentina in December 1955, my branch president advised me, among other things, to ask forgiveness of those I had offended, pay any debts, and return anything I had that didn’t belong to me. I admitted to him that I had owed a debt for half a bicycle for more than 20 years.
When I was 18 years old, I had worked part time as a photographer. I earned very little—just enough for food and to help my parents a bit. I had longed to have my own bicycle ever since I was a small boy, but we never seemed to have the money to buy one.
Luckily, my brother knew the Zuzci family. They were selling a nice bicycle for a reasonable price. I had to pay half the money before getting the bike, and I could pay the rest later. When I had saved the first half, I went to their house and took the bike home.
To tell the truth, I had no intention of ever paying the rest of the money. The Zuzcis were rich and enjoyed a fine home. I thought they would soon forget about the small amount of money I owed them.
As the years went by, I continued my education, became an optical technician, and eventually bought my own optical shop. My financial situation greatly improved. But I always avoided passing by the Zuzci house. My conscience was not clear about that bicycle!
Later in life, I felt a great desire to search for God. Now I had found Him and wanted to join His Church. But my branch president counseled me to visit the Zuzci family and set things right.
I was 38 years old when I made my way to the house I had avoided so many times. When the door opened, Mrs. Zuzci stood before me.
“Good morning,” she said, greeting me kindly.
“Good morning, Mrs. Zuzci. Do you remember me?”
“Yes, Mr. Blanc. How could I forget you?”
I had no answer for that! “Then you remember,” I said, “that I still owe you money for a bicycle I bought 20 years ago.”
“I remember, Mr. Blanc—as if it had happened yesterday,” she answered.
I apologized for not paying the rest of the money and told her I had come to do so. I told her of my decision to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I ask your forgiveness,” I said. “I know that 20 years have gone by. I am willing to pay whatever you feel the debt is worth today.”
I could see tears forming in Mrs. Zuzci’s eyes. She said what I was doing was a beautiful thing and forgave me my debt. Then we both wept. What a beautiful spirit we felt to finally have the issue of the bicycle debt resolved!
“Was That Really Us Singing?”
I have loved music for as long as I can remember. However, even though I have participated in many musical selections, I did not fully understand the extent the Holy Ghost can testify through music until I was asked by my bishop to direct a song.
One Sunday I was trying to usher our young children toward the chapel for sacrament meeting when Bishop Wood stopped me. “Sister Fitzgerald,” he began, “I found this music and thought it would make an excellent special musical selection in sacrament meeting next month. I thought perhaps you could organize something.” He handed me the music and walked into the chapel.
Later that day I looked at the song. It was titled “My Testimony,” by Bettie Jones and Myriel Cluff Ashton. As soon as I hummed through the tune, I felt it would be ideal for the priesthood brethren to sing. Since few men sang in the choir, I pondered how I might enlist their help.
A few days later I recalled that the priesthood brethren sang in their opening exercises. I wondered if I might be allowed to teach the song to all of them. I made a few phone calls and was granted permission. The melody was fairly simple and the words easy to remember. I was confident the song could be ready within a few weeks.
I was wrong. The first Sunday we sang through the song once, but I couldn’t hear any parts. I asked the men to separate into rows of tenors and basses. Most of the men gave me a blank look, so I asked them to separate into rows of those who sang high and those who sang low. The response was immediate, and I realized they had little by way of musical training. My work was cut out for me.
For the next month we practiced during opening exercises. I taught them about timing, following the director, and dynamics. In fact, I did everything I knew to do to teach them to sing, and in some of the practices they sang well. But our last practice was awful, and I went home discouraged.
I prayed many times during the week that the song would go well, and each time I felt comforted that it would. Sunday came, and as I entered the chapel my nervousness was replaced by a peaceful feeling. The priesthood brethren filled the choir seats to overflowing. As they began to sing, I heard each note sung clearly, and every word carried to the back of the chapel. While their deep, male voices sang the words “I have a testimony sacred and dear to me,” a warm burning in my heart and a tingling down my back witnessed to me that the Holy Ghost was present and bearing testimony through the brethren’s singing.
After the meeting, one of the men approached me and asked, “Was that really us singing?” Later, as I thought about his question, I realized that yes, it really had been them singing—aided by the Spirit, who witnessed the truth to those in the congregation. It was a further testimony to me of the sacred power that music can have in our lives.
The Promised Blessing
One year, to celebrate our anniversary, my husband, Frank, and I left our children with a baby-sitter and went camping together. We were having a wonderful time until I became ill and we had to return home. Once home, however, I did not seem to improve. I continued to have health problems that kept me in bed a good deal of the time. Since I was used to being very active and involved in my Church callings and as a musician, I found myself increasingly frustrated. Yet I felt that Heavenly Father was hearing and answering my prayers.
My family expected I would get well soon and just kept on doing their best. Occasionally I had help with baby-sitting and housework, but for the most part Frank took over, adding much to his already heavy burdens of working on a master’s thesis at BYU, teaching classes as a graduate assistant, and serving in Church callings.
Through the winter months I prayed, read scriptures, and did what I could to be a good wife and mother, though I felt I could do very little. April came, and I felt a need to read my patriarchal blessing. I read it daily for a week and decided that if I were to enjoy the blessings promised me, I needed to renew my efforts to improve my lifestyle. The Holy Ghost confirmed this. I also knew this would require me to exercise more faith and work harder than I ever had before.
I asked Frank to give me a blessing, and the words he spoke touched me deeply. Among other things, he promised me that my health would be restored. The following Sunday two of my friends fasted and prayed for me. As a result, I felt more peaceful and closer to my friends than ever before.
The next fast Sunday, Frank and other relatives fasted and prayed for me. On the day of the fast, a scripture from Malachi came in part to me: “Prove me now herewith … 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” (Mal. 3:10). I went to bed that night faithfully expecting I would see a great change in my health, and I acknowledged this to my Heavenly Father.
Having grown closer to the Spirit during my illness, I recognized the guidance and direction I began to receive powerfully and continuously during the next several days. Beginning the very next morning, I was inspired to get out of bed, eat a good breakfast with my family without worrying about my special diet, get my husband off to work, make a few telephone calls, and clean my house. At last I was making progress.
As the week proceeded, I was guided to spend more time with my children, find ways to make my husband feel important, and walk around the block. Soon I was able to shop, swim, and attend the temple.
By Thursday of that week I woke up ready to get going once again. As I got to my feet, the words came clearly to my mind: Suzanne, today your blessing is completely fulfilled.
It was true. My health had been completely restored. I became fully involved with my husband and children and friends again. I moved forward confidently, having received reassurance from the Lord that my abilities were intact and would be increasing. I returned to playing the piano and felt myself succeeding beyond my own previous expectations. I felt a need to spend more time composing, which soon became an important new focus for me.
I have had many other challenges and blessings since this experience. There have been times of healing and times when I have suffered through extensive illness as part of life’s precious education. I recognize that other people’s circumstances are different than mine. I know that my healing may have been a little unusual. But I also know that I was blessed, and I feel it appropriate to rejoice in the Lord’s goodnesses to me. As a result of this experience, my understanding of the Atonement and of our Savior deepened, and I have come to appreciate the priesthood and its power to help us overcome our limitations, both physical and spiritual.
“I Cannot Do Much the Way I Am”
As a teenager I attended many different churches, but whenever I asked questions, the answers I received left me feeling more frustrated. There has to be more, I thought.
Many years passed. I married, and my wife and I had two lovely daughters. One day two young men came to our door, talked awhile, left us a book, and departed. We did not see them again. I read a few pages in the book they left, the Book of Mormon, but put it down again.
By age 47 I was crippled with arthritis and unable to walk without the aid of two walking sticks. One day a neighbor invited my wife and me to a garden party at his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When we arrived, the party was just ending. I was in great pain from the arthritis in my legs. Our neighbor’s wife kindly showed us through their meetinghouse, which was a beautiful building. Outside, we stopped by a food stall run by a man, Edward (Ted) Crosby, who has since become a great friend.
This newfound friend invited us to his home for a meal, and there we met two missionaries. The elders called on us a few days later, and the words they spoke sent a thrill through me. This was what I had been searching for all those years! During the time the missionaries taught us the gospel, I prayed and read everything I could about their message, and soon I was anxious to be baptized.
One day shortly after my baptism, I was out walking my dog. The pain in my legs was tremendous, and I was exhausted. I sat down on a low wall to rest for a moment, and it occurred to me that I ought to pray for help. I bowed my head and whispered, “Father, I don’t know what Thou hast for me to do, but whatever it is, something must be done about my legs, as I cannot do much the way I am.”
A wonderful warm feeling came over me, enfolding me from head to toe. I stood up feeling renewed. I tossed my canes over my shoulder and marched home. Despite some lingering pain, I have been able to walk many miles since that day without undue discomfort. I do not know why the Lord chose to heal me, but I am thankful for this blessing in my life.
I am forever grateful to our neighbors who befriended us and to ward members who welcomed us as we learned about gospel truths. Finding the answers to my questions of long ago has brought many blessings into my life.
Thomas Henry Porter is a family history consultant in the Scunthorpe Ward, Hull England Stake.